I am a managing director of a large company, but I had a difficult past and had little money in the past.
Before my children were born, I was drinking a lot of alcohol and feeling very depressed. I made a commitment to improve myself and my future family. I was quite successful. I stopped drinking and managed to do well at work, despite often feeling frightened or desperate.
However, I realize now I was partly holding on. I found it difficult to socialize and maintain friendships.
However, things seemed to turn out well, which were associated with my wife and me working hard and making good decisions at important times. When things didn’t go so well we dealt with them, and we made a commitment to my children who depended on us.
— Edward, England
Not only you overcame your difficulties of your past, you have done extremely well in the present. Your success in overcoming your past problems would be a great inspiration not only for others but also for yourself.
You need not socialize with others if you don’t want to. You have your own family to look after and live with.
But if you want to extend your sphere of socialization, you can socialize with your friends and other company directors. You don’t have to prove to yourself or to them that you can socialize, you do so simply because you like it. You will then find that you can let go, and not holding on.
Recently I find old patterns returning. I notice thoughts of fears of loneliness, worries about financial security, unhappiness and strong feelings of lack of motivation and pointlessness.
Our past always remains with us, no matter how successful we may be in the present. But you don’t have to recall it. If it returns to you on its own, just breathe it away, like you breathe out stale air, if you do not want it. Or, occasionally if you like, you can indulge in some nostalgia but without letting it bothers you.
In my case, for example, I had some very painful experiences when my own students whom I selflessly nurtured, and people whom I literally saved from dying, betrayed me. But I never let my past troubled me.
If the painful memories cropped up on their own, I just breathed them away. If, on rare occasions when I wanted some nostalgia, I recalled those painful memories fondly, being thankful that they were actually opportunities for my improvement.
Without those betrayals I would not be what I am now, traveling the world enjoying the best food and the best scenery, while giving health and happiness to people irrespective of race, culture and religion. I never allowed those bad memories to hold me up; in fact I am more active now than before in nurturing students and saving lives
By practicing chi kung we control our thoughts and emotions, not let our thoughts and emotions control us
I also think of people in under-developed countries where life is cheap, with problems of corrupt politicians putting their own interests before the people. This can leave me feeling hopeless for the future of the world.
It is noble of you to think of the social and political problems in under-developed countries. But the fact is that these people may not be suffering the way you imagine them to be. In fact they might be happier than many people in England.
A few years ago I was in Toronto. A shop dedicated a portion of its profit to people in Africa, and the shop owner told me how miserable the Africans were, so she thought. I thought differently. I thought that although the economic level of the African people was nothing like that in Canada, most Africans would be happier than most Canadians.
My experience in India was illuminating. The people were very poor, and their living conditions in slums were simply unimaginable to most Europeans. Many people as well as organizations in Europe were very noble in raising funds for them. But from my direct observation, I believe the people in India were generally happier than the people in Europe.
One of our instructors in England mentioned that many English people felt shameful of themselves because the English colonized many countries in the past. I contented that the English should change this perspective.
While the English gained a lot from their colonization, they also gave a lot to the indigenous people. Even everyday things we now take for granted, like pipe water and electricity, were the direct result of colonization. It is well known that expatriate companies look after the welfare of their employees very well. Indigenous companies tend to exploit their workers.
This general feeling of shame amongst the English could be a subconscious cause of your unhappiness. You need to make a paradigm shift. Be proud of what your forefathers did. Be proud of being English. Be aware that the English did bring a lot of benefits to many people in many places. The English Empire, like the Spanish Empire, was where the sun never set.
I am even worrying now that I have been a less good father and husband than I had planned or hoped to be.
The fact that you made a commitment to provide well for your children, and that you and your wife worked hard to build up your company shows that you have been a responsible father and husband.
There may still be some things you would like to do as a father and husband, but you certainly have been a better father and husband than most people anywhere in the world. Don’t be unkind to yourself.
Practicing genuine chi kung can overcome any health problem as well as homosexuality
As I write I realize there are a few problems:
I find it difficult to take joy in the world and everyday life.
I am frightened about the future as it seems my mind is telling me things will turn out badly whatever I do or try.
I feel shame about these feelings
I have no focus on what I want to do or achieve with whatever life is left to me
Whether one is joyful depends not on social, economical and geographical factors but on his mind set. The happy Indians in their slum areas are an inspiration.
If you stop worrying and stop intellectualizing, you will find it easier to take joy in the world and everyday life.
