Sifu Wong at the International Congress for the Unity of Science in Seoul in 2000
Five Steps to Maximum Results
Why can some people attain in six months what others may not attain in six years? This is not an exaggeration; indeed, many of my students have reported that they have benefitted in a few months what they could only read about in books but never experienced although they had previously practiced the art in question for many years. Chi kung and kungfu (including Taijiquan) provide some glaring, if not disturbing, examples.
It is not uncommon today to find practitioners who have been in chi kung or kungfu for many years, some of whom are even instructors themselves, but who have no experience whatsoever of energy flow or any ability of self defence. Yet, the very fundamental of chi kung is energy flow, and that of kungfu is self defence. It is even more disturbing when some people, irrespective of whether their intention is good or selfish, start to teach chi kung or Taijiquan, which is actually a very effective form of martial art, after they have learnt some chi kung or Taijiquan movements for a few weeks, some even for a few days!
If you learn from such self-taught “masters” you are not going to get good results even if you practice for a whole lifetime. On the other hand, if you learn form a genuine master, you will get better results in a much shorter time. Nevertheless, while learning from a genuine master, or at least a competent instructor, is important, there are other contributing factors too, and they are generalized into the following Five Steps to Deriving the Best Benefits from Your Training:
Have a sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art you practice.
Define your aims and objectives clearly.
Seek a master for the best available methods to attain your aims and objectives.
Practice, practice and practice.
Assess your progress or otherwise with direct reference to your set aims and objectivs.
Philosophy, Scope and Depth
Understanding the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art is the essential first step if you want good result. Such an understanding acts like a map; it not only shows you the way and how to get there, but also the potential result at the destination.
Without this understanding, many people not only waste a lot of time and are often lost along the way, but also they do not actually know what they are working at. If they understand, for example, that to practice chi kung or Taijiquan, actually means to work on energy flow or to train for combat efficiency, far less people would have wasted their time over exercises that at best are gymnastics or dance.
If they further understand that the scope and depth of chi kung are much more than just energy flow, though working on energy flow is its essential foundation; and that the scope and depth of great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan ae not just combat efficiency, though combat efficiency is the basic starting point, they would go beyond the foundation and basic to greater heights like vitality, longevity, mind expansion and spiritual fulfilment.
Where can you obtain knowledge on the philosophy, scope and depth of your chosen art? There are two main sources: living masters and established classics. Obviously if you hear it from a self-styled scholar who himself has not experienced what he says, or read it from a book which merely repeats cliches, you are unlikely to benefit much. Living masters were rare even in the past; they are rarer nowadays.
If you are so lucky to meet one, treat him with the respect as you would treat a living treasure. Showing Respect to the Master suggests the minimum you should do when meeting a living treasure. If you politely ask him relevant questions, he would answer them. If he gives excuses like the answers are too complicated for you to comprehend, or they involve secrets that you should not know (unless they really are secrets, which are not frequent in general questions), you are justified in suspecting whether he is a real master.
Established classics were also rare in the past, but they are more readily available today. You need to overcome two obstacles to understand the classics. One, you need to know classical Chinese; and two, you need to have some background knowledge. Most people, especially in the West, have neither of these two conditions. Their alternative is modern, easy-to-read books clearly written and well illustrated by practicing masters. Therefore, in chosing a book for your prior reading, you should decide on the following three factors: whether the book is dull or interesting, whether it is written in jargon or simple language, and whether the author and his material are authentic.
It is so evident that without aims and objectives much of the learning or training is usually unfruitful, that mentioning this fact may become trite. Yet, most people practice chi kung or kungfu without set aims and objectives! Try asking some practitioners why do they practice chi kung or kungfu, and many of them will start searching for their aims or objectives after, not before, they have heard your question. Even if they have prior aims and objectives, often they are merely fashionable slogans, rather than real definitions to remind them of the direction of their training.
For our purpose here, aims are general in their definition, and long-term in their attainment; whereas objectives are specific and short-term. For example, to be able to defend yourself is a general aim in your Taijiquan training, whereas to be able to release yourself from some particular locks and holds constitutes an objective. You should also set a time frame within which to accomplish your aims or objectives. Needless to say, you have to be realistic and reasonable when setting your time. For someone who has been suffering from an illness for years, for instance, it would be unreasonable to expect the disease to be overcome by just practicing certain chi kung exercises for only a few weeks.
For convenience, objectives may be classified into personal objectives and course objectives. The choice of personal objectives depends on the needs and abilities of the person in question, and sometimes on his whims and fancy. Developing the art of tiger-claw, and performing well the Five Animals kungfu set are examples of personal objectives in Shaolin Kungfu training.
Course objectives are related to the particular set of chi kung or kungfu exercises you intend to train for a period of time. For example, you may wish to spend six months on Golden Bridge training in Shaolin Kungfu, or on the Three Circles Stance in Taijiquan. In either case, developing powerful arms and solid stances is an appropriate course objective.
To define your aims and objectives wisely (please read the webpage Aims and Objectives of Practicing Kung Fu), it is necessary to have some sound knowledge of the philosophy, scope and depth of the art in question. For example, if you do not understand that chi kung also promotes mind expansion and spiritual cultivation, you will be in no position to touch on the mind and spirit while you define your aims and objectives. If you think (mistakenly) that Taijiquan is merely moving your body, arms and legs gracefully, the aims and objectives you set for your Taijiquan training, no matter for how long you may practice, are necessarily limited by your narrow perspective.
