Sifu Wong at the International Congress for the Unity of Science in Seoul in 2000
Five Steps to Maximum Results
Why can some people attain in six months what others may not attain in six years? This is not an exaggeration; indeed, many of my students have reported that they have benefitted in a few months what they could only read about in books but never experienced although they had previously practiced the art in question for many years. Chi kung and kungfu (including Taijiquan) provide some glaring, if not disturbing, examples.
It is not uncommon today to find practitioners who have been in chi kung or kungfu for many years, some of whom are even instructors themselves, but who have no experience whatsoever of energy flow or any ability of self defence. Yet, the very fundamental of chi kung is energy flow, and that of kungfu is self defence. It is even more disturbing when some people, irrespective of whether their intention is good or selfish, start to teach chi kung or Taijiquan, which is actually a very effective form of martial art, after they have learnt some chi kung or Taijiquan movements for a few weeks, some even for a few days!
If you learn from such self-taught “masters” you are not going to get good results even if you practice for a whole lifetime. On the other hand, if you learn form a genuine master, you will get better results in a much shorter time. Nevertheless, while learning from a genuine master, or at least a competent instructor, is important, there are other contributing factors too, and they are generalized into the following Five Steps to Deriving the Best Benefits from Your Training:
Have a sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art you practice.
Define your aims and objectives clearly.
Seek a master for the best available methods to attain your aims and objectives.
Practice, practice and practice.
Assess your progress or otherwise with direct reference to your set aims and objectivs.
Philosophy, Scope and Depth
Understanding the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art is the essential first step if you want good result. Such an understanding acts like a map; it not only shows you the way and how to get there, but also the potential result at the destination.
Without this understanding, many people not only waste a lot of time and are often lost along the way, but also they do not actually know what they are working at. If they understand, for example, that to practice chi kung or Taijiquan, actually means to work on energy flow or to train for combat efficiency, far less people would have wasted their time over exercises that at best are gymnastics or dance.
If they further understand that the scope and depth of chi kung are much more than just energy flow, though working on energy flow is its essential foundation; and that the scope and depth of great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan ae not just combat efficiency, though combat efficiency is the basic starting point, they would go beyond the foundation and basic to greater heights like vitality, longevity, mind expansion and spiritual fulfilment.
Where can you obtain knowledge on the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art? There are two main sources: living masters and established classics. Obviously if you hear it from a self-styled scholar who himself has not experienced what he says, or read it from a book which merely repeats cliches, you are unlikely to benefit much. Living masters were rare even in the past; they are rarer nowadays.
If you are so lucky to meet one, treat him with the respect as you would treat a living treasure. Showing Respect to the Master suggests the minimum you should do when meeting a living treasure. If you politely ask him relevant questions, he would answer them. If he gives excuses like the answers are too complicated for you to comprehend, or they involve secrets that you should not know (unless they really are secrets, which are not frequent in general questions), you are justified in suspecting whether he is a real master.
Established classics were also rare in the past, but they are more readily available today. You need to overcome two obstacles to understand the classics. One, you need to know classical Chinese; and two, you need to have some background knowledge. Most people, especially in the West, have neither of these two conditions. Their alternative is modern, easy-to-read books clearly written and well illustrated by practicing masters. Therefore, in chosing a book for your prior reading, you should decide on the following three factors: whether the book is dull or interesting, whether it is written in jargon or simple language, and whether the author and his material are authentic.
It is so evident that without aims and objectives much of the learning or training is usually unfruitful, that mentioning this fact may become trite. Yet, most people practice chi kung or kungfu without set aims and objectives! Try asking some practitioners why do they practice chi kung or kungfu, and many of them will start searching for their aims or objectives after, not before, they have heard your question. Even if they have prior aims and objectives, often they are merely fashionable slogans, rather than real definitions to remind them of the direction of their training.
For our purpose here, aims are general in their definition, and long-term in their attainment; whereas objectives are specific and short-term. For example, to be able to defend yourself is a general aim in your Taijiquan training, whereas to be able to release yourself from some particular locks and holds constitutes an objective. You should also set a time frame within which to accomplish your aims or objectives. Needless to say, you have to be realistic and reasonable when setting your time. For someone who has been suffering from an illness for years, for instance, it would be unreasonable to expect the disease to be overcome by just practicing certain chi kung exercises for only a few weeks.
For convenience, objectives may be classified into personal objectives and course objectives. The choice of personal objectives depends on the needs and abilities of the person in question, and sometimes on his whims and fancy. Developing the art of tiger-claw, and performing well the Five Animals kungfu set are examples of personal objectives in Shaolin Kungfu training.
Course objectives are related to the particular set of chi kung or kungfu exercises you intend to train for a period of time. For example, you may wish to spend six months on Golden Bridge training in Shaolin Kungfu, or on the Three Circles Stance in Taijiquan. In either case, developing powerful arms and solid stances is an appropriate course objective.
To define your aims and objectives wisely (please read the webpage Aims and Objectives of Practicing Kung Fu), it is necessary to have some sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art in question. For example, if you do not understand that chi kung also promotes mind expansion and spiritual cultivation, you will be in no position to touch on the mind and spirit while you define your aims and objectives. If you think (mistakenly) that Taijiquan is merely moving your body, arms and legs gracefully, the aims and objectives you set for your Taijiquan training, no matter for how long you may practice, are necessarily limited by your narrow perspective.
Seeking a Master for the Best Available Methods
Sifu Wong posting with his teacher, Sigong Ho Fatt Nam, many years ago
Having set your aims and objectives, the next logical step is to seek a master to help you realize your aims and objectives. Good masters are hard to find; you have to spend some time seeking them, but it is worth all your time and effort. The webpage Qualities of a Good Master will give you some ideas what to look for in your search. Remember it is you who seek the master; he may have neither the need nor the obligation to teach you. It is simply amazing why some people presume that just because they want to learn, a master is duty-bound to teach them. It is also illogical to presume that a master would not charge any fee for his teaching, that he could live on sunshine and water. The right attitude, which often turns out to be the best approach to a master, is for you to prove yourself to be a worthy student.
