Sifu Wong in a Shaolin kungfu pattern called “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”
Find out what you need to know about aims and objectives before you begin your Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan training
Why do You Practise Kungfu?
One important reason why the standard of kungfu today is generally low is that many people practice kungfu without being aware of their aims and objectives.
If you ask someone who has practiced kungfu for many years why he has done so, it is not uncommon for him to have difficulty finding the real answers.
He may say he practices kungfu for self-defence, for health or for keeping alive a worthy tradition, but on deeper examination he often finds that those are not the real reasons.
This is evident from the fact that despite many years’ training, he cannot defend himself with the kungfu he has learnt, is not as healthy and fit as a typical kungfu exponent recorded in classical kungfu literature, and knows little about kungfu tradition.
The truth is that he has practiced kungfu without any clear set aims and objectives.
Sifu Wong and Goh Kok Hin in combat-ready poses. Sifu Wong attacks with a thrust punch and Goh Kok Hin responds with a tiger-claw
Making Your Training More Rewarding
Obviously, if we are clear about our aims and objectives, our training will be more rewarding. Not only we shall not waste time over unnecessary training, we shall also have a higher level of attainment.
For our purpose here, aims refer to general and long term aspirations, and objectives to measurable and more immediate needs.
There are three aims in all kungfu training:
Health and fitness.
For great kungfu like Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, there are two further aims:
The punch is a feign. As soon as Goh Kok Hin defends, Sifu Wong changes into a snap kick. As Goh Kok Hin strikes the attacking leg with a hand-sweep, Sifu Wong withdraws the leg and executes a side-kick with the other leg
Self Defence, Health and Fitness
Combat efficiency is the first and foremost aim of all kungfu training. The term kungfu, especially as used in the West, means martial art.
It is ironical, therefore, if you practice kungfu (including taijiquan) but do not know how to defend yourself with what you have learnt.
The second aim of kungfu training is health and fitness. Indeed, in our modern societies where fighting seldom happens, this benefit of being healthy and fit is more immediate and important than being able to fight.
But the crucial point is that you will derive the radiant health a typical kungfu exponent of classical kungfu literature manifests, only if you practice kungfu as a martial art. If you practice kungfu dance, you will only get the type of health benefit that a dance can give.
”Lifting Water”, which is an important force training method in Taijiquan, develops tolerance and perseverance as well as mental clarity
Character Development and Spiritual Cultivation
Kungfu training itself is a process of character development.
Qualities like tolerance, endurance and perseverance are developed if you practice kungfu the way past masters did, such as practicing “Golden Bridge”, “Small Universe” or “Lifting Water” everyday for years. Qualities like mental freshness and calmness are pre-requisite if you wish to be a good kungfu fighter.
Great kungfu like Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan is more than a mere fighting art. Both Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan expand the mind and leads ultimately to spiritual fulfillment.
Meditation, known as chan (zen) in Shaolin Kungfu and jing-zhou (silent-sitting) in Taijiquan, is an essential aspect in all levels of these two arts, although it is emphasized at the advanced levels, and although not many people today may be aware of this fact. Actually, the original aim of Bodhidharma and of Zhang San Feng, the First Patriarch of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan respectively, when they first initiated the arts, was spiritual cultivation.
Taijiquan is an internal art excellent for combat as well as spiritual cultivation. Here Goh Kok Hin grips Sifu Wong’s arm.
Setting Measurable Objectives
Besides being clear of our general aims and consciously strive to achieve them, it is helpful to set measurable objectives for more immediate needs.
In order to attain the general aim of combat efficiency, we may set objectives like developing powerful arms and agile footwork, and mastering defence techniques against common attacks.
We may, for example, set aside one year to practise how to counter the various kicking attacks typically executed by Taekwondo and Siamese Boxing exponents.
To attain good health and fitness, we may train the Shaolin art of ‘One-Finger Shooting Zen’ or the Taijiquan art of ‘Three-Circle Stance’ everyday for six months as our set objectives.
After the six month period we can assess whether we have been successful in meeting our objectives by using measurable tests like checking whether we are now comparatively free from cold and fever which we used to have, and whether we can comfortably block our seniors’ attacks in sparring practice when previously we could do so only with difficulty.
