Our chi kung is very powerful. So, guard against over-training
Sifu Leonard Lackinger
Shaolin Wahnam Austria
13th May 2015
Over-Training and Over-Cleansing
Over-training is a term frequently used in our school, but often too little taken care of.
I am starting this thread to share stories and experiences about it and hope those who have experienced it — I am sure there are plenty — will join in Our training in Shaolin Wahnam is very powerful which is often under-estimated.
It’s also hard to imagine that something that brings so wonderful results can be overdone. If you have ever eaten too much of your favourite candy once, you should know that there is a limit to everything, even good things.
Yes, a lot of things in our school initially sound too fabulous to be true. It takes some time to realize that what we say is real.
Sifu often tells us:
“The statement that a typical Shaolin Wahnam student gets in one month what a master, including me in the past, gets in one year is true, but many people, including our instructors and students, may find it hard to believe.
I speak from direct experience. My proverbial example of practicing San Zhan of Wuzuquan for two years and had no internal force, whereas those who attended my Special Wuzuquan Course in Penang could generate tremendous internal force in a few days, is a shining example. Those who attended the Wuzuquan course had prior kungfu experience, but I also had 15 years of kungfu experience behind me before I learned Wuzuquan, and I was an exemplary practitioner.”
If you think that one cannot have too much energy/internal force, then you should understand that over-training is a special kind of Yin Yang disharmony, something our training should normally get rid of.
In this case Yin represents our capacity to store energy. Yang represents fresh internal force that is built by our training. So, during our practice we increase Yang. Our Yin will then follow to balance out.
But Yin only adapts slowly. If we continue increasing Yang more and more, our Yin gets left behind and the disharmony increases with every session. Fatigue and increased sleep demand are common uncomfortable results. Why is this so? Your body tries to tell you to take a rest. Sleep is one natural mean to harmonize Yin and Yang therefore you get tired and you might suddenly need some 10 or more hours of sleep.
After prolonged over-training, eventually over-cleansing might manifest as a result. This is where it can get really nasty. Pain, sickness, mental confusion and intense emotions are only a few examples of the symptoms of over-cleansing. Yes, it is good to be cleansed, but it is not comfortable to cleanse too much in a short time. It’s not only uncomfortable, but can also be harmful! Remember, it is a kind of Yin Yang disharmony, the source of all pain and illness!
I use to set the limit for cleansing where people can still follow their usual everyday life and are able to enjoy it. Why should you risk your job and don’t enjoy your spare-time just to build up even more force, which should give you health and vitality and should improve, not hinder, everything you do?
Other people in special situations might set their personal limit otherwise. In some cases, heavy cleansing periods might even be necessary, but most people will approve that generally we should be able to enjoy our life. Especially when we have not been sick at all initially! Why should we torture ourselves unnecessarily? Our practice can launch really big changes, but why hurry? Just enjoy your practice! We are still developing much faster than other practitioners and especially than most people who don’t care about cultivation at all.
Types of Over-Training
Quantitative over-training appears if you spend too much time on your training. Without intention to belittle others, especially those students entering Wahnam with prior experience in low-level schools are pre-destined to over-train, if they do not cut down their practice time, which can often be something between a half and a full hour, sometimes more.
Qualitative over-training often creeps in unwittingly. During our practice we are slowly, but steadily increasing our skills. We might notice that we are very forceful after a session and enjoy the feeling and sensations. This can be a good time to adjust our schedule.
After attending a course with Sifu over-training does not creep in, it smashes in with a sledge-hammer. Personally I cut down my training time substantially after taking a course. After the Dragon Strength course I hardly trained anything else than a short Chi Kung session in the morning and the set once in the evening for quite some time.
Our dedicated students who practice one or more of our martial arts are most likely to over-train at some points of their training.
How can you guard yourself from over-training?
First of all, follow the instructions! If your Sifu tells you to train only one section of the Iron Wire Set for a few weeks and only then add a second section, then only train one section and add a second one after a few weeks. It can really be that simple.
Let me share something with you that Sifu once sent to me:
“Over-training is now a major problem amongst our students in our school, and it usually happens amongst dedicated students. Even when they follow our advice of not over-training, and they normally do as they are good students, they do not do so sufficiently. In other words, even when they do not train as much as they like, they still over-train.”
Regularly validate the effects of your training! If you experience any deviations from the normal benefits, reconsider your training with the types of over-training in mind. Your Sifu will be happy to help you in this process, so consult your Sifu! If you are training on your own, then adjust your training using the following list.