If you realize that you have a good family, are the managing director of a large company, and live in a highly civilized country, and be grateful for all these blessings, your joy in the world and everyday life will be assured.
Don’t let your mind control you. Control your mind. Things are turning out very well for you. In fact, for people living in England, things are turning out well even for the homeless and unemployed. It is the affluents who make themselves unhappy with their unnecessary intellectualization.
Make a paradigm shift. Be proud of being English. Be proud that you overcame past problems and are now a managing director of a large company. Be proud that you are wealthy, and have a happy family.
You don’t have to achieve more and join the mad, rat race. Make your life meaningful everyday. Find joy and beauty in simple things, like seeing your customers happy with your products, and your workers well paid for their job.
You have achieved much in this world. Your workers would like to exchange their life with yours, but you may not want to exchange your life with the Queen.
Feel proud instead of shameful, feel satisfied instead of being unrest.
This seems somewhat self-pitying as I am fairly wealthy and am probably in the top few percent of income in the world. I am scared because I thought these issues had passed.
All these issues had passed. You just made them up in your imagination.
From drinking a lot of alcohol, you have now overcome the problem. From being very depressed, you have become caring for people in under-developed countries. From having no family, now you have a wife and children. From having little money, you are now in the top few percent of income in the world. Count your blessings and enjoy life wholesomely.
This is Xingyiquan. Would you call it Shaolin or Wudang Kungfu?
Back to my first question, in your view is homosexuality wrong?
— Jussi, USA
I don’t think homosexuality is wrong, but it is certainly unnatural. As an analogy, to be sick is not wrong, but it is unnatural. It is natural to be healthy.
If a person is sick, he can get well, irrespective of the illness, including so-called incurable disease, because it is natural to be healthy. Practicing genuine chi kung is an excellent way to help a sick person become healthy.
If a person is homosexual, regardless that some experts say it is due to biological reasons, he can become heterosexual again, because for humans it is natural to be heterosexual. Practicing genuine chi kung is an excellent way to help a homosexual person become heterosexual again.
How does practicing genuine chi kung help a homosexual person become heterosexual again if it is presumably true that the cause of his homosexuality is due to biological reasons? It is because genuine chi kung will help him regain yin-yang harmony. In everyday language it means that practicing genuine chi kung will help him to adjust himself accordingly to changing conditions both inside and outside his body so that he regains his normal, healthy condition.
This is the same as overcoming diseases. A person is sick due to biological reasons. Some parts in his body is not adjusting accordingly to changing conditions inside or outside his body. For example, if his own systems cannot adjust to viruses, he may have a viral infection. Practicing genuine chi kung will help him make the appropriate adjustment, and he will overcome the viruses and be healthy again.
If the cause of his homosexuality is not biological, but due to other reasons like social, environmental or other factors, practicing genuine chi kung will also help him overcome the problem. It is the same as overcoming illness. Some diseases are due to stress or environmental changes, but practicing genuine chi kung can overcome these factors and enable the patients to be healthy again.
It is important to practice genuine chi kung. Much of chi kung practice today is actually gentle physical exercise, and gentle physical exercise, though it may give benefits like loosening muscles and socialization, cannot overcome homosexuality or illness. Many students in our school have overcome illness, and some have overcome homosexuality.
I read from your webpage that Xingyiquan was invented by Yue Fei who was a Shaolin master. This means Xingyiquan belongs to Shaolin Kungfu.
But I also have read that Xingyiquan is Wudang Kungfu. Wudang Kungfu is described as the opposite of Shaolin. Wudang Kungfu is soft and internal, Shaolin Kungfu is hard and external.
Can you please explain?
— Marc, Germany
Many people, including many kungfu practitioners, even some masters, classify all styles of kungfu into Shaolin and Wudang. According to this classification, Shaolin Kungfu is hard and external, whereas Wudang Kungfu is soft and internal. Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan are internal arts, and they belong to the Wudang group. All other kungfu styles belong to the Shaolin group.
This classification was originated by a Chinese scholar in the 20th century who wrote a treatise on “A Study of Shaolin and Wudang”. I have a copy of this treatise. This classification is incorrect, but has been established and is popularly used by many people, often without understanding its meaning.
A few Chinese terms that have been well established belong to this situation. They are incorrect, but have been established as if they were facts. Two infamous examples are “Yin-Yang” and “Five Elements”.
