A public performance with Uncle Righteousness as the Lion Head and me as the Lion Tail in the 1960s
There was, however, one occasion in my long learning process that I deviated from my father’s advice. Our kungfu class was preparing for a charity performance at New World Amusement Park. My master himself would perform the lion head, and everyone had expected me to perform the tail. Performing the lion tail is an extremely demanding role, for the performer has to arch his back throughout the whole performance, which in those days might last longer than an hour, and to extend both his arms in a continuous wing-flapping movement to support the covering tail-cloth.
I tried to be smart. Just a few minutes before the training session began, I went out from the training hall, pretending to buy titbits for my seniors, a bluff that I could easily do because running errands was my common unofficial task. I knew my master couldn’t wait. If I could stay away for just a few minutes, I thought, some unlucky fellow would take over my job as the inevitable tail performer, even for that training session only. And true enough, when I returned after the lion dance practice had started – something that I could time easily as the loud accompanying lion dance music could be heard from far away – I found my master and my junior classmate, Ah Weng, doing the lion head and tail. “Kit Chye,” my classmates asked in bewilderment, “where on earth have you been? Uncle Righteousness was looking all over the world for you.” “What for?” I pretended to ask. “What for! To be the tail, of course.”
“Ha, ha!” I laughed inside myself. “Why pick on me all the time? Luckily I’m not stupid, and now I can have a break from this wearisome task. Now this poor Ah Weng can have a nice taste of back ache.”
But Ah Weng had the louder laugh. “Ha, ha!” He probably said to himself, “now at last I have a break into this lion dance role which I have been longing for, for so long.”
And he performed the tail so enthusiastically and so well that he was not only asked to continue in subsequent practices, but was ultimately chosen to partner my master in that charity performance, and later in other performances. Hence my monopoly as my master’s partner in lion dance was now broken – all because of my clever trick.
Ah Weng continued to learn and practise hard, and progressed tremendously, often at my expense for what my master might have taught me, he taught Ah Weng instead. Ah Weng also became one of my master’s favourite disciples, and was the one who had learned the most lion dance skills and techniques from my master. He later became a famous lion dance artist, bringing name and glory to our school. I am very proud of Ah Weng’s achievement. I also learned a very good lesson from that occasion when I tried to be too clever — a lesson that has greatly helped me in my later kungfu development. From then on, I always learn humbly and practise diligently, never be deterred by hardship or obstacles in the way.
During a charity performance in the 1960s, I went up a long pole to collect Sky Green
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A clever woman traps her man by yielding, then turns the table around and leads him by his nose.
— Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Searching for some guidance, I was recently reading one of your Question & Answers pages: http://www.shaolin.org/answers/ans01a/jan01-1.html I truly respect and admire you greatly and am so very, very grateful for your teachings. I am now 31. I have never been licentious or promiscuous, nor entered into a relationship without sincerity, but neither have I found the right man for me.
I loved the advice you wrote to Kevin from the USA (in above Q&A link) about being a good husband and father and so I respectfully and open-heartedly ask:
What do you feel are the qualities of a good wife? What do you believe I should be looking for in a future husband?
— Flora, Spain
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Finding a good husband is a very important question any young unmarried woman should consider carefully. Being a happy wife and mother fulfills a deep biological as well as spiritual need. Unfortunately, judging from the number of unsuccessful marriages nowadays, young women have not done this effectively.
I am glad you are a step ahead. Not only you want to find a good husband, you want to be a good wife. This shows not only your maturity of thoughts but also your determination and dedication in realizing your goals. Many women just want to have good husbands, but they never consider how to become good wives. This is a big mistake. They defeat their purpose even before starting their journey. Hence, it may be more fruitful to consider how to become a good wife first, then set out to find a good husband.
Whether you are a good wife should be considered not from your perspective, not from the perspective of other people, but from your husband’s perspective. This is a vital point many wives fail to realize. They usually think of themselves as good wives, but their husbands do not.
What do you think a husband want in his wife? The answer below may surprise many women, but it is formed from actually asking eligible bachelors.
First of all he wants his wife to be attractive. As you are a beautiful woman, this won’t be a problem, but you should make a point to be more attractive to him after marriage than before. Some women make a big mistake by taking their husbands for granted. After they have attracted their husbands into marriage, they neglect their shape and appearance, forfeiting the very factor that attracted their husbands in the first place.
A woman is attractive when she is feminine. A husband does not want his wife to tower over him in intellectual abilities or worse in physical strength. He does not want his wife to argue with him over every issue or dominate him in every decision. He prefers his wife to yield rather than to assert. Surprisingly, qualities like being loving and kind, which are of course important, take second place!
Some followers of women’s liberation may vehemently protest, accusing such attitude as male chauvinism. This, I believe, is a main reason why so many eligible women could not get husbands, and also why many men choose to stay out of marriage. I asked some eligible bachelors why they were not married. Can you guest what they told me? They said they were scared! They were scared of women disputing every decision they made, or arguing over every opinion they offered.
