Grandmaster Wong performing a Taijiquan pattern, “White Crane Flaps Wings”
I will be taking part of the next Intensive Taijiquan Course in Sabah. It is the course I have been waiting for since I asked to be accepted as a student in 2009.
— Sifu Angel Perez Oliveras, Puerto Rico
The Intensive Taijiquan Course in Sabah from 25th to 31st March 2016 is excellent for you. It is a course that you must not miss. You will find that not only your martial art will be brought to a new wonderful level, but more importantly your life will be a joy everyday. It is indeed difficult for those doing Taiji dance to realize what they have missed in daily life.
You were already an international sparring champion. But when you apply Taijiquan on your opponents, who may be half or one-third your age, you will find them like children!. There is simply nowhere your opponents can counter your attack. I mentioned this before a few times, and I also realized that some people thought I was boastful, though I never meant to be, but I am merely stating the truth.
But, of course, another truth is that very, very few Taiji practitioners today, including many so-called masters, know Taijiquan combat. But Taijiquan combat is easy for you; you only have to change your Taekwondo techniques into Taijiquan techniques in sparring.
Yet, the best benefit of the Intensive Taijiquan Course is not combat efficiency. Combat efficiency is secondary, only a bonus, something some course participants may not even pay much attention to. One of the greatest benefits of the course is that you will be healthy, fit, fast and powerful, physically and mentally, even beyond 70. I am happy I can speak from personal experience.
I remember very well your advice then. It was during a Sinew Metamorphosis course in Las Vegas. I asked what to do in order to improve my Taiji dance, though I was not fully aware I was doing Taiji dancing at that time, but I could sense something wasn’t right.
Your advice was to incorporate what I had learned during the course with my Taiji practice — to enter the qigong state of mind, generate qi flow and perform my sets in qi flow. As expected my practice became alive!. I am very excited that I will finally be able to take part in an Intensive Taijiquan Course.
What you have done with your qigong training on Taijiquan, before you attend the Intensive Taijiquan Course, is excellent.
For those who have been doing Taiji dance and may not have the opportunity to attend an Intensive Taijiquan Course but have the opportunity to learn qigong from us, should follow you example and draw inspiration from your results.
When they perform their Taiji dance, they should enter into a qigong state of mind, generate a qi flow and perform their Taiji sets in qi flow. Their Taiji dance will come alive, it will become an internal art, no more just an external dance-like form.
But for the martial aspect of Taijiquan, they have to learn from our Taijiquan instructors or attend my Intensive Taijiquan Course.
We are incredibly generous with our Intensive Taijiquan Course. Even those who are not our Shaolin Wahnam students but have practiced Taiji dance for some time, can still join our course.
They have heard that by practicing genuine Taijiquan they can be fit and healthy as well as combat efficient even at old age. But if they do not believe in our claims, that is their business, not ours.
In fact, I am now thinking of offering the Intensive Taijiquan Course as well as the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course only to our Family members, and not open to the public. We need not be generous to the point of casing pearls before swines.
“Shift Horse Ask Way” from San Feng Wudang Set
I experienced some breakthroughs performing the 24-Pattern Set, which I had been practicing following your first advice. But since I was able to finally perform Dragon Strength Circulation Chi Set completely, I feel that the rest of my training had gone to a complete new dimension.
I cannot even imagine what will happen when I could assimilate and incorporate the full scope of what you will transmit in Sabah. I want to be as best prepared as possible, so I am training daily for the Intensive Taijiquan Course. I have been doing my stance training for quite some time now, learning and perfecting the 12 basic combat sequences, the four basic sets and of course the 24 Pattern Set
It is no surprise to me that you have some breakthroughs with the 24-Pattern Taijiquan Set. Although it is called a simplified set, it has wonderful benefits, especially when you practice it with the skills you have learned in our school
The Dragon Strength Circulation Chi Set is incredible, It is the pinnacle of my kiungfu development. Having attended the course, you will enhance whatever kungfu you practice, as well as whatever you do in your daily life.
