(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans15a/jun15-1.html)
Dr Damian, Dr Roseline, Mrs Wong, Grandmaster Wong, Dr Hoo Kok Chong and Sifu Anthony Spinicchia at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Honolulu, Hawaii
Thank you for your generous teaching earlier this month in Hawaii. The wisdom you shared will benefit me a great deal. But your presence was the biggest gift, as you are a living embodiment of Zen. Observing your approach to life directly has allowed me to see and remove unnecessary layers from everything I do, taking me closer to Zen in all aspects of my life.
— Ryan, USA
Editorial Note: These questions were asked soon after the Hawaii courses in July 2014, but due to a long waiting list, they are only released now.
I am glad that you have benefited much from the courses in Hawaii.
As many students in our school have realized, all teaching in Shaolin Wahnam is a teaching of Zen. The hallmark of Zen is being simple, direct and effective.
At the mundane level, Zen training enables us to get the best result in whatever we do. At the supra-mundane level, Zen training leads us to the highest attainment any being can achieve.
My mother was quite frustrated during the Intensive Chi Kung course. She was a bit overwhelmed by the pace of the exercises, and found it difficult to enter a chi kung state of mind with the sounds people were making during chi flow.
I told her that despite her frustration she was still receiving lots of useful skills, techniques, and philosophy. And that it would just be a matter of practicing these things when she got home in order to deepen her skills.
As I mentioned during the course, I thought your mother was your girlfriend! In fact I asked Anthony, “Whatâ€™s the name of Ryan’s girlfriend?”
Anthony answered in surprise, “That’s his mother, not his girlfriend!”
Chi kung practice will certainly keep your mother healthy and youthful.
The noise made by other course participants was a bonus, not a distraction. If your mother could enter into a chi kung state of mind and enjoy a chi flow, which she actually did, it would be easily for her to practice at home when conditions are more ideal.
Her frustration, therefore, was unnecessary. In fact she did very well at the course. What she needs to do is to continue her daily practice following the three golden rules of not worry, not intellectualizing, and enjoying her practice.
Chi flow in our school can be an interesting, noisy affair
During many of the practice sessions at the course, we did not do standing meditation at the end of chi flow for more than a few seconds. Do you still recommend performing standing meditation regularly after chi flow? If so, do you recommend an ideal length of time for the standing meditation portion?
We usually complete any chi kung exercise with standing meditation, even for a few seconds. This will allow our chi to settle down at its normal condition.
The time of standing meditation at the end of a chi kung exercise may range from a second to half an hour or more, depending on various factors, like our conditions and objectives. I
If you are short of time, you may stand upright at a meditative state of mind for a second. If you wish to build internal force, enhance mental clarity or expand into the Cosmos, you may stand for half an hour or more, in which case it becomes the main part of the exercise, though you may not initially intend it to be, and the chi kung part becomes preliminary.
You have always taught us to think of the dan tian at the end of chi flow. If I spend a few minutes in standing meditation after chi flow, should I think of my dan tian again a second time before completing the practice session?
It is not necessary but it is useful.
If you spend a few minutes in standing meditation after chi flow, irrespective of whether you thought of your dan tian before standing meditation, you can complete your chi kung session without thinking of your dan tain again, or for the first time if you did not do so earlier.
In other words, you may think of your dan tian before proceding to standing meditation. Or you may just go straight to standing meditation without thinking of your dan tian. You can also complete your chi kung session form chi flow without going ino standing meditation.
All the three procedures above are correct, although the result, if all other things were equal, may be slightly different. Of these three procedures, the first is the best, the second is rhe next, and the third gives the least result. But a skilful practitioner using the third procedure will get better result than a less skilful practitioner using the first procedure.
Now, in another comparison not mentioned in the three procedures above, after your chi flow and standing meditation, if you gently think of your dan tian before completing your session, you will have better result than if you do not think of your dan tian, if all other things were equal.
The following philosophy will explain the difference of result. By gently thinking of your dan tian, you gather your chi at your dan tian. If you perform a few minutes of standing meditation without first thinking of your dan tian, you will also gather at your chi at your dan tian. Because chi will naturally and spontaneously gather there if you stand upright and be relaxed. However, if you think of the dan tian first, you have a head start.
As an analogy, in a race even if you do not get set but just stand leisurely, you can still run when the signal is sounded. But if you get set first, you will have a head start.
When you complete your chi flow without thinking of your dan tian, your chi will eventually settle down at your dan tian, though it will take a longer time. If you gently think of your dan tian before completing, you assure the gathering of chi at the dan tian.
As an analogy, after a race if you donâ€™t walk about to let your breathing returns to normal, you can still perform other activities. But if you walk about leisurely to let your breathing to return to normal, you can perform the same activities better.
Focusing at dan tian is a good way to complete a meditation session
I was very interested in your thoughts on advanced practitioners lowering their level of practice to avoid over training. Looking back on my practice over the years, I very regularly experienced intense cleansing symptoms that I think may have been in part from over training (even though I only practiced 10-15 minutes twice a day). Since returning from Hawaii, I have been experimenting with training only once a day for 10 minutes. Do you think it would be wise to increase this amount?
