Category Archives: Kung Fu Weapons

HOW TO PLAN A TRAINING SCHEDULE

(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/sp-issues/training-schedule.html)

Combat Sequence

Students, expecially at beginners’ level, should include stance-training, including moving in stances, in their daily training schedule

Question
I believe I heard somewhere that you prefer to have a structured, daily schedule. Can you please talk about the importance of having a daily schedule and any tips that may help us successfully implement and stick with our own (especially tips for handling disruptions such as travel or unexpectedly having to work late)?
Chris, USA
Answer
Yes, having a structured daily schedule will help to save much time as well as to get maximum benefits from the practice, both in the practice session itself as well as the general programme of training.

Experience has shown that many students waste a lot of time thinking of what to practice next after they have completed one aspect of their training. Because they lack a clear cut schedule, they often practice haphazardly, spending too much time on what is relatively unimportant, neglecting crucial aspects as well as training redundantly.

For example, many students spend years on practicing kungfu sets, without developing force and practicing combat application, which are the two twin pillars of any kungfu training. Yet, after many years of practicing forms, their forms are not correct because they failed to master the basics like how to co-ordinate their body, feet and hands, and how to move with grace and balance.

Having a structured schedule will overcome these setbacks. But before we attempt to work out our schedule, we must have a clear idea of what the art we are going to practice is, what our aims and objectives of practicing are, and what resources we have to work on. Without such preliminary understanding, many people end up with form demonstration or Kick-Boxing though they originally aimed to practice Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan. Some of them, including instructors, have invested so much time and effort in their deviated practice that they even think or argue that form demonstration or Kick-Boxing is Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan!

Setting aims and objectives are important when constructing a daily practice schedule. It helps to make your practice very cost-effective. To set aims and objectives wisely, you need to be clear of not just what you wish to achieve but also what the art has to offer. Then you select from within the art the relevant resources for practice that best help you to accomplish your aims and objectives. Arranging this material into some systematic ways for practice makes up your daily practice schedule.

Allot time, say half an hour or an hour, for each training session, and give yourself, say, six months as a package to achieve your objectives. Your daily practice schedule may be the same every day if you have sufficient time in the session to complete the chosen material, or you may vary your daily schedule if you have a lot of material to cover.

Naturally, because of different needs and aspiration as well as developmental stage, different practitioners will have different schedules. Let us take an example of a student who attends regular classes from a Shaolin Wahnam instructor. He aims to have good health and vitality as well as combat efficiency. A good daily schedule is as follows.

Start with about 5 minutes of “Lifting the Sky”. Then spend about 10 minutes on stance training, followed by about 5 to 10 minutes of gentle chi flow. Next, spend about 10 minutes on the Art of Flexibility, alternating with the Art of 100 Kicks on different days, followed by about 5 minutes of chi flow.

Then practice a kungfu set. If he has learnt many sets, he may vary the set on different days. Depending on his needs, aspirations and developmental stage, in his set practice he may focus on correctness of form, fluidity of movements, breath control or explosion of force. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

For the next 10 or 15 minutes, he should practice his combat sequences. He may go over all the sequences he has learnt or select those he wishes to consolidate. He will practice them at the level he is at, such as merely going over the routine so that he will be very familiar with them, using steps like continuation and internal changes, or varying them in sparring with an imaginary opponent. He will conclude his training session with 5 or 10 minutes of Standing Meditation where he enjoys inner peace or expands into the Cosmos.

Combat Sequence

If your objective is to prepare yourself for an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, you should include combat sequences in your daily schedule

Another student who does not have the advantage of learning from a regional Shaolin Wahnam instructor, may have a very different daily schedule. Suppose he wants to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, but could not learn kungfu, even only outward forms, from a local teacher. So he has to learn the forms from my books, and familiarize himself with the combat sequences from my webpages.

His main aim is to prepare himself so that he can qualify to attend the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. He has three main objectives — to be able to perform basic kungfu forms so that he can follow the course, to be familiar with the routine of the 16 combat sequences so that he can focus on developing combat skills instead of wasting time learning the sequence at the course, and to develop some internal force, especially at his arms, so that he can be fit for a lot of sparring. He allots half an hour a day for three months to achieve these objectives.

He should spend the first month focusing on the basics, i.e. the stances and footwork and basic patterns, and the other two months on familiarizing himself with the 16 combat sequences. Force training, including the Art of Flexibility, should be carried out throughout the three months.