If you cannot find a master, at least look for a competent instructor, who must qualify in the following two conditions. One, he must be professional, i.e. he knows what he is teaching. Someone who teaches a profund art like chi kung or kungfu, after having learnt it for a few months, literally does not know what he is teaching. He does not know, for instance, that he is teaching chi kung-like or kungfu-like dance or gymnastics and not real chi kung or kungfu. The second condition is that he must be ethical, i.e. he ensures what he teaches is beneficial, and if his students develop adverse side-effects he knows about them and is capable of rectifying them.
A good master will choose the best available methods for you to achieve your aims and objectives. The selection will depend on numerous variables, such as your needs and abilities, the master’s repertoire as well as environmental factors and supportive resources. You may sometimes wonder if the choice made is a good one, but if he is a good master and has accepted you as his student, it is almost always certain that he will choose the best method and procedure for you.
Alternatively, you may have known from your reading or elsewhere some useful methods to accomplish your aims and objectives. Your task, therefore, is to seek for a master who can teach you your selected methods. However, if he advises you to make any changes — such as in your aims or objectives, your previously selected methods, or the procedure of training — it is again almost always certain that with his wider perspective and experience, he knows your needs and how to fulfill them better than you do. It is not without justification for the saying that real masters are worth more than their weight in gold.
Practice, Practice and Practice
The fourth step is the most important and takes the most time. It is significant to note that this step is “practice, practice and practice”, and not “learn, learn and learn”. In fact, frequently in chi kung and kungfu, especially at this stage, the more you learn the less you accomplish! This does not mean that learning is detrimental; in fact, learning about the philosophy, scope and depth of chi kung or kungfu is the first essential step to obtaining the best result in your training. But if your training is geared towards chi kung or kungfu proficiency, it is detrimental merely to learn, learn and learn.
There are some crucial differences between practicing and learning. Practicing is practical and experiential; learning is theoretical and intellectual. Practicing deals with what has been known; its purpose is to develop and consolidate skills, force or ability. Learning deals with what is to be known; its purpose is to obtain new knowledge.
Masters are made through practice, scholars through learning. Masters perform, and directly experience what they profess. Chi kung or kungfu masters, for example, can demonstrate internal force, and experience vitality and mental freshness. Scholars merely talk, but often have no direct experience of what they know. Nowadays there are many chi kung and kungfu scholars, especially in the West, but there are very few masters, even in the East.
If you want to become a master, or just to be proficient, in chi kung or kungfu, you simply cannot escape this long process of practice, practice and practice. You do not practice just three times, or for three months, but preferably at least for three years. There is a saying that “three years of practice will bring a small success; ten years a big success”. What you practice may be simple, and usually consists of only one or a few techniques!
Actually it does not really matter what you practice, so long as you practice, practice and practice long enough, you will become a master of what you practice — even if your chosen method is inferior. If you continuously strike your palms onto a sand bag, or strike your leg against a coconut tree every day for three years — methods which are considered “inferior” in our Shaolin Wahnam School of Chi Kung and Kungfu — you will become a master of iron palm or iron leg, and may have the power to kill a person with just one strike. Unless you are particularly fond of showing off your brute strength, breaking bricks or someone’s bones with your palm or leg is normally not a rewarding thing to do. Hence, if you have acquired a good philosophical background in your first step, you will be in a better position to choose a “superior” method to practice in this fourth step for more rewarding results.
Assessing Progress According to Aims and Objectives
Combat Application of Shaolin Kungfu
You should access your progress, or otherwise, according to your set aims and objectives. You must, of course, follow your master’s advice and the conditions required by the method of training. If your master asks you to breathe slowly and gently, it is sheer folly to attempt to be smarter than the teacher by breathing fast or forcefully. If the method requires you to practice daily for six months, it is a waste of your time and your teacher’s effort if you discontinue your training after three weeks because you have not experienced any effect.
If you follow your master’s advice and practice according to the requirements of the established method, you will obtain the results that method is reputed to give. For example, Self-Manifested Chi Movement is reputed to clear energy blockage and balance energy level, and the pattern Grasping Sparrow’s Tail in Yang Style Taijiquan is reputed to be an effective counter against all modes of attack. If you have practiced them correctly and adequately, you will have your energy blockage cleared, and be able to defend against all attacks. Why is this so? It is because the methods are established, which means they have been time tested for centuries to produce the expected results.
If you do not derive the expected results, which may sometimes happen, the fault is usually traceable to one or more of the following three causes:
the practice is incorrect or insufficient
the teacher is incompetent
the student is inadequate
Rectify the fault and the expected results will follow as a matter of course.
Your assessment is made not only at the completion of the training but also regularly during the course itself. Of course modifications, but not complete changes, are made when necessary, but they should be done with the master’s approval and supervision.
These Five Steps to Maximun Results may enable you not only to obtain remarkable results in shorter time, but also to approach the full potential your training can offer. For example, students who do not have the benefit of these five steps may be quite contented in their chi kung or kungfu training once they can cure their illness or attain combat efficiency, thinking that is all what chi kung and kungfu can do. Others who follow the five steps will understand a wider scope and greater depth of their art, and will therefore in a position to derive other benefits like mental clarity and spiritual joy.
The Five Steps show not only the procedure to follow but also the relevant dimensions to cover, involving all the three essentials in any training, namely the method, the teacher and the student. Hence, with this understanding one can appreciate that to get the best results in any training, be it chi kung, Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu, playing the piano or painting, merely having good techniques is not enough, he (or she) must also have a good teacher and himself be a good student. With such advantages and foresight, it is not surprising you can achieve in six months what others may not be able to do so in six years.
The Buddha has taught that we can never repay the debt owed to our parents
My relationship with my father has always been tense. But since a couple of years, my father has tried to get closer to me, my brothers and sisters and our children. Last week, my boys and I went to my father’s house. We had a tremendous time.
— Nikita, Russia
It is great to know of your improving relationship with your father. Not only you should make full use of this opportunity, you should also subtly encourage your other brothers and sisters to do so. It is a wonderful blessings you must not miss.