Seeking a Master for the Best Available Methods
Sifu Wong posting with his teacher, Sigong Ho Fatt Nam, many years ago
Having set your aims and objectives, the next logical step is to seek a master to help you realize your aims and objectives. Good masters are hard to find; you have to spend some time seeking them, but it is worth all your time and effort. The webpage Qualities of a Good Master will give you some ideas what to look for in your search. Remember it is you who seek the master; he may have neither the need nor the obligation to teach you. It is simply amazing why some people presume that just because they want to learn, a master is duty-bound to teach them. It is also illogical to presume that a master would not charge any fee for his teaching, that he could live on sunshine and water. The right attitude, which often turns out to be the best approach to a master, is for you to prove yourself to be a worthy student.
If you cannot find a master, at least look for a competent instructor, who must qualify in the following two conditions. One, he must be professional, i.e. he knows what he is teaching. Someone who teaches a profund art like chi kung or kungfu, after having learnt it for a few months, literally does not know what he is teaching. He does not know, for instance, that he is teaching chi kung-like or kungfu-like dance or gymnastics and not real chi kung or kungfu. The second condition is that he must be ethical, i.e. he ensures what he teaches is beneficial, and if his students develop adverse side-effects he knows about them and is capable of rectifying them.
A good master will choose the best available methods for you to achieve your aims and objectives. The selection will depend on numerous variables, such as your needs and abilities, the master’s repertoire as well as environmental factors and supportive resources. You may sometimes wonder if the choice made is a good one, but if he is a good master and has accepted you as his student, it is almost always certain that he will choose the best method and procedure for you.
Alternatively, you may have known from your reading or elsewhere some useful methods to accomplish your aims and objectives. Your task, therefore, is to seek for a master who can teach you your selected methods. However, if he advises you to make any changes — such as in your aims or objectives, your previously selected methods, or the procedure of training — it is again almost always certain that with his wider perspective and experience, he knows your needs and how to fulfill them better than you do. It is not without justification for the saying that real masters are worth more than their weight in gold.
Practice, Practice and Practice
The fourth step is the most important and takes the most time. It is significant to note that this step is “practice, practice and practice”, and not “learn, learn and learn”. In fact, frequently in chi kung and kungfu, especially at this stage, the more you learn the less you accomplish! This does not mean that learning is detrimental; in fact, learning about the philosophy, scope and depth of chi kung or kungfu is the first essential step to obtaining the best result in your training. But if your training is geared towards chi kung or kungfu proficiency, it is detrimental merely to learn, learn and learn.
There are some crucial differences between practicing and learning. Practicing is practical and experiential; learning is theoretical and intellectual. Practicing deals with what has been known; its purpose is to develop and consolidate skills, force or ability. Learning deals with what is to be known; its purpose is to obtain new knowledge.
Masters are made through practice, scholars through learning. Masters perform, and directly experience what they profess. Chi kung or kungfu masters, for example, can demonstrate internal force, and experience vitality and mental freshness. Scholars merely talk, but often have no direct experience of what they know. Nowadays there are many chi kung and kungfu scholars, especially in the West, but there are very few masters, even in the East.
If you want to become a master, or just to be proficient, in chi kung or kungfu, you simply cannot escape this long process of practice, practice and practice. You do not practice just three times, or for three months, but preferably at least for three years. There is a saying that “three years of practice will bring a small success; ten years a big success”. What you practice may be simple, and usually consists of only one or a few techniques!
Actually it does not really matter what you practice, so long as you practice, practice and practice long enough, you will become a master of what you practice — even if your chosen method is inferior. If you continuously strike your palms onto a sand bag, or strike your leg against a coconut tree every day for three years — methods which are considered “inferior” in our Shaolin Wahnam School of Chi Kung and Kungfu — you will become a master of iron palm or iron leg, and may have the power to kill a person with just one strike. Unless you are particularly fond of showing off your brute strength, breaking bricks or someone’s bones with your palm or leg is normally not a rewarding thing to do. Hence, if you have acquired a good philosophical background in your first step, you will be in a better position to choose a “superior” method to practice in this fourth step for more rewarding results.
Assessing Progress According to Aims and Objectives
Combat Application of Shaolin Kungfu
You should access your progress, or otherwise, according to your set aims and objectives. You must, of course, follow your master’s advice and the conditions required by the method of training. If your master asks you to breathe slowly and gently, it is sheer folly to attempt to be smarter than the teacher by breathing fast or forcefully. If the method requires you to practice daily for six months, it is a waste of your time and your teacher’s effort if you discontinue your training after three weeks because you have not experienced any effect.
If you follow your master’s advice and practice according to the requirements of the established method, you will obtain the results that method is reputed to give. For example, Self-Manifested Chi Movement is reputed to clear energy blockage and balance energy level, and the pattern Grasping Sparrow’s Tail in Yang Style Taijiquan is reputed to be an effective counter against all modes of attack. If you have practiced them correctly and adequately, you will have your energy blockage cleared, and be able to defend against all attacks. Why is this so? It is because the methods are established, which means they have been time tested for centuries to produce the expected results.
If you do not derive the expected results, which may sometimes happen, the fault is usually traceable to one or more of the following three causes:
the practice is incorrect or insufficient
the teacher is incompetent
the student is inadequate
Rectify the fault and the expected results will follow as a matter of course.