He spends about 5 minutes on “Lifting the Sky” which he can learn from my books. He will probably not have any chi flow. For the first two weeks, he focuses only on the stances. He spends about 20 minutes learning how to perform the various stances correctly. At this stage, he needs not, and should not, remain at each stance for any length of time. In other words, this stage is not for zhan-zhuang, or remain at a stance for some time. His task is to be able to perform a stance, for a few seconds, correctly. Within two weeks he should be able to learn the correct positions of the stances quite well. For the remaining 5 minutes, he practices the Art of Flexibility.

For the next two weeks he focuses on moving in stances and performing basic patterns. By now he should be able to move into any stance correctly, though he may not be able to remain at the stance for long. He begins the session with about 5 minutes of “Lifting the Sky”. Then he spends another 5 minutes on performing all the stances correctly. The emphasis is on correct form, and not on remaining at the stance to develop force. Next, he spends about 15 minutes to learn how to move correctly in stances and to perform basic patterns. He should pay careful attention to waist rotation and body weight distribution so that he can move gracefully and without hurting his knees. He concludes the session with the Art of Flexibility. By the end of the month, he should be able to perform basic patterns in proper stances correctly.

For the next two weeks, he focuses on familiarizing himself with the 16 combat sequences as well as developing some internal force. He starts his session with stance training. Now, as the postures of his stances are correct, he focuses on remaining at a stance for as long as he comfortably can. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. For the remaining 20 minutes, he practices the 16 combat sequences, starting with one and progress to all the others. He needs not worry about force and speed. His concern is to remember the routine of the sequences and perform the patterns correctly.

If he takes three days to learn and practice one combat sequence, he can complete the 16 sequences in 48 days, giving him a few days for general revision. He should learn and practice the sequences progressively, not individually. In other words, by the sixth day, he should be proficient in sequences 1 and 2, and by the ninth day be proficient in sequences 1, 2 and 3, etc.

Hence, if he follows these schedules for three months, he will be well prepared for the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course even though he might not have any kungfu experience before. On the other hand, someone who may have learnt kungfu for many years, where he only learns external kungfu forms, is ill prepared. This is a good example of cost-effectiveness. The smart student knows what he wants and plans his practice accordingly, whereas the mediocre student practices haphazardly without direction.


The above is reproduced from Question and Answer Number 1 of the May 2007 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.

Please e-mail your questions to Sifu Wong Kiew Kit stating your name, country and this webpage for reference. E-mails without these particulars may not be answered.

CAN WE LEARN CHI KUNG AND KUNGFU FROM BOOKS, VIDEOS OR AN E-MAIL?

(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general-2/books.html)

chi kung, qigong

Practicing chi kung is not merely performing chi kung form



Can we learn chi kung and kungfu from books, videos or an e-mail? The answer is yes, no, or yes and no. There is no play of words, but it depends on an interplay of the following three factors:

  1. the type of chi kung or kungfu exercise
  2. the book, video or e-mail
  3. the person learning the art or exercise

If the chi kung or kungfu exercise is just a simple form, it can be readily learnt from a book, a video or even an e-mail. This is what most people have in mind when they think of learning chi kung or kungfu from books or videos.

Interestingly, they do not realize that even when they have learnt these chi kung or kungfu techniques correctly, they have not learnt chi kung or kungfu! For example, they may have learnt the techniques of the “Eighteen Lohan Hands” correctly, but they may still not have good health, which is an inevitable benefit of chi kung. They may have learnt the patterns of a kungfu set correctly, but they may still be unable to use these patterns for combat.

More than 80% of chi kung and kungfu (including Taijiquan) practitioners fall under this category, and most of them do not realize it. Some vehemently, and to them righteously, insist that what they practice is chi kung or kungfu.

All chi kung and kungfu techniques involve skills, though many people may overlook these skills. One may perform the outward form of “Lifting the Sky” correctly, but if he is tensed or intellectualizing, he is not performing it as chi kung. One may perform a kungfu technique beautifully and even theoretically know its application, but if he does not have good spacing and good timing, he would not be able to apply if for combat.

When an exercise involves some specific skills, it is difficult, if not impossible, to learn it from books, videos or an e-mail. For example, in Abdominal Breathing, one needs to breathe energy (not just air) into and out of the abdomen. In One-Finger Shooting Zen, one has to channel energy to his index finger. These skills need to be learnt from and practiced under the supervision of a competent teacher.