What can you do, if you experience over-training or over-cleansing?
First of all understand that the inconvenient symptoms are not an illness itself, but a manifestation of the self-made Yin Yang disharmony. The following approaches will help you to recover your balance.
Like I mentioned in the “types of over-training”, we can adjust our schedule quantitatively or qualitatively.
The first means spending less time on training and more on other wholesome activities. Every task you do, be it working, reading, playing football or having wholesome sex will spend some energy. You don’t need to worry about losing your energy, especially when you are in the situation of over-training. Just enjoy whatever you do!
Only some days ago one of my students told me that he felt better after skipping one of his two daily sessions for a few days. From prior experience he noticed the symptoms of over-training correctly and adjusted accordingly. This is a great example of responsible training and instantaneous change.
The latter means reducing the level of practice. This can be done by doing the reverse of the usual instructions, i.e. thinking, singing a song in your mind or tensing your muscles. In my personal experience I initially found it hard to reduce the level as it became natural to do it correctly. So I normally used to cut down the training time and enjoyed the forceful training, although shorter. But what works well for me now is to focus my mind on correcting my form in every movement. This is a win-win situation as attaining picture-perfect form is a by-product of this approach.
Sifu has elegantly put it in a nutshell:
“When cleansing is comfortable and manageable, a practitioner should continue as he has been doing. When over-cleansing occurs, i.e. when cleansing has become uncomfortable, the practitioner should slow down — in time or in intensity of practice. When adverse effects occur, he should stop training until the adverse effects subside. Then he resumes training gradually.”
To substantiate the underlying philosophy and our warning not to under-estimate the power of our arts, I will share another recent experience of one of my students.
He has been training diligently for about half a year. He started with Chi Kung and Shaolin Kung Fu and added Tai Chi Chuan two months ago.
During a Chi Kung session he did not experience much outward movement during chi flow, but a strong vibration in his whole body. He became unconscious and only woke up when he hit the floor. His body continued to shake vigorously. He managed to climb up his bed and noticed that his head was bleeding. He had hit his head on a singing bowl during his fall. He took care of the wound. Luckily he was not in pain and nothing worse happened.
The chi flow generated by his practice was so powerful that it overwhelmed him completely. This is also a symptom of too much in a too short time, i.e. over-training.
He is a good student. So he consulted me, we adjusted his training and he is completely fine now and enjoying his reduced training.
I don’t share this case to scare you, but to validate how powerful our practice can be, even after just a few months of practice.
What can we learn from this event?
Train in a safe environment!
Don’t underestimate the power of our training!
Don’t overdo it!
Notice the signs of over-training and adjust your training accordingly.
And last, but not least: If anything strange happens, don’t hesitate to consult your Sifu!
So, don’t take over-training lightly! The warnings are not just shallow words. Over-training is real and even common among our dedicated students.
When you started practicing you might have had initial doubts about the existence of chi at all, due to the lack of previous exposure to it. Soon later you realized that chi is real.
I hope this thread kicks off your realization that over-training is real too and that you should heed the advice and warning signs.
Wei Foong, Peter, Attilio, my wife and Siew Foong at the Italian Riviera with the Mediterranean Sea behind
Back in Italy in Attilio’s hotel after some chi kung courses, Pio, an elderly aristocrat who has attended all my chi kung courses in Finale Ligure every year, invited me and Attilio to his huge mansion in the countryside near Siena.
“Sifu,” Pio said, “We shall also go to San Gimignano to have the best ice-cream in the world.”
Every Italian would say Italian ice-cream was the best, I thought to myself.
Attilio and I went to San Gimignano to wait for Pio to take us to his mansion. San Gimignano was a pretty ancient town with two famous ice-cream parlours reputed to sell the best ice-cream in the world. We sat waiting for Pio at an old village well at the centre of the village square.
Attilio was pacing up and down, deep in thoughts. Then he turned to me.
“Sifu, while waiting we may have some ice-cream.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” I told Attilio.
Attilio got me and himself a cone each with three gigantic scoops of ice-cream. I had eaten a lot of ice-cream all over the world coming in different containers, from sticks and cones to cups and boxes. But this was really the best ice-cream I had taken, without any doubt it was more delicious than any other by a big margin. I really enjoyed every lick of it.
After finishing the delicious ice-cream, we waited and waited, but Pio did not turn up. Attilio was again pacing about at the village well, deep in thoughts.