Your assessment is made not only at the completion of the training but also regularly during the course itself. Of course modifications, but not complete changes, are made when necessary, but they should be done with the master’s approval and supervision.
These Five Steps to Maximun Results may enable you not only to obtain remarkable results in shorter time, but also to approach the full potential your training can offer. For example, students who do not have the benefit of these five steps may be quite contented in their chi kung or kungfu training once they can cure their illness or attain combat efficiency, thinking that is all what chi kung and kungfu can do. Others who follow the five steps will understand a wider scope and greater depth of their art, and will therefore in a position to derive other benefits like mental clarity and spiritual joy.
The Five Steps show not only the procedure to follow but also the relevant dimensions to cover, involving all the three essentials in any training, namely the method, the teacher and the student. Hence, with this understanding one can appreciate that to get the best results in any training, be it chi kung, Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu, playing the piano or painting, merely having good techniques is not enough, he (or she) must also have a good teacher and himself be a good student. With such advantages and foresight, it is not surprising you can achieve in six months what others may not be able to do so in six years.
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 email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
Creating the right mental frame for the best learning.
An old photograph showing Sifu Wong (in his teens) performing a Hoong Ka kungfu set with his master, Sifu Lai Chin Wah, popularly known as Uncle Righteousness (middle behind in white T-shirt), looking on.
An art is best learnt in its culture. One remarkable difference between the culture of the East and the West is the respect shown to a master. In this connection I have little complaint because my students, from both the East and the West, generally show much respect to me. But I have met many Eastern masters commenting on the lack of respect, sometimes utter disrespect, shown to them.
Often it is because of the Western students’ ignorance of Eastern ways rather than their wilful discourtesy that their Eastern masters of chi kung or kungfu (including taijiquan) regard as disrespect. The following are some simple and helpful points both Eastern and Western students may follow to show the respect deservedly due to their masters.
ADDRESSING THE MASTER CORRECTLY
Sifu Wong (in his 40’s) with his master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the Shaolin Monastery
First of all you must know how to address your master correctly, something which many Western students are ignorant of. Never, never, never call your master by his name, especially if he comes from a Eastern culture. In some Western societies it may be considered personal and desirable to call your senior or even your boss by his first name, but in chi kung or kungfu culture it is considered extremely rude.
It is worthwhile to remember that your master is not your peer or equal. Your master is at least one, but usually many levels above you, otherwise he cannot and should not be your master. The proper way to address your chi kung or kungfu master is “Sifu”, which is the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language for “Master”. The Mandarin pronunciation is “Shifu”.
Actually if a great master answers you when you call him “Sifu”, you are, not he is, honoured; it shows he accepts you as a student. I always felt greatly honoured whenever I called my masters Lai Chin Wah and Ho Fatt Nam “Sifu”, because they were two of the greatest masters I had found.
If your master’s surname is Chen, you should call him “Sifu”, or “Master” if you want to sound Western, but strictly speaking not “Sifu Chen” or “Master Chen” for that is the address the public, not his students, would call him. If you call him “Sifu Chen” or “Master Chen” you are distancing yourself from him.
Besides showing propriety in your address, you should also show propriety in your behaviour. Do not, for example, put your hand around him, pat him on his shoulder, or hug him — leave that to his wife, which following Eastern social etiquette is also only done in private.
When you stand or sit in front of or near him, hold yourself upright. You need not stand at attention like a private in front of his sergeant major, but you should not stand sloppily, with arms akimbo or hands in your pockets. When you sit do not cross your legs with a foot pointing at him, or expose your groins to him even though they are hidden by your pants.
It is only sensible that you should listen when your master speaks, especially if he is explaining some points. Yet, it is not uncommon to find some adult students (male as well as female) lying on the floor, sometimes with their hands folded at the back of their head, their eyes close and their legs open in an inviting position! This shows not so much a disrespect to the master, but an utter lack of good manners on the part of the students.
ENTERING AND LEAVING A CLASS
It is also bad manners to arrive at your class late. In the past in the East, late students would be asked to go home, or to leave permanently if they were late habitually. The logic is simple: the master has something invaluable to offer; if you come late you tacitly show that you do not value his teaching. But if there is a valid reason for your being late, you should first greet him from the door, walk quietly but briskly to him, respectfully wait if he is pre-occupied, then explain your reason and apologize.
On the other hand, you should wait patiently if the master is late — even for hours! If you think this is unfair, you are probably not ripe for great arts. There are stories of great masters who purposely arrived late, not for hours but for days, and then passed on their secrets to the few wise, patient students. Although it seldom happens nowadays, it will reflect a splendid grasp of chi kung and kungfu culture if you and your classmates stop whatever you are doing, stand up respectfully, bow and greet your master as he comes in.
Do not leave your class half-way. But if you have to leave early for some reason, explain that to your master before-hand and politely ask his permission. At the appointed time, ask his permission again, then bow and thank him before leaving. At the end of a class, the students should leave after the master, not before he does. However, if the master stays back for a considerable length of time, such as explaining some points to some students who stay behind to ask him, other students may leave first, after bowing to the master.
In the East, it is customary for the teacher to arrive last and leave first. Interestingly, it is often the reverse in the West. The teacher, Western in culture if not in race, often arrives the earliest, sweeps the floor and prepares cookies and drinks which he will serve during recess to his students, who will joke and laugh. At the end of the class, the teacher will stand at the door, shake the students’ hands and thank them for their attendance. He will then throw away the garbage his students have left behind if he still has energy left, and check that everyone has gone home before he closes the door.