The second factor is the book, video or e-mail involved. Obviously, if the instructional medium presents its material clearly and systematically, it is easy for a practitioner to learn it, unless the techniques are complicating or they involve specific skills. But if the instructional medium is concise or arcane, as most chi kung and kungfu classics are, it is difficult, if not impossible, even for seasoned practitioners to learn from it.

Shaolin Kungfu

You may learn kungfu form from books or videos but you may be unable to apply it for combat

Following Dr Damian’s famous rule of three, we may classify instructional media into three categories:

  1. Teaching Manuals
  2. Review Material
  3. Records for Posterity

Please bear in mind that the classification is for convenience; there is often much overlapping.

The videos in my websites showing kungfu sets and combat sequences for students to learn before they attend respective courses are good examples of teaching manuals. Our students would have no difficulty learning them as they have the required skills.

Other people outside Shaolin Wahnam will also be able to learn these sets and sequences if they want to. But, unless they are already masters, they will not be able to attain a similar level as that of our students. It is because not only they are unlikely to appreciate the functional beauty of the sets and sequences as our student do, they also lack skills like energy flow and heightened state of mind that are characteristics of high-level kungfu.

Videos shown after some particular courses, like the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course and the Flower Set Course, are good examples of review material. Those who have attended the courses, will find the review material very useful.

Some of the review material, especially videos showing early lessons of the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course and Intensive Taijiquan Courses, can also be used as teaching manuals, including by people outside our school. If people can learn from the review videos, does it follow that they do not need to attend the courses?

No, it is not so. If they can learn from the videos or other teaching media, they will have more benefit from their kungfu training. But this benefit is nothing compared to the benefit they would get had they attended the courses. Even leaving aside a lot of material covering close secrets not shown to the public, but focusing only on public videos, other people only learn the form (including the form of combat application), but course participants not only learn but actually practice the skills, application and philosophy. You would have a better idea of the comparison if you consider that despite literally a sea of public material on kungfu application on the internet, most kungfu practitioners today cannot use their kungfu techniques in combat.

Books, videos and other media that are meant to be records for posterity are not suitable material for self-taught training, unless the practitioner is already a master. What many students do not realize is that many chi kung and kungfu classics belong to this category.

Let us take the often-mentioned classic, “Shaolin Seventy Two Arts”, as an example. The first art from my copy (in Chinese, reproduced from the Shaolin Temple) is known as “Art of Six-Word Stance”. I translate the instructions as follows:

  • What are the six words? They are ho, shi, fu, si, chu, hi. Everyday at mid-night and noon, sit in meditation, gently bite teeth and swallow saliva. Say these six words. This can erase illness of the five organs. Strengthen inner membrance. Necessary to say gently. Also necessary to complete in one breath. Results are marvellous.

The instructions are accompanied with a poem, translated literally as follows:

  • Green shu brightens eyes wood the liver
    Summer sun ho heart fire spontaneously lights
    Ho si stabilize and keep gold nourish lungs
    Winter chu water abundance organs at peace
    Triple-warmer long organ hi removes heat
    Four seasons fu spleen nurtures above
    Should not be audible to two ears
    Its benefit superior to nourishing spirit elixir

Please note that the spellings of the sounds are in Cantonese pronunciation, which is closer than Mandarin to Chinese spoken in the past. Even if the sounds are pronounced correctly, which is unlikely, there is the question of tone, which baffles most Westerners.

Hence, learning the “Art of Six-Word Stance” from books is out of the question. On the other hand, unless one has received direct oral transmission from a competent teacher on this ancient art, he should not teach it to others. Worse, bogus masters who have not learnt this art correctly may try to impress others by citing the relationship between these sounds with colours, seasons and internal organs, without actually knowing what it means.

Small Universe

Specific skills, like activating a small universal chi flow, need to be learnt personally from a master

You can also find some records for posterity in my website, such as the list of 72 Shaolin Chin-Na Techniques at http://www.shaolin.org/shaolin/chin-na.html and the poetic couplet of the Flower Set at http://wongkiewkit.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9496&page=10 , which is reproduced below:

  • Blossoming like plum flowers in full gear
    Swift wind rain storm clouds forming here

The third factor in the interplay deciding whether one can learn chi kung and kungfu from books, videos, e-mails and other media is the practitioner himself. Again using Dr Damian’s rule of three, we may conveniently classify practitioners into three categories:

  • Beginners
  • Intermediate Practitioners
  • Advanced Practitioners

It is difficult, if not impossible, for beginners to learn chi kung or kungfu from books, videos and other media. They may, with some effort, learn chi kung or kungfu external forms, but not the real art. In other words, they may know the techniques, and sometimes even perform them beautifully, but they would not obtain the benefits these arts or exercises are meant to give. Even students learning from live instructors miss the essence of chi kung and kungfu, what more will be those who learn from books or videos.

