Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Simple Poem

Always have a sincere heart and mind

Relax and enjoy how wonderful life is

Simple and profound are our Arts

Opening the heart to infinite possibilities

Always do good, and avoid all evil

Have noble intentions and cultivate the spirit

Define your aims and objectives

Practise, practise and practise will bring results

Form, force and flow in harmony

The depth of Shaolin Kung Fu is unfathomable

Let the spirit expand and merge with the Cosmos

Awaken now and experience the truth

The three treasures of Shaolin are worth more than gold

Spreading joy and enlightenment to all

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What to do if you have your heart broken from a relationship

This is such a profound gem that I feel that I must share it here. It is from Sifu’s Q&A May 2007. Sifu gives his answer in regards to having your heart broken, and in Sifu’s usual understated way, is very clear and concise. Here it is:

Your main problem is not girls constantly breaking your heart but your perverted view. In chi kung terms, it is your mental blockage. Once you have cleared this mental blockage, you will not only overcome feeling miserable, but also be able to find a good girlfriend. I am going to explain to you a time-proven method to overcome this problem. The method comes in two parts, the philosophical and the practical.

Philosophically, the girls did not break your heart. It was you yourself who allowed your heart to be broken. Luckily, it was not too serious. You recovered enough to repeat similar processes.

If you analyze your feelings more deeply, you would find that actually you were not in love with any of the girls; you were in love with love itself. In love with love is not a bad thing, but you need to find the right girl to place your love in.

You will have your own choice of qualities to look for in the right girl. But I shall mention one important quality. She must also love you. This may or may not be the first or second most important quality you want in your right girl, but it is an essential quality. In other words, no matter how wonderful she may be, if she does not also love you, then she is not your right girl. You should not waste your time on her. There are literally thousands of other eligible girls elsewhere.

This is the first part of the method to overcome your problem. Be reminded that the problem here is not how to find the right girl — this will be explained later. The problem here is that you allow your heart to be constantly broken and you feel very bad about it. To avoid this happening again, you have to clear your mental blockage by understanding the following three points:

  1. The girls themselves did not break your heart. You allow your heart to be broken.
  2. This happened because you were in love with love. Somehow you believed that having your heart broken was part of the process of being in love. This was a perverted view. You should find the right girl to place your love in.
  3. You can choose the qualities you like in your right girl, but an essential quality is that she must also love you. Otherwise, don’t waste your time on her. There are literally thousands of other lovely girls waiting for you to sincerely love them.

Now the practical part, which is simple yet very profound.

Early every morning go to the open, or to an open window if the weather outside is unfavorable, and smile from the heart. Just do this. Just smile from the heart. Simple. And profound.

I believe what other books on love and relationships try to write about in hundreds of pages, Sifu sums it up in just a few paragraphs.

Enjoy!

Gratitude

It’s so interesting and humbling that I was able to meet so many great people while in Shaolin Wahnam. I just want to take this opportunity to extend my hand in gratitude and give a Shaolin salute to all my brothers and sisters who have helped me along the way on my personal life journey. A special thanks to Sifu for making me realize that I have still so much to offer, and his great patience, understanding and faith in all of his students.

One of the greatest, yet simplest Kung Fu I’ve learned is to smile from the heart. Whenever I am faced with challenges and difficulties I just smile from the heart.

Early every morning go to the open, or to an open window if the weather outside is unfavorable, and smile from the heart. Just do this. Just smile from the heart. Simple. And profound.” – My Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit

My first Intensive Kung Fu Course with Shaolin Wahnam. I am the person in dark red standing behind my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.

Indeed, it is such a joy to be alive!

Jian and Dao

In relation to clarity of mind which I discussed in my earlier post, I would like to introduce an appropriate weapon that trains shen, the chinese sword or jian.

My Sifu, Grandmater Wong Kiew Kit, demonstrating the Traveling Dragon Sword

I must stress that the chinese sword is very much different from a western sword or samurai sword. The western swords and samurai swords are usually very heavy, and are used to chop, slash and hack at opponents. The chinese sword, on the other hand, is a dainty weapon that is light in comparison. It is used to slice and pierce at specific targets of the opponent. The western sword, or saber, and samurai sword more closely resemble the chinese dao.

The chinese dao is compared to a ferocious tiger whereas the chinese jian resembles a nimble phoenix.

