I will first of all state that it is an honor to correspond with you. I have been practicing Kung Fu of several styles both for performance and application sparring for a little over 14 years now.
— Hoffman, USA
Thank you for your kind words.
I am glad that you practice combat application in your kungfu training. Without combat application, kungfu ceases to be kungfu. It becomes gymnastics or a demonstrative sport, which has its benefits too, but it ceases to be a martial art. Unfortunately the majority of kungfu practitioners today, including masters, are incompetent in kungfu combat application, but they lack the honesty and courage to admit it.
Many resort to borrowing techniques and methods from other martial arts, like Taekwondo and Kick-Boxing, to rectify their lack of kungfu combat application. Some may have become formidable fighters using these borrowed techniques, but they still cannot use kungfu for combat. Some even go to the ridiculous extent of saying that kungfu forms cannot be used in combat, and that using Kick-Boxing is kungfu.
Though you have not stated it, I suspect that you are one of those who use other martial art techniques, probably Kick-Boxing, instead of kungfu in your sparring. Your attempt to rectify the inadequacy of kungfu combat application is admirable but your action is mis-directed. You should attempt to use kungfu forms for sparring instead. You have spent 14 years practicing kungfu forms. It is worth to spend one whole year to learn and practice genuine kungfu combat application, so that what you have learnt all these years will not go to waste.
I have posted a lot of videos on my website , not only showing but also explaining secrets that masters in the past kept only for their top students. By following and practicing the examples shown in the videos, you can attain a reasonable level of kungfu combat application.
I would like to share a very important point that kungfu practitioners who attempt free sparring may not know. They think that by attempting free sparring, they can defend themselves. They don’t. They may be able to hit others, but they still cannot defend themselves.
And many have the perverted view that one must be willing to take some hits and kicks to learn a martial art. It is certainly not true. In fact a main reason why any person learns a martial art is not to be hit at all. The big irony is that not only many martial artists cannot defend themselves despite their training, they become more unhealthy due to sustained injuries in free sparring.
The above is taken from Question 1 of January 2008 Part 3 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
Combat Sequences 1 to 4 which have been posted in previous webpages constitute one stage of combat training, and they form the kungfu set “Black Tiger Steals Heart” in the Shaolin Kungfu programme of our school. The main objective of this stage is to develop fundamental combat skills as follows:
flowing movement and force
The first two skills, right timing and right spacing, are the most fundamental. Without them the other skills, as well as all techniques and force, lose their significance. An exponent, for example, may have some fantastic techniques and tremendous force, but if his attack or defence cannot reach its target on time, all his techniques and force are quite useless.
All the principles you learn in combat training can be, and should be, transferred to our daily work and play to make our life more rewarding. This is a main reason why we devote our time and effort to kungfu training. The principles of right timing and right spacing are of utmost importance in life. You may be the best computer programmer in the world or have the most advanced marketing skills, but if these skills are not used at the right time and at the right place, they are as good as being useless.
Some people, who may actually have many talents or much knowledge, constantly complain that society or Mother Luck never gives them an opportunity to use their talents and knowledge. What they need is to develop the skills of right timing and right spacing like what we do in our combat training, and transfer these fundamental skills to daily life.
In the previous set of four combat sequences, besides the fundamental skills you also learned the basic techniques for hand attacks and defence. You should practise these four sequences in stages, as follows:
At the pre-choice stage, the initiator begins with a pre-chosen sequence, and the responder responds accordingly to complete the sequence. At the self-choice stage, the initiator may start with any sequence he likes, but the releasing of control must be gradual so that the responder can respond accordingly too and both partners can complete the sequence smoothly.
At the end-point continuation stage, after completing one sequence the initiator (or sometimes the responder) starts another sequence without retreating to poise patterns. For example, after completing Combat Sequence 1, instead of returning to poise patterns, the initiator continues by repeating Combat Sequence 1 or starting Combat Sequence 2. You should continue to the next sequence at the start of the next sequence, but later you may continue at any suitable point of the next sequence. Hence, at this stage an encounter will consist of five or six exchanges instead of three.
At the mid-point continuation stage, either one of the partner may continue with another sequence at the mid-point of the first sequence. For example, you may start with Combat Sequence 2, but at any suitable point during the sequence you or your partner may continue to Combat Sequence 3. You may enter Combat Sequence 3 at its beginning or at any suitable point of Sequence 3. Hence the exchanges are less although this stage is a progression from the previous stage. But later you may have three instead of two sequences in one encounter.
At the end-point addition stage, you or your partner may add a suitable hand-attack pattern and the other person will respond accordingly. The additional attack pattern need not be any of the patterns found in the four sequences, but it must be a hand attack. For example, instead of a level punch of the “Black Tiger”, you may use a palm strike or a phoenix-fist. You are to add only one pattern, and after the respond both will return to poise patterns.
Once you have practised these four combat sequences well, you can defend against all hand attacks — although at this level the range of techniques is limited. Hence, you will soon find that neither you nor your sparring partner can beat the other. No matter what hand attack or counter- attack one uses, the other can defend against it effectively. None has an advantage over the other because now both have the same level of skills and techniques.
To overcome this impasse, you have to find at least one advantage over your partner (or opponent in real fighting). This can be achieved by either improving your skills or expanding your techniques. In other words, although you and your partner are at the same level of techniques, if you are faster or more powerful than him, you can still beat him. Alternatively, although you and your partner are at the same level of skills, if you can use techniques which he is unfamiliar with, you will also beat him. A main objective of the next set of four combat sequences, Sequences 5 to 8, is to expand your hand techniques.
This sequence, “Fierce Tiger Speeds Through Valley”, introduces the right leg mode in attack. So far, from Combat Sequences 1 to 4 with the exception of the “Precious Duck” pattern, the left leg mode is used. The left leg mode and the right leg mode have their own strong points and weaknesses. Some martial artists, often without their own awareness, favour one mode to the other. Later when you are more skilfull and know more techniques, you can maneuver your opponent to his unaccustomed leg mode, often without him knowing, thus gaining a tactical advantage.