You must do so subtly, certainly not overtly. For example, whenever topics of conversations touch on your father, and he is not physically present, or on anybody’s father, mention that one must be grateful to his parents even when the parents might not have been caring to the children.
The Buddha teaches that even when someone carries his invalid father or mother on his back and takes him or her about everyday for 500 lifetimes, he has not repaid the debt he owes to his parents. What a blessing you have when your father is still healthy. Your relationship with your father should be such that when the time comes for him to leave this phenomenal world, you can with satisfaction say to yourself that you have been kind to your father.
On another issue, my daughter is in love with a man who is extremely abusive, emotionally and physically to my daughter. A couple of days ago I had the chance to talk to a very good friend who has the ability of clairvoyance and she told me she could see that my daughter was under a black spell of voodoo. She said she could see black candles and some black strings attached to her.
Her advice was to wake next morning at sunrise and perform some form of ceremcny with a sword to cut off those strings, which I did. Can you please advice how I can continue helping my daughter from these very bad influences?
It is an excellent idea to use a sword to cut off the invisible strings that tie your daughter. You can also extinguish the black candles with the sword or by blowing with your mouth.
You can also do the following. If you can, chant some blessings onto some clean water, and sprinkle it around her room and house. As you sprinkle the sanctified water, say a mantra, any suitable mantra like Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodh Satt, and ask in a firm way whatever bad spirits or influences to leave your daughter, your family and the house, and bless the bad spirits or influences. You can perform this holy ritual three times.
If the above is not feasible, you can do the same thing in any suitable place you can find. Enter into a meditative state of mind, and visualize you are performing the ritual in your daughter’s house.
Sifu Tim Frankklin and Grandmaster Wong demonstrating Shaolin Kungfu
I was very afraid of attacks because I experienced a childhood with physical violence . I took some classes in T’ang Soo Do but also quickly found your book “The Art Of Shaolin Kung Fu”.
I did the exercises especially ones producing spontaneous chi movements. I found the exercises tamazing. Within one year I had given up alcohol and cigarettes. My body was becoming fit and strong and my mind was getting clear.
Unfortunately, something happened to me around that time. Suddenly my body could no longer do the stretches needed for high kicks and I stiffened up and became full of pain. Naturally that was very frustrating as I had decided on martial arts as my life path
I became sad, angry and depressed I tried to talk to many doctors, including Chinese medical doctors. I tried to find helpful teachers but I met only men who loved fighting and violent harm. I could not find someone like you who I knew understood what he was talking about and understood the Way.
— Ciaran, Ireland
Congratulations for your success in learning from my book. I am also sorry to hear of your later happenings.
From your description, I am sure you can overcome your problems. I suggest that you leave aside martial arts for the time being, and return to it later when you have become healthy and strong. Meanwhile you should practice chi kung to heal yourself.
I would strongly recommend that you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course Please see my Website for information.
Many people may wonder what one can learn in just a few days. I can say from experience that you will learn a lot, in fact, more than what you need at present, and you will be able to practice on your own when you return home. Please apply to my secretary for registration.
Practicing on your own at home is important. In a few months, you will be well enough to resume your martial art. I would suggest you give Shaolin Kungfu taught by me a try.
I would like to know how is the Instructor Training for the Shaolin Wahnam Institute. I have been reading in the website and I found the regional and intensive courses. But no reference for a long term training to become an instructor. If there is one, could you please indicate how many forms, weapons, style, cost, place for the training?
— Reyes, USA
In our school, potential instructors are chosen from our students who have been training with us for some time, and are not open to application from the public. The choice is based on the following factors:
They have attended at least once but often a few times, my intensive courses they are going to teach, as these courses provide the basic philosophy, techniques and skills practitioners of the relevant arts should know.
Seniority is also an important consideration in our choice of instructors.
Interestingly, the factors you have mentioned, like how many forms, weapons, and styles they know are not important in our consideration, although our potential instructors normally know many forms or kungfu sets, a few weapons and a few kungfu styles.
The cost students have spent before they become instructors, and the places they have had their training vary. But all our instructors have expressed, openly or tacitly, that the benefits they get from our training are many times more than the money and effort
One must become a good student first, before thinking of becoming an instructor
Can we eat our breakfast before chi kung practice?
— Melanie, Spain
Many masters recommend that practitioners should abstain from eating a meal half an hour before and after chi kung practice. It is because the food in the stomach may interfere with chi flow.
However, as our chi flow is powerful, we need not follow this instruction. In fact, my Intensive Chi Kung Course is held at 8 o’clock in the morning. Students usually have their breakfast just before the course.
In my book, “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”, one of the dont’s is not to take a meal about half an hour before and after a chi kung session. The book was written about 20 years ago in 1997 when my chi kung attainment was of a much lower level than now. Moreover it was written for people who might not have a change to learn from me personally. But now, those who learn from me personally, and hence their chi kung attainment is higher, have the luxury of enjoying a meal before or after chi kung.
It is the same with having a shower. Many masters advise against taking a shower about half an hour before and after chi kung practice. But as our chi kung is powerful, we may not follow this instruction. We can have a shower before and after chi kung.
I attended a course with Sifu in England a few years back. I experienced tremendous joy after the final stage of Bone Marrow Cleansing.
I have been practicing “Lifting the Sky” for depression and anxiety. Should I include Bone Marrow Cleansing in my routine? If so, how often should I do it?
— Jussi, Finland
You should practice “Lifting the Sky” most of the time, about 8 out of 10 days. You practice Bone-Marrow Cleansing only once a while, about once or twice out of 10 days.
Follow the three golden rules: don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and enjoy your practice. Depression can be overcome quite easily with our chi kung.
Dr Daniel of Belgium performing “Lifting the Sky” during a kungfu course
How many cigarettes in a day do you consider to be too much? I am struggling with depression and smoke about 20 in a day.
For me, even one cigarette a day is too much.
For you, I suggest 5 cigarettes a day. Within 3 months, you cut down to zero cigarettes a day. Note the phrase “within 3 months”. You may accomplish the task in 1 month.