For example, when a man suggests going to restaurant A for dinner, a modern, “liberated” woman would say, “No, let us go to restaurant B.” When he says listening to sentimental music is romantic, she would say, “No, it is boring”, and proceed to give countless reasons why she thinks so. She wins her argument but loses her man.
A clever woman traps her man by yielding, then turns the table around and leads him by his nose. This is classic Taijiquan principle in combat.
When her man suggests going to restaurant A for dinner, the clever woman would not say no. She would say something as follows. “Oh yes, you always have good suggestions. This is one of the many good things I like about you.” Then when they are starting their journey to restaurant A, she would say something like this. “I heard that restaurant B served delicious duck. I love delicious duck. It makes my mouth water. Won’t you take me to restaurant B, please?” She would say with such sweetness that even when her man knows he is falling into a trap, he would blissfully let himself fall into it.
The “Four Preparations” and the “Three Arrivals” we use in our combat application are as effective in defeating an opponent as in winning a husband. First you prepare yourself by being attractive and feminine as well as kind and loving. Next you access your hero (or victim), picking him from a few eligible choices. Then you look out for an opening. If it is not presently available, you create one yourself. When the opportunity arises, you move in swiftly and claim your prize.
In moving in, you need to have the “Three Arrivals”, i.e. the arrivals of the heart, the feet and the hand. First, you must have a clear idea of what you would do when you meet your man. Next, you must place and time your attack correctly. Finally, you must connect and capture, not hit and run.
As you are going to choose a husband whom you will happily share your life with, and not an escort for a dance, it is of course necessary to plan and choose carefully.
Happily married. Do you know who the happy husband and the happy wife are?
What qualities you would like to have in your husband? Obviously he must be loving and responsible, besides other personal preferences like how he looks, the job he has, his family background as well as his philosophy towards life.
Having decided on what type of man you want as a bushand, let us see how you can apply the “Four Preparations” and the “Three Arrivals” to trap your man — instead of just passively waiting for him to appear.
Suppose you have found a man whom you think could be a prospective candidate as your husband. If you already know him, that will save much effort, otherwise get someone to introduce you to him or introduce yourself in a seemingly unexpected way.
For example, you know he frequents a particular restaurant at a particular time for lunch. You have to dress attractively and look out for a good opening at the restaurant. If he is looking for a seat, you could tell him in a friendly way that the seat besides you is empty and invite him to sit down.
Of course you do not just let him sit down. You have to engage him in conversation to find out his interests and other information so that you have material for your next attack. You have to let him talk and you listen with interest but asking appropriate questions to gather information.
Some openings are as follows. “Wow! you seem to enjoy your food a lot. Can you tell me the secret of your good apetite?” Or, “You don’t seem to enjoy your food. I have an excellent way to increase apetite. Would you like to learn it?” Then proceed to teach him a chi kung exercise.
After a few meetings, you should start to date him. But of course you will plan in such a way that it appears he dates you. Ask him if he is free the coming weekend. Say that you would like to visit so and so or such and such a place but are concerned to go alone. Ask him to accompany you.
After you have trapped him, you should suggest he marries you. Of course you don’t say, “Marry me!” You may say something like, “It is wonderful to be married and to share life and happiness together. My sifu is so happily married, so are my sisooks and sipaks, as well as sigung.” Then lead him to marriage by the nose, with a lot of beautiful flowers along the way.
You should set a time-target. The whole programme from first meeting to happy marriage should be completed within a year. It is unfair but true that women can’t afford to wait, whereas men can. This happy-marriage strategy should work out well, but in the unlikehood that it doesn’t, repeat the strategy with the next prospective candidate.
Here are a few important principles to follow.
Marriage is a win-win contract. You must really love the man you try your strategy on, and sincerely want to he a very good wife to him.
In your relationship with him, don’t give in but tempt him. Play a cat and mouse game. When he advances, you retreat temptingly, even sexily. When he is tired of chasing, tempt and tease him. On your marriage day (or night), surrender yourself blissfully.
The happiness of marriage starts on the first day of marriage. Make each suceeding day a better one than the previous. Once a while there may be disagreement or even querrals, which add some spice to marriage and which should be patched up quickly, but on the whole your life together should be a continuous progress.
Students in a regional chi kung class in Ecuador enjoying a chi flow
There is only one illness and it is called yin-yang disharmony, although there may be countless symptoms.
— Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1999 before the Chi Kung course in Malaysia with you. Crohn’s disease is an auto-immune disease which means that my body attacks my intestine. When I get an attack, ulceration and swelling occur internally and I have abdominal pain, spasms and diarrhoea. The doctors do not know where the disease comes from or what it is exactly and they say that there is no cure for it.
— Michael, UK
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
In chi kung we also do not know what cause Crohn’s disease, but the interesting thing is that we do not need to know. In chi kung philosophy, there is no such a thing as an incurable disease. Every disease can be cured, which unfortunately does not necessarily means every patient can be cured.