OFFERING A CUP OF TEA
In Eastern culture it is always the students who offer drinks to the teacher. When you offer your master a cup of tea, it is preferable to do so with two hands. In Eastern societies, accepting a cup of tea and drinking it has deeper significance than merely quenching thirst.
In the past, even if someone had done you great wrong, if he or she offered you a cup of tea, usually while kneeling down and then knocking his or her head on the ground, and you, sitting down in front of other witnesses, accepted and drank it, it meant that you accepted his or her apology, were ready to forgive all the wrong, and would not take any action whatsoever in future.
The students should also offer a seat to the master, and the seat chosen is usually the best one available. If the master is not seated, the students should remain standing, unless the master asks them to sit down. If they dine together, the students would wait until the master has made his first move to eat or drink.
DON’T BE INSULTING
When your master is explaining or demonstrating something to you, listen attentively and respectfully. Do not bluntly say you already know what he is teaching, even if you really know. In chi kung and kungfu culture, doing so is not being straight-forward, it is being insulting — you are implying that the master does not know what he is doing.
I recall some occasions when my masters taught me something that I already had learnt quite well. Thanks to my training in Eastern culture, I followed their instructions faithfully although they appeared very simple and below my level then. Only much later did I realize that had I not follow these apparently simple instructions I would not have acquired the foundation necessary for advanced development.
Do not ever make the fatal mistake of telling a master what or how to teach you. This is not only unbecoming, it is also very foolish, for you will be denying yourself the very purpose why you need him. If he is a master, he knows best what and how to help you attain your best results; he is able to see your needs and development in ways far beyond your limited perspective.
FOR THE STUDENTS’ INTEREST
Some westerners may find the above-described master-student relationship odd, just as those accustomed to Eastern culture would find the behaviour of some western students unbelievable. It may be more surprising, especially for those who think they are doing the master a favour by paying him a fee to learn, to know that all these customs of respect for the master are actually for the students’, not the master’s, interest.
Someone who teaches kungfu dance or gentle exercise for a living will probably care more for your fees than your respect, but a master whose art gives you good health, vitality, mental freshness and spiritual joy actually does not care whether you respect him more or your dog. But those students who have experienced the wonderful benefits of genuine kungfu and chi kung will understand that the respect given to the master is not only a sincere token of appreciation to the master for sharing his art, but also constitutes an ideal psychological state for the training to take place.
Grandmaster has often said that he remained unbeaten in his early days not because he was combat efficient but because he was smart; he spent a lot of time preparing for his upcoming free sparring
Sigung, you were unbeaten in sparring in your young days. Can you please share your secret with us?
— Peter, Ireland
I used to say “in my young days”, but Douglas, my most senior student in Europe, reminded me at the time when I was about 50 that I was still young, so I have changed the expression to “my younger days”. Even now when I am over 70 and still feel young, I use the expression “in my younger days”.
In my younger days, especially between about 20 to 40 years of age, I spent a lot of time looking for sparring partners. At first I could beat them not because I was good but because I was smart. I chose opponents whom I had confidence of beating.
I made my victory doubly sure by doing a lot of homework, i.e. by practicing over and over again sequences which I used in the sparring. I devised the sequences from the way I expected my opponents would fight. This was not difficult because most of my opponents then were Taekwondo and Karate exponents, with some Boxing and Judo practitioners, and the way they fought was quite stereotyped.
For example, if I had to spar with a Taekwondo black-belt, I knew that he would probably start with some jabbing or side kicks, then round-house kicks, and eventually reverse round-house. So I would avoid his initial jabbing and side kicks, slant my body backward to avoid his round-house kicks, and when he executed a reverse round-house I would swiftly move forward with a coup de grace. I would practice this sequence many, many times, sometimes with modifications. When the actual situation occured during sparring, and this planned scenario almost always happened, I could use my practiced sequence to defeat my opponent easily. I always gently tapped my opponents; I never hurt them.
Having learnt from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, my combat efficiency, including my internal force, improved tremendously. But initially I still used the same strategy. I chose sparring opponents whom I had confidence in beating, and I did a lot of homework. But gradually I did not have to do much homework as I could respond spontaneously and correctly to opponents’ attacks. As I became confident of my combat efficiency, I did not go out to look for sparring opponents.
I always used kungfu, including good stances, in my sparring. I never used Kick-Boxing, Muay Thai or any other martial arts, although I sparred with opponents from all styles. The difference was that in my earlier years of sparring I used simple punches and kicks, whereas in my later years my techniques were more sophisticated, like felling and chin-na. I discovered that when I used sophisticated kungfu techniques, my opponents just did not know how to defend against them.
So, if I have to give a secret for my unbeaten sparring record, I would say that I used a superior fighting art against opponents whose fighting arts were inferior to mine. Presuming that the skill levels were about equal, if I used simple punches and kicks, my opponents would have no difficulty defending against them. But if I used sophisticated techniques, like subtle felling and chin-na attacks, together with tactics and strategies that created situations for me to apply these attacks, my opponents had no techniques in their repertoire to defend.
What are the effects of over-training?
— Sascha, Switzerland
For convenience, over-training may be divided into three stages.