In the previous four combat sequences, continuing from one sequence to another was easy when you were executing Sequences 1 and 2, but you probably experienced some difficulty if you were executing Sequences 3 or 4. This was because of your leg mode. After completing Sequences 3 and 4, your right leg was in front, and you might not know how to continue your attack as your attack patterns in the right leg mode were limited.
Now this limitation can readily be overcome. For example, after defending against your partner’s Black Tiger or Green Dragon with your right Single Tiger in Sequences 3 or 4, you can “thread” with your left Golden Dragon and continue with your right Fierce Tiger as in Sequence 5. You will find a lot of attack patterns in the right leg mode in subsequent sequences.
Attacks can come in countless ways, but to facilitate learning, masters have group them into four major categories, namely:
Sequences 1 to 8 deal with striking attacks. While Combat Sequences 1 to 4 use the left leg mode with “Black Tiger Steals Heart” as the leading pattern, Combat Sequences 5 to 8 use the right leg mode leading with “Fierce Tiger Speeds Through Valley”. And while Sequences 1 to 4 focus on developing skills, Sequences 5 to 8 focus on expanding techniques.
Numerous fundamental skills have been developed, and they include:
Flowing movement and force
Numerous tactics are also introduced, and they include:
First defence then counter
Defence cum counter
No defence direct counter
Alert the east attack the west
Feint moves and exposure
In order that you can develop the skills to using typical kungfu techniques spontaneously in combat, these combat sequences are practiced in progressive stages, as follows:
“Bar the Big Boss” was introduced in the previous combat sequence in place of “Single Tiger” against the opponent’s thrust punch. In this sequence we learn a new technique that develops from “Bar the Big Boss”. Instead of blocking the opponent’s arm, we can chop at it, using the pattern ”Attending Meeting with Single Knife”.
The opening attack “Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley” in this sequence, as in the other sequences, is used as a feint move to tempt the opponent to counter-attack. That is why the left guard hand, which is normally held near the right shoulder in this pattern, is purposely left exposed.
As the opponent falls into our trap and counter-attacks, we can respond in numerous prepared ways, such as executing another “Fierce Tiger” in Sequence 5, “Dark Dragon” in Sequence 6, and “White Snake” in Sequence 7. In this sequence, we use “Single Knife” to fracture his attacking arm or dislocate his attacking elbow, followed immediately with “Horizontally Sweep a Thousand Armies” at his neck. Hence, if you are well trained, like having practiced selected techniques at least 50 times daily for a few months, you may defeat your opponent the moment he responds to your feint moves.
But if you opponent is well trained too, he can of course neutralize your rehearsed attacks. In this sequence, for example, he intercepts your “Horizontal Sweep” with a “Single Knife”, and irrespectively of whether you could shift your arm away in time, he follows immediately with a “Golden Leopard Speeds through Jungle” into your ribs.
As you strike his attacking arm with “False Leg Hand Sweep”, he “flows” over your attacking hand and swings a “Reverse Hanging of Lotus” on your right temple, guarding your right leg with his right leg. You may neutralize his “Hanging Lotus” with “Golden Dragon”. At this point, both you and your opponent have a good opportunity to continue combat. You may, for example, move forward with a “Black Tiger” or a “White Snake”, thus continuing with any of the Sequences 1 to 4. Later, when you have learned kicking techniques, you may continue with a right thrust kick or a left side kick.
Here is a quick review of what you have learnt. Combat Sequences 1 to 4 are meant to train fundamental combat skills like right timing, right spacing, flowing movements, safe coverage, foot adjustment, and instantaneous changes. The four fundamental hand attacks to the top, middle, bottom and sides, and their corresponding defences are used. The stances used are mainly in the left mode. These four sequences constitute the kungfu set “Black Tiger Steals Heart”.
Sequences 5 to 8, which constitutes the kungfu set “Fierce Tiger Speeds Through Valley” introduce the right leg mode as well as many hand techniques for attack and defence. Sequence 5 introduces the tactic of pressing attacks, where a skilful exponent may press an opponent against a wall almost irrespective of the latter’s defensive moves! Sequence 6 introduce the left palm strike, applying internal force. It also illustrates the progression from 3 movements to only I movement in apply the pattern “Dark Dragon Draws Water”.
Needless to say, all techniques, skills, tactics, principles and so on are trained progressively, not exclusively. In other words, although fundamental skills like right timing and right spacing are emphasized in Sequences 1 to 4, these skills are constantly improved in all other sequences. Although tactics like pressing attacks and “alert the east, attack the west” in Sequences 5 and 6, they can be used in any other sequences.
So far we use “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” to defence against “Black Tiger Steals Heart”. In Sequences 1 to 4 the left “Single Tiger” is used, and in Sequences 5 and 6 the right “Single Tiger”. In this sequence, a new defence technique is used against the “Black Tiger”, namely “Bar the Big Boss“.
In this situation and if all other things were equal, “Bar the Big Boss” has a technical advantage over “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”. In applying the “Single Tiger” you have to bring back your front right leg from the right Bow-Arrow Stance to change into the right False Leg Stance, and bring back your right hand from “Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley” in a big arc to change into the “Single Tiger”. But in applying “Bar the Big Boss”, you merely need to shift from a Bow-Arrow Stance to a sideway Horse-Riding Stance, and change your horizontal arm to a vertical arm position, which is technically faster.
Then, why bother to learn “Single Tiger” when “Bar the Big Boss” is better? The answer is that other things are not equal. There are other situations where the “Single Tiger” is technically better than “Bar the Big Boss”. Even in this combat situation, there may be other factors which make “Single Tiger” a better choice. For example, we may not merely want to deflect the attacker’s punch, but use the tiger-claw in the “Single Tiger” to grip the attacker’s elbow or wrist.
Bar Big Boss
In the previous sequence, we learned the progression from 3 moves to just 1 move when applying “Dark Dragon Draws Water”, hence increasing our speed but without actually trying to be faster! This sequence also provides us with a good opportunity to learn and develop this skill of minimizing movements, as follows.
