(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans01a/jan01-1.html)
A recent photograph of Sifu Wong and his wife holidaying in England
Sifu, I believe that you are one of the wisest and most compassionate men alive today, and I place great value and worth on your thoughts and opinions. I have been married for almost one year now and my wife and I have just had our first child, a boy. What advice can you give me to be a good husband and father?
— Kevin, USA
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Congratulations for being a husband and father, and thank you for your kind words.
Being a husband and father is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a man. So treasure your blessing. With the blessing comes responsibility. The most basic responsibility of a good husband and father is to provide for your family to the best of your ability. Provisions involve not just physical wants and comfort, like decent food and housing, but more importantly spiritual needs, like loving care and spending time with them rewardingly.
Providing for their spiritual needs does not need money, but it needs time and effort. If one really treasures his wife and child, he can readily find the time and effort, irrespective of how busy he may imagine himself to be or even really be.
If you treat your wife not as someone who happens to marry you, but someone who is going to spend the best part of her life for your welfare, which is actually the case, and treat your son not just as an incidental outcome of some pleasure, but as a living manifestation of your love and joy, which is also actually the case, you will find spending time with them not a responsibility but a special privilege.
Marriage is sacred. Personally I believe a man should have one and only one wife. You have chosen your wife. So you just have to make sure your marriage can only be successful. You have no other choice, and there is no looking back. Be generous in your attitude. Assume the position that you, and not your wife, are the one to take the initiative to ensure a successful, happy marriage. When you have set the right initiative, your wife will naturally respond.
I also wish to raise my son in the spirit of Shaolin, in a Zen environment. How should I go about this? At what age do I introduce Shaolin and Zen principles to him? And what age can he begin to practice Shaolin Kung Fu and Chi Kung?
Yours is a good choice, one of the best a father can do for his son. There are many ways to realize your intention. In the past, the ideal way was to send him to the Shaolin Monastery as a lay disciple, but this is not applicable today because traditional Shaolin arts are no longer taught there.
An excellent alternative is to send your son to a real Shaolin master. Another alternative is to train under a real Shaolin master yourself, and later teach your son the way the master taught you.
These ways, while possible, are not easy. In the past to be accepted into the Shaolin Monastery was extremely difficult. Today to find a real Shaolin master willing to teach you or your son is equally difficult.
In theory you can introduce Shaolin and Zen principles to your son, and he can begin practising Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung at any age. For example, when your son is a baby you can frequently recite Shaolin principles to him, letting his subconscious mind absorb the teaching.
And you can soak him in medicated water and then methodically strike him so that he will grow up with “copper skin and iron bones”, like what the female Shaolin master Miew Chooi Fa did to her famous son Fong Sai Yoke.
But in practice, it is advisable to let your son grow to about twelve years old before you let him practise Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung, and about twenty five before you formally introduce him to Shaolin and Zen principles. But informally you can let him begin earlier — as soon as he can run or can comprehend intelligently. For example you can let him perform in a fun-ful way “Lifting the Sky”, and impress upon him that if he wants any worthy result he has to put in time and effort.
My wife also would like to lose some weight that she gained during the pregnancy. Can she practice Drawing the Moon, Lifting the Sky, Separating Water, and Circular Chi Flow? She is breastfeeding. Will these exercises affect that at all?
“Drawing the Moon” is an excellent exercise for loosing excess weight, especially when the excess is around the waist.
After giving birth to our first child, my wife, who was slender before, took the shape of a barrel, the result of having a lot of nourishing food during confinement. She performed “Drawing the Moon” every morning and night, and regained her slender figure within six months.
After about 30 years of happy marriage and having given me 5 lovely children, she actually has a more attractive figure now than when I first met her. She does not do any aerobics, go on diet or follow any of the many slimming programmes on the market; she only practises the same three basic chi kung exercises I have been teaching for years to beginning students — “Lifting the Sky”, “Pushing Mountains” and “Carrying the Moon”. Besides having an attractive figure, my wife also has sparkling eyes and rosy complexion.
If your wife practises “Lifting the Sky”, “Separating Water”, and Circular Chi Flow correctly, these exercises will enhance her breast-feeding function as well as make her fit and healthy.
Mrs Wong Kiew Kit (right) and four of her five children in Beijing during their China visit with Sifu Wong in May 2000.