You are preparing very well for the Intensive Taijiquan Course. You already have much internal force from your qigong training, but at the course we shall further learn the skills and techniques of developing internal force using Taijiquan methods. Most Taiji dancers have the techniques, but they don’t have the skills, and they don’t realize it.
Would now be a good time to ask what discoveries and ‘ah ha’ moments you have experienced while composing the San Feng Wudang Set?
— Sifu Tim Franklin, UK /p>
Editorial Note: This question was asked before the UK Simmer Camp 2015, but because of a long waiting list the answer is released here only now.
The discoveries and aha experiences occurred mostly not during the composition of the San Feng Wudang Set, not even during the reconstruction of Wudang Taijiquan from which the San Feng Set derived, but from the time I first practiced Taijiquan.
When I composed the San Feng Wudang Set, it was mainly shortening Wudang Taijiquan to a manageable length, while maintaining the spirit, principles and benefits of Wudang Taijiquan.
When I reconstructed Wudang Taijiquan from classical sources, I already have practiced and benefited from Taijiquan for quite some time. But what struck me impressively was that the Wudang Taijiquan Set was more like a Shaolin set than what many Taijiquan practitioners conceptualized Taijiquan to be.
Even the patterns from the Wudang Taijiquan Set were like Shaolin patterns, and their names were poetic like Shaolin pattern names, and not technical like many Yang Style Taijiquan patterns and some Chen Style Taijiquan patterns.
There were many discoveries and aha experiences when I first practiced Taijiquan, which was Yang Style Taijiquan at that time. I discovered that if I performed a Taijiquan set fast, it looked like Shaolin Kungfu, and if I performed a Shaolin set slowly it looked like Taijiquan.
Even at this early age I knew that Taijiquan had to be performed fast if it had to be used for combat. This was not a problem for me, I just performed it like Shaolin Kungfu. I was able to apply all Taijiquan patterns for combat because of my training in Shaolin combat application. This was quite an aha experience as most Taijiquan practitioners did not know the martial aspect of Taijiquan.
I was quite good at Taijiquan but did not teach it despite many requests. I considered my best to be Shaolin Kungfu, and I wanted to teach my best. It was Rama who rightly commented to me that although my best was Shaolin Kungfu, many people preferred Taijiquan for some legitimate reasons, and it would be a great pity if I did not teach them, that I changed my mind.
When I taught in Australia in the 1980s, before my regular travels to teach in the West in the 1990s, Ken, a Taijiquan instructor in Bendigo, requested me to show him some Taijiquan. I taught him how to develop internal force using Lifting Water. Not only he could develop internal force in just that session when he only heard about internal force before that, I myself was amazed at the tremendous amount of internal force I developed after lifting my arms only a few times.
With hindsight I later realized that I entered in a deep chi kung state of mind, and I also led Ken into a chi kung state of mind. I concluded that if I used the same methods but different Taijiquan patterns, I could also develop internal force.
This was a discovery and aha experience. If a practitioner performs his Taijiquan set or part of it slowly and gracefully, without intellectualizing and without tensing his muscles, he could develop internal force without having to perform other internal force training methods.
It also led to my discovery and aha experience that Taijiquan itself was chi kung, and that it was unnecessary to incorporate other chi kung methods from elsewhere, like Lifting the Sky and Carrying the Moon from Eighteen Lohan Hands, into Taijiquan to develop internal force.
This discovery had far-reaching effects, and later contributed to the flow method and the otherwise ridiculous concept that making any movements, including comical or odd movements, in a chi kung state of mind, we could generate a chi flow or develop internal force! This was indeed amazing, considering that many masters had spent years chasing after internal force but to no avail.
I also discovered and had aha experiences how Taijiquan could enrich Shaolin Kungfu. If a student was rigid in his movement, by practicing his Shaolin sequences as if he was perfroming Taijiquan, he could not only overcome his rigid problem but make his movements flowing.
