Sinew Metamorphosis

Sinew Metamorphosis produces a tremendous amount of internal force

Question 2

Does Sifu have any knowledge or guess about how Bodhidharma developed this simple but genius way of practicing? Has there been any ancient (Indian) art which could have been the inspiration for Sinew Metamorphosis?

What are the energetic “mechanics” behind the exercises of Sinew Metamorphosis? Or to put it another way: How does Sinew Metamorphosis work inside?

What other arts have been developed using the Sinew Metamorphosis approach?

Sifu Leonard Lackinge


The 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises are so simple, yet so powerful. They are frighteningly powerful – frightening because it is easy for a practitioner, even if he performs just any one of the 12 exercises correctly, to over-train and harm himself!

Just imagine. Even ordinary students who attend my “Merging with the Cosmos” course which was previously called “Sinew Metamorphosis”, merely flick their fingers 3 times, and in 3 minutes which include an introduction to in-tune themselves with the Cosmos and a conclusion whereby they let their internal force develop, besides the exercise proper which takes only about 3 seconds, they develop more internal force than even masters who have been practicing daily for 3 years!

This is simply ridiculous, but it is true. It is perfectly understandable when others outside our school do not believe in what we say, and some indignantly accuse us for being boastful or arrogant. The surprising thing is not their disbelief, but their not being humble enough to join a course to find out for themselves. This, I believe, is a natural test to filter out the undeserving from the deserving.

On the other hand, if any students or even masters in our school who think that this is the climax of attainment, and therefore they don’t need to be humble any more, they are grossly mistaken. Generating tremendous internal force by just flicking fingers 3 times in about 3 seconds is really nothing compared to, for example, a Bodhisattva or an immortal changing a mountain into a sea by just waving his or her hand! Of course, those who don’t believe in Bodhisattvas or immortals may treat this as rubbish.

But this is not the reason why I feel very humble compared to Bodhisattvas and immortals. In my youth when I was ignorant, I refused even to pray to divine beings. Now when I have become wiser, I proudly prostrate in public to Bodhisattvas and immortals, not because of their tremendous powerful but because of my tremendous gratitude. I am eternally grateful to Bodhisattvas and immortals, like Bodhisattva Guan Yin and Immortal Li, for so kindly bestowing blessings and protection on me, my family and our school.

Coming back to our human realm, Sinew Metamorphosis is very powerful. It is not possible that even a genius (a human one) can invent such a powerful exercise. It evolved over centuries from previous exercises. Similarly, our Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are so sophisticated. They are not invented by individuals, but evolved over centuries from actual fighting. We are extremely fortunate to inherit such legacies. More importantly, we must ensure ourselves to be deserving to inherit such legacies.

The great Bodhidharma probably drew inspiration for his Sinew Metamorphosis from yoga exercises. Please take note that “yoga’ is used here in its wide sense as a collective Indian art for union with the Supreme, and includes besides meditation or mind training, physical forms like asanas and energy exercise like pranayama. It is not used in its narrow sense, though still collective, where the discipline was founded by Patanjali for spiritual cultivation, and modern practitioners practice it, or mis-practice it, for sexual prowess.

Bodhidharma might have modified or even invented some of the Sinew Metamorphosis exercises, but its philosophy and methodology were based on a legacy of past exercises. It is easy for some people to forget that Bodhidharma was a crown prince, well versed in both the scholarly and martial arts.

Some people may wonder why is Sinew Metamorphosis so powerful, though not many people know it. What are the energetic mechanics behind the Sinew Metamorphosis exercises that make them so powerful, or how does Sinew Metamorphosis work inside?

It is needless to say that Sinew Metamorphosis works only when it is correctly performed. And the better it is correctly performed, the more powerful it becomes. To learn how to perform Sinew Metamorphosis correctly, a student should learn it from a teacher who performs Sinew Metamorphosis correctly, not from a book or a video, and not from a teacher who performs Sinew Metamorphosis but does not derive its results.

Also, the better the teacher is in his teaching, and the more powerful are his results when he performs Sinew Metamorphosis, the better will be the student’s learning when he learns from this teacher than from another teacher who is poor in his teaching and produces mediocre results, provided the student practices the way the better teacher has taught him, and not the way he thinks it should be practiced.