There is only one illness and it is called yin-yang disharmony, although there may be countless symptoms, and Crohn’s disease is the label conventional doctors give to a particular set of symptoms. What we need to do is to restore yin-yang harmony, and chi kung is an excellent way to do so. In western language, yin-yang harmony means your body is able to adjust to constantly changing environment.
It means that when virus and bacteria attack your body, it by nature will overcome the virus and bacteria. If there is a sore or ulcer in your stomach, your body by nature will be able to repair it. If your body bleeds unnecessarily, your body will stop it. If you need some fluid to clear away dead cells, like the germs which caused Crohn’s disease and which were killed by your body defence as the result of chi kung training, your body may bleed to clear away the dead cells. If your body needs new blood to replenish the lost blood, your body will produce it.
This may sound incredible to the uninitiated, but it has been like this for everyone since humans first appeared, and it is happening to everyone all the time, irrespective of whether he knows chi kung or not. Then, why do some people have illness? This is because their yin-yang harmony has been temporarily disrupted. There are countless intermediate factors that can cause this disruption. But in chi kung we do not worry about the intermediate factors: we go to the root cause, i.e. we restore yin-yang harmony.
How do we restore yin-yang harmony? By restoring harmonious energy flow, which is a very concise way to say restoring the natural functions of all your body systems, organs, glands, etc. The chief function of chi kung is to ensure harmonious energy flow. Once all your body systems, etc function normally, including your stomach being able to overcome harmful virus and bacteria, and to stop unnecessarily bleeding, you will be healthy as a matter of course.
This philosophy is actually very simple, but those used to a different philosophy may find it hard to make a philosophical shift. If you are used to a philosophy which dictates that you have to find out why your body attacks your intestine, or where bleeding occurs, and if you cannot find out the why and the where, you would have to say there is no cure for Crohn’s disease.
Now you are faced with a different philosophy which says that your body attacking your intestine and your unknown bleeding are just symptoms that your body is not functioning normally. Once you restore the normal functioning of your body, it will not attack your intestines and you will not bleed unnecessarily. According to this philosophy you need not know why or where your body did not function normally, as long as you are able to restore its natural functioning.
A recent Intensive Chi Kung Course in Sabah, Malaysia
All kungfu forms, including those that seem flowery like the one above demonstrated by Grandmaster Wong, can be used in combat
I am a member of a Shaolin kung fu association. In freestyle sparring we use general kick boxing techniques. So I find it difficult to learn the applications of my forms. How can I improve my knowledge of my forms and do I have to be an advanced student to learn chi kung?
— Gregory. UK
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Yours is a common example of most kungfu students today. You cannot spar using the forms you have learnt in solo practice simply because you have never been taught to do so. Why didn’t your instructors teach you how to use kungfu patterns to spar? Because they themselves did not know. Like you, their kungfu training consists mainly, or sololy, of performing forms.
If you want to know how to use your kungfu forms to spar, you have to learn from a master who teaches using kungfu forms to spar. Such masters are very rare nowadays. If you learn from someone who teaches only solo form performance, you will only know solo form performance.
Anyone suggesting to you that by learning the solo kungfu forms you can effectively spar, is like telling you that by going over the mechanics of driving in a stationary car you can effectively drive through a busy street.
When you attempt sparring you will fall back on kickboxing techniques, because these techniques are the most “natural” to someone not trainied in “artificial” sparring. Using kungfu forms to spar is “artificial”. For example, to someone not trained in any martial arts, when an assailent punches him, it would be “natural” for him to block as in boxing or kickboxing. It would be very “artificial” for him to lower into a False-Leg Stance and swerve his arm in an arc in a tiger-claw form. “Artificial” means “made by man”. All kungfu forms are man-made. But a kungfu practitioner practises and practises these man-made forms until they have become second-nature to him.
You can improve your knowledge of your forms or any aspects of kungfu by reading about them. But kungfu is not knowledge; it is a practical art. Here is where you and many other people, especially in the West, make the big mistake. You may be very knowledgeable in kungfu, and may also win trophies in demonstrative competitions, but if you have no practical experience in methodical sparriang, when you spar with Taekwondo or Karate brownbelts, you would become a sitting duck. This is the sad situation of more than 80 percent of people all over the world who think they learn kungfu, when actually what they have been learning is just some demonstrative forms.
If you learn real kungfu, you will practise chi kung right at the start. Chi kung is the art of managing energy. How can any martial art be effective if there is no provision for energy management? Here, of course, I am using the terms “kungfu” and “chi kung” as they were originally used in the past. Their modern sterotyped meanings have changed drastically. In the modern context, “kungfu” and “chi kung”, which are more of gymnastics and dance than martial arts and energy management, are usually taught separately. In such a situation, it does not matter when, or if ever, you learn chi kung.
If you wish to be able to use kungfu patterns to spar, you must learn from a teacher who himself has this ability and is willing to teach you
Kungfu form is beautiful to watch. This beautiful pattern from the Tiger-Crane Set is called Sun Moon Shadow Hand. I knew of its sophisticated combat application only much later.