Whenever you feel like having a cigarette more than the number you have allotted yourself to, practice “Lifting the Sky” followed by chi flow. The total time of your practice should just be about 5 minutes, not 10 minutes as in a regular practice session.
If you really want to eliminate your cigarette smoking and depression, just follow this plan. You will succeed.
After you have quitted smoking, if you wish to enjoy a cigarette, you can do so any time. By then, you smoke because you enjoy it, not because you are addicted. .
You told me once that my depression could be cured in three months of chi kung practice. How can you be so sure? Can you see to the future?
I am very sure because overcoming depression with our chi kung is actually easy. Many people have done that. If you follow my plan you will succeed.
My plan is simple, and is as follows. Practice “Lifting the Sky”, or any chi kung exercise, followed by chi flow, three times a day — once in the morning, once in the evening, and once at night. Each session should just be about 10 minutes. During your practice, don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and just enjoy your practice.
I mentioned that you would overcome your depression in three months. This means any time within 3 months. You may accomplish the task in just 2 weeks.
Sometimes I can see into the future. But the future is not fixed. It depends on some variables.
In your xase, for example, I can see that in a month you can quit smoking and in 2 weeks you are free from depression if you really want to. But if you don’t want to, though you may say you do, you will be unable to quit smoking and overcome your depression.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, country and e-mail address.
The big irony is that many martial artists are unhealthy and are unable to defend themselves. Here Evelyn and Sifu Leonard apply Shaolin Kungfu in combat.
“The big irony is that many martial artists are unhealthy and are unable to defend themselves despite spending many years training a martial art! Not only they injure themselves in free sparring and their injuries are routinely left unattended to, the way they train is usually detrimental to both their physical, emotional and spiritual health. Many people may be surprised at my statements that many martial artists today cannot defend themselves. If they can, they accept being hit and kicked for granted as part of their training.” — Quoted from Grandmaster Wong’s answer.
May I ask, sifu, should one avoid being hit altogether? How? What about in the sense of blocking? I suppose it is better to avoid contact than to have to block? When I practice blocks with my friend my arms are often sore/ bruised but we figured this would toughen us. I am grateful for your instruction Sifu,
— Lee, USA
Of course one should avoid being hit altogether. That is the main purpose of practicing an art of self-defence. That is also the main reason why I said people who freely exchanged blows in free sparring were not learning a martial art though they thought they did.
How does one avoid being hit? That is what he learns in a martial art, any martial art. Thee are two categories to accomplish this.
One category is to ward off the attack. There are many ways of warding off. Blocking an attack as described by you where your arm become sore or bruised is third-class. In first-class warding off you use minimum force to overcome maximum strength.
The second category of avoiding hit is to dodge the attack. There are also many ways of dodging.
You will learn these first-class responses to avoid being hit in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or the Intensive Taijiquan Course.
Having your arms sored or bruised from blocking is a poor way to toughen your arms. It is more likely to weaken your arms than to toughen them. A sore or bruised arm is painful and injured. Pain and injry weaken a person, not just his arms.
There are many excellent methods in our school for strengthening arms. Some examples are One-Finger Shooting Zen, Golden Bridge, Separating Water, and even Grasping Sparrowâ€™s Tail. The uninitiated may wonder how these exercises, especially Grasping Sparrowâ€™s Tail, can strengthen arms. Not only they do, they are excellent â€“ if practiced correctly.
Please take note that toughening, in the sense of conditioning, may not necessary be strengthening. If you punch your fist onto a wall, for example, you may toughen or condition your knuckles, but may not necessary add power to your punch. Hence, when we practice Thirty Punches, which is an exercise to increase power of the punch, we punch into empty space, and not onto a sandbag.
I would like to continue to strengthen my stances. I can see the difference between someone who knows many forms but wobbles on their legs and someone who has powerful stances but few forms.
What would be the you-wei and the wu-wei of horse stance? Right now I try to imagine my self relaxing and letting my chi sink to my feet. I can tell when I get tense that it rises up to my torso and chest but if I relax I can sink it down and hold the floor with my toes better.
Stances are very important in kungfu, and their benefits are transferred to daily life. Stances develop internal force and mental clarity.
The “you-wei” part of stance training consists of two steps. The first step is to get the poise correct. In the Horse-Riding Stance, for example, ensure that you are upright. The second step is to relax, relax and relax.
The “wu-wei” part is to be spontaneous. Don’t think of anything, including not imagining yourself relaxing and letting your chi sink to your feet. Just spontaneously remain upright and relaxed in your stance.
Stances are very important in kungfu training. Grandmaster Wong showed the importance of waist rotation in a Bow-Arrow Stance during a kungfu class in Madrid.
My wonderful girlfriend told me that she wanted to fast during Ramadan this year. She told me it was all about discipline and being spiritual. My initial thought and feeling was concern when I heard this. Personally I know little about Ramadan but I don’t see the spiritual side to forcing oneself to stay off food. Of course I could be wrong. Should I be concerned here? I always want to support her in whatever she wishes to do but I also want her to be safe as this is my natural instinct to protect her.
— Sifu Mark Hartnett, Ireland
Rituals of any religion help practitioners to practice their faith and thus purify their spirit. If a practitioner has strong spiritual roots, like a Zen monk, he may not need rituals yet attain high spiritual levels.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan also purifies the body, which contributes to purification of the spirit. If your girlfriend understands these deeper meaning, fasting during Ramadan is good for her. On the other hand, there are religious fanatics who follow religious rituals but act in a way God or whatever term the Supreme Reality is addressed asks his followers not to do.
If your girlfriend wishes to fast, ask her to prepare herself if it is the first time she attempts it. Her body needs time to adjust to fasting.
Fasting demands discipline, and is spiritual as it purifies both the body and the spirit. It is natural that you are concerned for her. A good approach is to tell her the significance of fasting and let her make her choice. As she is not a Muslim, she needs not fast the whole month of Ramadan, or during part of it. She can fasts for any day or two to make some adjustment and preparation.
I have been very lucky to spend time with a Hoong Ka master, and he emphasizes a lot of Asking Bridge to develop sensing skills for sparring. Whenever I spar with him and some of his senior students, their sensing skills are such that he is often able to simply “slip” out of my attempts to tame or close his hands unless I have superior force and chin-na.