When you have become skilful in applying “Bar the Big Boss” followed by “White Snake Shoots Venom” as two separate patterns (with a short pause between the patterns), you can perform the two patterns continuously as if they were one pattern (i.e. without any pause between them). Gradually you will discover from your own experience that instead of first applying a vertical block as in “Bar the Big Boss”, then followed with a taming hand as part of “White Snake”, you can achieve the same effect by using a smooth curve of your right hand in one movement instead of two.
Then you will also discover that you do not even need to change from Bow-Arrow Stance to sideway Horse-Riding Stance. All you need to do is to swerve your body in a smooth curve as you apply “White Snake Shoots Venom”, even without the need to apply “Bar the Big Boss”. In other words, from the previous “Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley”, you can proceed straight to “White Snake Shoots Venom”, thus reducing three patterns to two.
If you execute this “White Snake” well, not only you can be very fast — striking the opponent’s throat almost the same time he thinks he can hit you with his thrust punch — but you will also have “tamed” his hands in such a way that, apparently, he could not defence against your counter-attack. Yet, by withdrawing his front left leg a small step back into a front False Leg Stance, he could free his hands to counter your palm thrust with a “Golden Dragon”. This should reminds us that in real life, even when the situation appears hopeless, by taking a step back, one can often find a viable solution.
Your opponent counterattacks with a low punch. He must adjust his foot position before moving in with a low sideway Horse-Riding Stance, otherwise without you having to do anything he offers you a free advantage that you can exploit. You response to his low attack with a hand-sweep, breaking or dislocating his elbow or wrist.
As he moves his arm away to avoid your hand-sweep, you move in with a palm chop using the pattern “Chop the Hua Mountain”. Remember to cover yourself as you move in, otherwise he may jab his right palm into your ribs or abdomen.
You may notice that this is a progression or developmental lesson from “Precious Duck”. Previously, you learned that if your opponent struck your low punch with a hand-sweep, your brushed away his attack and counter-attacked with “Golden Star” or “Chop the Hua Mountain”. Now you reverse the role. If your opponent attacks you with a low punch, you strike him with a hand-sweep, but before he can counter-attack with “Golden Star” or “Chop the Hua Mountain” (like we have learned), you follow up with “Golden Star” or “Chop the Hua Mountain” instead. This is giving your opponent what he intends to give you.
Your opponent has an excellent counter — “Tame Tiger with Double Bows”. Here he applies the tactic of “no defence direct counter”, like what you did when you applied “False-Leg Hand Sweep” to his low punch. But this “Double Bows” attack is even faster. In “Hand Sweep” you counter-attack when his attack is just spent. In “Double Bows” he counter-attacks when you attack is still on its way.
Chop Hua Mountain
This “Double Bows” counter-attack provides an excellent opportunity for you to practice and develop your flexibility. To defend against this counter-attack, you move your front right leg backward from the right Bow-Arrow Stance to a right False Leg Stance, and simultaneously deflect his strike with a right tiger-claw. This movement demands much skill because you have to shift back your forward moving leg immediately it touches the ground in its forward movement.
This skill, which is essential for sound defence, has been introduced right at the start of the combat sequences. It involves the left leg mode in Sequences 1 to 4 (from “Black Tiger” to left “Single Tiger”), and the right leg mode in Sequences 5 and 6 (from “Fierce Tiger” to right “Single Tiger”). Speed was not as urgent in these combat situations because the opponent used the tactic of “first defence then counter”. Here the opponent not only uses “no defence direct counter”, but also his counter comes at a time when your attack has not even been completed. If you are trained to defend against this counter-attack well, defence in other situations will be relatively easier.
All these wonderful techniques and tactics are possible if our stances are both solid and flexible, showing how important stances are in combat even at this level, which is actually at the beginning stage of our kungfu training programme. In other words, those who prefer to bounce about, mistakenly thinking that stances are ineffective in fighting, have not been exposed to even the basics of kungfu philosophy and practice.
In the first combat sequence in our combat training programme, “Black tiger Steals Heart”, you developed two fundamental combat skills, namely right timing and right spacing. These two are fundamental skills, meaning very important skills that form the foundation of future development.
The third fundamental skill is appropriate force, which is developed in our force training programme like “Golden Bridge” and “One-Finger Shooting Zen”, and which we apply in our combat sequences. It is important that the force must be flowing, and not mechanical or staccato.
Without these three fundamental skills, a person cannot be combat efficient, even if he knows a lot of techniques. This is a common fault with many kungfu students — they think mistakenly that they can be more combat efficient by learning more techniques.
Skills have to be developed methodically, not merely learnt from a book or even from a master. A master provides you the method, and shows you how to do it, but you have to practice and practice to so that the skills become second-nature to you.
Free sparring is not a method to develop skills; it is a method to test whether you have developed the necessary skills to apply appropriate techniques in combat. This is a common fault with most martial art students today — they mistakenly think they can be combat efficient by practicing free sparring.
In this combat sequence, “Precious Duck Swims through Lotus”, you consolidate and improve upon the combat skills you have learnt, namely right timing, right spacing, right judgment and instantaneous change. We also have increased the choice of attack and defence from two to three alternatives.
In the first combat sequence, there is only one choice, which is actually no choice. The initiator attacks with “Black Tiger Steals Heart” and the responder defends with “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”. Both the initiator and the responder know what the movements will be. The movements are pre-arranged so that being free from worrying what to move next, they can better focus on developing the skills of right timing, right spacing and appropriate force.
In the second combat sequence, the initiator has two choices — he can attack with “Black Tiger Steals Heart” or “White Snake Shoots Venom” — and the responder has to react accordingly. In this third combat sequence, the choice is increased to three, with the addition of “Precious Duck Swims through Lotus”. If the responder makes a wrong judgment, his instantaneous change is more difficult. In the previous two combat sequences, if he judges wrongly, he can still defend against the coming attack — his “Golden Dragon” can still defend against the ”Black Tiger”, and his ”Single Tiger” can still defend against the “White Snake”. But here he has to change his “Golden Dragon” or “Single Tiger” into a “Hand Sweep”.
Two new skills are introduced in this sequence. One is adjusting footwork. This skill is a development of right spacing. After defending your partner’s “White Snake” with your “Golden Dragon”, you have to bring back your front left leg a small step before moving forward a big step with your right leg for your counter-attack with “Precious Duck Swims through Lotus”. If you do not adjust your footwork, you would give your opponent a free advantage, i.e. an advantage he gains without having to do anything. You would have made it easy for him to strike you or fell you to the ground.