Whether you should increase the time of your training depends on whether you have reached your optimum training time, i.e. the time that gives the maximum benefit.
An optimum training time is a theoretical concept, and may vary from person to person, and from time to time for the same person. By theoretical concept is meant that we cannot be exact for its duration; we can only estimate it.
Nevertheless, there are some factors that help us to estimate wisely. If we feel fresh and energized, and derive a lot of benefits, we can conclude that we are before or at our optimum training time. If we feel tired and uncomfortable, and experience a lot of cleansing, we can conclude that we have exceed our optimum training period, and have over-trained.
From experience, we have found that our students get the best benefits by training for about 15 minutes. Students of most other schools may have to train for an hour or more. With further improvement of our teaching methodology, we can now shorten our optimum training time to 10 minutes.
It is worthwhile to remember that the purpose of training chi kung is to enrich our life. If we can get a lot of benefits in shorter time, it means we have more time to enjoy life wholesomely.
When performing Cosmic Shower, should I open the Bai hui and visualize energy from heaven during or after performing the Carrying the Moon pattern? Can Cosmic Shower be performed without any chi kung pattern at all, if I initiate a gentle chi flow with my mind first?
In Cosmic Shower, opening the baihui and visualizing energy from heaven are performed after Carrying the Moon. You may also perform these two techniques during Carrying the Moon.
When you are skilful, you can initiate Cosmic Shower without performing Carrying the Moon or any chi kung pattern. You can initiate a gentle chi flow, then procedure to Cosmic Shower. You may even have a Cosmic Shower straight away without Carrying the Moon or any chi kung pattern. This is a useful skill if you want to be fresh and have no jet lag on a trans-continental flight.
Self-defence is of utmost importance in any martial art, but it may be a big surprise to many people that many martial artists cannot defend themselves, otherwise they would not be randomly punched and kicked in free sparring
Years ago, I attained a 2nd degree black belt in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. It took for a good many years. Almost every class had sparring involved. I learned what it meant to face an aggressive opponent. I did get bruised ribs, broken fingers, things like that.
My teacher has since retired. I am currently practicing my forms and techniques. Without a sparring partner can I attain a level of where I can adequately defend myself?
— Andy, England
Yes, as you have good kungfu background, you can defend yourself by practicing on your own, provided of course what you practice is correct. Indeed, that was how past masters became very combat efficient. They normally trained combat on their own.
It may be a big surprise to many people that what many martial artists, including those at black belt levels, practice for self-defence may not be correct. If their practice is correct, they should be able to defend themselves. They should not sustain a lot of hits from their free sparring. In fact self-defence training today is so bad that that they take being hit for granted. It is ironical that they call their art an art of self-defence. Theirs is actually a free and generous exchange of punches and kicks!
The fact that you asked the question of whether you could defend yourself by training on your own clearly shows that you have not learned to defend yourself. In your sparring you punched and kicked your sparring partners, and be punched and kicked by them. If you could defend yourself, you would not have bruised ribs and broken fingers. You would have asked whether training on your own could improve your self-defence, which is different from asking whether you could defend yourself.
While we place much importance on self-defence, combat efficiency is not top on our priorities. We train Shaolin Kungfu because we want to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness, spiritual joys irrespective of religion, and peak performance in both our work and play. We do not merely state these aims as theory. We walk our talk. We ensure we have these practical results.
For example, when our students spar, they never sustain injuries. This means they can defend themselves. They are not sick or in pain, and they enjoy their work and play, which shows they have good health, vitality and spiritual joys.
I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia. I offer such a course only about once or twice a year. Because of my tight schedule, there is no Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course this year. You should not miss the next one when it is offered. Please check my website for available dates..
I would like to ask Sifu Wong if masturbation, premarital sex and having sex with prostitutes are considered a sin or wrong.
— Jussi, USA
It depends on various factors, like who asks the question, who answers it, and the situation involved.
If a lonely person asks a pimp this question, it is likely that the pimp will say it is not wrong, and encourages the lonely person to indulge himself.
If a religious person askes a priest, it is likely that the priest will say it is a cardinal sin, and asks the religious person to pray to God.
In this case, if you ask me, I have to consider your situation.
If, for example, you are happily married with a lovely wife, I would say, yes, it is a sin. Don’t be a fool. Spend your time with your wife, no matter how tempting masturbation, premarital sex and prostitutes may be.
If you are sexually hungry, but cannot find a willing partner or are not brave enough to find a prostitute, I would say masturbation is not a sin, and ask you to enjoy yourself, but do not do it too often and do not feel any guilt about it.
If you have a willing partner, who of course must be human and not underage, provided both of you are not puritan in your religious or social beliefs, I would say that premarital sex is not a sin, and advise you to add love to sex, and ensure that your partner enjoys herself.
If you prefer a prostitute to masturbation, provided you are not puritan in your religious and social beliefs, I would say having sex with a prostitute is not a sin, and strongly advise you to take precaution not to contact any disease and also be kind to the prostitute.