It is commonly said, even by otherwise authorities, that yin and yang are two primordial forces of the universe. Yin and Yang are not primordial, and they are not forces. They are just symbols representing two complementary aspects of any thing. A woman, for example, is referred to as yin, when she is compared with a man, and the comparison is usually not openly stated; it is understood. If we compare the strength of a woman who is strong, with a man who is week, the woman would be yang and the man yin.
It is commonly said that the Chinese regard all things in the world to be made up of five elements. This is incorrect, and the mistake is due to a wrong translation which has become established. The Chinese realize that there are countless processes in the world, and all these countless processes can be classified into five archetypes called “wu xing”, which means â€œfive movementsâ€ or “five processes”, but the term has been wrongly translated as “five elements”.
Of the three internal arts, Xingyiquan is the one that has no connection with Wudang. It is also the one that is directly developed from Shaolin Kungfu by the great Song marshal, Yue Fe, in the 12th century.
Taijiquan was evolved from Shaolin Kungfu by Zhang San Feng, who developed the art on Wudang Mountain. It was initially called Wudang Shaolin Kungfu, but later shortened to Wudang Kungfu.
It is generally accepted that the First Patriarch of Baguazhang was Dong Hai Chuan who lived in the 19th century. He was well versed in Shaolin Kungfu and developed Baguazhang after learning from two unnamed Taoist saints on Hua Mountain. There was no connection with the Wudang Mountain. But a lot of Baguazhang philosophy is described in Taoist terms, and Wudang Mountain is famous for Taoist cultivation.
It is also incorrect to say that Shaolin Kungfu is hard and external, though this concept is popularly adopted by most people, and that most of Shaolin Kungfu shown to the public is hard and external. Advanced Shaolin Kungfu, which is rarely seen in public, is soft and internal.
While it is internal, Xingyiquan is relatively hard. It does not resemble the soft image of Wudang Kungfu many people have in this mistaken classification. If Xingyiquan were to be performed to a group of people, without telling them it was Xingyiquan and they were asked to guess whether it was Shaolin or Wudang Kungfu, it was likely that many would call it Shaolin, which is correct. In fact, the term “Shaolin” is sometimes prefixed to “Xingyiquan”, calling it Shaolin Xingyiquan, but never Wudang Xingyiquan.
We in Shaolin Wahnam are very proud of our lineage which can be traced back directly to the two southern Shaolin Temples, as illustrated in the chart above.
Not many people realize that there were two southern Shaolin Temples, one in the City of Quanzhou, and the other on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, both located in Fujian Province of South China.
During the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th century) a Ming emperor built a southern Shaolin Temple in the City of Quanzhou in Fujian Province as an imperial temple to replace the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. This temple was burnt by the Qing Army around 1850s led by the crown prince Yong Cheng with the help of Lama kungfu experts from Tibet.
The Venerable Chee Seen escaped and built a secret southern Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, also in Fujian Province. This temple was also soon burnt by the Qing Army, this time led by Pak Mei who was a classmate of Chee Seen in the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou.
The northern Shaolin Temple on Song Shan or Song Mountain in Henan Province remained throughout the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the Chinese characters, “Shao Lin Si” which means “Shaolin Temple” at the Main Gate of the Temple were written by the Qing Emperor, Qian Long. This temple was burnt only in 1928, 17 years after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, by rival Chinese warlords. Its burning was by cannon fire and had nothing to do with kungfu.
Our Grandmaster, Sifu Wong Kiew Kit, learned from four sifus, or teachers. Grandmaster Wong’s first sifu was Sifu Lai Chin Wah, more widely known by his honorable nick-name as Uncle Righteousness. His second sifu was Sifu Chee Kim Thong, regarded as the living treasure of the People’s Republic of China during his time. Grandmaster Wong’s third sifu was Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou. His fourth sifu was Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, the patriarch of Choe Family Wing Choon.
It was no co-incidence that all Grandmaster Wong’s sifus were patriarchs of their respective styles because Grandmaster Wong sought for the best available teachers. Our school, Wahnam, is named after Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam as much of our instructional material came from them.
The Shaolin Temple. The name itself spells magic to millions of people all over the world. For a thousand years, the Shaolin Temple has been glorified in sagas, parables, literature, and legends. Today, the legend is still glorified across the globe in movies and on television
Since it was founded in 495 A.D., emperors of every succeeding Chinese dynasty have consecrated the Shaolin Temple as their Imperial Temple. This was where emperors prayed on behalf of their people. It was also the birthplace of Zen Buddhism. Today, every Zen school in the world traces its lineage back to the Shaolin Temple in China.