This is all so obvious, but shockingly not many people put these facts into practice. Indeed, realizing these facts and putting them into practice is more beneficial than knowing how Sinew Metamorphosis works. I have very good results from my training because I put these obvious facts into practice. I learned from the best teachers I could find, and practice the way they had taught me.

But we shall still come back to the question to find out how Sinew Metamorphosis work. I discovered its philosophy, i.e. how Sinew Metamorphosis works, after long years of its methodology. i.e. practicing Sinew Metamorphosis and obtaining the results the practice was meant to give.

At first my results were mediocre. Then my results improved, which helped me to enhance my philosophy. Eventually my results improved exponentially, which helped me to crystallize my philosophy. Then I taught my methodology guided by the philosophy on deserving students, and they too obtain similar, if not better, results.

It is worthy to mention that it was how philosophy came about. First, a lot of people performed certain activities. Over years or centuries the results improved. Then masters who were good at these activities looked back to find out how and why they had good results. Their explanation became philosophy.

For example, first people fought. Then some discovered that if they distracted their opinion, they had a better chance of hitting their opponents. Those who were good at this activity looked back and discovered that by using a feint move followed by a real move they had a better chance to succeed. This was crystallized in the combat principle of “sounding east, striking west”.

Kungfu masters attempted to use energy flow to develop internal force. Over centuries those who succeeded discovered that they could do so when they were relaxed. They also discovered that their success was independent on their size, muscles and gender. Their explanation became the philosophy of internal force training. Philosophy followed experience. It was not the other way round. It was not some smart Alex first thinking that if he made a feint move he would have a better chance of hitting an opponent, or when he was relaxed he could develop internal force from energy flow, then putting his theory into practice to hope to have the desired experience.

My experience of Sinew Metamorphosis helped me to formulate my philosophy. In the formulation of this philosophy, I was helped and guided by many other kungfu and chi kung philosophies I knew.

I shall use Flicking Fingers, or more poetically, Golden Dragons Tap on Ground, which is my favorite of the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises, to explain how and why Sinew Metamorphosis can produce such tremendous internal force.

When we flick our fingers, we generate a lot of energy. Because our palms are bent to their limit, the energy will flow up the arms along the three hand yang meridians to the head. Because our meridians are generally clear, at the head the three hand yang meridians will continue as the three leg yang meridians to flow down the body to the feet. At the feet, the three leg yang meridians will flow up the legs as three leg yin meridians, and at the body join the three hand yin meridian to flow down the arms.

If a practitioner is not very powerful yet, though he is more powerful than most other chi kung practitioners, the first flick of the fingers may send energy flow a third round the 12 primary meridians. In other words, after the first flick of the fingers, energy flow has gone about a third of the way of the phenomenal big universe.

After the second flick, it would have gone two-third the way of the phenomenal big universe. After the third flick, the phenomenal big universe will be completed, and energy will be flowing in all the 12 primary meridians when the practitioners drops his wrists, thereby releasing the initial embankment of energy for the phenomenal big universe break-through. His breathing out three times will enhance the energy flow.

If he is more powerful, his first flicking of fingers may send his energy two-third round the phenomenal big universe. The second flick will complete the round, and the third flick will enhance his energy flow.

If he is very powerful, just one flick of his fingers will complete the phenomenal big universe, and subsequent flicks will enhance the flow.

This explains why for advanced practitioners, three flicks of the fingers will be ideal. Even if a practitioner is very powerful and completes the phenomenal big universe in just the first flick of his fingers, without dropping his wrists to release the energy embankment, he can still hold the extra energy comfortably. But if he continues to add more energy by flicking his fingers, he would be uncomfortable and start to have negative effect.

Others who are less powerful need more flicks to generate sufficient energy flow to complete the phenomenal big universe before dropping their wrists to release the energy embankment.

Although other exercises work on different parts of the body, the same principles apply. In Sinew Metamorphosis all the 12 primary meridians are activated. That is why Sinew Metamorphosis is so powerful.

Another reason why Sinew Metamorphosis is so powerful in our school is because we operate at the mind level. Some people erroneously think that to work at the mind level they need to visualize. One can visualize while operating at the mind level, like what we do in the five levels of Bone Marrow Cleansing. But for most people, when they visualize, they become distracted and perform chi kung techniques as physical exercise.