At the most serious level, a practitioner who has over-trained becomes very weak and sick, or may even die. It is unlikely that practitioners who have over-trained will arrive at this serious stage, certainly not in our school.
But in my younger days, before I started Shaolin Wahnam Institute, I met a well-known kungfu master, who was a daughter-in-law of a kungfu patriarch, who either had over-trained or had practiced wrongly. As I knew him previously he was strong and full of vitality. When I last saw him, he was extremely weak and sickly. I regretted that I did not know chi kung healing them, or else I would have helped him recover.
The intermediate stage of over-training was when over-cleansing was clearly noticeable. Over-cleansing is the result of over-training, but practitioners are often confused over both these conditions. The symptoms are pain, tiredness, sleepiness and feeling of nauseousness. The practitioner who has over-trained feels unpleasant and uncomfortable, and is sometimes sick.
At the beginning stage of over-training, the practitioner feels tired and sleepy after his chi kung training, instead of feeling energised and fresh. The symptoms of cleansing are mild and may not be noticeable. Many practitioners over-train mildly at one time or another, and he will soon adjust to the excess energy from his training even without doing anything special.
What a typical Shaolin Wahnam student achieves in one day, it took Grandmaster Wong more than a month to achieve in his student’s days. Hence, it is important to guard against over-training.
In a chi kung class, people had different diseases but they overcame their diseases by practicing the same exercises you taught. How did chi kung know which disease to cure?
— Roberto, Spain
In the chi kung perspective, which is also the traditional Chinese medical perspective, all diseases are caused by energy blockage. Western medical perspective uses different names for the different types of energy blockage.
In Western terms, if energy is blocked from inhibiting harmful micro-organisms from attacking a person, he is said to suffer from an infectious disease. If energy is blocked from working an organ normally, the patient is said to suffer from an organic disorder. If energy is blocked from flushing out negative emotions, he is said to suffer from psychological problems.
Chi kung works at the root cause, which is energy blockage. Other Chinese therapeutic methods, like herbalism and acupuncture, which also deal with energy blockage, work at higher hierarchical order. An acupuncturist or a herbalist will find out where the energy is blocked, and applies acupuncture or herbs to clear the blockage accordingly. Hence, in other Chinese therapeutic methods, correct diagnosis is very important.
It may sound ridiculous to those not familiar with chi kung philosophy that diagnosis is not necessary in chi kung healing! This is because chi kung deals with the root cause. Once the energy blockage is cleared, the patient recovers as a matter of course.
Different students in a same class might suffer from different diseases, like rheumatism, diabetes, cancer, chronic infection, and depression. But regardless of what the disease was, the root cause was energy blockage. Once the energy blockage was cleared, the patients recovered.
How did practicing chi kung clear energy blockage? It was through chi flow. The chi flow generated by chi kung practice cleared the energy blockage.
How did the chi flow know where the energy blockage was? Or, how did chi kung know which disease to cure?
It was a natural characteristic of chi flow to flow from high energy level to low energy level. Disease areas were areas of low energy level where there was insufficient energy to perform natural physiological and psychological functions to maintain normal good health. The energy generated by practicing genuine chi kung would naturally flow to these low energy areas to clear the blockage. When the blockage was cleared, the students would recover, regardless of what diseases Western medicine might call them, as their energy flowed to these areas to resume natural physiological and psychological functioning to restore good health.
Can we transmit chi to friends to clear their blockage and help them recover?
You can but you may not. In other words, it is within your ability to do it, but you should not do it. In fact, every person has the natural ability to transmit chi, or energy, to another person. Mothers do this to their babies when the mothers comfort them. When your girlfriend is cold, if you hug her you transmit chi to her to warm her.
But unless you are trained, the chi you transmit to friends to help them clear their blockage is unlikely to work. You may harm them and harm yourself.
If your friends’ energy is blocked, which is the reason why they are sick, adding more chi to them will aggravate their blockage causing more harm. Their sick chi may back-flow to you making you sick too.
Transmitting chi to patients to clear their blockage and help them recover is an important part of chi kung healing. A chi kung healer must be properly trained. Chi kung healing is not something any person can play about with.
Many people may find it hard to believe, but practicing high-level chi kung can overcome any illness
Some schools pay much attention to visualisation. Can you please tell us more about visualisation in chi kung training?
— Dimitry, Switzerland
Chi kung operates at three levels — the levels of form, energy and mind. The proportions of benefit by practicing chi kung at these three respective levels are 1, 3 and 6. In other words, if all other things were equal,. practitioners operating at the form level may obtain 10% of the benefit of the chi kung training, those operating at the energy level obtain 30%, and those operating at the mind level obtain 60%.
As most chi kung practitioners practicing genuine chi kung operate at the form level, where they perform many chi kung techniques for a long time and get some chi flow, whereas we practice chi kung at all the three levels of form, energy and mind, our benefit is 10 times more than what most other practitioners get.
A common misconception among some people is that when a practitioner operates at the mind level, he has to visualise. This is not true. Operating at the mind level, the practitioner may or may not visualise, but he must be in a chi kung state of mind, or at a heightened level of consciousness.
Many practitioners, especially those who learn from books and videos, confuse visualisation with intellectualisation. They think they visualise when they actually intellectualise.
Even if they visualise, it is still different from visualisation in the mind level of chi kung. These practitioners visualise while in their ordinary state of mind, whereas visualisation in chi kung must be performed in a chi kung state of mind. It is actually having a gentle thought rather than visualisation.
