(reproduced from https://shaolin.org/general/legends-of-southern-shaolin/legends45.html)
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/sp-issues/kungfu-wushu.html)
I live in a small city where there are not any very good instructors who teach martial arts. In my kungfu school, which is the only one that teaches wushu in my city, we never really spar. We do mostly forms and drills. Do you think this is the proper way to learn kungfu and learn how to defend myself?
— Jeff, Canada
There has been quite a lot of confusion between kungfu and wushu, and the main reasons are as follows. In the Chinese language, the current technical term for martial art is “wushu”, although many Chinese, especially overseas Chinese, colloquially call it “kungfu”, which is also the term commonly used in the West.
Secondly, since the 1970s, the Chinese government has promoted wushu as a sport and not a martial art. Today there are many wushu teachers, Chinese as well as non-Chinese, teaching this sport all over the world.
Thirdly, some kungfu schools which have existed outside China before modern wushu was invented in China, now also teach modern wushu besides traditional kungfu. The standard of traditional kungfu in these schools is generally low, usually without training in internal force or sparring. In essence, in these schools there is not much difference between “kungfu” and “wushu”. The difference is in appearance, and is easily noticeable. By “kungfu” they usually mean traditional kungfu forms, by “wushu” they mean modern forms invented since 1970s.
Apart from these three points, there is another aspect which is more subtle or subjective, and can be quite sensitive. To me, kungfu is a martial art. So, if someone practices traditional kungfu forms, as distinct from modern wushu forms, but does not know how to use his art for combat, I would not call it kungfu. This is a minority opinion. The majority still call it “kungfu” even if it is devoid of any martial application.
Sometimes I use the term “genuine kungfu” or “real kungfu” to differentiate kungfu that is capable of combat application from “kungfu” that is devoid of combat application. I also use terms like “external kungfu forms” or “kungfu gymnastics” to refer to the latter. These terms are not ideal and sometimes cause resentment but I could not think of better terms.
This background information explained above, can help to overcome much confusion and help to solve many arguments over kungfu and wushu. For example, one person may argue that all kungfu is wushu, and another person may vehemently oppose. Both persons are right from their own different pers;pectives. The first person argues from the perspective that the Chinese word for kungfu is “wushu”, whereas the second person argues from the perspective that kungfu is a martial art but wushu is a sport.
Reversely, one person may argue that what he practices is kungfu, whereas another may argue that it is wushu. The first person argues from the perspective that his forms are traditional, whereas the second argues that although the forms are different in appearance from modern wushu forms, they are practiced not as a martial art but as a sport and therefore in essence is modern wushu.
Today many schools only practice forms and drills, and never spar — irrespective of whether they teach only traditional kungfu forms, or only modern wushu forms, or both traditional kungfu and modern wushu forms together. This is the norm.
Those schools that teach only traditional kungfu forms, as well as those that teach both traditional kungfu and modern wusshu forms are usually called kungfu schools, whereas those that teach modern wushu forms are usually called wushu schools — if we refer to them in English.
If we refer to them in Chinese, all of them are usually called “wushu” schools, including those that practice traditional kungfu forms, and even if they use genuine kungfu for sparring. This is the de-facto situation, and sometimes causes confusion. My school, for example, is “Shaolin Wahnam Kungfu Institute” in English, but “Shao Lin Hua Nan Wu Shu Guan” (Cantonese: “Siu Lam Wah Nam Mo Shert Kwoon”) in Chinese.
If you mostly practice forms and drills, no matter how long you may practice them and how beautiful your solo performance may be, and irrespective of whether they are traditional kungfu forms and drills or modern wushu forms and drills, you will not be able to defend yourself if you have never learnt sparring methodically. Although this is the norm, in my opinion it is certainly not the correct way to learn kungfu (as a martial art) and learn how to defend yourself.
Anyone, master or novice, who has never learnt to spar, will be unable to spar or fight effectively. This is only logical. This is as logical as anyone who has never learnt how to speak Spanish (although he may know the meanings of written Spanish words) will be unable to speak Spanish, or anyone who has never learnt how to drive a car (although he may have read many driving manuals) will be unable to drive a car.
Reproduced from Questions 11 in the January 2003 Part 1 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general/qualities.html)
Having a good master is definitely a tremendous blessing in kungfu, taijiquan and chi kung training. As mediocre instructors are socommon nowadays – some even start to teach after having attended only a few week-end seminars – finding a great master is like finding a gem in a hay stack. Here are some guidelines to help you find one.
A good master must be a living example of what he teaches. A kungfu master must be able to defend himself, a taijiquan master must have some internal force, and a qigong master must exhibit radiant health, as these are the basic qualities these arts are meant to develop.
A master of kungfu, taijiquan or qigong does not enjoy the luxury of many coaches in modern sports like football and athletics who often cannot dribble a ball or run a race half as well as the students they teach. There are also some kungfu, taijiquan or qigong instructors today who cannot perform half as well as their average students, but they are certainly not masters, although as a form of courtesy they may be addressed as such by their students, or the general public.