Sifu Wong applies the Taijiquan technique “Cross-Hands Thrust Kick” which not only releases the opponent’s grip but also counter-attacks him at the same time.
Enriching our Lives
Setting objectives like increasing our endurance and perseverance levels from a minute to five minutes over a period of six months in zhang-zhuang (stance-standing) training can be readily combined with the objectives of developing internal force.
It will be useful to check whether we have also transferred these qualities to our daily life, such as examining ourselves to see whether our disciplined kungfu training has made us more tolerable to other people and more capable of facing demanding tasks.
The various meditation methods in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan enhances our mind and spirit. (In eastern philosophy the mind and spirit are often regarded as one.) We may, for instance, set objectives like enhancing our mental clarity so that we can comprehend a problem in five minutes when it took half an hour in the past.
Hence, if we are clear about what we intend to achieve in our kungfu training by setting aims and objectives, we can not only get more benefits from our practice in shorter time, but also enrich our as well as other people’s lives.
Sifu Wong at the International Congress for the Unity of Science in Seoul in 2000
Five Steps to Maximum Results
Why can some people attain in six months what others may not attain in six years? This is not an exaggeration; indeed, many of my students have reported that they have benefitted in a few months what they could only read about in books but never experienced although they had previously practiced the art in question for many years. Chi kung and kungfu (including Taijiquan) provide some glaring, if not disturbing, examples.
It is not uncommon today to find practitioners who have been in chi kung or kungfu for many years, some of whom are even instructors themselves, but who have no experience whatsoever of energy flow or any ability of self defence. Yet, the very fundamental of chi kung is energy flow, and that of kungfu is self defence. It is even more disturbing when some people, irrespective of whether their intention is good or selfish, start to teach chi kung or Taijiquan, which is actually a very effective form of martial art, after they have learnt some chi kung or Taijiquan movements for a few weeks, some even for a few days!
If you learn from such self-taught “masters” you are not going to get good results even if you practice for a whole lifetime. On the other hand, if you learn form a genuine master, you will get better results in a much shorter time. Nevertheless, while learning from a genuine master, or at least a competent instructor, is important, there are other contributing factors too, and they are generalized into the following Five Steps to Deriving the Best Benefits from Your Training:
Have a sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art you practice.
Define your aims and objectives clearly.
Seek a master for the best available methods to attain your aims and objectives.
Practice, practice and practice.
Assess your progress or otherwise with direct reference to your set aims and objectivs.
Philosophy, Scope and Depth
Understanding the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art is the essential first step if you want good result. Such an understanding acts like a map; it not only shows you the way and how to get there, but also the potential result at the destination.
Without this understanding, many people not only waste a lot of time and are often lost along the way, but also they do not actually know what they are working at. If they understand, for example, that to practice chi kung or Taijiquan, actually means to work on energy flow or to train for combat efficiency, far less people would have wasted their time over exercises that at best are gymnastics or dance.
If they further understand that the scope and depth of chi kung are much more than just energy flow, though working on energy flow is its essential foundation; and that the scope and depth of great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan ae not just combat efficiency, though combat efficiency is the basic starting point, they would go beyond the foundation and basic to greater heights like vitality, longevity, mind expansion and spiritual fulfilment.
Where can you obtain knowledge on the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art? There are two main sources: living masters and established classics. Obviously if you hear it from a self-styled scholar who himself has not experienced what he says, or read it from a book which merely repeats cliches, you are unlikely to benefit much. Living masters were rare even in the past; they are rarer nowadays.
If you are so lucky to meet one, treat him with the respect as you would treat a living treasure. Showing Respect to the Master suggests the minimum you should do when meeting a living treasure. If you politely ask him relevant questions, he would answer them. If he gives excuses like the answers are too complicated for you to comprehend, or they involve secrets that you should not know (unless they really are secrets, which are not frequent in general questions), you are justified in suspecting whether he is a real master.