Over the years, the Shaolin Temple became a haven for China’s elite: generals, martial arts masters, classical poets and painters, famous calligraphers, scholars, and spiritualists. At its height, there were over 2000 monks staying in the Temple in Songhshan province. These monks were classified into four categories: administrators, scholars, workers, and warriors.
Hundreds of years later, a second Shaolin Temple was built in Fujian province in the south of China. Though it was smaller than its big brother in Songshan province, this Southern Temple played an important role in the development and spread of Shaolin Kung Fu.
The End of Shaolin
A monk outside one of the Shaolin halls
The Qing Dynasty in China (1644-1911) was a period of great turmoil, especially during the 19th century when governmental control was weakened. Prosperity declined. China suffered serious social and economic problems in addition a population explosion. Millions of people were dissatisfied with the government.
Although rebellions occurred all over China, the Southern Shaolin Temple had a reputation for being a revolutionary center. In an effort to crush the growing rebellion, the Qing army attacked and burned the Southern Shaolin Monastery during middle of the 19th century. Only the most skilled Shaolin Monks escaped the attack.
Our Shaolin Wahnam school traces its lineage back to two of these monks: the Venerable Zhi Shan (Gee Sin) and the Venerable Jiang Nan (Kong Nam). The lineages of these two monks remained separate for over 100 years until they were reunited again in my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.
The Venerable Zhi Shan
The famous Shaolin Pagoda Forest
The story of the Venerable (a title of respect given to monks) Zhi Shan is well known in many Kung Fu schools. It has been depicted in hundreds of stories and dozens of movies. The Venerable Zhi Shan was the founder and abbot of the southern Shaolin Temple.
The Venerable Zhi Shan was a revolutionary. His main objective was to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty in order to restore the previous Ming government. His teachings were fast and secretive, with emphasis on kung fu that was hard and combative. Although internal force training was certainly a part of his kung fu, many of his disciples focused on external force training.
Pak Mei (Bai Mei) was a former Shaolin disciple who later betrayed his masters by revolting against the Temple. It was Pak Mei who led the Qing Dynasty army to the Southern Shaolin Temple. Together, they razed the Temple to the ground. The Venerable Zhi Shan died defending the temple that he built.
Several monks and secular disciples managed to escape. Many of these masters are now legendary (even in Hollywood): The Venerable Herng Yein, the Venerable Sam Tak, Hung Heigun, Lok Ah Choi, and Fong Sai Yuk. Years later, two of Hung Heigun’s disciples tracked down and killed Pak Mei in order to avenge the Venerable Zhi Shan.
The Venerable Zhi Shan is often regarded as the First Patriarch of Southern Shaolin Kung Fu. The disciples of the Venerable Zhi Shan spread Shaolin Kung Fu to Guangdong province. Eventually, these arts spread throughout the world. Most Southern Shaolin styles today, like Hung Gar, Lau Gar, and Choy Li Fut, come from the Venerable Zhi Shan. From the Venerable Zhi Shan, the art passed to the Venerable Herng Yein, then to Chan Fook, then to Ng Yew Loong, then to Lai Chin Wah, then to my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.
The Venerable Jiang Nan
A priceless old picture of Yang Fatt Khun with a young Ho Fatt Nam
Another monk who managed to escape the burning of the Temple was a young master named the Venerable Jiang Nan. This monk fled south with the Qing army in pursuit. His original name is lost to us. In an effort to hide from his enemy, he changed his name. After crossing a river that marked the edge of China, he chose the name Jiang Nan, which means “South of the River”. It was south of this river that he would spend the rest of his life.
For 50 years, the Venerable Jiang Nan wandered further and further south with only one mission in life: to pass on his art to a worthy successor. One night, near the border between present-day Thailand and Malaysia, he encountered a young medicine-man who was demonstrating Kung Fu to attract customers to his mobile roadside stall. The monk observed the young man every night for 6 nights. On the 7th night, after the crowd had dispersed, the monk approached the young man. Without any aggression in his voice, the monk said, “Not bad. But despite all the applause, what you showed was not real kung fu.”
The young man was shocked. As a traveling medicine-man, he relied on his kung fu to ward off bandits and thugs who would frequently challenge him. And yet this old monk was telling him that his kung fu was useless!
The monk continued. “Don’t take my word for it. If you like, we can put it to the test with some friendly sparring.”