I discovered two important reasons why a small-sized Taijiquan exponent could defeat a bigger-sized opponent. One reason was internal force. The other reason was Taijiquan mechanics, and the core of Taijiquan mechanics was waist rotation. By rotating the waist, many Shaolin techniques that were otherwise difficult to perform, became easy.
Waist rotation led to fa-jing, or exploding force. The Taijiquan principle of “starting from the back leg, rotating the waist and ending at the hand” became very useful. By applying the principle of rotating the waist, I could help Shaolin students not only to explode spiral force in “Black tiger Steals Heart”, but make their palm strikes powerful, realizing the Shaolin principle that the palm was more powerful than the fist.
Waist rotation and exploding force were also found in Shaolin Kungfu, but were emphasized in Taijiquan. My discoveries and aha experiences in Taijiquan enriched my practice and teaching of Shaolin Kungfu.
The Complete Book of Shaolin
Can we apply this positive attitude in our everyday life even when situations are negative?
— Raphael, Austria
Yes, we can. There are countless attitude one can adopt in any situation, but all these attitudes can be divided into two broad categories, the negative way which most people adopt, and the positive way which is the Shaolin Wahnam way.
This positive attitude, or the Shaolin Wahnam way, can be applied to all situations, including negative situations. Suppose a person is very sick and he consults a doctor. After examining the patient, the doctor can adopt a negative attitude, like telling the patient that he is going to die, or adopt a positive attitude, telling the patient that he has a chance to recover.
It is important to note that in both cases the doctor is not telling a lie. The patient will die one day, regardless of whether it will happen in a few months’ time or after fifty years. It is also possible that the patient will recover even when he suffers form a so-called incurable disease.
The doctor’s attitude is very important, not only to the patient but also to himself. Whether his attitude is negative or positive will not change the present reality; irrespective of what the doctor thinks, the patient is still sick with a serious illness. But it will greatly affect how the future will unfold. It will not only bring grief or joy to the patient, but also affect what his treatment will be like.
The patient’s reaction can also be negative or positive irrespective of other people’s opinion. If the doctor told hem that he would die, he could reply that the doctor was wrong and he would live. If the doctor told him that he had a chance to recover, he could say that it was not just a chance but he would certainly recover, and return to thank the doctor with a bunch of flowers.
What is the most important character trait for a Shaolin practitioner to have to take his art to the highest level?
— Jinne, Canada
The main character trait for a Shaolin practitioner to have to take his art to the highest level is gratitude. This may be a surprise to some people who may think it is determination or intelligence or something else, but from my many years of experience both as a student and a teacher, it is gratitude. In fact, gratitude is needed at all levels.
At a beginning level, a student needs to have gratitude to learn effectively from his teacher If he lacks gratitude, like if he practices according to what he thinks is correct and not according to what his teacher asks him to do, which many students do often without their realizing, he will miss the essence of the art right at the beginning.
If a student lacks gratitude at the intermediate level, he will not progress to the advanced level. Compared to other students he may have accomplished much, especially when kungfu and chi kung today have degraded beyond recognition. where students hurt themselves with free exchange of blows instead of learning to defend themselves in kungfu, or perform outward forms as gentle exercise without any experience of energy flow in chi kung. But he will be stagnant at this level. But if he is grateful that he has an opportunity to learn an esoteric art, he will follow his master’s teaching and progress.
It is often at the advanced level where students would one day become masters themselves that these students fail. As they have attained abilities not available to most other practitioners, they become disrespectful and arrogant, thinking that there is no much they can get from their masters. If they have gratitude, they can overcome this hurdle. As they are arrogant they will also not benefit from other masters or other sources.
One-Finger Shooting Zen
Besides the books you have written, what other books you would recommend?