Established classics were also rare in the past, but they are more readily available today. You need to overcome two obstacles to understand the classics. One, you need to know classical Chinese; and two, you need to have some background knowledge. Most people, especially in the West, have neither of these two conditions. Their alternative is modern, easy-to-read books clearly written and well illustrated by practicing masters. Therefore, in chosing a book for your prior reading, you should decide on the following three factors: whether the book is dull or interesting, whether it is written in jargon or simple language, and whether the author and his material are authentic.
It is so evident that without aims and objectives much of the learning or training is usually unfruitful, that mentioning this fact may become trite. Yet, most people practice chi kung or kungfu without set aims and objectives! Try asking some practitioners why do they practice chi kung or kungfu, and many of them will start searching for their aims or objectives after, not before, they have heard your question. Even if they have prior aims and objectives, often they are merely fashionable slogans, rather than real definitions to remind them of the direction of their training.
For our purpose here, aims are general in their definition, and long-term in their attainment; whereas objectives are specific and short-term. For example, to be able to defend yourself is a general aim in your Taijiquan training, whereas to be able to release yourself from some particular locks and holds constitutes an objective. You should also set a time frame within which to accomplish your aims or objectives. Needless to say, you have to be realistic and reasonable when setting your time. For someone who has been suffering from an illness for years, for instance, it would be unreasonable to expect the disease to be overcome by just practicing certain chi kung exercises for only a few weeks.
For convenience, objectives may be classified into personal objectives and course objectives. The choice of personal objectives depends on the needs and abilities of the person in question, and sometimes on his whims and fancy. Developing the art of tiger-claw, and performing well the Five Animals kungfu set are examples of personal objectives in Shaolin Kungfu training.
Course objectives are related to the particular set of chi kung or kungfu exercises you intend to train for a period of time. For example, you may wish to spend six months on Golden Bridge training in Shaolin Kungfu, or on the Three Circles Stance in Taijiquan. In either case, developing powerful arms and solid stances is an appropriate course objective.
To define your aims and objectives wisely (please read the webpage Aims and Objectives of Practicing Kung Fu), it is necessary to have some sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art in question. For example, if you do not understand that chi kung also promotes mind expansion and spiritual cultivation, you will be in no position to touch on the mind and spirit while you define your aims and objectives. If you think (mistakenly) that Taijiquan is merely moving your body, arms and legs gracefully, the aims and objectives you set for your Taijiquan training, no matter for how long you may practice, are necessarily limited by your narrow perspective.
Seeking a Master for the Best Available Methods
Sifu Wong posting with his teacher, Sigong Ho Fatt Nam, many years ago
Having set your aims and objectives, the next logical step is to seek a master to help you realize your aims and objectives. Good masters are hard to find; you have to spend some time seeking them, but it is worth all your time and effort. The webpage Qualities of a Good Master will give you some ideas what to look for in your search. Remember it is you who seek the master; he may have neither the need nor the obligation to teach you. It is simply amazing why some people presume that just because they want to learn, a master is duty-bound to teach them. It is also illogical to presume that a master would not charge any fee for his teaching, that he could live on sunshine and water. The right attitude, which often turns out to be the best approach to a master, is for you to prove yourself to be a worthy student.
If you cannot find a master, at least look for a competent instructor, who must qualify in the following two conditions. One, he must be professional, i.e. he knows what he is teaching. Someone who teaches a profund art like chi kung or kungfu, after having learnt it for a few months, literally does not know what he is teaching. He does not know, for instance, that he is teaching chi kung-like or kungfu-like dance or gymnastics and not real chi kung or kungfu. The second condition is that he must be ethical, i.e. he ensures what he teaches is beneficial, and if his students develop adverse side-effects he knows about them and is capable of rectifying them.
A good master will choose the best available methods for you to achieve your aims and objectives. The selection will depend on numerous variables, such as your needs and abilities, the master’s repertoire as well as environmental factors and supportive resources. You may sometimes wonder if the choice made is a good one, but if he is a good master and has accepted you as his student, it is almost always certain that he will choose the best method and procedure for you.
Alternatively, you may have known from your reading or elsewhere some useful methods to accomplish your aims and objectives. Your task, therefore, is to seek for a master who can teach you your selected methods. However, if he advises you to make any changes — such as in your aims or objectives, your previously selected methods, or the procedure of training — it is again almost always certain that with his wider perspective and experience, he knows your needs and how to fulfill them better than you do. It is not without justification for the saying that real masters are worth more than their weight in gold.