There is no doubt that my late master himself was a great and much respected kungfu fighter. There is also no doubt that he taught me the best he could. Why, then, was I not a good fighter? The reason is because of the norms of the time – because of the way kungfu was (and still is) normally taught, because society at my time was comparatively peaceful, and because of the concepts people generally assigned to kungfu at that time. No kungfu schools I knew of at that time taught controlled or free sparring. Arranged sparring sequences were meant more for demonstration, rather than as a means to learning how to fight. The following two examples illustrate this fact clearly.
In one particular sparring sequence, I was to kick at the groin of a partner. But I was specifically told by my senior who instructed me, to kick far off the intended target, and in a manner easy for my partner to block. In another sequence, the exponent holding a sabre in a slashing attack was told to hold it in such a manner, as well as to stop the momentum in time, so that it would not injure his partner even if the latter had not bother to defend! The exponent would be warned never to execute the sabre slashing technique in the way it should be executed in a real fight, as this could accidentally hurt the sparring partner. Obviously, the advice or warning was well intended. But what was not realised is that not only fighting skills (which are more decisive than techniques in real fights) were not trained, but insidiously more harmful, the students were unwittingly groomed to be complacent.
My master lived at the end of an era when the fist more often than the law ruled the day, while I live at the beginning of a more law-abiding period when fighting (though more cruel and cold-blooded if it ever happens) is less common. Hence, the chances of actually testing one’s kungfu in fights are infrequent. Maybe the unpleasant memory of rough kungfu fighters of older days still lingered on, so that at one time it was fashionable for many people to stress that they learned kungfu for health, and not just for fighting. But in time, this modest declaration, initially made to prevent the abuse of kungfu for petty quarrels, became overstressed and backfired, so much so that the combative function of kungfu was almost missing.
At one time, if you were so bold or naive to suggest that you wanted to learn kungfu for fighting (which actually has been the primary aim of kungfu for all ages), decorum of society would consider you an outcast. Then, when Karate and later Taekwondo came with their open, unbashful conviction that their martial arts were for fighting, many kungfu exponents were rudely awakened to the fact that they were no match for the Karate and Taekwondo exponents.
Kungfu is for fighting. Wong Weng Tuck, my early kungfu student, avoided a powerful kick from Ah Bah, another early student of mine.
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Senior Disciple of Grandmaster Wong
Shaolin Wahnam Sabah
1st October 2011
Chi Kung and Religion
Greetings to Tuan Zakaria Zain,
Is Chi Kung (or Qigong) allowed in Islam? Thank you for this good question.
Everything good is allowed in any religion, including Islam as long as it does not contradict the Quran .
The Islamic National Fatwa Council of Malaysia (Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan) has never ruled that chi kung is not allowed in Islam .
The Founding President of Guolin Qigong Association of Malaysia is a senior Malay Muslim medical specialist, Dr. Amir Farid Isahak (MBBS -Australia, MMED, Singapore, MRCOG, UK) http://www.superqigong.com/aboutus.htm
The Islamic Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) pronounced: “Seek knowledge even as far as China”. Muslims take great pride in citing the above hadith as it points to the importance of seeking knowledge, even if it meant travelling as far away as China, especially as at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), China was considered the most developed civilization of the period. “Tuntutlah ilmu sampai ke negeri China, karena sesungguhnya menuntut ilmu sangatlah wajib atas setiap orang muslim”.
The Founder of Waitankung (a famous form of chi kung was a Chinese Muslim Chi Kung and Kungfu Grandmaster Tuan Haji Ali Chang Chih-Tung .
The world famous Admiral Zheng Muhammad He (Laksamana Cheng Ho aka Haji Muhd Shamsuddin) was a chi kung-kungfu master during the Ming Dynasty who visited the Malacca Sultanate in present Malaysia .
Seeking chi kung knowledge to get good health is a good thing. Our Shaolin chi kung originate from China. Our professional school teaches Chi Kung and Kung Fu as a holistic program to achieve good physical, emotional and mental health to all good students regardless of race or religion. We have students from almost all continents in the world, from various racial and religious background, including good Arab Muslims from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates .
I am sorry to hear of your ill health but you can regain good health by putting in good effort in a good program, for example by practising chi kung. In our chi kung practise, we are against and not interested to communicate with evil spirits or jin and we do not recite any mantra. Actually it is God who help us to help ourselves to get rid of illness and regain good health. Logically, evil spirits bring evil health — that is why we are not interested in them .
Learning chi kung, like learning computer science or learning car driving, is good for practitioners of any religion but a good student should learn from a good teacher teaching a good art. If a student does not follow instructions or if s teacher is not qualified or if the art is corrupted, then the student will get bad result, for example the student does not know how to send emails after 1 year learning computer or does not know how to reverse a car after 1 year driving lesson or gets anxiety after learning chi kung wrongly. Actually learning chi kung is safer then driving a car. In our school we have very good teachers, very good chi kung programs and good deserving students ….. so we get good results .