Besides being skillful, a good master should preferably be knowledgeable. He should have a sound understanding of the dimension and depth of the art he is teaching, and be able to answer basic questions his students may have concerning the what, why and how of their practice. Without this knowledge, a master will be limited in helping his students to derive the greatest potential benefits in their training.
However, especially in the East, some masters may be very skillful, but may not be knowledgeable. This is acceptable if we take the term “master” to mean someone who has attained a very high level in his art, but who may not be a teacher.
The reverse is unacceptable, i.e. someone who is very knowledgeable, but not skillful – a situation quite common in the West. A person may have read a lot about kungfu, taijiquan or qigong, and have written a few books on it, but has little kungfu, taijiquan or qigong skills. We may call him a scholar, but certainly not a master.
The third quality of a master as a good teacher is that he must be both systematic and generous in his teaching. Someone who is very skillful and knowledgeable, but teaches haphazardly or withholds much of his advance art, is an expert or scholar but not a good master.
On the other hand, it is significant to note that a good master teaches according to the needs and attainment of his students. If his students have not attained the required standard, he would not teach them beyond their ability (although secretly he might long to), for doing so is usually not to the students’ best interest. In such a situation he may often be mistaken as withholding secrets.
The fourth quality, a quality that transforms a good master into a great master, is that he radiates inspiration. It is a joy to learn from a great master even though his training is tough.
He makes complicated concepts easy to understand, implicitly provides assurance that should anything goes wrong he is able and ready to rectify it, and spurs his students to do their best, even beyond the level that he himself has attained.
The most important quality of a great master is that he teaches and exhibits in his daily living high moral values. Hence, the best world fighter who brutally wounds his opponents, or the best teacher of any art who does not practise what he preaches, cannot qualify to be called a great master.
A great master is tolerant, compassionate, courageous, righteous and shows a great love and respect for life. Great masters are understandably rare; they are more than worth their weight in gold.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/sp-issues/risks.html)
I am a teacher at a senor citizens’ home. After reading your book, “The Art of Chi Kung”, I decided to try it myself. I tried both the Moon and one of the other momvements to induce chi. I found nothing happening. The only thing that happened was that I started to fall forward as if I was loosing my balance. After two or three times like this I finally started to sway. I am not sure if I consciously started to sway or it was from the movement.
— Larry, USA
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
It is difficult to tell from an e-mail description whether your reaction was due to induced chi flow, or due to your loss of balance, or due to your conscious attempt to sway. But even if your sway was due to chi flow, it did not necessarily mean you were practising chi kung. Chi kung is not merely swaying.
I decided to try it in my class of 8. I had the class close their eyes and I said to them if they started to sway they were to go with it. (in accordance with the instructions in your book). Out of the 8 only one started to sway. Is this sway something that is consciously brought on, or is it just supposed to happen?
Yours is a typical example of how little knowledge and respect many Westerners have of chi kung. Many Westerners (and modern Easterners) think that they can just read from a book, try some exercises on their own, and then start teaching others. Especially if they are unemployed, they may continue teaching so-caled chi kung for a living, and after a few years they may call themselves, or others may call them, masters.
You have done yourself, your students and the art a great dis-service. You have not learnt or practised chi kung properly, yet you have started to teach others. This is unprofessional. You do not understand the effect chi flow has on your students, and despite my warning in my books that incorrect practice may lead to serious harmful effects, you have decided to try it on others. This is unehical.
The sway may or may not be brought on consciously. Whether it should or should not happen, depends on numerous factors. But swaying itself is not chi kung
Also, I am very interested in your intensive courses on healing incurable diseases. However, financially it is impossible for me to travel to Malaysia. Are you planning by any chance to bring your classes to the United States, or can someone learn what you teach through a video? And do you have such videos available?
Merely being interested is far from sufficient. Before you think of becoming a healer or a teacher, be a student first. The large number of people, especially in the West, who imagine that they can become healers or masters, without having to make the minimum effort to learn and practise the art first, really amazes me.
I sometimes teach in the United States.
People may learn external forms from videos, but these are actually not what I teach in my chi kung or kungfu classes. What I actually teach in my chi kung classes are skills to manage energy, and in my kungfu classes skills for combat efficiency, internal force development and spiritual cultivation. Anyone who thinks that such skills can be learnt via videos do not know what chi kung or kungfu really is. Hence, I have not produced videos for the purpose of self-instructio
I also had a lady whose heart started to beat fast after the exercises in your book. Does this have any significance, as she was starting to get a little nervous?
Luckily she did not collapse. Your unprofessional teaching could have killed her.
The heart starting to beat fast during a chi kung exercise may or may not be good. It depends on various factors. In my teachng, many students with serious heart problems had their heart beating very fast during their practice under my supervision. I had to be extremely careful, and observe them and their reactions closely.
On one occasion I was about to ask a student to slow down and stop when she exclaimed how wonderful she felt. She as well as the other students soon recovered from their illness. But a less experienced instructor might have killed them in similar situatons.
Teaching chi kung to those with heart problems must be done by a master. Even trained instructors may not be competent enough to handle students with serious heart problems. In such cases, it is best for the instructors not to teach these students.
The question and answer are reproduced from Questions 11 to 14 of the January 2000 Part 1 issue of the Question-Answer Series.