I read many books in my younger days, especially when I was at university, ranging from science to religion, from literature to medicine, and many of them were wonderful. I would mention a few that come readily to mind. Most of which were published many years ago.
The Limits of Science by Pierre Rousseau
Frontiers by Isaac Asimov
Mathematics for the Million by Lancelot Hogben
Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I also read many kungfu and other martial art books in English, but generally I was not impressed except Tai Chi Chin Na by Dr Yang Jwing Ming which was outstandinig.
Of course I read many kungfu and chi kung classics in Chinese. Three of the classics I cherished much are
Classic of Shaolin Kungfu — a rare collection of 40 volumes compilled by the Venerable Fu Ju in the year 901 in the Song Dynasty
Internal Cultivation of Zhang San Feng
Shaolin Internal Arts
The classic that has a great impact on my spiritual cultivation is “Awakening of Faith in Mahayana”, written by Asvaghosha in Sanskrit in the 2nd century Before the Common Era, and translated into Chinese by Paramartha in the 6th century of the Common Era. The Chinese text was very concise and short, but has very profound significance.
It inspired me to write a long translation, interpretation and commentary of the work. The manuscript, written many years ago and entitled “In Quest of Cosmic Reality”, is still unpublished, but I consider it to be one of my best writings.
Many people kindly wrote to tell me that they had enjoyed and benefitted much from my published books, and some said that they had found my books the best they had read on the respective subjects.
Of these books, the one I like best is my autobiography, “The Way of the Master”. It contains many interesting stories, and reveals many secrets.
Other recommendable books include:
The Complete Book of Zen
The Art of Chi Kung
The Complete Book of Shaolin
The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine
The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan
In writing these books, I ensured that even if readers were not interested in the subject matter, they would enjoy reading them.
If you could choose one stance or move to train to the highest level, what would it be?
If I would choose just one stance or move to train to the highest level, it would be “One-Finger Shooting Zen” in kungfu and “Lifting the Sky” in chi kung.
“One-Finger Shooting Zen” provides tremendous internal force and mental clarity, which enhance not only all aspects of kungfu but also all aspects of daily life.
The benefits of “Lifing the Sky” range from the very basic to the very advanced and everything in between. At the very basic level, “Lifting the Sky” enables a practitioner to be relaxed. At the most advanced level, it enables a practitioner to merge with Cosmic Reality, called variously as returning to God the Holy Spirit, attaining Enlightenment or merging with the Great Void. “Lifting the Sky” both circulates and builds energy, satisfying the two essential dimensions of all chi kung training.
Of course, a practitioner must perform “One-Finger Shooting Zen” and “Lifting the Sky” correctly as internal arts. Unfortunately, most practitioners today perform “One-Finger Shooting Zen” as gymnastics and “Lifting the Sky” as gentle physical exercise, missing their essence and wonderful benefits.
These two wonderful exercises have great sentimental values for me. They were the first exercises I learned tom my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, country and e-mail address.
An important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is force training
Can Sifu please tell us more about how training in Sigung’s school was? How many students did Sigung teach and how many people trained together in a class?
When I met Sisook, Sigungs’s eldest son, recently in Penang he told us that a minimum requirement for beginners was to sit in the Horse-Riding Stance for a whole hour. Can Sifu please tell us more about the training procedure and the progression of the students during this initial phase? How does the outcome of this approach compare to our comparatively short, but powerful stance training sessions in regards to immediate and long-term effects?
We also learned about a technique that Sisook called “sleeping” which is lying between two chairs. Can Sifu tell us more about this technique?
Sifu Leonard Lackinger
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Recalling my days training under my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, is both nostalgic and memorable. They were some of the happiest days of my life, and I am eternally grateful to my sifu for his kindness and teaching.
Much of the time at my initial stage of training, I trained alone. There were no other students, and my sifu was often not present. I went to my sifu’s house, which also acted as a temple, every afternoon to train. These were sessions of training, not learning.