Our students are obliged to respect the laws of the country and to practise high moral values (which are taught by all religions). Having achieved good health through chi kung, we become a better persons, better children to our parents, ourselves become better parents, become better citizens of a country and become better Muslims/religious persons. Connecting with the Cosmos, at a lower level, means we breath chi/air in and out of our body in continuous harmonious exchange with the atmosphere/cosmos. At a higher level, connecting with God means creating human beings with reduced imperfections. Through chi kung practise one can connect better with the Creator who is 100% perfect. So the power implied is non other than your natural birth right given to you by God ….. only that you have to put in good thoughts, good words and good actions to regain it .
I believe you are a good and sincere man. Pray to God for guidance. If you still feel uncomfortable with chi kung, it is OK. i am certain that God will lead you in the necessary direction. I wish you all the best in your life’s journey.
Sifu Andrew Barnett and his son, Bjoem, demonstrating Shaolin Kungfu in combat application
I have participated in a few of the local schools and can not find one to my liking. I have received a black belt in Kung fu and at this time I do not feel like I deserve it due to my lack of practice and not improving myself in my skills. Can you please send me any information that you may have?
— Joe, USA
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
At all times in all places real kungfu masters are rare. In China in the past there were many kungfu masters but very few of them would accept students. Today many people teach kungfu, or what they call kungfu, but finding a genuine master is more difficult than finding a gem in a hay stack. Refer to Qualities of a Good Master for details.
What is taught all over the world today, including in China, is either a modernized form for demonstration or a debased traditional form that uses karate, taekwondo or kickboxing techniques for combat. In my opinion neither is genuine kungfu.
This does not necessarily mean that these demonstrative or debased forms are not without their benefits. They are magnificient to watch and is an excellent way to keep the exponents agile and fit, but they are not the same as the kind of kungfu traditionally taught in the past.
In my opinion, the bottom line to decide whether one is trained in genuine kungfu is whether he (or she) can use the kungfu forms he has learnt for some decent self defence. If he can fight well but uses other martial art forms instead of kungfu forms, he does not qualify to have practised genuine kungfu.
The bottom line of my definition is that the kungfu he has learnt must be capable of being used for fighting, even if he loses the fight. The crucial point is that his kungfu forms are more than sufficient for his self defence; he needs not borrow or “steal” other martial art forms, and he should be able to defend himself in a typical kungfu manner. Bouncing about as in boxing and kicking high as in taekwondo, for example, are not typical manners in kungfu fighting.
Good kungfu goes beyond mere fighting. One characteristic feature of good kungfu is the training of internal force for good health as well as combat efficiency. If you ask what internal force is, it is unlikely you have any experience in its training. It is like someone who has not eaten an orange, asking what the taste of an orange is.
As far as I know, this internal force training is not found in most other martial arts. Western boxing and wrestling, for example, pay much attention to external strength and physical mass, and their exponents train in ways which typical kungfu masters would consider detrimental to health.
Some Eastern martial arts like aikido and karate mention about internal aspects like chi (or ki in Japanese), but their exponents do not spend as much time or go as deeply as typical kungfu exponents do in these internal aspects. A typical traditional kungfu exponent, for example, may actually spend more time practising Abdominal Breathing or Stance Standing (zhan zhuang) than practising patterns or sets — a practice that is not normally found in most other martial arts or modern demonstrative, debased kungfu forms.
The best kungfu, like Shaolin and Taijiquan, goes beyond the physical and leads to spiritual cultivation irrespective of race, culture and religion. The onus of spiritual cultivation is direct experience, not mere talking or book learning, and is practised according to the students’ developmental levels.
For those who have so far wasted their time in unwholesome activities, or those who feel empty and lost despite abundant material wealth, turning to a happy, rewarding life here and now is a remarkable spiritual achievement; at the other scale, the spiritually advanced aim for the highest attainment known variously as return to God, unity with the Cosmos, enlightenment or in Zen terms simply going home.
A magnificient demonstration of modern wushu, which is different from traditional kungfu
Reproduced from Questions 1 in Selection of Questions and Answers March 1998
The teacher has had a lot of karate experience and it seems a little karate-like in its nature. For instance in your book you say that kicks in kung fu rarely go above the waist. I have been taught kicks that go above the waist to the head.
— Iain, Scotland
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
In the last thirty years or so, there were many kungfu masters who could not use kungfu to fight, and therefore they incorporated karate into their kungfu sparring. Often they invented a new name for their kungfu styles which frequently ended in the word “do” (or “tao” in Chinese), taking inspiration from the “do” in karate-do and taekwondo.
Some of these masters were sincere in their effort. They lamented on the inability of kungfu for combat and they tried their best to do something about it. (Here I am using the words “kungfu” and “masters” in the way the public generally uses it.)
Such kungfu-do was (and still is) superior to kungfu dance, and many kungfu dance practitioners held kungfu-do practitioners in awe. In sparring, one who has practised kungfu dance for many years is no match at all against another who has practised kungfu-do for only a few months.
This is actually no surprise. If you only learn how to dance or demonstrate to audience, you will only be able to dance or demonstrate; you will never know how to spar no matter for how long you have danced. On the other hand, if you learn sparring you will be able to spar after a few months, even though you may not spar very well.