— Frederick, USA
The Hoong Ka master defeated you because of skills and not because of techniques. Even if you use other techniques, he will still be able to defeat you.
This does not mean that techniques are not important. When he slips away, you can strike his retreating arm, or kick his leg.
You can also improve your skills of “bridging gap” and “follow-through”. When he tries to escape from your taming or closing hand, you “follow-through” with your taming or closing hand, and bridge the gap of his retreat. You should spend some time practicing on your own before applying the skills on your opponents.
Grandmaster Wong employs a pattern from Hoong Ka Kungfu, called Southern Shaolin in our school, in combat application
My attempts to simply close someone with a taming or pressing palm are generally defeated by my sparring partner simply turning their body into the Unicorn Stance or retreating if they have superior footwork to me. Is there an aspect of taming/closing an opponent that I miss, or should all attempts to tame or close an opponent use chin-na to “confirm” the taming/closing?
No, you have not missed the basic techniques of taming and closing, though you may not have learned sophisticated techniques of following through, like using chin-na to subdue your opponents.
But you attended the Baguazhang course at the UK Summer Camp. There are a lot of techniques and tactics you can use from the Baguazhang course to defeat your opponent when he turns aside into a Unicorn Step or when he retreats.
When he turns aside into a Unicron Step, for example, you can employ your Baguazhang footwork to follow his turning and strike him, or you can go to the other side and fell him from behind. When he retreats, you can rush forward, but taking care of your own safety, and push him off the arena, or you can jump forward with “Wild Crane Kicks Leg”.
It is not necessary to use chin-na to confirm taming or closing, but for one trained in chin-na, it is an excellent way to subdue opponents. When a chin-na master wishes to apply a chin-na grip on his opponent, it is unlikely the opponent could escape.
How would you recommend approaching sparring with someone who has superior sensitivity skills? I have had some success with using the “disappearing” that I discussed with you last year in sparring, which sometimes gives me opportunities, but I know that there are certain people I have met who can always notice me, so I do not want to rely too much on such an ability; I would personally rather have more solid fundamentals than rely on such a “trick.”
There are two main approaches. One is to avoid his sensing skills. Using kicks, for example, is a good tactic. Instead of having arm contact, you can kick at him.
The other approach indicates the hallmark of a master. Change his sensing skills, which are his strong points, to his weakness. Chin-na and dim mak are excellent in this respect.
Sifu Tim uses his leg to neutralize a groin attack from Frederick in a Baguazhang combat application
Another situation that I run across in sparring is sparring partners who have a lot of muscular strength. My usual tactic is to “borrow” my sparring partner’s force and use soft counters to conserve my energy and to guide their force away into emptiness so that I can set up a decisive strike, mainly using Baguazhang strategies and movements from the Swimming Dragon set and adding a Baguazhang “flavor” to the Hoong Ka I am learning here.
Dim mark is excellent for overcoming opponents with a lot of muscular strength, but you need to learn dim mak at a course from a master willing to teach you.
Many kungfu styles are well-known for the smaller-sized to defeat the bigger and stronger, and Baguazahgn is one of them. You can use Baguazhang techniques and tactics to get to an opponent’s side or back to strike him.
Sometimes, however, my sparring partners will “lock up” with a lot of tension and will not “give” me any force to work with, and I find that very difficult to handle. I can handle the situation usually with a combination of superior agility (getting to their sides or back, or simply feinting and striking a different body part) and stamina (simply outlasting their muscular tension), but I do not know if there is a better way to approach this sort of situation.
Don’t use force against force if your opponent is physically stronger.
All the methods you mentioned are excellent.
You can get to your opponent’s back to fell him. Don’t fell him with brutal strength. Off-balance him, and he falls easily.
You can also strike his vital spots, like his eyes, throat and sexual organ. But of course you stop an inch from target.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
Wei Foong, Peter, Attilio, my wife and Siew Foong at the Italian Riviera with the Mediterranean Sea behind
Back in Italy in Attilio’s hotel after some chi kung courses, Pio, an elderly aristocrat who has attended all my chi kung courses in Finale Ligure every year, invited me and Attilio to his huge mansion in the countryside near Siena.
“Sifu,” Pio said, “We shall also go to San Gimignano to have the best ice-cream in the world.”
Every Italian would say Italian ice-cream was the best, I thought to myself.
Attilio and I went to San Gimignano to wait for Pio to take us to his mansion. San Gimignano was a pretty ancient town with two famous ice-cream parlours reputed to sell the best ice-cream in the world. We sat waiting for Pio at an old village well at the centre of the village square.
Attilio was pacing up and down, deep in thoughts. Then he turned to me.
“Sifu, while waiting we may have some ice-cream.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” I told Attilio.
Attilio got me and himself a cone each with three gigantic scoops of ice-cream. I had eaten a lot of ice-cream all over the world coming in different containers, from sticks and cones to cups and boxes. But this was really the best ice-cream I had taken, without any doubt it was more delicious than any other by a big margin. I really enjoyed every lick of it.
After finishing the delicious ice-cream, we waited and waited, but Pio did not turn up. Attilio was again pacing about at the village well, deep in thoughts.
Eventually he said to me, “Sifu, what about another helping?”
Although I love ice-cream, the three scoops were so big that normally they would be enough. But they were so mouth-watering that I did not hesitate to say, “Yes! We must have another helping.”
Again, Attilio got me and himself each another three gigantic scoops of ice-cream, and we slowly enjoyed every lick of them.
But Pio still had not arrived. Again, Attilio was pacing up and down near the well, deep in thoughts. He could not hold himself any longer. At last he said to me, “Sifu, I think we should have a third helping.”
“Yes, you’re perfectly right! We should have a third helping,” I quickly added.
My wife in the ancient town of Finale Ligure in Italy
Practicing chi kung will give us good health, vitality and longevity as a matter of course
I fear progressing in my practice of chi kung, because I don’t know where I shall be on the way.