Sometimes when my sifu was at home, he would watched me, nodded and then walked away. Sometimes he would say, “Very good, carry on!” Occasionally he would teach me a technique or two, and I would practice and practice it to become skilful.
At my sifu’s house there was a big altar where many statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Taoist gods were worshipped. Students voluntarily offered a joss stick — just one joss stick — at a main incense burner. Initially, due to my ignorance and arrogance, I never did that. I remember telling myself that I went there to learn kungfu, not religion. But after an intimate conversation with Immortal Li, for whom I am also eternally grateful, I always offered a joss stick before I started training.
Later I requested to train at my sifu’s house at night where some of my seniors also trained. There were not many of them, usually just three or four. My sifu was very selective in accepting students, though I was quite surprised that he accepted me quite readily. I was not only the youngest in kungfu age but also the weakest. My seniors literally handled me in sparring like a small boy, though later due to my dedicated training I could put up some semblance of defence.
It may be of interest to note that before I joined my sifu’s class I could beat all other martial artists in free sparring. But then I chose my sparring partners carefully, and I did a lot of homework before I sparred. With hindsight, this was the seed of my 30-opponent programme.
With foresight, this may inspire our family members in Shaolin Wahnam of the tremendous depth of kungfu. It was not without good reasons, and certainly not due to vanity but with much frustration, when I said that it was not difficult to beat other martial artists in free sparring — if our family members confidently used kungfu, and put in a bit of free sparring practice.
All my four sifus, who were patriarchs in their arts, placed a lot of importance on the Horse-Riding Stance. Some of my seniors came to class just to practice the stance. Indeed, most of the time of training of my seniors was either force training or combat application. There was not much time spent on set practice.
However, I did not have to spend much time on stance training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. This was probably because my stances were already good. My sifu asked me to show him the stances. He said they were good, and he moved on to other aspects of kungfu training. In fact he taught me Lifting the Sky before even asking me to show him the stances. After seeing my stances, he taught me One-Finger Shooting Zen. I still remember very well what he told me right at the start.
“One-Finger Shooting Zen is very important in Shaolin training,” he said. “It developed two of the most important of the Shaolin arts, dim mak and tiger-claw. Here we teach the best right at the beginning so that you have sufficient time to practice. Practice it every day. “
Right at the beginning of my kungfu career with Uncle Righteousness, I knew the Horse-Riding Stance was very important. “People in the past practiced only the Horse-riding Stance for at least a year or two,” I was often told, even by people who themselves did not know kungfu. But I did not know in details why was stance training so important. I only knew that the stances formed the foundation of kungfu, but did not know why.
Later I discovered that stance training sunk our chi to our dan tian. All kungfu movements were built upon stances. It developed internal force. Much later I discovered that it also developed mental clarity.
The Horse-Riding Stance in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school was different from that in most other kungfu schools, like the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness. Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was higher and narrower, and was pyramid shaped. Uncle Righteousness’ Horse-Riding Stance was lower and wider, and was box-shaped.
Interestingly, the Horse-Riding Stance I learned from my other two sifus, Sifu Chee Kim Thong and Sifu Choy Hoong Choy, was also high and narrow. But at that time I thought of them as a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wuzuquan and a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wing Choon Kungfu, and not as Horse-Riding Stance in general. I associate the Horse-Riding Stance in general with the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness, as most other kungfu schools, especially Hoong Ka, also performed the stance in this way.
Thus, I was initially surprised why Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was quite high. But as a good student, I just followed what my sifu taught me.
Another important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is combat application
The higher and narrower Horse-Riding Stance was certainly more comfortable. It was later after I had started teaching that I discovered that the higher and narrow Horse-Riding Stance, which gave it a pyramid-shape, better facilitated cosmic energy to be accumulated at the dan tian, thus building internal force.
Students at Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school practiced individually, not in a group, i.e. each student practiced his kungfu on his own, though often they paired for sequence training or free sparring. They also arrived at and left the school at their own convenience, though they might leave at the same time to end the night session.
