One can learn a lot about kungfu by reading good kungfu books
I have recently started to learn kung fu, but I feel sometimes that I am not learning as much as I could. But I have nothing to compare with.
— Edward, UK
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Some people may think it is a matter of semantics, but actually the difference in the choice of words here is crucial. I clearly remember that in my early days with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, my sifu told me, “One does not learn kungfu, he practises kungfu.”
That was good advice from a great master. When you learn kungfu, you add techniques, or worse still you add theoretical information. When you practise kungfu, you go over and over again what you already know, without adding something new.
Most people want to learn kungfu; they would be bored practising kungfu. When you learn kungfu, even if you keep on learning for many years, you remain a learner, or at best a scholar. When you practise kungfu, if you keep on practising for many years, you may become a master.
Another crucial difference is that when you learn kungfu, your emphasis is on information, whereas when you practise kungfu, your emphasis is on performance. When your emphasis is on information, you may know a lot about kungfu, such as various techniques to develop internal force and to defend yourself, but still you have no internal force and cannot defend yourself.
Perhaps for this reason, some people cynically say that “those who cannot, teach; those who can, do.” But this cynical statement does not apply to genuine kungfu, because the emphasis is on performance. A good kungfu exponent is one who is healthy and can efficiently defend himself, not one who knows a lot about kungfu information.
This, of course, does not necessarily mean that information is useless in kungfu. Information is very useful, but it should be geared towards practical results.
There are two sets of criteria you can compare your training with. One, you can compare with what kungfu is reputed to produce, such as good health and combat efficiency. Has your training made you healthy and combat efficient?
Of course, you must be fair. You cannot expect to have good results after just a few months of training. But if you have been practising for a few years, and yet you are still sickly and defenceless, you would have wasted your time even though you might have accumulated a lot of kungfu knowledge.
Two, you can compare with the purposes for which you want to practise kungfu. For example, if your purposes are to learn some graceful kungfu movements to loosen your limbs and joints, as well as to demonstrate to friends, you would have achieved your purposes.
To attain good kungfu performance, one needs to practice correctly and diligently
One night, at Sifu Choe Hoong Choy’s house where he taught Wing Choon Kungfu in the garden at the back of his house, Uncle Cheong, a senior disciple of Sifu Choe Hoong Choy and well-respected kungfu master in his own right, visited the school. Some senior students were practising a staff set called Thirteen-Techniques Spear. Despite its name, it was a staff set, and a long tapering staff was used.
The students asked Uncle Cheong, who was an expert of the staff, about the combat application of a pattern called “High Mountain Flows Water”, where a staff was held slantingly away from the practitioner’s body with the head of the staff above the practitioner’s head, and the tapering tail of the staff slanting away almost touching the floor.
Uncle Cheong said, “It can be used to block a low sweeping attack.”
He then asked the student to sweep his legs and he blocked the attack using this pattern, “High Mountain Flows Water”.
Uncle Cheong then turned to me. “Kit Chye,” he said, “How would you use this pattern to block a low sweeping attack?”
“Kit Chye” (杰仔) was the name they called me. Other students would call me “Kit Kor” (杰哥), which means Elder Brother Kit. “Kit Chye” is an endearing term, often used by parents to call their children or elders to call their loved ones. It means “Kit, my lovely boy”.
“Uncle Cheong is an expert of the staff,” I replied indirectly.
“I know you are also an expert of the staff. Tell us one or two secrets.”
“I’m not sure whether I can tell one or two secrets.”
“Let’s ask our sifu.”
Uncle Cheong then turned to Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. “Sifu, would you let Kit Chye to reveal one or two secrets?”
“They are senior students. There’s no harm telling them one or two secrets,” Sifu Choe Hoong Choy said.
I took over the staff from Uncle Cheong, and asked the senior student to attack me with a low sweep.
As he did so, I blocked the attack as Uncle Cheong did earlier, but with the end of the staff gently hitting the attacker’s lower leg.
I asked him to attack again. I performed the same pattern blocking his attack, but this time with the tip of the staff pointing just an inch above a vital point between his lower leg and his foot.
Sifu Choe Hoong Choy and Uncle Cheong smiled noddingly.
“In a real fight,” Uncle Cheong told the student, “Your lower leg would be fractured as soon as you make the attack, or you would not be able to walk as your vital point at the foot would be dotted.”
1989 was a very important year that I proved distant chi transmission was real. But the most important event of the year was the birth of my youngest child, Wong Chun Yian (黄俊贤), who brought love and happiness to the family. “Chun Yian” means “Handsome and Wise”.
I honestly believe that my youngest daughter, Wong Siew Foong born in 1987, and my youngest son, Wong Chun Yian, born in 1989, were our children sent to my wife and me from the Divine for the good deeds we had done. They brought to our family, including my parents and my three elder children, a lot of joy and love.
We did not hope for any rewards when we were blessed to perform some good deeds, but it is a universal truth that goodness always brings goodness. I dearly remember my mother telling me once that it is a greater blessing to give than to receive. Indeed, we are very blessed.
When my wife was carrying Chun Yian, she was a bit apprehensive because she was already over forty years of age. It was said that women giving birth after forty may result in children who were not so intelligent. But Chun Yian, I believe, is a divine-sent child, and he was, and still is, very intelligent.
When my wife and I took our two youngest children for car rides, which we often did, and our other three elder children were at an age when they would prefer to spend time with their friends, Chun Yian would compose songs of his own which he would sing to entertain us.
One of the songs he often sang was as follows:
Grilled chicken wings, grilled chicken wings We shall have something to eat Get two or three cups of fragrant wine To go along with the feast
Sometimes, he would compose words for our private use. For example, instead of saying, “Please pass me some tissue paper to wipe my hands”, he would say, “Please pass me some ti-boys”.
“Why do you call tissue paper ti-boys?” Once I asked him.
“Ti is a short form for tissue. As the tissue paper is small, I call it ti-boy,” he explained.
We certainly had a lot of fun.
I attributed his high intelligence to his practice of chi kung, but he attributed it to his secretion of “brain-juice” by sleeping before ten o’clock every night.
So, while other parents might have difficulty coaxing their children to go to bed early, my wife and I did not have this problem with Chun Yian.
In fact, on occasions when we were out late at night, by Chun Yian’s standard, he would say, “Papa, can we go back early? I want to produce brain-juice.”
Siew Foong, my wife, Chun Yian and me at Chun Yian’s graduation