BENEFITS OF PRACTICING ESSENCE OF SHAOLIN
What are the benefits of practicing the Essence of Shaolin set, both in kungfu practice and in daily life?
Sifu Nessa Kahila
The Essence of Shaolin set contains the best combat techniques of Shaolin Kungfu. As Shaolin Kungfu is the greatest martial art, by extension the best combat techniques in all martial arts are found in Essence of Shaolin.
The combat techniques in Essence of Shaolin are really marvelous. I shall take the first two patterns in the set, “Show Dragon Hide Tiger” and “Reverse Thunder Roll Heaven”, as examples.
Most martial artists would not know the combat application of “Show Dragon Hide Tiger”. But when its combat application is explained, many people, as it is often the case, may think why they have never thought of it before.
There was a story about “Reverse Thunder Roll Heaven”, which has another name, “Reverse Hanging of Golden Lotus”. I was sparring with a well-known chi kung master. He gave me a thrust punch, and I covered it. Instantly he swung his arm at my face in the pattern “Reverse Thunder Roll Heaven”. Most people would be caught by surprise, and be hit. But I knew the technique well from Essence of Shaolin. I just thread away his attack calmly. The chi kung master was both surprised and impressed. He was so impressed that he asked me to teach him some combat application.
The first pattern touches on an element of the marvelous, and the second pattern on an element of surprise. Many of the combat applications of the patterns in Essence of Shaolin are marvelous and surprising.
Besides effective techniques, a kungfu practitioner must also need other qualities, especially when his opponents are of a high level. His form must be picture-perfect, he must have good force and speed, his movement is fluid, and he applies tactics and strategies effectively.
If an exponent does not have good form, he may not be able to use the combat applications of many of the patterns in Essence of Shaolin even when he knows their combat application. This was a main reason why I took more than 2 years to learn the set, even when I was known to have picture-perfect form. Uncle Righteousness made sure my form in all the patterns of the set was picture-perfect.
Hence, one of the many benefits of Essence of Shaolin is to have picture-perfect form. When your form is picture-perfect, you will not only be good at Essence of Shaolin, but also in all martial arts, including those arts which you may not have learnt before. If you attempt any wrestling techniques, presuming you have not learnt wrestling before, not only you will perform the techniques in picture-perfect form but also you will know why if your form is not picture-perfect you will expose yourself to counter-attack. You will also know that the shoot, which is a common technique in wrestling, is suicidal in a real fight where safety rules do not apply.
But you do not need 2 years to learn the set. It is because of a few reasons. A very important reason is that now we have the advantage of modern technology, the internet, which I did not have before. Another reason is my progress in kungfu philosophy. Now I don’t regard the routine of the set itself as a top secret, though many other masters still do. I also prefer to teach you how to fish, instead of giving you a fish. You will, for example, attempt picture-perfect form of all the patterns of Essence of Shaolin on your own, instead of me correcting your form pattern by pattern. For those who are enterprising, you can work out sophisticated applications of some of its patterns, like what we have done in many of my kungfu courses.
To have picture-perfect form is one of our basic skills in kungfu training. If you have attended my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Taijiquan Course, which are a pre-requisite for attending the Essence of Shaolin Course, you would have learnt the skill of picture-perfect form.
But the techniques of Essence of Shaolin are not taught in my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Taijiquan Course. How is it, then, that having attended these courses, you would have the skill of picture-perfect form to perform the techniques in Essence of Shaolin? It is because having picture-perfect form is a basic skill, and once you have the basic skill, you can perform all other techniques, though in some sophisticated techniques you may have to pay particular attention to certain aspects of the skill. Similarly, once you have the basic skill of typing, you can type any documents, though in some sophisticated documents you may have to pay attention to certain aspects.
You need some force besides picture-perfect form to apply the sophisticated techniques of Essence of Shaolin. Here, you have a big advantage that I did not have before. All our arts in Shaolin Wahnam now are triple-cultivation. Even if you did not practice any special force training methods, by practicing a kungfu set, you can develop some internal force.
But being a pattern-set, i.e. all the 108 patterns in the set are individual patterns, not part of a combat sequence, Essence of Shaolin is not a choice set to develop internal force. It is a very advanced set for those who already have internal force. Examples of choice sets to develop internal force are “Lohan Asks the Way” for the force method, and “White Crane Flaps Wings” for the flow method, which are basic sets in our school. Examples of special force training methods are zhan zhuang or stance training, One-Finger Shooting Zen, and Lifting Water.