Kungfu-do inventors thought they had improved kungfu, but paradoxically they had further debased it. Because of their insufficient understanding, they used (from genuine kungfu perspective) third-class techniques, thinking they were first-class. Instead of attaining good health, their students often sustained internal injury routinely left unattended to.
And there was little or no internal force training or spiritual cultivation. I recall my master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, often commented that kungfu-do was turning kungfu into “sei pat jeong”, a Chinese colloquial way of saying “turning a cow into a horse, or a horse into a cow”.
Often kungfu-do practitioners are better at sparring than karate practitioners, but they find it difficult to defend against taekwondo practitioners. The reason generally is that kungfu-do practitioners have more hand techniques than karate practitioners have, but they do not know how to counter against the various kicks of taekwondo. Some people even thought (mistakenly) that there were no kicks in kungfu.
Consequently kicks, especially high kicks, were incorporated into kungfu-do. In fact at one time the general opinion seemed to be that the higher one could kick, the better he was in combat. Jumping up to break with his toes a tile held some distance above his head, or spinning round and round to slap the face of an opponent countless times with the sole or instep of his foot, became popular in martial art demonstrations and movie entertainment.
This is an illuminating example showing the huge gap between public opinion and genuine knowledge. Any master who has used kungfu for real fighting will know that such above-head kicks and spinning kicks are both useless and risky. If a master demonstrates such kicks, it is meant to show his leg flexibility, and not meant for combat.
On the other hand there were also instructors who were basically trained in karate or taekwondo but learned some kungfu. They incorporated kungfu techniques into their karate or taekwondo teaching, and invented new names for their styles, or sometimes they call their art kungfu or kungfu-do. But even if they wear kungfu uniforms, practise with some kungfu weapons, and talk in kungfu terms, their arts are still basically karate or taekwondo.
Shaolin kicks are generally low, as demonstrated here by Bjoern in a sparring practice with his father, Sifu Andrew Barnett
I understand that the goal of all martial arts is combat efficiency. If this is the case, and all martial arts have the same goal, and can all be made to work for fighting, how do I choose which one to do?
— James, USA
Yes, the goal of all martial art is combat efficiency. But you and many other people may be surprised at the fact that more than 80% of martial artists of any style today, including advanced practitioners like black-belts and masters, have no combat efficiency, though many of them are good at punching and kicking others and enduring punches and kicks from others!
If they were combat efficient they would not be so randomly punched and kicked. Indeed, to be punched and kicked in free sparring is so common today that some instructors sometimes ask their students how they could learn a martial art if they could not stand some punches and kicks. This is ridiculous. The very fact of learning any martial art is not to be punched and kicked at all! Yet, many people submit themselves to be routinely punched and kicked, while they punch and kick their friends, when learning what they think is a martial art as a hobby, which is meant to give them pleasure, not pain and injury.
Genuine martial arts where practitioners can defend themselves are rare today. Even amongst these rare martial arts, there are different ways of attack and defence. You may, for example, strike your opponent with your hand, or kick him, or throw him onto the floor, or hold him in a lock. Hence, different types of martial art developed, such as Karate, Taekwondo, Judo and Aikido.
There are also different ways of using the same kind of attack. In striking an opponent, for example, you may use a level fist as in Karate, or a phoenix-eye fist or a palm as in some styles of kungfu. When kicking an opponent, you may kick high at his face, not caring that you expose your groin, or cover his hands and kick at his groin with the in-step of your foot often without him knowing where the kick comes from as in Shaolin Kungfu. Hence, different types of martial art evolved.
On the other hand, there are also different ways to respond to the same attack. When an opponent kicks at your middle level, for example, you may block the kick with your hand and move in to strike him with your punch as in Karate. Or you may, without moving your feet, shift your body slightly backward to avoid the kick, and simultaneously grip his kicking leg and dislocate his ankle as in Taijiquan.
This difference leads to the development of different martial arts which serve different purposes in combat. A woman or a physically weaker person, for example, would be at a disadvantage if she blocks a kicking leg, but there is no disadvantage in the second response where she avoids the kicks and simultaneously grips the leg. The blocking response is also more risky.
The two different responses show a different development of skills. The first response is crude, whereas the second response is sophisticated. Herein is another reason why there are different martial arts. Initially fighting techniques were straightforward and crude, but over time they became refined and sophisticated.
While all martial arts are meant for effective fighting, this is not the only function of some martial arts. Depending on their functions, martial arts may be divided into three classes.
Third class martial arts are those that are meant only for fighting. Their training is sometimes detrimental to health. To avoid hurting the sensitivities of their practitioners, I would refrain form giving examples of these martial arts.
Second class martial arts are those that are meant for fighting as well as for improving health. I would leave you to figure out some examples.
First class martial arts are those that are meant for effective fighting, health promotion and spiritual cultivation. Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are two outstanding examples.