Eventually he said to me, “Sifu, what about another helping?”
Although I love ice-cream, the three scoops were so big that normally they would be enough. But they were so mouth-watering that I did not hesitate to say, “Yes! We must have another helping.”
Again, Attilio got me and himself each another three gigantic scoops of ice-cream, and we slowly enjoyed every lick of them.
But Pio still had not arrived. Again, Attilio was pacing up and down near the well, deep in thoughts. He could not hold himself any longer. At last he said to me, “Sifu, I think we should have a third helping.”
“Yes, you’re perfectly right! We should have a third helping,” I quickly added.
My wife in the ancient town of Finale Ligure in Italy
Sifu, chi flow is a hallmark of our school. Can you tell us who you learned chi flow from? Was it from Uncle Righteousness or Sigung Ho Fatt Nam?
Sifu Mark Appleford, Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
Yes, you are right. Chi flow is the hallmark of our school. In fact, Tim (Sifu Tim Franklin of UK) mentioned that 500 years from now when people pointed to our school, the most prominent feature they noticed would be chi flow.
Chi flow has enabled us to help many people overcome so-called incurable diseases. For those who train internal force (which is practically everyone in our school), it frees them the concern of deviated training. Hence, we have the luxury of “Don’t Worry” being the first golden rule of our practice.
It speeds up our progress unbelievably. Even for me, when I took one or two years to experience internal force in a particular force-training exercise, our students now can experience internal force in the same exercise in a matter of days! It is just unbelievable but true.
I did not learn chi flow from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam or Uncle Righteousness. Uncle Righteousness did not talk about chi flow. Although there was some gentle chi flow in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school, he did not encourage vigorous chi flow.
Chi flow developed in the long process of my own training and teaching. I heard of and read about chi and its importance in internal force development. There is a kungfu saying as follows: “The essence of internal force is chi”.
My first experience of chi flow was when practicing One-Finger Shooting Zen learnt from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. But I did not know it was chi flow then, neither did my sifu tell me so. Like any good student in a traditional kungfu context, I just practiced what my sifu asked me to, without understanding its underlying philosophy.
Yet, I was different from other traditional good students. I read a lot of kungfu classics, and had frequent discussion with my sifu on kungfu philosophy. I read about a kind of chi kung developed by the great Chinese physician, Hua Tou, called Five-Animal Play where practitioners moved about in what we would now call self-manifested chi movement.
Years later when I set up Shaolin Wahanm Association and Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Clinic in Sungai Petani , I was quite well-known and respected. A kungfu and chi kung master from another city came to me for help, which I rendered him. (Later he betrayed me, and instigated some of my senior students against me.)
I learned that he taught Flying Crane Chi Kung which has self-manifested chi movement as its main approach. I was interested and he invited me to visit his classes. His students performed about 30 different exercises, then went into vigorous chi flow.
He also volunteered to induce self-manifested chi movement in me. He tried to transmit chi to me via my ming meng vital point (located at the back along the waist), but my chi flow was so powerful that he was repelled away.
Later I tried to induce self-manifested chi movement myself. I opened my bai-hui vital point (at the crown of the head) and massage my qi-hai vital point (at the abdominal dan tian), like what this master taught his students. And performed the 30 odd Frying Crane Chi Kung exercises in a chi kung state of mind.
Before I could complete about half of the intended exercises, I was already in a vigorous chi flow. The chi flow was so powerful that I went round and round my living room quite uncontrollably. It was my first time experiencing a very vigorous self-manifested chi movement and I did not know how to stop.
I had an idea. I threw myself on a sofa to stop the vigorous chi movement. I did stop going round and round, but it was a very unpleasant feeling. Now I know that if a practitioner has this problem when stopping suddenly, he just has to go into some gentle chi flow, then think of his dan tian to let his flowing chi settle down. But I did not know this technique then.
I researched the many chi kung classics that I had and learned a lot about self-manifested chi movement. I learned various techniques to induce a vigorous chi flow, like stimulating energy points, performing gentle movements faster and faster, and feeling like drifting peacefully in heaven.
When my students in my various Eighteen Lohan Hands classes (which lasted for 6 months at that time) started to experience some chi movement, I encouraged them to go on. But at that time, I was new to self-manifested chi movement, so I was very careful, following and monitoring each student at a time as he (or she) enjoyed his more than average chi flow, asking him to slow down when the movement became too vigorous. Now I know that self-manifested chi movement is very safe, and I can go for a drink, leaving students to run and jump like monkeys and kangaroos on their own, provided, of course, the practice place is safe.