Intermediate students should have no problem learning chi kung or kungfu exercises of basic to intermediate levels from books, videos and other media, but they may have some difficulty learning high-level chi kung or kungfu that require special skills. For example, students in our school can learn most chi kung exercises from books or the internet, and probably perform them better than practitioners of the respective schools themselves.

Other people may think we are boastful making such a statement, but it is true. This is because most other practitioners practice these techniques as gentle physical exercise, but our students practice them as chi kung. Similarly, our students can learn kungfu sets from books or other media, and can apply at least some of the kungfu patterns in these sets for combat, whereas other practitioners who attend regular class may perform the external forms of the sets more beautifully than our students do, but they cannot apply them for combat.

However, if the chi kung exercises or kungfu sets require specific skills, our students may not be able to perform them well, though they may easily learn their outward form. An example in chi kung is the “Eighteen-Lohan Art”. If our students want to use the “Eighteen-Lohan Art” just to generate an energy flow, which is practicing chi kung at the basic level, they can readily learn it from books, videos or other media. But if they want to use the “Eighteen-Lohan Art” to develop internal force or to explode force in various ways, they will have to learn it from a competent teacher.

An example in kungfu is “San Zhan” or “Three Battles” of Wuzu Kungfu. If our students or other people want to learn the external form of the set, they can readily do so from books or videos. But if they want to use the set to develop internal force, or to appreciate the profound secrets hidden in its stark simplicity, they will have to learn it from a competent teacher.

Advanced practitioners, like our instructors, would not have such problems. If the secrets are revealed to them, they would be able to apply the secrets to the chi kung or kungfu exercises which they learn from books, videos or other media, to derive the desired benefits. This was why secrets were greatly sought after and highly valued by masters in the past. Once they knew the secrets, they could practice on their own to derive the desired results.

This also explains why our instructors can much help our students in their selective sets, even when the instructors themselves might not have previously learnt the sets. Because of the instructors’ scope and depth in understanding and practicing chi kung or kungfu, they are able to view the sets in ways their students are unable to.

Does this mean that advanced practitioners do not need to attend special courses? No, by attending special courses, not only they will obtain the results faster but the results are also better. Indeed, the more advanced they are, the more benefits they will get from the courses.

The flow method

From books or videos, one may learn the form, but not the skill in generating internal force

28th May 2011, Sungai Petani.

Jian and Dao

In relation to clarity of mind which I discussed in my earlier post, I would like to introduce an appropriate weapon that trains shen, the chinese sword or jian.

My Sifu, Grandmater Wong Kiew Kit, demonstrating the Traveling Dragon Sword

I must stress that the chinese sword is very much different from a western sword or samurai sword. The western swords and samurai swords are usually very heavy, and are used to chop, slash and hack at opponents. The chinese sword, on the other hand, is a dainty weapon that is light in comparison. It is used to slice and pierce at specific targets of the opponent. The western sword, or saber, and samurai sword more closely resemble the chinese dao.

The chinese dao is compared to a ferocious tiger whereas the chinese jian resembles a nimble phoenix.

Roaring fiercely with courage

A tiger’s strength and will

Dancing nimbly with clarity

A phoenix’s grace is tranquil

For example, I composed the short poem above to give poetic meaning to the functions and essence of the dao and jian in a short, concise manner. I credit my Shaolin Wahnam training which gave me the sudden inspiration and clarity of shen to create the impromptu poem. Training with the respective weapons long enough will eventually imbue upon the practitioner the qualities of the weapons.  A person training with a dao will eventually become more courageous and firm. A person training with a jian will develop his mental capabilities, hence the jian is the choice of weapon among scholar-warriors.

Sifu Michael Chow demonstrating Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife (Dao)

In closing, I would like to point out that our school uses the term knife to apply to the dao to maintain the chinese flavor. The jian is labeled as a Chinese sword. In Chinese, the sword refers to a light, straight, two-edged weapon, whereas a knife is heavier, curved and single-edged. The techniques and skills in using a Kung Fu knife are, naturally, different from those of a Chinese sword.