Ho Fatt Nam (left), sparring with a student
The young man agreed, eager to prove himself. But to his amazement, the 80-year-old monk beat him easily. Even when the young man stopped pulling his punches and attacked full force, the monk handled him as if playing with a child. Recognizing the signs of true mastery, the young man knelt before the monk and begged to be accepted as a student.
With a smile, the Venerable Jiang Nan said, “Yes, on one condition.” The young man bowed lower and said that he would do anything. Raising the young man’s head and looking into his eyes with a smile, the monk said simply, “Start from scratch.”
That young man was named Yang Fatt Khun.
When master Yang Fatt Khun was in his 70s, he accepted a young man as a student. This man was already well trained in the martial arts and earned his living as a professional Muay Thai fighter. That man was named Ho Fatt Nam.
At first, master Yang rejected the young Ho’s requests to become a student. But one night, with the help of one of master Yang’s students, the young Ho snuck into the secret training hall. Prostrating before master Yang with the traditional gifts, he begged to be accepted. Taking the gifts and placing them on the altar, master Yang said, “This is Heaven’s Will.”
Each year, master Yang held a grand sparring competition amongst his students in order to choose his top ten disciples. From an unranked position, Ho Fatt Nam gradually rose to a top position. When master Yang announced his retirement, he named Ho Fatt Nam as his successor.
A young Wong Kiew Kit was one of the last students to learn from master Ho. When he first begged to be accepted as a student, master Ho had only one request: “Start from scratch.”
Lai Chin Wah (left) & Ho Fatt Nam (right)
The name “Wahnam” consists of meaningful Chinese characters from the names of Grandmaster Wong’s two masters: Lai Chin Wah and Ho Fatt Nam. The name “Shaolin Wahnam” was chosen to honor these two masters as well as all of the past masters in the Shaolin tradition.
After over a hundred years of secrecy and exile, these two lineages, one from the Venerable Zhi Shan and the other from the Venerable Jiang Nan, were reunited in my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. This reunion is meaningful to us because we now inherit the best of two Shaolin traditions.
The Venerable Zhi Shan was a revolutionary; his objective was to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. His teaching was fast and secretive, with emphasis on kung fu that was hard and combative.
The Venerable Jiang Nan was a missionary. His main aim was to preserve the original Shaolin arts, with little intention to fight the Qing Dynasty. While the Venerable Zhi Shan quickly rebuilt a second southern Shaolin Temple after its destruction and taught many disciples, the Venerable Jiang Nan took 50 years to search for a deserving successor in order to teach him holistically and slowly. The Venerable Jiang Nan’s teaching emphasized internal development and spiritual cultivation. The Shaolin Kungfu from his lineage is comparatively soft and internal.
The Holistic Health Cultivation Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which has an outstanding record of helping people overcome so-called incurable diseases conducted an Introductory Chi Kung Course from 11th June to 15th June 2015. The course was taught by Sifu Dr Foong Tuck Meng and Sifu Wong Chun Nga.
During a special training session taught by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, the Grandmaster mentioned two important points:
As a matter of course, students who daily and correctly practice the exercises taught at the course will overcome their illness if they are sick, or will prevent illness happening if they are already healthy.
Students should choose the right techniques and practice at the right level to attain their aim of overcoming illness or maintaining good health.
Grandmaster Wong explained the difference between “as a matter of course” and “as a matter of fact”. If a person drove on an expressway from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, arriving at Singapore was a matter of course. But as a matter of fact, he might not arrive, if, for example, he stopped half way or turned off to other roads.
Grandmaster Wong also pointed out that medical chi kung, which was meant to overcome or prevent illness, was the lowest in the following hierarchy of chi kung
Medical Chi Kung
Chi Kung for Health and Vitality
Chi Kung for Scholars
Chi Kung for Warriors
Spiritual Chi Kung
If a practitioner practiced at a higher level, i.e. if his chi kung was too powerful, he might harm himself. It was like, Grandmaster Wong explained, asking an untrained person to run a marathon or lift heavy weights.
Hence, practitioners who wished to overcome or prevent illness must not practice at a high level even when they had the knowledge and ability to do so. It was the same in daily life. One must chose the best method and operate it at an appropriate way that fulfilled his needs.
This was the graduation dinner of an Introductory Chi Kung Course on 14th June 2015 organized by Holistic Health Cultivation Centre which has an outstanding record of helping people overcome their so-call incurable diseases.
Creating the right mental frame for the best learning.