We do not need to employ visualisation at the elementary level of our chi kung exercises, but we still operate at the level of mind (even without visualization). Hence, our students get more benefits practicing our elementary chi kung exercises than other practitioners practicing advanced exercises. Many people may not believe it, and some may become angry at this statement, but it is a fact. Some examples of our elementary chi kung exercises are 5-Animal Play, 18 Jewels, and 18 Lohan Hands.
We use visualisation for some of our intermediate chi kung exercises, and do not use visualisations for other intermediate chi kung exercises. Some example of our intermediate chi kung exercises where visualisation is needed are Cosmic Shower and Abdominal Breathing, and some examples where visualisation is not needed are stance training and 18-Lohan Art.
We generally use visualisation in our advanced chi kung exercises, though they are some exceptions. Two remarkable exception are Sinew Metamorphosis and Cosmic Breathing which are very powerful. Examples of advanced exercises where visualization is needed include Bone Marrow Cleansing and Expanding into the Cosmos.
What, in your opinion, will Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiuan be in a hundred years from now?
In my opinion in a hundred years from now more people will practice genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan, instead of practicing Shaolin forms for demonstration or for free exchange of blows, and Taiji dance. The total number of people who practice the genuine arts will still be small, but it will be bigger than the number now where most people, despite their good intention, cannot differentiate the genuine from the bogus.
Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan give practitioners wonderful benefits. Besides being able to defend themselves when needed, these genuine arts provide practitioners with good health, vitality and longevity, as well as mental clarity and spiritual joys. Masters who teach bogus Shaolin Kungfu and bogus Taijiquan also say that their arts give good health, vitality and longevity as well as mental clarity and spiritual joys, but their students never attain these benefits, and they don’t realize it. By the time they realise this fact, they are too proud to change to genuine arts even if they have the opportunities, but usually they may not have the opportunities as genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan are very rare nowadays.
It is precisely to preserve genuine Shaolin Kungfu, and later genuine Taijiquan, that I established Shaolin Wahnam Association in the early 1980s, which later evolved to our school, Shaolin Wahnam Institute, in the middle 1990s. We have progressed very well. We now have more than 60,000 students spread over more than 35 countries in the world. Even if I were to retire tomorrow, our Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan as well as chi kung will continue to spread as we have very good instructors.
It is legitimate to ask what justification we have to claim that our Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are genuine. The benefits our students get correspond exactly with what genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan will give. Besides being able to defend ourselves using our arts, our students have good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys.
Internal force is not only used for combat; more importantly it is used to enrich our daily life
What is the difference between chi kung and nei gong?
Chi kung means “energy art”, and nei gong means “internal art”. In this case, “chi kung” is in English spelling, and “nei gong” is in Romanced Chinese spelling.
In Romanized Chinese spelling, chi kung is “qi gong”, and in English spelling hei gong is “nei kung”. Because we are used to English spelling, we may think that Romanize Chinese spelling is funny. Actually it is English spelling that is funny. “Bus”, for example, is pronounced as /bas/, not /bus/, and “phone” is pronounced as /fon/, not /phone/.
The two terms, “chi kung” and “nei gong”, can be used interchangeably, i.e. they have similar meaning though the connotation may be different. Chi kung is a modern term, nei gong is more classical.
For example, 18 Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis can be called chi kung or nei gong. Calling some exercises as chi kung gives a connotation that they are modern and are practiced to maintain some general well-being. Calling them as nei gong gives a connotation that they are classical inheritance practiced for martial art purposes.
In this connection, most of our chi kung exercises are more aptly described as nei gong than as chi kung, especially when chi kung has today degraded into gentle physical exercise, or “ti cao” (pronounced as t’i c’ao) which is bodily exercise. But we still call them chi kung exercises because the term “chi kung” has been established.
We develop a lot of internal force in our chi kung or nei gong exercises. What are we to do with the internal force?
It is like asking what we are to do with money when we have earned a lot of money. Use it, force or money, wisely.
There are three main functions we can put internal force to use:
To maintain life.
To enhance life.
To enable us to have better results no matter what we do.
Maintaining life is the most important function of internal force. It is also the function that many people with internal force, including genuine masters, fail to realize. The force that changes the breakfast you ate into blood and flesh as well as vital energy is internal force.
The second function of internal force is to enhance life. It is similar to but not the same as the first function. Enhancing life can be manifested in many ways. Having zest in your work and joy in spending time with your family are some of the manifestations of enhancing life.
The third function is to enable those with internal force to have better results than when they did not have internal force, in whatever they do, including martial arts, intellectual work, sports and playing games. Take a few seconds to reflect on this tremendous benefit. No matter what you do, because you have internal force you will do better than when you did not have internal force!
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.
According to chi kung philosophy all diseases can be overcome
Can you tell us more about heart to heart transmission?
— Dagmar, Germany
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Heart to heart transmission is self-explanatory. It means the transfer of knowledge, skills, wisdom or realization from the heart of the teacher to the heart of the student. However, like many arts such as chi kung and spiritual cultivation, the uninitiated may still not understand the meaning even when it is clearly explained.
A good example is “chi”, or energy. Students in our school do not ask what chi is because they realize its meaning through direct experience. But many chi kung practitioners still ask what chi is despite having practiced chi kung, or what they think is chi kung, for many years. It is because they do not have a direct experience of chi.