The second skill is covering yourself in your attack. You can do this by “taming” his front left hand, i.e. pushing it aside or “floating” it upward, with your left palm maintaining contact with his left arm, while you strike his side ribs with your right punch. Covering yourself is extremely important in any attack. This is what many other martial artists never do, exposing themselves to serious counter-strikes.
In the previous two combat sequences, the counter-attack mode is “first defend then counter”. Here the mode is “no defend direct counter”. As an opponent attacks you with “Precious Duck”, you need not block or ward off the attack first, then counter-attack. While moving your front left leg backward into a left false-leg stance, you directly strike his attacking arm with your hand-sweep.
“No defend” is a misnomer. It is not ignoring your own safety and go all out to attack, which would be foolish. Here, the defence is already incorporated in your counter-attack. As you move into your false leg stance for your counter-attack, you already have moved your body away from his attack.
In Combat Sequence 5 all the attacking techniques are the same as in the previous four sequences, namely middle punch, low punch and horn punch. However, the right Bow-Arrow Stance, instead of the left Bow-Arrow Stance, is used in the attacks. This right-leg mode makes a difference.
Besides enjoying some other advantages, being able to use the right-leg mode efficiently enables the combatant to change or continue easily from the previous four combat sequences to other new sequences. Before this, his techniques are limited. Combat Sequence 5 marks the first step whereby he can expand his techniques remarkably.
Before this, he might move into a right-leg mode accidentally, or forced to do so to his disadvantage, often without his conscious knowing. Now he moves into a right-leg mode artfully and purposely, usually to his conscious advantage. Herein lies a crucial difference, and it is one of many points why many students may remain at the same standard after many years of free sparring, whereas you may improve tremendously after a few months of systematic training.
Once you can change artfully and purposely from a left-leg mode to a right-leg mode, and vice versa, even if you do not learn any new techniques, you have expanded your techniques two fold relative to an opponent who, often unconsciously, use only one favoured leg mode.
If you observe exponents of Western Boxing, Karate and Taekwondo spar, for example, you often will notice that they use only either the left-leg mode or the right-leg mode, but seldom both modes equally well. If, for instance, both of you have 25 techniques, now because you can use both modes well and he can’t, you will have 50 techniques whereas he still has 25.
Your advantage does not end here. Not only you can change your leg-mode, you can also change your stances to your best advantage, whereas most other martial artists pay little attention to stances. Moreover, you can change your hand forms, but most others don’t. For example, instead of striking with a level punch, you may change it into a phoenix-eye fist, a willow-leaf palm, a leopard punch or a tiger-claw, but most other martial artists seldom do so. Hence, from your basic 25 techniques, you can have literally hundreds of variations, even without learning new techniques!
But you must not rush into these hundreds of variations. They are mentioned here to remind you of the great variety and potential in store for you when you have mastered your fundamental skills. Now we still have to pay a lot of attention to skill development. If you are not skilful, knowing a lot of techniques is a liability, not an access. This is a main reason why many kungfu and wushu students, despite knowing many techniques, are no match against exponents of Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing and Western Boxing
Yet, from Combat Sequence 6 onwards, you are going to learn some useful combative techniques. Two attacking techniques are introduced in this sequence — a left hand palm strike in “Dark Dragon Draws Water”, and a top-diagonal palm chop in “Chop the Hua Mountain”.
“Dark Dragon Draws Water” provides a good opportunity for you to practice applying your internal force. Focus your chi at your dan tian, then “sink” down your Bow-Arrow Stance as you channel your force from your dan tian through your left palm into your opponent.
“Dark Dragon Draws Water” also provides a good opportunity to apply the principle and develop the skill of progression in techniques and speed. At first you use three moves for the attack — tiger-claw, cover elbow, and palm strike. Next, you reduce to two moves — tiger-claw cum cover elbow, and palm strike. Then you perform the same attack in one move — palm strike which includes tiger-claw to cover elbow.
A helpful way to train is to count the moves. At first you count “1 2 3” as you perform the three moves of the attack. After some time of training you count “1 2” for the two moves. Then you just count “1” as you attack. If you train this pattern 50 times a day for six months, you may be able to break the ribs of an average attacker as soon as he moves in to attack with a right punch.
Because I have learned from Sifu Anthony Korahais, I believe that is the proper way to address you. If not, please forgive me.
— David, USA
Thank you for your kind thoughts and proper address. An even better way for you to address me is just “Sigung”, and not “Wong Sigung” or “Sigung Wong”.
Of course you don’t mean it, but it is helpful to know that prefixing or suffixing a person’s surname by his students, like “Lau Sifu” or “Sifu Lau” instead of just “Sifu”, distant them from him. The public would call him “Lau Sifu” or “Sifu Lau”, but his students call him “Sifu”.
Your case in this e-mail is different. You mentioned “Sifu Anthony Korahais” because you wanted to indicate which of our certified instructors in our school you meant. But when you talk to him, you just address him as “Sifu”, and not “Sifu Anthony” or “Sifu Korahais”.
Because Grandmaster Wong has a long waiting list, these questions were received more than a year ago at a time when Sifu Anthony Korahais was still in Shaolin Wahnam. Sifu Anthony has since left the school, and by Sifu Anthony’s choice, Grandmaster Wong is no longer his sifu. Hence, those students who used to address Grandmaster Wong as “sigung” should now address him as “sifu” if they wish to continue learning from Grandmaster Wong. They would also continue to address Sifu Anthony as “sifu”.
Thank you very much for generously sharing your very valuable art. I am also particularly thankful for your website titled Showing Respect to the Master and the years of questions and answers you have archived.
I am glad that many of our Shaolin Wahnam students have told me that our arts have greatly enriched their lives.
Showing respect to the master is mainly for the students’ benefit. Many other people may not know this, or believe it is so. Showing respect to the master gives the students an excellent mind-set to benefit most from the master’s teaching.
Many people, both inside and outside our school, have also told me that they have benefited much from my Question-Answer Series. As there is a long waiting list, these questions and answers are often posted for public reading about a year later.