I explained the philosophy of self-manifested chi movement, which I learned from chi kung classics, to my classes. I explained, for example, that chi from different internal organs manifested in characteristic ways, which are symbolized by the bird which relates to the heart, the deer which relates to the liver, the monkey which relates to the spleen, and the bear which relates to the kidneys.
I noticed that students who recovered from serious illness, like asthma, diabetes, cancer, cardio-vascular disorders and kidney stones, usually had sessions of vigorous self-manifested chi movement prior to their recovery. Looking back with hindsight, this laid the seed of my conclusion now that it is chi flow, not the chi kung exercises themselves, that brings benefits of good health, vitality and longevity.
I reckoned that as self-manifested chi movement was so useful, I could devise appropriate exercises to induce it, instead of letting it develop gradually from Eighteen Lohan Hands. So I composed two sets of chi kung exercises specially to induce self-manifested chi movement.
The first set consisted of Push Mountain Lift Sky, Double Dragons and Fish Flip. This was meant to induce a vigorous forward-backward flow. The second set consisted of Dancing Fairy, Bear Walk and Swinging Hips. This was meant to induce a sideway or a circular flow.
These two sets of self-manifested chi movement exercises were very effective. By then I had reduced the Eighteen Lohan Hands course from six months to three months. These two sets of exercises could enable students to have a vigorous chi flow in a few days instead of a few months. Those of you who learned from me in my early years of world-wide travels, like in Spain, Portugal and Germany, would have learnt these self-manifested chi movement exercises.
Chi flow has helped us tremendously in internal force development. I remember the first time I taught Lifting Water to a student in Australia, Ken, who was a Tai Chi instructor. After lifting our hands about a dozen times, we felt tremendous force in our hands. On hindsight, it was due to chi flow.
Lately I was investigating why our students could develop internal force in a matter of days when masters in the past, including myself, took years. A main reason was that we differentiated between skills and techniques. And the principal skill was our ability to generate chi flow.
I had a historic confirmation when teaching Iron Wire in Barcelona last year (2011). First I taught them the force-method, which is the orthodox method for Iron Wire. Then I taught them the flow-method. I asked the students to compare the two methods and tell me from their direct experience which method was more powerful. I was actually quite surprised when all of them told me the flow-method.
Having found that the flow-method produces better result, when I taught Iron Wire in Killarney in 2011, I mainly used the flow-method though I also introduced the force-method in passing. What was most outstanding about the Ireland Iron Wire Course was mental clarity, besides tremendous internal force. I have no doubt that the flow-method contributed much to the attainment of mental clarity, but I have not found out the philosophical explanation yet.
I had another confirmation recently in Frankfurt (September 2012). After teaching the force-method the first two days to develop internal force in the Triple Stretch, which produced a lot of force, I taught the students the flow-method on the third day. I asked them to compare the two methods and tell me from their direct experience which method produced more force. This time I was not surprised that 10 of them told me the flow-method and 2 said they were not sure.
Tim Franklin jumping high for a flying kick in Xingyiquan
Barry is dedicated to developing internal force. Once during a course in 2008, I asked some students to punch him really hard, and he just stood there and smiled.
Barry remarked that the most surprising Golden Bell moment for him was at the Healing Course in Malaysia when I asked someone to punch Barry, and he didn’t feel anything. Then I asked someone to hit Barry with a stick of sugar cane. Mark Appleford did the hitting. Again, Barry didn’t feel anything and Mark said the stick exploded in his hand with bits of it flying off around the room.
The intriguing part was that Barry had not undergone any formal training of Golden Bell, but had derived the ability to take punches without sustaining injury from our regular internal force training. Many of our instructors have this ability, some without their own knowing. They don’t have to practise stance training for eight hours daily with saliva flowing from their mouth.
It is like breaking bricks. Our instructors and senior students did not specifically train to break bricks. But when they were asked to, they could do so effectively, often to their initial surprise. Breaking bricks and being able to take punches without sustaining injury are an incidental result of, not the initial reason for, our normal training.
It is important to note that our ability to withstand punches and to break bricks is an incidental result of our internal force derived from our training. In other words, we do not purposely train to withstand punches and to break bricks. We train to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joy.
Barry performing a majestic pattern of White Crane Flaps Wings