All great arts are not merely taught by a teacher to his students, but are transmitted by him to them from heart to heart. It is failing to appreciate this fact, mainly due to a lack of direct experience, that many people think, mistakenly, that they can learn great arts from books or videos, or that all teachers of these arts are the same.
It is also due to a failure to appreciate this fact that some people ask me what chi kung exercises they should practice to overcome certain illness. It is not the kind of exercises they perform, i.e. the techniques, but how they perform them, i.e. the skills, that are crucial in enabling them to overcome illness. In other words, even when they know the best techniques but lack the necessary skills, they would not overcome their illness. Skills are best acquired from a competent teacher. On the other hand, even when a person has only mediocre techniques but good skills, he may overcome his illness.
It is because of our understanding of this fact about techniques and skills, that we have become very cost-effective in our training. Indeed, we are cost-effective to a ridiculous extent, that our students can attain in one month what it takes even masters a year to attain!
Masters take a much longer time to attain similar results because they do not differentiate between techniques and skills. They practice appropriate techniques dedicatedly and develop the necessary skills unknowingly, which may happen haphazardly. Only when the necessary skills are present during their training that the desired benefits result. Hence, they do not have the great advantage of accumulated benefit even when they practice everyday, because, as they are unaware of them, the necessary skills do not occur every time they practice.
This understanding between techniques and skills constitute a crucial part of heart to heart transmission. It is skills that are transmitted from heart to heart, not techniques.
Let us take Cosmic Shower as an illustration. An excellent technique for Cosmic Shower is Carrying the Moon. Students may practice Carrying the Moon correctly and diligently, but they may not have a cosmic shower. Indeed, most of them do not have even an energy flow. They practice the technique as gentle physical exercise, not as an art of energy.
Some of these dedicated students may eventually, but without their conscious awareness, develop the skills of generating an energy flow. Next, usually after many years, a very few of these dedicated students may experience a cosmic shower after they have unknowingly developed the necessary skills.
Our students are very lucky. When they take a course on Cosmic Shower, the necessary skills are transmitted to them. By applying these skills they can have a cosmic shower in just one day! As I mentioned earlier, this is ridiculous, but true.
How do our students know that they have a cosmic shower? In principle it is the same as asking how do people know they eat an orange or drink some coffee. They know from direct experience. Our students know they have a cosmic shower as surely as those eating oranges or drinking coffee know they eat oranges or drink coffee. Those who have no experience of a cosmic shower, eating oranges or drinking coffee will not know regardless of how well the events are described to them.
The transmission must be from heart to heart, not merely giving instructions from mouth to ear. Let us take an example. A teacher may ask his students to relax, which incidentally is a very important requirement in any internal cultivation. The instruction comes from the teacher’s mouth, and enters the students’ ears. But the students may not be relaxed. No matter how well they perform the techniques, they will not get the benefit of the art.
On the other hand, when a teacher from our school asks his students to relax, it is transmitted from his heart to his students’ heart. He sincerely wants his students to relax so that his teaching is successful, and his students genuinely want to relax so that they derive the benefit of the training. When I teach a class on Cosmic Shower, I sincerely want to impart the necessary skills, and the students genuinely want to follow the instructions so as to get the desired results.
Our chi kung is very powerful. So, guard against over-training
Sifu Leonard Lackinger
Shaolin Wahnam Austria
13th May 2015
Over-Training and Over-Cleansing
Over-training is a term frequently used in our school, but often too little taken care of.
I am starting this thread to share stories and experiences about it and hope those who have experienced it — I am sure there are plenty — will join in Our training in Shaolin Wahnam is very powerful which is often under-estimated.
It’s also hard to imagine that something that brings so wonderful results can be overdone. If you have ever eaten too much of your favourite candy once, you should know that there is a limit to everything, even good things.
Yes, a lot of things in our school initially sound too fabulous to be true. It takes some time to realize that what we say is real.
Sifu often tells us:
“The statement that a typical Shaolin Wahnam student gets in one month what a master, including me in the past, gets in one year is true, but many people, including our instructors and students, may find it hard to believe.
I speak from direct experience. My proverbial example of practicing San Zhan of Wuzuquan for two years and had no internal force, whereas those who attended my Special Wuzuquan Course in Penang could generate tremendous internal force in a few days, is a shining example. Those who attended the Wuzuquan course had prior kungfu experience, but I also had 15 years of kungfu experience behind me before I learned Wuzuquan, and I was an exemplary practitioner.”
If you think that one cannot have too much energy/internal force, then you should understand that over-training is a special kind of Yin Yang disharmony, something our training should normally get rid of.
In this case Yin represents our capacity to store energy. Yang represents fresh internal force that is built by our training. So, during our practice we increase Yang. Our Yin will then follow to balance out.
But Yin only adapts slowly. If we continue increasing Yang more and more, our Yin gets left behind and the disharmony increases with every session. Fatigue and increased sleep demand are common uncomfortable results. Why is this so? Your body tries to tell you to take a rest. Sleep is one natural mean to harmonize Yin and Yang therefore you get tired and you might suddenly need some 10 or more hours of sleep.
After prolonged over-training, eventually over-cleansing might manifest as a result. This is where it can get really nasty. Pain, sickness, mental confusion and intense emotions are only a few examples of the symptoms of over-cleansing. Yes, it is good to be cleansed, but it is not comfortable to cleanse too much in a short time. It’s not only uncomfortable, but can also be harmful! Remember, it is a kind of Yin Yang disharmony, the source of all pain and illness!