An old photograph showing Sifu Wong (in his teens) performing a Hoong Ka kungfu set with his master, Sifu Lai Chin Wah, popularly known as Uncle Righteousness (middle behind in white T-shirt), looking on.
An art is best learnt in its culture. One remarkable difference between the culture of the East and the West is the respect shown to a master. In this connection I have little complaint because my students, from both the East and the West, generally show much respect to me. But I have met many Eastern masters commenting on the lack of respect, sometimes utter disrespect, shown to them.
Often it is because of the Western students’ ignorance of Eastern ways rather than their wilful discourtesy that their Eastern masters of chi kung or kungfu (including taijiquan) regard as disrespect. The following are some simple and helpful points both Eastern and Western students may follow to show the respect deservedly due to their masters.
ADDRESSING THE MASTER CORRECTLY
Sifu Wong (in his 40’s) with his master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the Shaolin Monastery
First of all you must know how to address your master correctly, something which many Western students are ignorant of. Never, never, never call your master by his name, especially if he comes from a Eastern culture. In some Western societies it may be considered personal and desirable to call your senior or even your boss by his first name, but in chi kung or kungfu culture it is considered extremely rude.
It is worthwhile to remember that your master is not your peer or equal. Your master is at least one, but usually many levels above you, otherwise he cannot and should not be your master. The proper way to address your chi kung or kungfu master is “Sifu”, which is the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language for “Master”. The Mandarin pronunciation is “Shifu”.
Actually if a great master answers you when you call him “Sifu”, you are, not he is, honoured; it shows he accepts you as a student. I always felt greatly honoured whenever I called my masters Lai Chin Wah and Ho Fatt Nam “Sifu”, because they were two of the greatest masters I had found.
If your master’s surname is Chen, you should call him “Sifu”, or “Master” if you want to sound Western, but strictly speaking not “Sifu Chen” or “Master Chen” for that is the address the public, not his students, would call him. If you call him “Sifu Chen” or “Master Chen” you are distancing yourself from him.
Besides showing propriety in your address, you should also show propriety in your behaviour. Do not, for example, put your hand around him, pat him on his shoulder, or hug him — leave that to his wife, which following Eastern social etiquette is also only done in private.
When you stand or sit in front of or near him, hold yourself upright. You need not stand at attention like a private in front of his sergeant major, but you should not stand sloppily, with arms akimbo or hands in your pockets. When you sit do not cross your legs with a foot pointing at him, or expose your groins to him even though they are hidden by your pants.
It is only sensible that you should listen when your master speaks, especially if he is explaining some points. Yet, it is not uncommon to find some adult students (male as well as female) lying on the floor, sometimes with their hands folded at the back of their head, their eyes close and their legs open in an inviting position! This shows not so much a disrespect to the master, but an utter lack of good manners on the part of the students.
ENTERING AND LEAVING A CLASS
It is also bad manners to arrive at your class late. In the past in the East, late students would be asked to go home, or to leave permanently if they were late habitually. The logic is simple: the master has something invaluable to offer; if you come late you tacitly show that you do not value his teaching. But if there is a valid reason for your being late, you should first greet him from the door, walk quietly but briskly to him, respectfully wait if he is pre-occupied, then explain your reason and apologize.
On the other hand, you should wait patiently if the master is late — even for hours! If you think this is unfair, you are probably not ripe for great arts. There are stories of great masters who purposely arrived late, not for hours but for days, and then passed on their secrets to the few wise, patient students. Although it seldom happens nowadays, it will reflect a splendid grasp of chi kung and kungfu culture if you and your classmates stop whatever you are doing, stand up respectfully, bow and greet your master as he comes in.
Do not leave your class half-way. But if you have to leave early for some reason, explain that to your master before-hand and politely ask his permission. At the appointed time, ask his permission again, then bow and thank him before leaving. At the end of a class, the students should leave after the master, not before he does. However, if the master stays back for a considerable length of time, such as explaining some points to some students who stay behind to ask him, other students may leave first, after bowing to the master.
In the East, it is customary for the teacher to arrive last and leave first. Interestingly, it is often the reverse in the West. The teacher, Western in culture if not in race, often arrives the earliest, sweeps the floor and prepares cookies and drinks which he will serve during recess to his students, who will joke and laugh. At the end of the class, the teacher will stand at the door, shake the students’ hands and thank them for their attendance. He will then throw away the garbage his students have left behind if he still has energy left, and check that everyone has gone home before he closes the door.