— Franz, Russia
Your fear is not only unnecessary but also unfounded. Just practice your chi kung following the three golden rules of practice, which are not to worry, not to intellectualize, and to enjoy your practice, and you will have good health, vitality and longevity.
The first rule, “not to worry”, means you need not worry whether you are on the way. The second rule, “not to intellectualize”, means you need not intellectualize whether you are on the way, or where the way will lead you to. But I shall still tell you where the way will lead you to. It will lead you to good health, vitality and longevity.
The third rule, “enjoy your practice”, is self-explanatory. If you don’t enjoy your practice, or if you are indifferent to your practice, you are not following the three golden rules.
Why will the way lead you to good health, vitality and longevity? That is because that is the way chi kung is. As an analogy, when you are hungry, eating some food will satisfy your hunger. If you are driving along a road to Moscow, you will eventually reach Moscow.
Why will eating some food satisfy your hunger, or driving along the road to Moscow will enable you to reach Moscow? It is because that is the way eating some food and driving to Moscow is.
If you practice chi kung and don’t have good health, vitality and longevity, it is because of some other factors, like you stop practicing, or you practice wrongly, or what you practice is not genuine chi kung. So, don’t fear practicing genuine chi kung, and stop worrying and intellectualizing. Just enjoy your chi kung practice
My mind thinks around trying to understand the experiences of meditation and compare my thinking with life. For the most part, I just can’t. For example, a human is just another animal living on a basis of stimulus-response without having a real choice because there is no one who can make it, and emotions and thoughts arise spontaneously. This makes me depressed. Can you please give me advice?
The reason you do not think well is that your thinking is wrong. The reason you are depressed is that, regardless of whether your thinking is right or wrong, you do not enjoy your thinking.
Your thinking is wrong because a human is not just another animal. The human is also not living on a basic of stimulus-response. It is also wrong to think that he has no real choice. Fourthly it is wrong to think that no one can make it, i.e. making a choice based on stimulus-response. It is also wrong to think that emotions and thoughts arise spontaneously.
I am quite sure you are a human. So, let us take you as an example. You are not just another animal. No animals, for example, can write an e-mail to me and ask me questions. In fact, you are unique. No other humans, and certainly no other animals, are like you.
You do not live on a basic of stimulus-response. If someone rings a bell, like the case of Pavlov’s dogs for example, you do not necessarily eat the food provided. You have many choices. Regarding the food, you can throw it away, throw it to the provider, go out to buy the type of food you like to eat, and so on.
You also can make it. If food is provided, you can eat it. If for any reason you do not want to eat the food, you also can make it, i.e. you do not eat the food.
Emotions and thoughts may arise in you spontaneously, or they may not. I believe your thoughts of these questions did not arise spontaneously. You made some effort to think of these questions. They did not arise by themselves.
If the ideas you think make you depressed, then don’t think of these ideas. Think of ideas that make you happy.
As a human, it is not difficult to think of happy ideas, irrespective of whether these ideas will become real. It also does not need high intelligence to do so, unless you choose to think of intelligent ideas.
The goal of practicing the Shaolin arts in our school is to enrich our life in this phenomenal world
Isn’t enlightenment the goal of the Shaolin arts as well?
Attaining Enlightenment was the goal of the Shaolin arts at the Shaolin Monastery in the past. But in Shaolin Wahnam today, attaining Enlightenment is not the goal of our Shaolin arts. Enlightenment here means perfect transcendentality where there is no differentiation into myriad identities.
The goal of our Shaolin arts is to have good health, vitality, longevity, poak performance and spiritual joys in our phenomenal world. Many of our Shaolin Wahnam members have experiences of spiritual awakening, or a glimpse of Enlightenment, but we are not ready for Enlightenment yet.
During standing meditation, when I am not thinking of anything, when I smile from the heart and am physically relaxed as best as I can, I am not actively doing anything but am in the moment. I mean that I am perceiving or noticing things, but in a greater quantity and quality than during normal daily life, which is just like during Vipassana meditation. Then I remember your advice about stopping sitting meditation, and I don’t know if I should do that and let the observation happen, which I feel like practicing Vipassana unintentionally. Can you please give me advice?
Yes, I can give you advice, and my advice is always based on the interest of the person who asks me for advice.
But whether you, or anybody, follow my advice is your choice and your right. It is also not my business to ensure that you, or anybody else, follow my advice.
My advice for you to stop Vipassana mediation was because it was making you dull and depressed. I also make it very clear that it was not because Vipassana meditation was not good, but because it was not suitable for you at the time when I gave you the advice, and also now when you ask me for more advice. Similsrly, if our chi kung brings you harm instead of benefit, I would also ask you to stop practicing our chi kung.
Vipassana meditation is good for Theravada monks who have renounced family life to cultivate for Enlightenment. If you were in such a situation, when you became a Theravada monk and had renounced family life to cultivate for Enlightenment, though I would not recommend you to do this, Vipassana meditation would be suitable for you.
Our standing meditation and smiling from the heart are different form Vipassana meditation, though some of the benefits may be similar. Practicing our chi kung is also very different from practicing Vipassana meditation, even unintentionally.
Editorial Note: Franz’ other questions can be found in the following issued, July 2017 Part 3, of the Question-Answer Series.
Sifu, you said that being free from irrelevant thoughts is a necessary condition for performing chi kung. I have hundreds of thoughts crossing my mind How do I eliminate them?
— Elizabeth, USA
Yours is a common problem among many people. They complain that they are troubled by hundreds of thoughts in their daily life, specially when they are not performing any specific tasks.
But once they have learned from our school they overcome their problem. You also have done well. In the chi kung session just now, you had a beautiful chi flow. If you had hundreds of thoughts crossing your mind, you would not have any chi flow.
Being free from irrelevant thoughts is a necessary condition for practicing chi kung, and chi flow is the essence. The other condition is to be relaxed. In other words, if a person has hundreds of thoughts crossing his mind, or he is tensed, he would not be practicing chi kung; he practices gentle physical exercise using chi kung techniques.
A sure way to eliminate irrelevant thoughts is to stop each thought as soon as it arises. You may not stop all the thoughts at once; you would need time to do so.