Practice, Practice and Practice
The fourth step is the most important and takes the most time. It is significant to note that this step is “practice, practice and practice”, and not “learn, learn and learn”. In fact, frequently in chi kung and kungfu, especially at this stage, the more you learn the less you accomplish! This does not mean that learning is detrimental; in fact, learning about the philosophy, scope and depth of chi kung or kungfu is the first essential step to obtaining the best result in your training. But if your training is geared towards chi kung or kungfu proficiency, it is detrimental merely to learn, learn and learn.
There are some crucial differences between practicing and learning. Practicing is practical and experiential; learning is theoretical and intellectual. Practicing deals with what has been known; its purpose is to develop and consolidate skills, force or ability. Learning deals with what is to be known; its purpose is to obtain new knowledge.
Masters are made through practice, scholars through learning. Masters perform, and directly experience what they profess. Chi kung or kungfu masters, for example, can demonstrate internal force, and experience vitality and mental freshness. Scholars merely talk, but often have no direct experience of what they know. Nowadays there are many chi kung and kungfu scholars, especially in the West, but there are very few masters, even in the East.
If you want to become a master, or just to be proficient, in chi kung or kungfu, you simply cannot escape this long process of practice, practice and practice. You do not practice just three times, or for three months, but preferably at least for three years. There is a saying that “three years of practice will bring a small success; ten years a big success”. What you practice may be simple, and usually consists of only one or a few techniques!
Actually it does not really matter what you practice, so long as you practice, practice and practice long enough, you will become a master of what you practice — even if your chosen method is inferior. If you continuously strike your palms onto a sand bag, or strike your leg against a coconut tree every day for three years — methods which are considered “inferior” in our Shaolin Wahnam School of Chi Kung and Kungfu — you will become a master of iron palm or iron leg, and may have the power to kill a person with just one strike. Unless you are particularly fond of showing off your brute strength, breaking bricks or someone’s bones with your palm or leg is normally not a rewarding thing to do. Hence, if you have acquired a good philosophical background in your first step, you will be in a better position to choose a “superior” method to practice in this fourth step for more rewarding results.
Assessing Progress According to Aims and Objectives
Combat Application of Shaolin Kungfu
You should access your progress, or otherwise, according to your set aims and objectives. You must, of course, follow your master’s advice and the conditions required by the method of training. If your master asks you to breathe slowly and gently, it is sheer folly to attempt to be smarter than the teacher by breathing fast or forcefully. If the method requires you to practice daily for six months, it is a waste of your time and your teacher’s effort if you discontinue your training after three weeks because you have not experienced any effect.
If you follow your master’s advice and practice according to the requirements of the established method, you will obtain the results that method is reputed to give. For example, Self-Manifested Chi Movement is reputed to clear energy blockage and balance energy level, and the pattern Grasping Sparrow’s Tail in Yang Style Taijiquan is reputed to be an effective counter against all modes of attack. If you have practiced them correctly and adequately, you will have your energy blockage cleared, and be able to defend against all attacks. Why is this so? It is because the methods are established, which means they have been time tested for centuries to produce the expected results.
If you do not derive the expected results, which may sometimes happen, the fault is usually traceable to one or more of the following three causes:
the practice is incorrect or insufficient
the teacher is incompetent
the student is inadequate
Rectify the fault and the expected results will follow as a matter of course.
Your assessment is made not only at the completion of the training but also regularly during the course itself. Of course modifications, but not complete changes, are made when necessary, but they should be done with the master’s approval and supervision.
These Five Steps to Maximun Results may enable you not only to obtain remarkable results in shorter time, but also to approach the full potential your training can offer. For example, students who do not have the benefit of these five steps may be quite contented in their chi kung or kungfu training once they can cure their illness or attain combat efficiency, thinking that is all what chi kung and kungfu can do. Others who follow the five steps will understand a wider scope and greater depth of their art, and will therefore in a position to derive other benefits like mental clarity and spiritual joy.