Of course I refer to genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan, which are rare today. If you practice Shaolin or Taijiquan forms for demonstration, and do not know how to apply them for combat, you do not even practice a martial art, you practice “flowery fists and embroidery kicks”. If you practice Shaolin and Taijiquan forms but use kick-boxing or other martial systems for fighting, then yours is a third-class martial art.
Some practitioners of third class martial arts may say that their arts promote health and contribute to spiritual cultivation. This shows their blind loyalty or ignorance, or both. They are so blindly loyal to their arts that they claim benefits when these benefits are not present. They are ignorant that the more they train their art, the more unhealthy they become.
They are also ignorant of what spiritual cultivation means. It means cultivating their spirit. If they remain, or worse still become, stressful, angry, agitated, nervous or depressed, they have not cultivated their spirit.
The explanation here not only shows that all martial arts are not the same, but also provides you with a sound philosophical understand to make a good choice if you wish to practice a martial art. Without this explanation, it is likely that you may fail to practice a martial art though you think you do, because you can only punch and kick each other if you practice free sparring, but cannot defend yourself.
I did not return for a second year to the Shaolin wushu academy in China. On the positive side, I did do a lot of exercise and trained diligently by myself in meditation. I learned many forms, including Da Luohan Chuan, Pao Chuan, Taizu Chang Chuan, Nine Palaces Ba Gua, Da Tong Bei Cuan, Qi Xing Chuan, Basic Five-Step Form, Little Idea Form (Wing Chun), Xiao Hong Quan, Da Hong Quan, a staff form and a broadsword form. I finished with half of a Tiger form, but was not taught the rest.
— Namir, USA
Editorial Note: Namir’s other questions are found at May 2015 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
These forms you mentioned are famous Shaolin kungfu sets. When you have learned how to develop internal force and use kungfu forms for combat, these kungfu sets will be very useful.
These forms will not only help you to be combat efficient but, more importantly, to enhance your daily life.
To us, meditation is not just seated in a lotus position, but a training of mind or spirit. All our training is meditation, i.e. a training of mind.
Our Shaolin Wahnam version of Daluohanquan, or Big Lohan Fist
Thank you for reading what I have to say and guiding me concerning your webpages. I truly needed to tell someone this because recently I emailed my old teacher, the headmaster of the school, and asked about these things, including the behavior of the students and the Kung Fu sparring, and I was given as usual an angry and defensive reply. This is due to his training I know now.
Congratulations for your sharp observation, which not many people may realize and benefit from. Yes, the way he replied to your e-mail was due to his training.
Not only his training lacked critical thinking and applying kungfu techniques for combat, his dogmatic and stressful training also conditioned the way he responded to daily situations. It will be interesting to compare the way he replied to questions to the way Shaolin Wahnam members replied to questions in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.
Now I am a student without a teacher. I am lost! I cannot learn the Shaolin arts without a true teacher. You are the only Shaolin Kung Fu teacher that I am aware of that teaches Kung Fu sparring. Do you have some sort of school available whereby I may attend and train for a long period of time, that I may learn intricacies of Kung Fu sparring and gain Shaolin force and skills?
Thank you for you kind comments.
While we are proud (in a good way), we are also sad that we are the only school we know that teaches kungfu sparring systematically, considering that there are so many kungfu schools in the world and that kungfu is actually an effective martial art.
But what makes us the proudest is not that we teach kungfu sparring, but that we teach our students to apply their training to enrich their daily life, and we are very glad of the result we have.
Right now I am training by myself. I train my fingers, and I learn new things by researching. I am even climbing trees everyday like a monkey – I call it Monkey Gong. And I train my vision diligently. I am training night-time vision – Owl Gong, if you will. I am also training uprooting a tree and many other exercises, including fitness exercises.
Monkey-gong and owl-gong are interesting, and uprooting a tree is impressive. But these are not our priorities in our training. Our priorities are to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joys.
We walk our talk. We do not just mention the purpose of our training for other people but do not check results for ourselves. Recently I had dinner with 6 students who learned Shaolin Kungfu from me more than 30 years ago. I asked them whether they had ever been sick. None of them had!
I am a good student, and I train hard. I would love to be your Kung Fu student and ultimately learn sparring methodically so that I may actually have true fighting skill.
Being a good student is very important in any art. It is simple, but not easy. Basically it is practicing the art according to what the teacher teaches, and not according to what the student thinks the art should be practiced, which is actually the case many people do although they may not realize it.
But before becoming a good student, you must ascertain that the art is worthy of your time and effort, and that your teacher is competent. If you practice a low-level art, no matter how good a student you are, and how competent your teacher is, your results are necessarily limited by the depth and scope of the art. A competent teacher is not only a living example of the art he teaches, but also live his daily life with high moral values.
Although we place much importance on combat efficiency, as we do not want to make a mockery of our practicing a martial art, it is not our top priority. We dedicate ourselves to practice our art diligently because it enriches our lifes and the lives of other people.