Suppose you have 500 thoughts in 10 minutes. For the first day you succeed in stopping 5 thoughts. So you have 495 thoughts for that day instead of 500.
The second day you do better. You can stop 8 thoughts, leaving you 483 thoughts. But on the third day, for whatever reasons, you do not perform as well. 3 extra thoughts creep into your mind, resulting in you having 486 thoughts.
There may be rise and fall in the number of thoughts in your mind, but generally the trend is that your thoughts become less and less. If you persists doing this every day, in about 3 months you will have eliminate most of your thoughts.
This method is simple, though it needs perseverance. If you want to succeed, you must continue performing this method every day for a few months.
Why, then, many people have many thoughts troubling their mind? There are two reasons. One, they do not know of this method. Two, they do not persist enough. They attempt this method every day for a few days, then stop practicing.
Sifu, Sinew Metamorphosis develops tremendous amount of internal force in a very short time. There is also no visualization and no special breathing methods involved. What mechanics are involved to make Sinew Metamorphosis so very powerful?
— Sifu Leonard Lackinger, Austria
This is an excellent question. In fact, I have been waiting for such a question. Many people have expressed amazement at the tremendous force developed from Sinew Metamorphosis in just a minute or two but so far no one has asked me how.
There are three dimensions in any internal force development, namely form, energy and mind. The division into these three dimension is for easy understanding. Actually all the dimensions are involved in any internal force development, or in any chi kung exercise.
For example, the most basic method of developing internal force is the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three-Circle Stance in Taijiquan today. These stances are usually regarded as the form dimension. But the energy and the mind dimensions are also involved. A practitioner lets his breathing be nautral, which is the energy dimension. His mind is focused at his dan tian or at nothingness, which is the mind dimension. If his breathing is forced, or his mind wandering, his result will be greatly hampered.
To illustrate the operation of these three dimensions in force training, let us take Lifting Water as an example. If we only perform the form of Lifting Water in a relaxed manner we can develop some internal force. This is the form dimension.
If we regulate our breath while performing Lifting Water in a relaxed manner, we can develop more internal force. We breathe in gently through the nose when lifting up our hands, and breathe our gently through the mouth when lowering the hands.
If we are deeply involved in performing Lifting Water, even without regulating our breath, we produce the most internal force. This is the mind dimension. We enter into a chi kung state of mind, or enter Tao in Taijiquan context, or enter Zen in Shaolin context.
Outwardly the mind dimension may appear to be similar to the form dimension. But the difference is that in the form dimension we do not enter deeply into a chi kung state of mind, whereas we do so in the mind dimension.
All this information provides the background which is useful to understand the answer thoroughly. Now is the answer to your question.
A rough estimate of the internal force a practitioner can obtain from the form, energy and mind dimensions is 1, 3 and 6 respectvely. If he works only at the form level, he gets 10% of the internal force; if he works only at the energy level he gets 30%; and at the mind level, 60%.
The internal force generated in Sinew Metamorphosis practiced by us in our school is 100%, which is 10 times more than what others get at the form level. Why is it at 100% and not at 60%? It is because our practice also includes internal force derived at the form level and the energy level, although we do not regulate our breathing nor perform any visualization.
The form level is obvious. In fact, this is what most other students do if they perform Sinew Metamorphosis correctly, and not merely perform the external forms of Sinew Metamorphosis. This was what I did when I practiced Sinew Metamorphosis as a student. I had to perform each exercise 49 times, and there were 12 exercises. It took me about an hour to complete the Sinew Metamorphosis training.
Yet the internal force I developed from my one-hour Sinew Metamorphosis training was just about one-tenth of the internal force our students now develop in performing just 1 exercise 6 times in 5 minutes. It is mind-blowing but true, and of course I am very happy for our students.
Why was my internal force from Sinew Metamorphosis in 1 hour only one-tenth that of our students now in 5 minutes? The reason is that I performed Sinew Metamorphosis at the form level, whereas our students perform Sinew Metamorphosis at the mind level, which includes the form level and the energy level, and which also takes less time.
What mechanics are involved to make Sinew Metamorphosis in our school so very powerful and in such a very short time?
Let us take “Flicking Fingers”, or “Golden Dragons Tap on Ground”, as an example. At the ready position, our fingers are bent to the fullest. Thus, when we flick our fingers, it is not just physical movement though we actually do it, but we channel energy to flow up the 3 hand yang meridians.
These three hand yang meridians activate energy flow along the three leg yang meridians down the whole body to the toes. At the toes, the three leg yang meridians activate the flow of the three leg yin meridians up the leg and into the body, where they activate the three hand yin meridians to flow to the inner side of the arms to continue at the fingers with the three hand yang meridians.
Hence, by just flicking the fingers, without regulating the breath, energy flows through all the twelve primary meridians, completing the phenomenal big universal energy flow. This vigorous energy flow throughout all the twelve primary meridians not only generate a lot of internal force but also give us good health, vitality and longevity.
This phenomenal big universal energy flow is enhanced many times when we are deep in Zen, or a chi kung state of mind. It is a common misconception that one operates at the mind level by visualization. This is not so, as is exhibited in “Flicking fingers” or any of the Sinew Metamorphosis exercises. The deeper a practitioner is in Zen or a chi kung state of mind, the greater is the amount of internal force generated. Sinew Metamorphosis is an excellent example showing that a tremendous amount of internal force is generated without using any visualization or breathing methods.
Entering into a chi kung state of mind is a necessary condition for practicing chi kung
How do we enter into a chi kung state of mind?
— Lucca, Italy
Like many things in our school, it is easier done than said, whereas to many other people it is easier said than done. All students who have attended our courses can enter into a chi kung state of mind easily, otherwise they cannot perform chi kung; they only perform gentle physical exercise using chi kung techniques.
You too, entered into a chi kung state of mind just now. You had a good chi flow. If you did not enter into a chi kung state of mind, you would be unable to enjoy a chi flow.
Nevertheless, I shall give you an academic answer here. Just do two things, and you shall enter into a chi kung state of mind. Relax and don’t think of anything. If you are relaxed and your mind free of irrelevant thoughts, you will be in a chi kung state of mind.