I would take this opportunity to mention an interesting point from the many questions I have received. Before looking at the name of the enquirer, I can often tell whether he is a member of our Shaolin Wahnam Family by just looking at the way he asks his questions.
There are three characteristics that differentiate our family members from members of the public, namely mental clarity, courtesy and open-mindedness.
Our family members are clear in their writing. I can easily know what they write. On the other hand, although questions by members of the public are edited for grammar and spelling before they are being posted in my Question-Answer Series, you can differentiate them if you examine closely.
Clear writing shows mental clarity. I am glad our training has resulted in mental clarity demonstrated in the e-mails our students sent to me.
Our family members are polite. Your opening paragraph is a good example. Some members of the public do not even bother to address the person they send their e-mails to. They just start asking their questions.
And some do not state their names at the end of their e-mails. If I post their questions in my Question-Answer Series, I have to guess at their names form their e-mail addresses.
Courtesy to others is an indication of self-respect. Self-respect is very important for successful living.
Our family members are open-minded. They realize and accept that other people may not agree with their views which they cherish dearly. Open-mindedness is present in your questions regarding low-level Mao Shan, and regarding talking to other people about our chi kung.
Being open-minded certainly make our life happier. It also enables us to improve ourselves.
Circle Walking in Baguazhang
Once you mentioned that the form of payment for low maoshan was to be either permanently deformed, forever poor, or without children. This disturbed me greatly. I can only imagine the payment and reward associated with high maoshan.
Why would anyone agree to any of those things? Is it black magic for unscrupulous people who desire quick and easy cultivation? I cannot imagine why someone would accept those terms when wonderful arts like Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Chuan exist.
There are three levels of Mao Shan, or Taoist magic, namely low level, middle level and high level, sometimes known as black Mao Shan, grey Mao Shan and white Mao Shan.
Low level Mao Shan practitioners are concerned mainly with acquiring magical powers overcoming others and causing difficulties for others, which generally result in dong harm. Middle level Mao Shan practitioners have abilities of low level Mao Shan as well as high level Mao Shan. High level Mao Shan practitioners have abilities of low and middle levels Mao Shan, and more, but are concerned with healing and helping people.
Hence, the division into low, middle and high levels Mao Shan is based mainly on the application of Taoist magic, and not on the attainment of practitioners, but the tradition and philosophy of respective schools focus on these specific levels.
A requirement for students to undergo training in low level Mao Shan is to choose one of the following three conditions — to be permanently deformed, to be unable to accumulate money, and to have no children. Normally people would not agree to any of these conditions, but some persons due to evil intention of various reasons may accept one of these conditions. A common condition chosen by these people is an inability to accumulate money or not to have children.
Someone who has no ability or desire to earn money honorably and honestly may choose the second condition. After successfully competed his training, he can invent money and use it lavishly, but the money cannot be used the following day. Someone who wants to avenge some great wrongs done to his family may sacrifice family life and choose the third condition to take revenge.
Low level Mao Shao is black magic, and can be very powerful. While many low level Mao Shan practitioners who use his magic to harm other people for no better reasons than earn money from those who pay them to do so, are unscrupulous, others are not, like those who want an easy carefree life, and those who want to avenge great wrongs. These practitioners, for example, would not use their magic on poor hawkers, or harm innocent people.
While it is true that wonderful arts like genuine Tai Chi Chuan and genuine Shaolin Chuan, or Shaolin Kungfu, exist, it is also true that these wonderful arts are very rare today. Those who have a chance to learn these arts, like students in our school, are indeed very lucky. Much of Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Kungfu practiced today are grossly debased.
It is also very rare today to practice Mao Shan, regardless of its level. Even when students have a chance, besides the conditions required by the teacher, the training is also very tough.
Finally, do you have any advice on speaking with other people about qigong?
From reading your question and answer series, I know that many people respond unfavorably to your talking about it. I also have tried unsuccessfully to talk with people about it without results.
Oddly, the people who stand to benefit the most seem to be the least interested. However, most of them act as though they didn’t hear me or I am obviously deceived. I am sad to be unable to share the great benefits I’ve received with others.
My advice is that you may talk about the benefits of qigong in general to all people. If they do not show interest, you need not continue. Only for those who are interested to know more and gain benefits themselves, should you spend time elaborating.
Don’t waste your time on undeserving people. This may sound harsh, but it is good advice based on my many years of experience.
While many people respond unfavorably to my talking about qigong, many other people respond favorably to it. My website, for example, is one of the top 500 most visited websites in the world. Considering that only a small proportion of the world’s people are interested in qigong and kungfu or any martial art, this is a remarkable achievement. Moreover, many of our instructors and students learned from me after hearing me talking about qigong and kungfu in my websites or books.
If you talk to people interested in qigong or who want to benefit from qigong, you will have results. If you talk to people who are not interested or do not believe in the benefits qigong can bring, they think they are doing you a favour by listening to you.
People whom you think will benefit most from your telling them of our qigong and the benefits you have gained, are undeserving of your time and effort. You would spend your time more fruitfully by taking your girlfriend out or finding one if you do not have a girlfriend yet, or spending quality time with your parents.
On the other hand, it is their right not to be interested or to believe you, though it is not very wise of them considering the benefits you have derived from your qigong practice. You need not feel sad that you are unable to share the great benefits you have received with others. It is their choice. You should feel happy that you have the opportunities to enjoy these wonderful benefits.
The internal force in Wuzuquan is more flowing than condolidated
I was curious about some of the Baguazhang training methods used in other schools, particularly the methods I learnt from my old Baguazhang sifu before learning Baguazhang from you.
His school’s fundamental set consists of Walking the Circle with the upper body held in different positions. My old sifu mentioned that doing so would train “different forms of jin” and condition the body’s strength and flexibility.
— Fredrick Chu, USA
Your old Baguazhang sifu was correct. Performing Walking the Circle using different positions will develop different forms of jin or internal force. For example when you use “Black Bear From Cave”, you develop “sinking force” at your palms. When you use “Great Roc Spreads Wings”, you develop “spreading force” at your arms.