I use to set the limit for cleansing where people can still follow their usual everyday life and are able to enjoy it. Why should you risk your job and don’t enjoy your spare-time just to build up even more force, which should give you health and vitality and should improve, not hinder, everything you do?
Other people in special situations might set their personal limit otherwise. In some cases, heavy cleansing periods might even be necessary, but most people will approve that generally we should be able to enjoy our life. Especially when we have not been sick at all initially! Why should we torture ourselves unnecessarily? Our practice can launch really big changes, but why hurry? Just enjoy your practice! We are still developing much faster than other practitioners and especially than most people who don’t care about cultivation at all.
Types of Over-Training
Quantitative over-training appears if you spend too much time on your training. Without intention to belittle others, especially those students entering Wahnam with prior experience in low-level schools are pre-destined to over-train, if they do not cut down their practice time, which can often be something between a half and a full hour, sometimes more.
Qualitative over-training often creeps in unwittingly. During our practice we are slowly, but steadily increasing our skills. We might notice that we are very forceful after a session and enjoy the feeling and sensations. This can be a good time to adjust our schedule.
After attending a course with Sifu over-training does not creep in, it smashes in with a sledge-hammer. Personally I cut down my training time substantially after taking a course. After the Dragon Strength course I hardly trained anything else than a short Chi Kung session in the morning and the set once in the evening for quite some time.
Our dedicated students who practice one or more of our martial arts are most likely to over-train at some points of their training.
How can you guard yourself from over-training?
First of all, follow the instructions! If your Sifu tells you to train only one section of the Iron Wire Set for a few weeks and only then add a second section, then only train one section and add a second one after a few weeks. It can really be that simple.
Let me share something with you that Sifu once sent to me:
“Over-training is now a major problem amongst our students in our school, and it usually happens amongst dedicated students. Even when they follow our advice of not over-training, and they normally do as they are good students, they do not do so sufficiently. In other words, even when they do not train as much as they like, they still over-train.”
Regularly validate the effects of your training! If you experience any deviations from the normal benefits, reconsider your training with the types of over-training in mind. Your Sifu will be happy to help you in this process, so consult your Sifu! If you are training on your own, then adjust your training using the following list.
What can you do, if you experience over-training or over-cleansing?
First of all understand that the inconvenient symptoms are not an illness itself, but a manifestation of the self-made Yin Yang disharmony. The following approaches will help you to recover your balance.
Like I mentioned in the “types of over-training”, we can adjust our schedule quantitatively or qualitatively.
The first means spending less time on training and more on other wholesome activities. Every task you do, be it working, reading, playing football or having wholesome sex will spend some energy. You don’t need to worry about losing your energy, especially when you are in the situation of over-training. Just enjoy whatever you do!
Only some days ago one of my students told me that he felt better after skipping one of his two daily sessions for a few days. From prior experience he noticed the symptoms of over-training correctly and adjusted accordingly. This is a great example of responsible training and instantaneous change.
The latter means reducing the level of practice. This can be done by doing the reverse of the usual instructions, i.e. thinking, singing a song in your mind or tensing your muscles. In my personal experience I initially found it hard to reduce the level as it became natural to do it correctly. So I normally used to cut down the training time and enjoyed the forceful training, although shorter. But what works well for me now is to focus my mind on correcting my form in every movement. This is a win-win situation as attaining picture-perfect form is a by-product of this approach.
Sifu has elegantly put it in a nutshell:
“When cleansing is comfortable and manageable, a practitioner should continue as he has been doing. When over-cleansing occurs, i.e. when cleansing has become uncomfortable, the practitioner should slow down — in time or in intensity of practice. When adverse effects occur, he should stop training until the adverse effects subside. Then he resumes training gradually.”
To substantiate the underlying philosophy and our warning not to under-estimate the power of our arts, I will share another recent experience of one of my students.
He has been training diligently for about half a year. He started with Chi Kung and Shaolin Kung Fu and added Tai Chi Chuan two months ago.
During a Chi Kung session he did not experience much outward movement during chi flow, but a strong vibration in his whole body. He became unconscious and only woke up when he hit the floor. His body continued to shake vigorously. He managed to climb up his bed and noticed that his head was bleeding. He had hit his head on a singing bowl during his fall. He took care of the wound. Luckily he was not in pain and nothing worse happened.
The chi flow generated by his practice was so powerful that it overwhelmed him completely. This is also a symptom of too much in a too short time, i.e. over-training.
He is a good student. So he consulted me, we adjusted his training and he is completely fine now and enjoying his reduced training.
I don’t share this case to scare you, but to validate how powerful our practice can be, even after just a few months of practice.
What can we learn from this event?
Train in a safe environment!
Don’t underestimate the power of our training!
Don’t overdo it!
Notice the signs of over-training and adjust your training accordingly.
And last, but not least: If anything strange happens, don’t hesitate to consult your Sifu!
So, don’t take over-training lightly! The warnings are not just shallow words. Over-training is real and even common among our dedicated students.
When you started practicing you might have had initial doubts about the existence of chi at all, due to the lack of previous exposure to it. Soon later you realized that chi is real.
I hope this thread kicks off your realization that over-training is real too and that you should heed the advice and warning signs.