Besides picture-perfect form and force, you also need speed to execute your techniques successfully. A good way is to be relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the faster you can perform an action. But for those who do not have internal force, they have to tense their muscles to have muscular strength. Hence, it is common that those who want to be fast, do not have strength. What about professional Boxers, they are quite fast? If you observe carefully, they are actually relaxed. They have developed internal force without their own knowing through years of dedicated training.
But we have the magic of chi flow, which can enable you to be very fast, and also powerful. Those who attended my Dragon Strength course, would have learnt the skill of dragon speed which makes them very fast.
However, unless you are lightning fast like applying dragon speed, sometimes you may have to slow down to apply your techniques successfully on your opponents. Although your movement may be slow, or slower, you must be flowing, not staccato. Taijiquan provides much practice in this area.
Fluidity of movement is important in kungfu, and in daily life. I learned this important skill with my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, when performing patterns in the Four-Gate set in a staccato manner. “Perform the patterns in a sequence, use one breath for each sequence,” he advised.
Without false modesty, I was a fast and smart learner. This statement alone contributed greatly to my kungfu performance and understanding. I was able to defeat many opponents, including professionals and masters, because I overwhelmed them with my combat sequences, which necessitated this skill.
Techniques from Essence of Shaolin are so sophisticated that I could overcome opponents without consciously using tactics and strategies. But tactics and strategies are actually incorporated in the techniques, though practitioners of Essence of Shaolin may not be conscious of them. For example, in the first pattern of the set, “Show Dragon Hide Tiger”, the technique is used when an opponent attacks, especially with a thrust punch. In the second pattern, “Reverse Thunder Roll Heaven”, an attack is used as a feint, and when an opponent responds to the initial attack, the technique is used surprisingly on him.
On the other hand, if opponents are very skillful, it will be helpful to use tactics and strategies consciously. In the first technique, you leave some openings for your opponent to attack. When he attacks, you strike him with “Show Dragon Hide Tiger”. In the second technique, you feint an attack, which can be real if he fails to counter it. When he responds to your initial attack, you strike him with “Reverse Thunder Roll Heaven”.
The benefits we gain from Essence of Shaolin in kungfu performance can be rewardingly applied to our daily life. As far as I know, we are the only school that does this consciously. Other masters may apply their kungfu benefits to their daily life, usually unconsciously, but they do not teach the beneficial transfer as a school.
When we have attained picture-perfect form in our kungfu, we can also have picture-perfect form in whatever we do in our daily life. If your form is not picture-perfect in your daily activities, you can improve the form with the understanding from your kungfu training. For example, if you have been sitting slackly on your chair, you can now sit upright in a relaxed manner. If you have been using muscular strength of your arms to lift a heavy object, you can now do so by raising your stance. First you hold the heavy object firmly and lower your stance in picture-perfect form. Then you raise your stance, without raising your arms.
Force is necessarily in our daily activities. Most people use mechanical strength in their daily activities, and they soon become tired. You can use chi flow and work well for a long time.
Speed is also a necessary factor in daily life. A lot of people have missed their opportunities because they are slow. Sometimes, they are too hasty. You can apply “right timing” from your kungfu training, and in more sophisticated situations from Essence of Shaolin, to achieve success and happiness in your daily life.
Fluidity of movement is very important in daily life. I have applied this principle to enhance many things I do in my daily activities. Many people have asked me how I can achieve so many things in my daily life. I usually reply that I apply kungfu and chi kung principles. Looking back, fluidity of movement is one of these important principles.
The use of tactics and strategies is very beneficial in our daily life. We do not wait for others to make changes if situations are less than satisfactory. As we are so blessed to be trained in Shaolin Wahnam arts, we are leaders, not followers, and we apply tactics and strategies in a win-win manner.
If, for example, you find that a chair at your work place is misplaced, you don’t wait for others to place it back properly; you do it yourself. If you find that your wife, husband or housemate is depressed, you don’t wait for him or her to be cheerful again, you cheer him or her with appropriate words or actions.
These are minor examples, but if you work on them, you will be habitual in changing problems into opportunities for improvement, and major problems in daily life will become simple.
The Essence of Shaolin course will give opportunities for such improvements in daily life.
This question and answer are reproduced from the thread 10 Questions on Essence of Shaolin in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.