The Five Steps show not only the procedure to follow but also the relevant dimensions to cover, involving all the three essentials in any training, namely the method, the teacher and the student. Hence, with this understanding one can appreciate that to get the best results in any training, be it chi kung, Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu, playing the piano or painting, merely having good techniques is not enough, he (or she) must also have a good teacher and himself be a good student. With such advantages and foresight, it is not surprising you can achieve in six months what others may not be able to do so in six years.
The Buddha has taught that we can never repay the debt owed to our parents
My relationship with my father has always been tense. But since a couple of years, my father has tried to get closer to me, my brothers and sisters and our children. Last week, my boys and I went to my father’s house. We had a tremendous time.
— Nikita, Russia
It is great to know of your improving relationship with your father. Not only you should make full use of this opportunity, you should also subtly encourage your other brothers and sisters to do so. It is a wonderful blessings you must not miss.
You must do so subtly, certainly not overtly. For example, whenever topics of conversations touch on your father, and he is not physically present, or on anybody’s father, mention that one must be grateful to his parents even when the parents might not have been caring to the children.
The Buddha teaches that even when someone carries his invalid father or mother on his back and takes him or her about everyday for 500 lifetimes, he has not repaid the debt he owes to his parents. What a blessing you have when your father is still healthy. Your relationship with your father should be such that when the time comes for him to leave this phenomenal world, you can with satisfaction say to yourself that you have been kind to your father.
On another issue, my daughter is in love with a man who is extremely abusive, emotionally and physically to my daughter. A couple of days ago I had the chance to talk to a very good friend who has the ability of clairvoyance and she told me she could see that my daughter was under a black spell of voodoo. She said she could see black candles and some black strings attached to her.
Her advice was to wake next morning at sunrise and perform some form of ceremcny with a sword to cut off those strings, which I did. Can you please advice how I can continue helping my daughter from these very bad influences?
It is an excellent idea to use a sword to cut off the invisible strings that tie your daughter. You can also extinguish the black candles with the sword or by blowing with your mouth.
You can also do the following. If you can, chant some blessings onto some clean water, and sprinkle it around her room and house. As you sprinkle the sanctified water, say a mantra, any suitable mantra like Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodh Satt, and ask in a firm way whatever bad spirits or influences to leave your daughter, your family and the house, and bless the bad spirits or influences. You can perform this holy ritual three times.
If the above is not feasible, you can do the same thing in any suitable place you can find. Enter into a meditative state of mind, and visualize you are performing the ritual in your daughter’s house.
Sifu Tim Frankklin and Grandmaster Wong demonstrating Shaolin Kungfu
I was very afraid of attacks because I experienced a childhood with physical violence . I took some classes in T’ang Soo Do but also quickly found your book “The Art Of Shaolin Kung Fu”.
I did the exercises especially ones producing spontaneous chi movements. I found the exercises tamazing. Within one year I had given up alcohol and cigarettes. My body was becoming fit and strong and my mind was getting clear.
Unfortunately, something happened to me around that time. Suddenly my body could no longer do the stretches needed for high kicks and I stiffened up and became full of pain. Naturally that was very frustrating as I had decided on martial arts as my life path
I became sad, angry and depressed I tried to talk to many doctors, including Chinese medical doctors. I tried to find helpful teachers but I met only men who loved fighting and violent harm. I could not find someone like you who I knew understood what he was talking about and understood the Way.
— Ciaran, Ireland
Congratulations for your success in learning from my book. I am also sorry to hear of your later happenings.
From your description, I am sure you can overcome your problems. I suggest that you leave aside martial arts for the time being, and return to it later when you have become healthy and strong. Meanwhile you should practice chi kung to heal yourself.
I would strongly recommend that you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course Please see my Website for information.
Many people may wonder what one can learn in just a few days. I can say from experience that you will learn a lot, in fact, more than what you need at present, and you will be able to practice on your own when you return home. Please apply to my secretary for registration.
Practicing on your own at home is important. In a few months, you will be well enough to resume your martial art. I would suggest you give Shaolin Kungfu taught by me a try.