In the Walking the Circle we learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012, we used the Eight External Palms. We could develop internal force although we used an external method because we were skilful. Indeed, we could develop internal force no matter what external kungfu sets we used.
As you are now proficient in the Eight External Palm, you can progress to using the different positions taught in your old sifu’s set when practicing Circle Walking. You will find that the internal force developed is more powerful.
I experimented a little with returning to my old sifu’s set and experimenting with Circle Walking while holding my upper body in postures from the Wahnam Baguazhang Eight Mother Palms and felt my energy flow going to different parts of the body, but didn’t know if such practice would be efficient or fruitful in the long run.
Yes, this practice will be efficient and fruitful. It is a development from using the Eight External Palms learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012 to using Eight Internal Palms of your old sifu’s set although the exact patterns may not be the same.
You should practice your old sifu’s set the way you practice Circle Walking learnt in Shaolin Wahnam though the hand and body positions may be different. Your mind must be free from thoughts and you must be relaxed. You don’t have to worry about how to develop different forms of jin. The different hand and body positions will do that.
When you use the Eight External Palms learned in our school, your energy flow goes to different parts of your body because you have generated flowing internal force. When you use the hand and body positions of your old sifu’s set, this flowing energy will consolidate into different types of internal force due to the various hand and body positions. You don’t have to worry how. The various hand and body positions will result in different types of force.
It is both safer and more effective to first develop flowing force, then consolidate the force, or just develop consolidated force. Starting with the method learnt in Shaolin Wahnam, and progressing to your old sifu’s set is an excellent approach.
The internal force in Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu is more consolidated than flowing
I would appreciate any insight you might have on the practice of Circle Walking with the upper body held in various postures and how it might compare to other methods of force training, such as simply holding the Green Dragon posture in circle walking, using the “secret” method of Walking the Circle for internal force by holding a posture for a period of time, then taking the next step along the circle to hold a posture for a period of time, and repeating until completing the circle, and the master’s method of Baguazhang force training that you taught us at the Summer Camp.
These are various methods to develop internal force. We are able to understand and benefit from these different methods because of our breadth and depth, which extend beyond Baguazhang, and from which we can draw inspiration and practice.
These different Baguazhang methods enable us to develop internal force that can have different proportion of flowing and consolidated force. The whole range of internal force in kungfu can extend from the soft, flowing force of Yang Style Taijiquan to the hard, consolidated force of Iron Wire.
Because both these styles as well as other styles of internal force, like Flower Set and Xingyiquan, are practiced in our school, we are able to draw from these styles to enrich our Baguazahgn in a way that other Baguazhang schools may not be able to. This positive transfer of skills is enhanced by my understanding and practice of Dragon Strength.
A rough guideline showing the ratios of flowing force to consolidated force in various kungfu styles are as follows:
Yang Style Taijiquan 90 – 10
Wuzuquan 80 – 20
Chen Style Taijiquan 70 – 30
Dragon Strength 60 – 40
Wudang Taijiquan 50 – 50
Flower Set 40 – 60
Baguazhang 40 – 60
Praying Mantis 40 – 60
Tantui 40 – 60
Triple Stretch 30 – 70
Wing Choon 20 – 80
Xingyiquan 20 – 80
Eagle Claw 20 – 80
Choy-Li-Fatt 10 – 90
Iron Wire 10 – 90
Please take not that the about listing is a rough guide, and there can be variation. Some Yang Style Taijiquan practitioners, for example, may have 20% or 30% of consolidated force instead of 10%. Generally only masters may have flowing force or consolidated force. Students may use physical momentum as in Aikido, or muscular strength as in Karate, and mistake it for flowing force and consolidated force.
By itself, i.e. without transference of learning from breadth and depth, Baguazhang force is about 40& flowing and 60% consolidated. A Baguazhang practitioner who has such force is probably a master or at an advanced level.
In our school, however, even students have internal force right at the start of their Baguazhang training, and due to the advantage of breadth and depth some may vary the proportion between flowing force and consolidated force.
A comparison of the various methods of Baguazhang force training using Circle Walking is as follows.
When the upper body is held in various postures, various types of consolidated force are developed according to the postures. When only the Green Dragon posture is used in Circle Walking, flowing force is developed, especially when various palm changes are performed at the end of a circle, like what you learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012.
As mentioned earlier, it is both safer and more effective to develop flowing force before consolidated force. If a practitioner starts straight away with consolidating force, the risk of causing energy blockage is higher. If he starts with flowing force, even when he makes a same mistake, energy flow will clear away the blockage.
Before energy can be consolidated, it must be flowing. This is a fact many people may not know. Hence, our students, who start with chi flow, can develop the same amount of internal force in a month whereas other students would need a year. Understandably, other people may be angry at this statement, and call us arrogant. That is their problem, not ours.
Another fact many people may not know is that consolidated force is also flowing, but at a slow pace. If a practitioner locks up his energy, it becomes stagnant and forms muscles.
When a Baguazhang practitioner uses the secret method of Circle Walking holding the Green Dragon posture for some time, then walk the next step and hold the posture for some time until he completes the circle, he focuses on developing consolidated force, but ensures that it is also flowing. This method should be practiced only after he has developed flowing force using the mobile Circle Walking.
The master’s method taught at the UK Summer Camp 2012 is a progression form this method of Stance Training in Circle Walking. It develops different types of internal force using various Eight Internal Palms, and at the same time ensures that force is flowing. It should be practice after Stance Training in Circle Waling.
Hence an effective progression of internal force training in Baguazhang is as follows:
Mobile Circle Walking holding the Green Dragon posture.
Stance Training using the Green Dragon posture in Circle Walking.
Circle Walking using the Eight Internal Palms.
The third level may be performed at two stages — mobile circle walking with the eight internal palms, and stance training in circle walking with the eight internal palms.
In addition to developing the force for which Baguazhang is well-known, I want to sharpen the overall skill of getting to an opponent’s back to deliver a decisive strike for which Baguazhang is famous. I’ve lately been imagining an imaginary opponent coming at me with simple strikes (for example, Black Tiger Steals Heart) and then using my footwork to step to the imaginary opponent’s side and responding with one of the 64 application palms.