Roaring fiercely with courage

A tiger’s strength and will

Dancing nimbly with clarity

A phoenix’s grace is tranquil

For example, I composed the short poem above to give poetic meaning to the functions and essence of the dao and jian in a short, concise manner. I credit my Shaolin Wahnam training which gave me the sudden inspiration and clarity of shen to create the impromptu poem. Training with the respective weapons long enough will eventually imbue upon the practitioner the qualities of the weapons.  A person training with a dao will eventually become more courageous and firm. A person training with a jian will develop his mental capabilities, hence the jian is the choice of weapon among scholar-warriors.

Sifu Michael Chow demonstrating Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife (Dao)

In closing, I would like to point out that our school uses the term knife to apply to the dao to maintain the chinese flavor. The jian is labeled as a Chinese sword. In Chinese, the sword refers to a light, straight, two-edged weapon, whereas a knife is heavier, curved and single-edged. The techniques and skills in using a Kung Fu knife are, naturally, different from those of a Chinese sword.

Clarity of Mind and the Monkey Wrench

I’d never thought that I’d get hit with writer’s block, but here I am sitting in front of my laptop with a blank mind, with nothing to-

(sudden realization, cue light bulb being turned on)

Or not.

It just occurred to me how much I can get done just by swinging into action. I wasn’t typing before this, just trying to formulate thoughts and organize them into a coherent topic from which I can write some content about. I didn’t have foodies nearby for that extra energy brain boost (which all along isn’t necessary for good creative writing). Apparently, at the very first sentence, something clicked inside my head as I typed out the word “blank” on the first line. It was so simple, yet quite profound.

I couldn’t write not because my mind was blank. I couldn’t write because my monkey mind was jumping here and there, thus exhausting my mind energy. How ironic that I couldn’t write because I was too busy thinking of what to write. Ha. Things became a lot easier once I discarded all that noise, and just let my fingers flow naturally on the keyboard.

By stilling my thoughts and letting go, the content is provided naturally. I have to thank my Shaolin training for enhancing my mind, or shen in mandarin chinese, for increasing my clarity, focus and robustness of mind. Shaolin Kung Fu is combat effective and increases your health and vitality, but what most people would not know is that it also cultivates the mind. Not just from doing sitting meditation, mind you. You can also cultivate shen by performing your Kung Fu sets in a Chi Kung state of mind. Relaxation is very important here. In fact, my Sifu always says to relax, relax and relax. If you tense your muscles you will tense your mind, and vice versa.

Of course my monkey mind is always active in the background. I cannot quiet it completely. My standard isn’t of that high a level yet. However, it just dawned on me that to improve the quality of my shen, I should let go of myself more and open my heart. Let go of thoughts and emotions, and smile from the heart.

Enjoy the moment.

Enjoy the stillness.

Rolling Bamboo for Three Years (how is that even relevant to Kung Fu training?)

One of my favorite stories is Rolling Bamboo for Three Years. It is a short but poignant related by my Sifu.

A young man from a rich family wanted to learn Kung Fu. Of course, his father invited many instructors to teach his son. Now, his son is either inept or lazy, because after just a few seconds of standing in stances he would complain of sore muscles. Stance training is very important in Kung Fu for it builds the force necessary for effective fighting. He would make up a hundred excuses to get away from his force training. I guess you could say he mastered the Kung Fu of A Hundred Complaints.

The instructors were in a bind. Hey, this rich man pays handsomely for my services, and yet his lazy son can’t even bear force training! What am I to do? The smarter ones came up with a solution. Ah! Just fill the young man with many beautiful Kung Fu sets and patterns! It’s not like he’s going to start trouble on the streets anyway just because he learned Kung Fu. So the young man, in addition to his art the Kung Fu of A Hundred and Two Complaints (practise makes perfect), was able to perform many Kung Fu sets.

The father became proud, and would ask his son to perform whenever there was a social function. All the guests would praise the young man for his elegant and beautiful Kung Fu moves. Soon the father and son became arrogant. And naturally arrogance attracts trouble.

One day the father and son were involved in a fight with several people. The young man sprung into action, a blinding whirl of flashing kicks and hammering fists.

He was elegant.

He was agile.

He was beaten senseless.

And so, he got a right royal scolding from his father, in addition to the bruises he received from the fight. That very night, he ran away from home and promised himself never to return until he became an efficient fighter, or die trying. Ok, maybe not the die trying part, but he was very determined to succeed.