I would like to know how is the Instructor Training for the Shaolin Wahnam Institute. I have been reading in the website and I found the regional and intensive courses. But no reference for a long term training to become an instructor. If there is one, could you please indicate how many forms, weapons, style, cost, place for the training?
— Reyes, USA
In our school, potential instructors are chosen from our students who have been training with us for some time, and are not open to application from the public. The choice is based on the following factors:
They have attended at least once but often a few times, my intensive courses they are going to teach, as these courses provide the basic philosophy, techniques and skills practitioners of the relevant arts should know.
Seniority is also an important consideration in our choice of instructors.
Interestingly, the factors you have mentioned, like how many forms, weapons, and styles they know are not important in our consideration, although our potential instructors normally know many forms or kungfu sets, a few weapons and a few kungfu styles.
The cost students have spent before they become instructors, and the places they have had their training vary. But all our instructors have expressed, openly or tacitly, that the benefits they get from our training are many times more than the money and effort
One must become a good student first, before thinking of becoming an instructor
Can we eat our breakfast before chi kung practice?
— Melanie, Spain
Many masters recommend that practitioners should abstain from eating a meal half an hour before and after chi kung practice. It is because the food in the stomach may interfere with chi flow.
However, as our chi flow is powerful, we need not follow this instruction. In fact, my Intensive Chi Kung Course is held at 8 o’clock in the morning. Students usually have their breakfast just before the course.
In my book, “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”, one of the dont’s is not to take a meal about half an hour before and after a chi kung session. The book was written about 20 years ago in 1997 when my chi kung attainment was of a much lower level than now. Moreover it was written for people who might not have a change to learn from me personally. But now, those who learn from me personally, and hence their chi kung attainment is higher, have the luxury of enjoying a meal before or after chi kung.
It is the same with having a shower. Many masters advise against taking a shower about half an hour before and after chi kung practice. But as our chi kung is powerful, we may not follow this instruction. We can have a shower before and after chi kung.
I attended a course with Sifu in England a few years back. I experienced tremendous joy after the final stage of Bone Marrow Cleansing.
I have been practicing “Lifting the Sky” for depression and anxiety. Should I include Bone Marrow Cleansing in my routine? If so, how often should I do it?
— Jussi, Finland
You should practice “Lifting the Sky” most of the time, about 8 out of 10 days. You practice Bone-Marrow Cleansing only once a while, about once or twice out of 10 days.
Follow the three golden rules: don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and enjoy your practice. Depression can be overcome quite easily with our chi kung.
Dr Daniel of Belgium performing “Lifting the Sky” during a kungfu course
How many cigarettes in a day do you consider to be too much? I am struggling with depression and smoke about 20 in a day.
For me, even one cigarette a day is too much.
For you, I suggest 5 cigarettes a day. Within 3 months, you cut down to zero cigarettes a day. Note the phrase “within 3 months”. You may accomplish the task in 1 month.
Whenever you feel like having a cigarette more than the number you have allotted yourself to, practice “Lifting the Sky” followed by chi flow. The total time of your practice should just be about 5 minutes, not 10 minutes as in a regular practice session.
If you really want to eliminate your cigarette smoking and depression, just follow this plan. You will succeed.
After you have quitted smoking, if you wish to enjoy a cigarette, you can do so any time. By then, you smoke because you enjoy it, not because you are addicted. .
You told me once that my depression could be cured in three months of chi kung practice. How can you be so sure? Can you see to the future?
I am very sure because overcoming depression with our chi kung is actually easy. Many people have done that. If you follow my plan you will succeed.
My plan is simple, and is as follows. Practice “Lifting the Sky”, or any chi kung exercise, followed by chi flow, three times a day — once in the morning, once in the evening, and once at night. Each session should just be about 10 minutes. During your practice, don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and just enjoy your practice.
I mentioned that you would overcome your depression in three months. This means any time within 3 months. You may accomplish the task in just 2 weeks.
Sometimes I can see into the future. But the future is not fixed. It depends on some variables.
In your xase, for example, I can see that in a month you can quit smoking and in 2 weeks you are free from depression if you really want to. But if you don’t want to, though you may say you do, you will be unable to quit smoking and overcome your depression.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, country and e-mail address.