I’ve found in my imaginary opponent and with real sparring partners that it is very easy to get to the back of an opponent who gives me a lot of force and forward momentum, but it is more difficult with a cautious opponent. Would you be able to give me some advice on how to best train the skill of getting to an opponent’s back, especially such a cautious opponent?
You method of practicing with an imaginary opponent and then testing it on a teal opponent is excellent. It was the method past masters practiced to become combat efficient. This was the method I frequently practiced to remain unbeaten. It is also the method I ask our Shaolin Wahnam instructors and students to practice to win sparring competitions.
If you are very fluent in executing your combat sequence, which must take into account of safety first, your opponent just has no chance against you. He will be retreating trying to cover your strikes.
Occasionally, an opponent may be very skillful that he can neutralize your attack and counter attack. You make an instant modification, irrespective of whether you are attacking him from the front, side or back, and continue to subdue hum.
Of course, with a cautious opponent, it is relatively not as easy to get to his back, or to attack him from any direction. There are two effective tactics for this situation. One is called “false-false, real-real”, and the other “tricking an opponent to advance to futility”.
In “false-false, real-real”, which is pronounced in an impossible sound in Mandarin based on tonal values, “shi-shi, shi-shi”, you make one or two feint attacks, which can turn to be real if your opponent fails to respond. As he responds to your feint moves, you get to his back.
To make your victory doubly sure, you anticipate a few possible responses he is likely to make. You make the necessary modifications and subdue him. If his response is so out-landish that you have not prepared a suitable modification, let him go and wait for another opportunity.
In the tactic of “tricking an opponent to advance to futility”, which is “yin di le kong” in Mandarin Chinese, you trick you opponent to advance to attack you, but you space yourself that his attacks are futile. When he is the midst of his attacks, you slip to his side or back to strike him.
Again, to make victory doubly sure, you anticipate a few possible responses he will make in that situation, and use defeat him with appropriate modifications. If his rare response is outside your prepared modification, let him go and wait for another opportunity.
A little bit ago, I experimented with “Through the Woods” for fun. I began Circle Walking through the obstacles and using the obstacles as placeholders for the position of imaginary opponents and just spontaneously delivering various strikes in free flow. It was a very eye-opening experience. I felt as though I were training the skill to really deliver decisive strikes on the move, especially since the idea arose from the training that I had to be able to use just one pattern to strike someone down in a situation with multiple opponents.
The patterns that came out most during my experiences with “Through the Woods” were Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue (though from the Bagua stance, not the Bow Arrow stance), Yellow Dragon Plays With Water, Heavenly King Carries Umbrella, Golden Dragon Spirals Around Pillar, Cloud Dragon Spirals Around, and Wind Strikes Brain Gate, using the names of the patterns from 64 Patterns of Baguazhang.
Are there particular patterns in Baguazhang that are more suited for fighting in a situation with multiple attackers? I noticed I was using the Bagua stance almost the entire time, not the Bow Arrow or Horse Riding stances.
This was a secret training taught to me by my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. It was extremely effective, and I once taught it at an advanced course for instructors.
There are no particular patterns that are specially suited for this situation. You can use any suitable patterns. But as you are on the move, you have to strike down an opponent with just one decisive pattern, and simultaneously cover yourself adequately from possible attacks from others.
You can let the patterns come out in chi flow as you go through the woods. Some suitable patterns are Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue, Pure Blade Cuts Grass and Yellow Dragon Plays with Water.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
In the previous three combat sequences, we learned three attack techniques using hand strikes at the top, middle and lower parts of the opponent. We also learned the corresponding defence techniques. In this combat sequence, “Hang a Golden Star at a Corner”, we learn attack techniques at the sides, i.e. left and right. These four modes of attacks — top, middle, bottom and sides — represent the whole range of directions any hand strikes can come from.
If you can execute a middle attack using “Black tiger Steals Heart”, i.e. a middle thrust punch, you can also execute other forms of middle attacks by changing the hand form and the stance. For example, instead of using a thrust punch you may use a palm strike, and instead of using a bow- arrow stance you may you use a false-leg stance. Similarly by varying the hand forms and stances of the other modes of attacks, you can have an unlimited range of attack techniques.
On the ther hand, if you can defend against a middle thrust punch, you can also defend against other forms of middle attacks. In other words, if you can effectively use “Single Tiger Energes from Cave” to counter “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, you can also counter his attack even if he uses a palm jab instead of a thrust punch, and uses a unicorm step instead of a bow-arrow stance, or any other hand forms and stances. The same principle applies to the other modes of attacks. Hence, when you are efficient in defending against these four representative hand strikes, you can defend against any hand strikes.
We use “Black Tiger Steals Heart” as a representative middle hand strike, and “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” as its representative defence. For some reasons, such as to gain technical or tactical advantages, we may use another middle attack technique instead of the “Black Tiger”. Similarly we may use another middle defend technique instead of the “Single Tiger”. But we shall leave these considerations to later lessons. At this stage, it is sufficient to focus on these four representative attacks and defence so that we can develop the necessary combat skills to apply these techniques well.
Generally, skills are more important than techniques — a fact most martial art students today are ignorant of. Another important fact they are ignorant of is that skills, as well as techniques, need to be systematically acquired — not just read from a book or a webpage. Hence, traditional kungfu masters did not allow their students to engage in free sparing unless they were ready. But due to their ignorance, present-day students rush into free sparring. Not only they do not acquire skills and techiques, they hurt themselves unnecessarily.
Briefly, the skills we have learnt include right timing, right spacing, right judgement, quick decision, instantaneous change, fluid miovement, footwork adjustment and safe coverage. If you are not sufficiently proficient in any of these skills, or worse if you do not even know what these skills mean, it is better to go back to the previous combat sequences for more training.
Two new skills are introduced in this sequence training: the skill of flowing attack and the skill of pressing attack. As your opponent sweeps at your low punch at “Precious Duck Swims through Lotus”, you flow with the opponent’s momentum and swing your attacking arm upward in a curve into a “horn punch” at his temple, simultaneously you press in a small step and guard his sweeping hand. If you do not cover his hand, he may pierce it into your side ribs or bowels. Hence, this attack movement involves three skills: the skills of flowing attack, of pressing attack, and of safe coverage.