The prodigal son went far and wide in search of a Master. He traveled to the far corners of the Earth, to the moon and perhaps even the sun too, though I doubt the Kung Fu he learned previously would have helped him survive there. Ok, so he just went to the nearest mountain to look for a Master, and never set foot on the far corners of the Earth or the moon. He may be lazy, but he had enough common sense to reason that since he had heard tales of many masters living on mountains, he should climb the nearest mountain to look for a Master.

And what would you know, there was indeed a Shaolin monk living on the mountain. Talk about luck! He won’t have to climb the other 999 mountains to look for a master. His legs were already pretty sore just from climbing this one mountain. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to climbing the other 999 mountains.

The monk was Venerable Tie Pi. The young man begged the old monk to teach him Shaolin Kung Fu. “I have practised Kung Fu for quite some time, but when I had to defend myself and my father, I found out that my Kung Fu was useless! Please, Venerable, I beg for your instructions in genuine Kung Fu.”

“Show me your useless Kung Fu.”

After reviewing the young man’s Kung Fu performance, Venerable Tie Pi simply said, “It’s you and not the Kung Fu that’s useless!” The master then ordered the young man to go to the woods and fetch for him some round bamboo stems. “You are not ready for fighting, so stop harboring thoughts of glory and vanity. Why, you are fit only to roll bamboo!”

The young man was speechless. He had never done menial work before his entire life, and now the old monk was not only telling him to go to the forest to get for him bamboo stems, he was only good enough for rolling bamboo! Of course, he wasn’t exactly sure what rolling bamboo would mean here. It could mean rolling the bamboo stems around the mountain with his hands, or it could mean rolling the bamboo with his toes. Good thing for him he had changed, so he did as the monk said and returned with some bamboo stems.

“Now place a bamboo stem on a table. Stand at the horse-riding stance and roll the whole length of your arm over the bamboo. Do it every day. No questions!” The monk instructed the young man.

Will the young man quit, or will he persevere in his training? What secret method is this rolling bamboo?

I shall continue the story in my next post.

Skills and Techniques (or, should I cram my head with a gazillion Kung Fu moves or just focus on one?)

Have a seat, a nice cup of coffee (not too strong or you won’t sleep!) and hear the ramblings of a Kung Fu practitioner.

I’m going to give you an offer you can’t refuse (now where did I hear that line from? Haha).

I have a machine right here that can instantly, in a blink of an eye, transfer knowledge of a thousand Kung Fu techniques from the various schools into your brain. All the moves are available for you to use right this instant (however, I am not liable for injuries and accidents caused as a result of overly enthusiastic displays of Kung Fu movements); No-Shadow Kicks, Hung Gar Tiger Claws, Praying Mantis Kicks, even the dreaded, legendary Dim Mak!

..or, I can teach you one move. Just one. And then proceed to  beat you senseless with my training cane until you get the postures right. You must repeat the move 1000 times, both left and right modes. Nope, no toilet breaks allowed. So go get some diapers ready.

So, what choice will you make? It’s really not that hard. Some would say it’s a no-brainer.  I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t read minds, but I guess most people would go for the machine. Hey, this is the information age after all, what with all those fancy iphones and such.

Knowing many techniques is not necessarily a bad thing. It expands your horizons and your arsenal. It gives you more choices when faced with certain situations. You can choose to utilize a chin na grip or  a surprise counter, for example, when an opponent launches a Fierce Tiger against you. This, of course, assumes that you have sufficient force, perfect form and experience with the techniques.

This is where skill comes in. A Shaolin axiom says, “Strength cannot match techniques, techniques cannot match force, force cannot match speed, and speed cannot match the marvelous“. Let’s say that there’s a fighter called Victorious Fist Lau. He was always victorious because of just one technique; a simple straight punch. However, because of his hard work and dedication spent practising and mastering this technique, it became his trump card. Sure, his many opponents employed all sorts of tricks and moves against him. Throws, kicks, takedowns, punches, headbutts, hidden weapons, and maybe even a bite to the ear, but I’m not sure of that. You name it, they used it. And yet Lau was always victorious. He won because he had developed sufficient skill in technique, force and speed borne from years of practise to successfully implement his move and strategies in the fights.

Now, knowing and expanding one’s repertoire of Kung Fu moves is certainly encouraged, but in order to develop the skills necessary to successfully use your Kung Fu and not let it degenerate into mere Kung Fu dance, one must always practise, practise and practise.

I shall relate an interesting story, told by my Sifu, in relation to techniques vs. skills in my next installment.