If you are relaxed and free of irrelevant thoughts long enough, your chi will naturally flow. If you follow the chi flow movement, you will enjoy a good chi flow.
It is worthy of note that entering a chi kung state of mind does not necessary mean you will have a chi flow. One has to be in a chi kung state of mind to have a chi flow, but being in a chi kung state of mind does not necessary mean a chi flow. Similarly, one has to open his moth to eat something, but opening his mouth does not necessary mean he will eat something.
If chi kung is so good, why aren’t a lot of people rushing to learn it?
There are three main reasons. Firstly, chi kung in the past was exclusive. It was a rare opportunity to practice chi kung. Hence, very few people today practice genuine chi kung, and fewer still teach it. We are indeed very fortunate to inherit this rare art from the Shaolin Monastery.
Secondly, most people who practice chi kung today do not have good results. Even many chi kung instructors today take medication on a routine basic, and most of them do not exhibit the kind of vitality chi kung is meant to give.
Why is it that they become chi kung instructors when they themselves do not practice genuine chi kung that gives the results of good health, vitality and longevity? A main reason is that they only learn external chi kung forms. Their techniques are genuine, but they lack the skills to perform their chi kung techniques to generate energy flow to have good health, vitality and longevity. Hence, they teach external chi kung forms without energy flow to their students, and both the instructors and students do not realize this fact.
It is the energy flow that gives good health, vitality and longevity; not the techniques. As an analogy, many people perform genuine Taijiquan techniques, but they lack the skills to use the techniques to develop internal force and to defend themselves.
The third reason is that people do not believe the great benefits of chi kung. This is mainly because of the second reason that what is practiced as chi kung today is mostly gentle physical exercise, and not an energy art. Gentle physical exercise does not enable practitioners to overcome illness, have good health, vitality and longevity. If some practitioners overcome their illness, have good health, vitality and longevity, it is due to other factors, and not due to the gentle physical exercise they practice.
Thus, although chi kung can overcome so-called incurable diseases, most people do not think it is true. Practitioners who practice genuine chi kung daily need not be sick at all, and they have vitality and longevity, but most people do not believe this fact, mainly because they see that others who practice gentle exercise, mistaken as chi kung, are still sick and weak.
It is understandable if they are doubtful of the claims of chi kung, but it is shocking that they do not even take some effort to find out, especially those who suffer from so-called incurable diseases. As I have mentioned many times, that is their problem, not ours. If they wish to learn from us, even when they are skeptical, we shall teach as best as we can, but if they do not believe in what we say, it is not our business to convince them.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, country and e-mail address.
Why do so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits you describe?
— Lin, Dubai
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
It is because these many people actually do not practice chi kung, they practice gentle physical exercise, though they do not realize it, whereas we practice genuine high-level chi kung.
The patterns are the same, but the arts are different. Let us take an example of Lifting the Sky.
Most other people practice Lifting the Sky as gentle physical exercise but they honestly think it is chi kung.
We practice Lifting the Sky not just as chi kung but as high-level chi kung.
There are two dimensions of difference: the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the difference between ordinary chi kung and high-level chi kung.
Firstly, we need to know the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung. It is the failure to know this difference that causes thousands of people waste years of practice without obtaining any chi kung benefits. There are, for example, many chi kung instructors, even masters, who have taught chi kung for more than 10 years yet are routinely sick or in pain. This shouldn’t be as a basic benefit of chi kung practice is good health, which means free from sickness and pain.
In other words if they have practiced chi kung, genuine chi kung, they would not be sick or in pain. It is understandable if they are sick or in pain once a while, but certainly not routinely. In the same way, if you eat sufficient food and drink sufficient water, you would not go hungry or thirsty.
The fact is that these chi kung practitioners and masters do not actually practice chi kung, though they may not realize it. They practice gentle physical exercise but mistake it as chi kung. Similarly many people practice external Tai Chi forms as a dance but mistake it as Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art.
It is easy to make this mistake because the forms of gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the forms of Tai Chi dance and Tai Chi Chuan are the same. It is how they are practiced, i.e. the skills involved, that makes the difference.
In gentle physical exercise, one practices the forms at a physical level. In chi kung, one practices the same forms at three levels — physical, energetic and spiritual. In other words, in gentle physical exercise one works only on the physical body, like loosening muscles and joints. In chi kung one works at the physical level, the energy level and the spiritual level, like loosening muscles and joints, having more vitality, and becoming peaceful and happy.
If a practitioner does not know what working on energy and spirit is, then he is unlikely to be practicing chi kung, though he may honestly think he is. As an analogy, if you are eating an orange, you will know what an orange is. If you had not eaten an orange or even seen one, you would not know what actually an orange was even when it was clearly described to you.
Thus, thousands of people who think that they practice chi kung do not get the chi kung benefits I describe because actually they do not practice chi kung; they only practice gentle physical exercise. No matter for how long and how well they have practiced, they only get benefits of gently physical exercise like relaxation, grace and balance, which are worthy benefits by themselves, but they will not get chi kung benefits like overcoming illness, enjoying good health, vitality and longevity, and experiencing mental clarity and spiritual joys.
Secondly, it is useful to know the difference between ordinary chi kung, which is usually low-level, and high-level chi kung. The difference is that ordinary chi kung takes a long time to obtain little benefit, whereas high-level chi kung takes a short time to obtain a lot of benefit. The forms, or techniques, may be the same. It is the skills that make the difference.
Let us take the technique, Lifting the Sky, as an example. In low-level chi kung, one needs to practice Lifting the Sky for many months before he can feel a noticeable increase of his energy level. In high-level chi kung he can feel a noticeable increase after practicing for just a few days. In our case, you felt a noticeable increase of energy level after just one practice session!
If someone is sick with a serious illness like cancer or clinical depression, he may not overcome his illness by practicing low-level chi kung. If he practices high-level chi kung, not only he can overcome his illness, but also he becomes healthier than he was before.
Very few people have the chance to practice high-level chi kung. This is another reason why so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits I describe.
A high-level chi kung class in China
This article was taken from Question and Answer 1 of July 2014 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.