OFFERING A CUP OF TEA
In Eastern culture it is always the students who offer drinks to the teacher. When you offer your master a cup of tea, it is preferable to do so with two hands. In Eastern societies, accepting a cup of tea and drinking it has deeper significance than merely quenching thirst.
In the past, even if someone had done you great wrong, if he or she offered you a cup of tea, usually while kneeling down and then knocking his or her head on the ground, and you, sitting down in front of other witnesses, accepted and drank it, it meant that you accepted his or her apology, were ready to forgive all the wrong, and would not take any action whatsoever in future.
The students should also offer a seat to the master, and the seat chosen is usually the best one available. If the master is not seated, the students should remain standing, unless the master asks them to sit down. If they dine together, the students would wait until the master has made his first move to eat or drink.
DON’T BE INSULTING
When your master is explaining or demonstrating something to you, listen attentively and respectfully. Do not bluntly say you already know what he is teaching, even if you really know. In chi kung and kungfu culture, doing so is not being straight-forward, it is being insulting — you are implying that the master does not know what he is doing.
I recall some occasions when my masters taught me something that I already had learnt quite well. Thanks to my training in Eastern culture, I followed their instructions faithfully although they appeared very simple and below my level then. Only much later did I realize that had I not follow these apparently simple instructions I would not have acquired the foundation necessary for advanced development.
Do not ever make the fatal mistake of telling a master what or how to teach you. This is not only unbecoming, it is also very foolish, for you will be denying yourself the very purpose why you need him. If he is a master, he knows best what and how to help you attain your best results; he is able to see your needs and development in ways far beyond your limited perspective.
FOR THE STUDENTS’ INTEREST
Some westerners may find the above-described master-student relationship odd, just as those accustomed to Eastern culture would find the behaviour of some western students unbelievable. It may be more surprising, especially for those who think they are doing the master a favour by paying him a fee to learn, to know that all these customs of respect for the master are actually for the students’, not the master’s, interest.
Someone who teaches kungfu dance or gentle exercise for a living will probably care more for your fees than your respect, but a master whose art gives you good health, vitality, mental freshness and spiritual joy actually does not care whether you respect him more or your dog. But those students who have experienced the wonderful benefits of genuine kungfu and chi kung will understand that the respect given to the master is not only a sincere token of appreciation to the master for sharing his art, but also constitutes an ideal psychological state for the training to take place.
David performing the Ng Long Pat Kua Khun or Fifth Brother Octagonal Staff at UK Summer Camp 2014
I have been feeling a strong presence of past masters around me while practicing since Summer Camp. I would like to ask if there is anything special I can do to honor them, as well as my Sifu, and you Sigung outside of my practice.
— David, USA
Other people may think we are crazy, but divine beings and past masters often come to bless and guide us in our practice. We are indeed very lucky. A good way to honour the divine beings as well as your Sifu and me is to lead the type of life that we are very proud of you, like you have been doing.
It is important to note that being blessed and guided by divine beings is very different from being controlled or taken over by another being, divine or otherwise. Being blessed and guided by divine beings is a great blessing. Being controlled or taken over by another being is a great deviation. We are in conscious control of ourselves all the time, even when being blessed or guided by divine beings.
Many thanks again for your answers to my question about the 12 Bridges. Since then following your advice all 12 Bridges have manifested at once spontaneously — at a very low level I am sure.
To test this I managed to break a thick board with a gentle tap while holding it up with my other hand. One thing that is somewhat concerning though is that I can feel this “12 bridge strike” giving off shock waves in the astral realm. How can I keep from damaging spirits or is this even a concern in the first place?
You have made good process in your 12 Bridges, though there is still much room for improvement. But do not rush at or crave for progress. Enjoy your training, and the progress will naturally happen.
You need not worry about your force creating shock waves which may disturb the astral realm, though it is thoughtful of you to think of it. It is not a concern in the first place.
It is ridiculous but many students expanded into the Cosmos during our advanced courses
I practice Expansion into the Cosmos once or twice a week. Since Summer Camp it feels like I am leaving my body behind entirely, travelling and exploring across the Cosmos. I’ve experienced spectacular things, various cosmic entities, the formation and destruction of stars and galaxies, the creation and destruction of life itself, as well as my Original Face sometimes.
This is a full immersion experience with no awareness of my body or my practice area. When I come back I usually find myself sitting or laying down. Is this development safe? It seems a lot like astral projection, and I know you ‘mentioned before that astral projection was dangerous.