Similarly, some people erroneously believe that to work at the energy level they have to regulate their breathing. One can regulate his breathing while working at an energy level, or higher at a mind level, like what we do in Abdominal Breathing. But for most people when they regulate their breathing, they become distracted and perform chi kung techniques as physical breathing exercises, and not as energy exercise.

When I first practiced Sinew Metamorphosis, I operated at a physical level. I had to perform all the 12 exercises, with each exercise performed 49 times. It took me more than half an hour to complete the training. Yet, the amount of internal force I generated, when I already had more than 20 years of kungfu experience behind me, was less than what a typical student who has learned from us for only a few years gets today by flicking his fingers 6, 9 or 12 times in about 10 minutes all together.

Please note the difference between practicing chi kung techniques, like Sinew Metamorphosis, as physical exercise and as chi kung at a physical level. Practicing chi kung techniques as physical exercise does not bring any chi kung benefits. In the case of powerful chi kung techniques like Sinew Metamorphosis, it may bring harmful effects.

Practicing chi kung techniques as chi kung can be operated at three levels – physical, energy and mind. Roughly, the ratio of benefits gained from the practice is 1, 3, 6 respectively. When we practice any chi kung techniques at the mind level, which includes the physical and the energy levels, our benefits are 10 times more than those who practice the same techniques at a physical level.

It is recorded in classics that Shaolin kungfu evolved from Eighteen Lohan Hands, and Shaolin nei-gong, which is a classical term for the modern term “chi kung”, evolved from Sinew Metamorphosis.

All our arts that involve internal training, which in practical terms means all our training, use the Sinew Metamorphosis approach, though due to the long time of their development the connection may not be obvious.

The more obvious arts that use the Sinew Metamorphosis approach include One-Finger Shooting Zen, Triple Stretch, Siu Lin Tou, Double Worshipping of the Buddha, Lifting of Bronze Vessel, Double Hooks on Wall, and Reverse Hanging of Double Hooks. Here, the Sinew Metamorphosis approach suggests consolidating flowing energy into internal force.

In Grasping Thumbs and Grasping Fists, the third and the fourth of the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises, we consolidate flowing energy into internal force, like in Triple Stretch and Siu Lin Tou.

One may argue that in stance training, a principal category of internal force training methods, it is different form Sinew Metamorphosis as the former is stationary whereas there are some movements in the latter though a practitioner does not move away from his standing position. This is viewing the methods superficially.

When we go deeper we will know that in stance training a practitioner can develop internal force because his posture, if he is totally relaxed, allows cosmic energy to collect at his dan tian This is also the approach in Sinew Metamorphosis – to let cosmic energy gathered at the dan tian. In Stretching Up, the fifth of the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises, a practitioner remains quite stationary in his poise. As in both stance training and Sinew Metamorphosis, it is very important that the practitioners must be totally relaxed.

One may split hair and say that internal force training methods like “Cloud Hands” in Taijiquan or “Spiritual Dragon Rolling in Heaven” in Dragon Strength are different from Sinew Metamorphosis as the former is “soft” and flowing, whereas the latter is “hard” and consolidated.

As mentioned earlier, powerful exercises like “Cloud Hands” and “Spiritual Dragon Rolling in Heaven” were not invented from scratch. It is probably they evolved from exercises that eventually led back to Sinew Metamorphosis, which in turn was evolved from even earlier exercises.

“Cloud Hands” and “Spiritual Dragon Rolling in Heaven”, which were historically quite recent, could have evolved from exercises that issued from Sinew Metamorphosis exercises like Jerking Elbows, Rotating Elbows, and Holding Sun and Moon, the 7th, 8th and 12th of the Sinew Metamorphosis exercises.

Sinew Metamorphosis is a wonderful set of exercises that develop tremendous internal force in a relative short time. Andrew (Sifu Andrew Barnett) was the first to call it a “Wow” exercise. Students are so amazed by the results that either they spontaneously express “Wow”, or, if they have not performed the exercise according to instructions, they say to themselves, “What is so great about this exercise. I feel nothing.”

Of course, in our school most students exclaimed "Wow!"

The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread 10 Questions on Sinew-Metamorphosis in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.