Taijiquan is an internal martial art
I hope you enjoyed Hawaii, as I saw on your website you must be in Hawaii. I thought I’d follow up on my previous email. I was thinking that perhaps you could guide me as to a training plan that is right for me. I would like to reimburse you for teaching me as well.
Editorial Note : These questions were asked during the time of the Hawaii courses in July 2014. But because of a long waiting list, they are released only now.
I enjoyed myself tremendously in Hawaii. The courses were also very rewarding. For example, in a Zen course, using techniques and skills I taught them, students could immediately give a short talk on any topic supplied on the spot by the class, often drawing interest and laughter from the audience.
You need not pay me for such advice. It is great to share useful information with deserving people.
I am willing to make it to Malaysia and study with you intensely, and especially study kung fu sparring. However it may not be for some months due to some circumstances that I will be able to go there (that is, if you have a place for me). In the mean time I would like your guidance.
Staying in Malaysia to learn from me in an extended period is not necessary. It is most cost-effective to attend my intensive courses.
Most people, understandably, may wonder what they can learn in a few days of an intensive course. The truth is that they can learn and benefit a lot, usually beyond what they can even imagine. These intensive courses are life-changing for many people. Some of them, by just practicing what they had learnt at the course, became masters themselves and brought life-changing benefits to their own students
I recently purchased “The Complete Book of Shaolin” and have been doing exercises from it. My main problem is I lack a sparring partner.
Many people have kindly reported to me that “The Complete Book of Shaolin” is the best book they have read on Shaolin. They have benefited not just in sparring efficiency but in many aspects of their life.
You and many other people may be surprised that a sparring partner, while helpful, is not a necessary requirement for combat efficiency.
Look at those who spar frequently with sparring partners. Can they defend themselves? Be ready for a big surprise. No, they can’t, otherwise they would not be routinely kicked and punched, which, ironically, some may even take for granted!
You can train on your own without a sparring partner to become combat efficient using genuine Shaolin Kungfu techniques. In fact, training on your own, and not with a training partner, is a very important part of becoming combat efficient. It is the way how masters are made.
A good approach is to use the Shaolin 16 combat sequences. The webpage here shows 3 examples of how these 16 combat sequences are performed.
First you need to learn the basic stances, footwork and basic patterns. These are reviewed at the start of my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Courses, such as at the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Sabah shown here.
Then you practice the Shaolin 16 basic sequences. You can learn all the required techniques from my webpages. However you need to develop the necessary skills, which you have to acquire at an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. This is the main reason why many people do not have the desired result even when they know the techniques in kungfu, chi kung or any art.
Many chi kung students, for example, know and can perform chi kung techniques very well but they are still weak and unhealthy. This is because they do not have the skills to perform the techniques as an energy art, which is chi kung.
An analogy is useful. Many people all over the world can perform Taijiquan techniques beautifully, but they do not know how to use the same techniques as an internal martial art, which is Taijiquan. Similarly many people, like those students and instructors you have mentioned, can perform Shaolin techniques artistically, but they do not know how to apply these techniques in sparring or to enhance their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, which is the purpose of practicing a high-level martial art like Shaolin Kungfu.
The main difference here is in techniques and skills. Many people learn techniques, but they do not acquire skills. You may learn techniques from books and videos or even from an e-mail, but unless you are already skilful, you need to learn skills from a competent teacher.
While combat efficiency is important, Shaolin Kungfu is not just a fighting art but a complete programme of personal development
What does Shaolin Kungfu represent? What is the purpose of learning this style?
— Juan, Mexico
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Shaolin Kungfu is the style of martial art first developed at the Shaolin Monastery in China, and is now practised by many people in various parts of the world irrespective of race, culture and religion.
Many kungfu styles branched out from Shaolin Kungfu, and some examples include Eagle Claw Kungfu, Praying Mantis Kungfu, Hoong Ka Kungfu, Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu and Wing Choon Kungfu.
In my opinion, shared by many other people, Shaolin Kungfu represents the pinnacle of martial art development. Indeed, as early as the Tang Dynasty in China more than a thousand years ago, the saying “Shaolin Kungfu is the foremost martial art beneath heaven” was already popular.
The main purpose of learning Shaolin Kungfu is to have a complete programme of personal development from the most basic to the most advanced levels. At the physical level, Shaolin Kungfu provides health, fitness, agility and vitality, besides the ability to defend ourselves. At the emotional level, Shaolin Kungfu gives us joy and tranquillity.
Shaolin Kungfu trains us to be mentally focused, and enables us to expand our mind. At its highest level, Shaolin Kungfu leads to spiritual fulfillment, irrespective of religion. Obviously, Shaolin Kungfu is not just a fighting art.
It is also significant to note that an important aspect of the Shaolin teaching is direct experience, which in this case means that a Shaolin disciple does not merely talk about good health and mind expansion, or just read up on spirituality, but actually experience these benefits. If he does not experience, according to his developmental stage, the appropriate results Shaolin Kungfu is purported to give, he should seriously review his training.
An important aspect of Shaolin teaching is direct experience. Shaolin practitioners do not merely talk about spiritual cultivation but actually experience it.