Expanding into the Cosmos is a very high level art. It is ridiculous, in a good way, that even our students have such attainment. With your good heart and internal force, your spiritual expansion into the Cosmos is safe.
Nevertheless, regard this incredible and wonderful benefit as a bonus. Basically our arts enrich our life here and now in our mundane world, giving us good health, vitality and longevity as well as spiritual joys and peak performance.
I’ve been at training sessions for almost two hours, basically all chi flow just letting it happen and happen. I have been overtraining with rashes, and my hands feel very “thick”, my skin actually starts bursting open on the outside of my hands. They look like deep cuts on my knuckles and fingers. The palms and inside of my hands are soft though and are normal.
But I am adjusting and learning, lowering the time of my sessions, controlling the chi flow and force. I just didn’t want to miss out on any opportunity. That was why I foolishly kept the flow going as to absorb the skills.
— Tim, Belgium
Editorial Note: Tim’s other questions can be accessed at July 2015 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
Fools do foolish things because they do not know their actions are foolish. But you know your actions are foolish, and still you continue doing those foolish things. Are you a very big fool?
Training for two hours per session is over-training. You should cut down to half an hour. Use the other one and a half hours to get a girlfriend, organize some kungfu classes or chi kung healing, or do some wise things.
As I have often mentioned, an important aspect of chi kung and kungfu teaching and training is to know when to stop. Just letting it happen and happen, whether it is chi flow or any aspects of training, is foolish. Stopping at the right time is wise.
Rashes appearing and your skin bursting open looking like deep cuts bring harm to yourself not benefit. Such training makes your life miserable, not enrich it.
Continuing in your chi flow that produces too much internal force to the extent of harming yourself, is not making use of an opportunity, it is being foolish. What opportunity are you talking about? You can’t describe an event that brings harm as an opportunity. Cutting down the time of your over-training is being wise.
Drunken Eight Immortals
There is also always some Drunken Immortals influence, even with the Tai Chi Chuan flows. Lift Pot Offers Wine happens at the end of some sequences sometimes, but then with open palm.
At your level now, you should focus on Drunken Eight Immortals as your main art. Tai Chi Chuan is your supplementary.
I learned a sequence some weeks ago, felling an opponent with one of the Immortal Li kicks, and finishing him off all in one flow with a palm strike in a Unicorn step. I did it over and over until I got it right. I attack and am covered all at the same time.
At a master’s level you should be able to compose combat sequences for different purposes. Of course, we are talking about genuine kungfu masters. Nowadays, there are many practitioners whom we call “masters” out of respect, do not have internal force, and cannot apply what they practice and teach in real combat.
However, it is usually internal force that eventually decides the winner in combat. Suppose a juvenile Karate black belt of twelve years old is involved in a real fight with an able-bodied adult who does not know any fighting art. The juvenile black belt would be beaten badly. This is an important point many parents who think their children with black belts can defend themselves. They can’t.
It is the same in kungfu fighting. If your internal force is very powerful, although your age may be the same as your opponent’s, in terms of force he is like a child to you.
So in sparring with martial artists of other styles, you must not be afraid of using your internal force. This does not mean that you hurt them with your internal force. You should control your strike, but you can ward off their strikes with force. Later, when you find that your internal force is too powerful for them, you can minimize your force. Even that they will still find you powerful and formidable.
A pattern from the Dragon Strength set
For me one of the benefits of Dragon Strength for daily life would be to make one smarter.
Unfortunately, many martial artists today are becoming duller as they spend more time in their training. They are not even smart enough to realize that it is simply foolish to endure punches and kicks routinely when they practice an art as a hobby.
Any kungfu style would make its practitioners smarter if it is practiced correctly as it improves mental clarity. Dragon Strength is particularly effective in improving mental clarity as the dragon trains the mind. There are, of course, many other wonderful benefits of Dragon Strength.
Sifu, as you told us not to prepare for Dragon Strength so as not to interfere with the new type of force we will learn, can I trust my chi flow and just let it happen, or should I slow down when this happens again and just wait for the course?
Editorial Note: This question was asked before the Dragon Strength Course in December 2014, but as there is a long waiting list for the Question-answer series, the answer is only released now.
Enjoy your chi flow. Amongst other benefits, it will enhance your Dragon Strength.
When I told students not to have special preparation for Dragon Strength, I was referring to special methods of internal force training, like Iron Wire and the Santi Stance of Xingyiquan. This was because, as you mentioned correctly, their own force training methods might interfere with the force training methods we would learn at the Dragon Strength course.