Students usually started their training with stances and One-Finger Shooting Zen. This was how I usually started my practice too, though my sifu did not spent time formally teaching me the stances. Next they practiced their own kungfu set, or part of it. Often they started with Four Gates, the fundamental set, or part of it. Then they got a partner to practice combat sequences or free sparring, or practiced force training on their own, like rubbing their arms against hard edges of pillars and Iron Palm.
Students seldom practiced a whole kungfu set, but go over again and again some sequences in the set. Hence, sequence sparring came naturally to us. Weapon training was seldom. The weapon most frequently practiced was the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff.
The training procedure I went through was “ku lian”, or “bitter-training”. Ku-lian i.e. enduring long hours of training before one could get a little benefit, is also the approach of most kungfu practitioners in the past as well as today, including those who practice kungfu forms for demonstration or bounce about in free exchange of blows. But my ku-lian certainly gave me more benefits than to most other practitioners.
In contrast, the training procedure of our students in Shaolin Wahnam is a big joke. We tell our students not to train too hard, least they over-train. We tell our students that achieving just 30% of what they achieved while learning in courses taught by me is sufficient to meet their needs. We tell our students to enjoy themselves — and we really mean it.
Yet, despite such enjoyment and less time in training, our students get more benefit than I got when I was a student. And by extension, as I was a very good student with a high level of attainment, our students have more benefits in less time than most other practitioners. Indeed, as some of our instructors have rightly commented, many of our students do not realise how very lucky they are.
Our approach is simply ridiculous in regard to both immediate and long-term effects. Students who practice stance training in my courses experienced internal force discernibly immediately after the training session. In my student’s days in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school I would need about 3 months to experience similar internal force. With Uncle Righteousness who was famous for his fighting, and with Sifu Chee Kim Thong who was famous for his internal force, I did not feel any internal force after training the Horse-Riding Stance for many years!
Students who attended my courses would experience a chi flow on the very first day of their training. It took me more than a year training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam for me to experience a chi flow, and it was nothing like what our typical students now experience. I did not have any chi flow training with my other sighs.
Internal force is the essence of good kungfu. Chi flow is the essence of any chi kung.
The long-term effects of our students are marvellous. After training in our school for a year, internal force enables our students to attain peak performance, chi flow enables our students to overcome illness, and to have good health, vitality and longevity.
Until I trained with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I did not experience any internal force earlier although I underwent stance training delicately. Hence, I cannot say that internal force contributed to my peak performance in my earlier years.
When I was sick in my earlier years, which was actually seldom, I had to take medication. I did not know that chi flow could overcome illness. More importantly I did not know that chi flow could prevent illness.
Once when I was injured by my siheng in free sparring, my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, who was an excellent traumatologist, applied medication on me for six months. If I had a chi flow immediately, I could have flushed out the injury in less than half an hour!
More significantly, chi flow gives our students good health, vitality and longevity. I have no doubt that my kungfu training, despite without chi flow in my earlier years, has contributed greatly to my good health, vitality and longevity, but I did not know the philosophy of how it worked as our students know it now. I also did not know in my student’s days how to transfer the benefits of my kungfu training to enrich my daily life, although it must have done so unknowingly, as our students now do.
The technique of lying between two chairs is called “tit pan kiew” in Cantonese or “tie ban jiao” in Mandarin, which means “iron-plank-bridge” in English. It is a very powerful internal force training method. My sifu taught me this method secretly. I don’t know whether he also taught other students.
When I accidentally placed my arm or leg on my wife, she complained that it was very heavy though I did not intentionally apply any force. This gave an idea how powerful “iron-plank-bridge” was.
Actually I almost forgot about this training method, though at the time when I learned from my sifu, I practiced it diligently every night. One reason is that we now have so many effective force training methods which are certainly more comfortable.