“Hang a Golden Star” is a short range attack but involves much movement. Thus, due to this innate disadvantage it is not a commonly used attack technque. But there may be situations, such as this one, where it may be useful.
How You May Avoid a Heavy Object Crashing into You
After you have developed some reasonable skills in correct timing and correct spacing — two of the most fundamental skills in combat application — you can proceed to developing the skills for fast judgment, quick decision and instantaneous change. This combat sequence, White Snake Shoots Venom, is effective for developing these three skills.
In the previous combat sequence, “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, you are used to defending against the opponent’s middle strike. Suddenly he changes his attack to a top strike. You have to judge correctly, make a quick decision and apply the appropriate defence.
In this sequence, the attack is purposely reduced to only two choices, a middle hand strike or a top hand strike. If there are too many choices, as in free sparring, it would be difficult for the defender to judge, thus defeating the purpose of developing the skill of judgment.
Before this, there is no need to make any judgment because there is only one pre-arranged mode of attack. Now only one of many controlled factors is released, marking the first step in judging and decision making — to judge whether the attack is aimed at the top or at the middle and to decide what response to make. Only very gradually, the control is released. If too many controlled factors are released suddenly, the training would become brawling, not developing skills.
The two skills of judging and decision are closely related. At this stage the decision is premeditated, i.e. it has already been made for you (basing on the rich experience of centuries of past Shaolin masters) so that you can focus on right judgment and right response. In other words, if you judge the attack aims at your top, you respond straightaway with “Golden Dragon”, if it aims at your middle, you respond straightaway with “Single Tiger”.
Later, when you are more skilful and have a greater range of techniques, you may insert decision making before your response. For example, when you have judged that the attack is aiming at your top, you may decide which of a number of alternatives you will respond, depending on what advantages or situations you wish to create.
Suppose your opponent makes a top attack but you misjudge it to be a middle attack. So you respond with “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” instead of “Golden Dragon Plays with Water”. It is a mistake, and in a real fight the opponent’s attack may have pierced into your throat or eye. But, of course, in training your partner would stop a few inches before target.
Untrained persons would just freeze, not knowing what to do. But you don’t. You just tilt your body slightly forward to your side, and simultaneously change your tiger-claw into a dragon-form and “thread” it upward, deflecting the attack. Your partner would have stopped his attack momentarily for you to implement the belated move.
Initially you would be hesitant. There would be a gap of a few seconds between realizing your wrong judgment and making the appropriate changes. But gradually you would reduce the gap until eventually the change would be instantaneous. You would have developed the skill of instantaneous change.
These skills are, of course, very useful in our everyday life. In the business world, for example, there is a saying that a bad decision is better than no decision. So, if your host asks whether you prefer chicken curry or beef steak, don’t say you don’t know. Make a decision.
Shaolin students are trained not just to make decisions fast but also correctly. But if we make a wrong decision, we do not just remain frozen, and blame others or ourselves; we make correction immediately.
Suppose a heavy object is crashing onto a person. Often, taken by surprise he remains motionless. But you would have jumped aside elegantly. What makes the difference? You have undergone systematic training but he hasn’t.
Most martial art students today make a big mistake in their combat training. They think mistakenly that practicing free sparring is the way, often the only way, to combat efficiency. To a large extent this came about because many people were disillusioned with kungfu, as much of (so-called) kungfu practiced today is merely performing external forms with little or no combat training.
In genuine traditional kungfu, free sparing is never used to train combat efficiency; it is used to test combat efficiency, to confirm that the students can really fight. In other words, it is not a training tool — it is a testing tool. You engage in free sparing only after you know how to fight, not as a means to train you to fight.
Practicing combat sequences is an essential link between form training and free sparring. In form training you develop the techniques as well as the skills that you will need for fighting. In combat sequences you methodically apply these techniques and skills in simulated combat. In free sparring you confirm that you can fight efficiently.
There are many stages and sub-stages in combat sequence training. “Black Tiger Steals Heart” is the first of a long series of combat sequences we use in our school, Shaolin Wahnam, to go through these stages and sub-stages systematically.
Most students would under-estimate this combat sequence, thinking it is too simple. This would be a big mistake. The techniques are purposely made simple because the aim of training here is not to learn new techniques but to develop skills. If the techniques are complicated, the students would waste much effort remembering the techniques rather than focusing on developing skills.
Before you even make any move, you must observe the “four modes of preparation” — one, you must be mentally and physically ready; two, you access your opponent; three, you seek an advantage or an opening; and four, when the opportunity arrives you move swiftly.
When you move in to attack, you must “ask the way”, i.e. you access your opponent’s strength and weakness, and you open the way for attack as well as prevent him from suddenly counter-attacking. You must also achieve “three arrivals”, i.e. the arrival of the heart, of the feet and of the hands.
The two fundamental skills developed here are right timing and right spacing. And the skills are applicable to both the initiator (attacker) and the responder (defender). In other words, when you move in to attack, you must move in at a right time, and space yourself at a right distance. A very common weakness is that the initiator is too far from the responder in his attack, in which case the responder can counter-strike immediately, without bothering to defend first.
On the other hand, when you defend against an attack, you must move at a right time. A very common weakness defenders make is that they move back too soon. A trained attacker would exploit such a weakness. He would skip the first attack, treating it as a feign move, and follow in with a second attack, striking the defender at a time when he is still in the process of defending the first attack.
Nevertheless, now you should not worry about this skill of exploiting the opponent’s weakness. It is practised at an intermediate level. At an elementary level, your focus is to avoid making such weaknesses. If you can just do this, you would have done well. Many combatants today, including those at black-belt level, commit many such mistakes, thus throwing advantages to their opponents without their opponents having to make any effort.
You must also remember that all combat principles in Shaolin Kungfu are applicable to daily living. You should use these principles to enrich your life and the lives of others. For example you should not blame the traffic if you miss an appointment; it just shows you have not developed the skill of correct timing. You should not blame the waiter if you have been seated amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke in a restaurant; you have not developed the skill of correct spacing.