Sinew Metamorphosis

It is unbelievable but true that by understanding its underlying philosophy our students may understand an art, like Baguazhang, in a few days more than others who may have practiced the art for a few years!

Question 8

In Sifu's Q and A series about the 18 Jewels, Sifu wrote the following: “The wonderful thing is that we do not even need to know how, where, when and why it works. So long as we practice our exercises, which inevitably include chi flow, whatever adverse effects we may unknowingly sustain will be erased. This is an important reason why we can afford our three golden rules of not to worry, not to intellectualize and to enjoy our practice.“ LINK

Sifu, we benefit a lot in knowing the philosophical aspects of our arts. It enriches our learning, practice and teaching. If we take Sinew Metamorphosis as an example, are there situations where students will benefit more by knowing less about how the exercise operates and why it improves our lives? Are we in a special situation because Sifu is in the process of restoring lost arts that we benefit so much from understanding the philosophy? Or is it a general rule in practicing arts of energy and spiritual cultivation that understanding the accompanying philosophy will add to the benefits?

Sifu Mark Blohm


It is a general rule that in practicing arts of energy and spiritual cultivation that understanding the underlying philosophy will add to benefits. However, there may ne exceptions to this general rule.

Sinew Metamorphosis is a good example. When I did not understand the underlying philosophy of Sinew Metamorphosis, I took a long time, in a matter of months, to develop some internal force. When I understand the underlying philosophy and teach students according to this philosophy, they take only a few hours to develop more internal force!

Like most other practitioners I thought it was the techniques that enabled me to develop internal force when training Sinew Metamorphosis. I started with the first of the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis, and worked at it for about 12 repetitions. After a few days of daily practice, I performed the first and the second of the twelve exercises for 12 repetitions each. Adding a new exercise after a few days and performing all the exercises for 12 repetitions each, I could perform all the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises for 12 repetitions each after about one and a half months.

Then I gradually increased the number of repetitions for each exercise. After another one and a half months, i.e. about three months after starting the training, I could perform all the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercise 40 repetitions each exercise. It would take me about an hour for the training.

Over many years I discovered the underlying philosophy how by performing Sinew Metamorphosis a practitioner could develop internal force. First he had to enter into a chi kung state of mind. Then he had to generate an energy flow. When the energy flow became vigorous, he could develop a lot of internal force.

In some force training method, like Triple Stretch, a practitioner has to consolidate his flowing energy into internal force. But the nature of the Sinew Metamorphosis is such that flowing force is naturally consolidated.

I applied the underlying philosophy in teaching Sinew Metamorphosis to our students. The result was unbelievable but true. A typical student can now generate more internal force by performing a Sinew Metamorphosis exercise for 6 repetitions in less than 3 minutes than what I did when I first trained Sinew Metamorphosis by performing all the 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises for 49 repetitions each in about an hour!

Understanding the underlying philosophy also enabled me to restore lost arts. For example, I did not learn Baguazhang and Xingyiquan from any living masters. But by researching into Baguazhang and Xingyiquan classics and viewing videos of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan practitioners, I could teach students in a few days to have better results in Baguazhang and Xingyiquan than practitioners who had practiced the arts for years. Other people may not believe in my claim, but I am just stating the truth.

How do I know that our students have better results in Baguazhang and Xingyiquan in a few days than practitioners who have practiced the arts for years? By comparing our students’ results and other practitioners’ results with the results that practicing genuine Baguazhang and Xingyiquan will give.

The two pillars of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan, or any kungfu style, are intenal force and combat application. Our studdnts could develop internal force from typical Baguazhang and Xingyiquan force training methods, and use typical Baguazhang and Xingyiquan techniques for combat, but other practitioners can’t.

How does understanding its underlying philosophy and apply it in training enable us or our students whom we teach to acquire result in a very short time? We can have a clear explanation by using some quantification.

Suppose we need 10,000 units of benefit to have some desirable result, like some substantial internal force in Sinew Metamorphosis training or applying Baguazhang or Xingyiquan effectively for combat, and we acquire 100 units of benefit for each successful training session.

Because we understand its underlying philosophy and apply it in our training, by training every day we need 100 days to acquire the 10,000 units of benefit.

Other practitioners, if they are eventually successful in their training, will take a much longer time. It is because they don’t understand the underlying philosophy and therefor e cannot apply it to their training. They think mistakenly, that by practicing the techniques they will have the result. This is not so.

In the case of developing internal force in Sinew Metamorphosis, it is generating an energy flow and making the flow vigorous. If practitioners merely perform the techniques without generating an enegy flow, they will never be able to develop any internal force no matter for how long they may have practiced.

In the case of applying Baguazhang or Xingyiquan for combat, it is knowing their combat application, systematically using the Baguazahng or Xingyiquan techniques in pre-arranged sparring, then gradually reducing control to be efficient in free sparring. If practitioners merely bounce about like boxers or kick-boxers, they will never be able to apply Baguazhang or Xingyiquan for combat no matter for how long they may have practiced the arts.

If a practitioner is dedicated, by training every day if he is lucky that conditions become ideal once awhile he may be able to generate an energy flow or apply Baguazhang or Xingyiquan for combat. Suppose this happens once in 10 days, i.e. he acquires 100 units of benefits in 10 days, which is actually a generous estimate.

If he is successful once in 10 days, or 3 times a month, will he acquire 300 units of benefit in one month? No. This is because the successful practice sessions are far apart which does not enable accumulated effect to take place. He receives 100 units of benefit after 10 days, but by the time he receives another 100 units of benefit the next 10 days, the benefit he received in the first 10 days would have dissipated.

Let us be generous in our estimate again. Suppose he receives 150 units of benefit every month. This will take him 66 months, or 5 years and 6 months, to have a similar result that our students can acquire in 100 days!

Our students can attain a result in 100 days what other successful practitioners would need more than 5 years because I know the underlying philosophy and apply it when teaching our students. The students themselves may not know the philosophy at the time of the training. If they know the philosophy, they may intellectualize on some aspects of the philosophy and therefore come out of the chi kung state mind and be unable to generate the needed energy flow in Sinew Metamorphosis training. This is an exception to the general rule.

In combat application, students may know the underlying philosophy but they may be unable to translate the philosophy into action. For example, they may know theoretically to gradually release control in their pre-arranged sparring so that eventually they may be engaged in free sparring, but they may be unable in practice to gradually release in the right proportion. This is another exception.

These are two examples of exceptions where students may benefit more by knowing less. But as a general rule if they know the underlying philosophy they can benefit at a rate that is even unimaginable by masters. They therefore have to be very careful not to over-train.

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