Sifu, chi flow is a hallmark of our school. Can you tell us who you learned chi flow from? Was it from Uncle Righteousness or Sigung Ho Fatt Nam?
Sifu Mark Appleford, Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
Yes, you are right. Chi flow is the hallmark of our school. In fact, Tim (Sifu Tim Franklin of UK) mentioned that 500 years from now when people pointed to our school, the most prominent feature they noticed would be chi flow.
Chi flow has enabled us to help many people overcome so-called incurable diseases. For those who train internal force (which is practically everyone in our school), it frees them the concern of deviated training. Hence, we have the luxury of “Don’t Worry” being the first golden rule of our practice.
It speeds up our progress unbelievably. Even for me, when I took one or two years to experience internal force in a particular force-training exercise, our students now can experience internal force in the same exercise in a matter of days! It is just unbelievable but true.
I did not learn chi flow from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam or Uncle Righteousness. Uncle Righteousness did not talk about chi flow. Although there was some gentle chi flow in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school, he did not encourage vigorous chi flow.
Chi flow developed in the long process of my own training and teaching. I heard of and read about chi and its importance in internal force development. There is a kungfu saying as follows: “The essence of internal force is chi”.
My first experience of chi flow was when practicing One-Finger Shooting Zen learnt from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. But I did not know it was chi flow then, neither did my sifu tell me so. Like any good student in a traditional kungfu context, I just practiced what my sifu asked me to, without understanding its underlying philosophy.
Yet, I was different from other traditional good students. I read a lot of kungfu classics, and had frequent discussion with my sifu on kungfu philosophy. I read about a kind of chi kung developed by the great Chinese physician, Hua Tou, called Five-Animal Play where practitioners moved about in what we would now call self-manifested chi movement.
Years later when I set up Shaolin Wahanm Association and Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Clinic in Sungai Petani , I was quite well-known and respected. A kungfu and chi kung master from another city came to me for help, which I rendered him. (Later he betrayed me, and instigated some of my senior students against me.)
I learned that he taught Flying Crane Chi Kung which has self-manifested chi movement as its main approach. I was interested and he invited me to visit his classes. His students performed about 30 different exercises, then went into vigorous chi flow.
He also volunteered to induce self-manifested chi movement in me. He tried to transmit chi to me via my ming meng vital point (located at the back along the waist), but my chi flow was so powerful that he was repelled away.
Later I tried to induce self-manifested chi movement myself. I opened my bai-hui vital point (at the crown of the head) and massage my qi-hai vital point (at the abdominal dan tian), like what this master taught his students. And performed the 30 odd Frying Crane Chi Kung exercises in a chi kung state of mind.
Before I could complete about half of the intended exercises, I was already in a vigorous chi flow. The chi flow was so powerful that I went round and round my living room quite uncontrollably. It was my first time experiencing a very vigorous self-manifested chi movement and I did not know how to stop.
I had an idea. I threw myself on a sofa to stop the vigorous chi movement. I did stop going round and round, but it was a very unpleasant feeling. Now I know that if a practitioner has this problem when stopping suddenly, he just has to go into some gentle chi flow, then think of his dan tian to let his flowing chi settle down. But I did not know this technique then.
I researched the many chi kung classics that I had and learned a lot about self-manifested chi movement. I learned various techniques to induce a vigorous chi flow, like stimulating energy points, performing gentle movements faster and faster, and feeling like drifting peacefully in heaven.
When my students in my various Eighteen Lohan Hands classes (which lasted for 6 months at that time) started to experience some chi movement, I encouraged them to go on. But at that time, I was new to self-manifested chi movement, so I was very careful, following and monitoring each student at a time as he (or she) enjoyed his more than average chi flow, asking him to slow down when the movement became too vigorous. Now I know that self-manifested chi movement is very safe, and I can go for a drink, leaving students to run and jump like monkeys and kangaroos on their own, provided, of course, the practice place is safe.
I explained the philosophy of self-manifested chi movement, which I learned from chi kung classics, to my classes. I explained, for example, that chi from different internal organs manifested in characteristic ways, which are symbolized by the bird which relates to the heart, the deer which relates to the liver, the monkey which relates to the spleen, and the bear which relates to the kidneys.
I noticed that students who recovered from serious illness, like asthma, diabetes, cancer, cardio-vascular disorders and kidney stones, usually had sessions of vigorous self-manifested chi movement prior to their recovery. Looking back with hindsight, this laid the seed of my conclusion now that it is chi flow, not the chi kung exercises themselves, that brings benefits of good health, vitality and longevity.
I reckoned that as self-manifested chi movement was so useful, I could devise appropriate exercises to induce it, instead of letting it develop gradually from Eighteen Lohan Hands. So I composed two sets of chi kung exercises specially to induce self-manifested chi movement.
The first set consisted of Push Mountain Lift Sky, Double Dragons and Fish Flip. This was meant to induce a vigorous forward-backward flow. The second set consisted of Dancing Fairy, Bear Walk and Swinging Hips. This was meant to induce a sideway or a circular flow.
These two sets of self-manifested chi movement exercises were very effective. By then I had reduced the Eighteen Lohan Hands course from six months to three months. These two sets of exercises could enable students to have a vigorous chi flow in a few days instead of a few months. Those of you who learned from me in my early years of world-wide travels, like in Spain, Portugal and Germany, would have learnt these self-manifested chi movement exercises.
Chi flow has helped us tremendously in internal force development. I remember the first time I taught Lifting Water to a student in Australia, Ken, who was a Tai Chi instructor. After lifting our hands about a dozen times, we felt tremendous force in our hands. On hindsight, it was due to chi flow.
Lately I was investigating why our students could develop internal force in a matter of days when masters in the past, including myself, took years. A main reason was that we differentiated between skills and techniques. And the principal skill was our ability to generate chi flow.
I had a historic confirmation when teaching Iron Wire in Barcelona last year (2011). First I taught them the force-method, which is the orthodox method for Iron Wire. Then I taught them the flow-method. I asked the students to compare the two methods and tell me from their direct experience which method was more powerful. I was actually quite surprised when all of them told me the flow-method.
Having found that the flow-method produces better result, when I taught Iron Wire in Killarney in 2011, I mainly used the flow-method though I also introduced the force-method in passing. What was most outstanding about the Ireland Iron Wire Course was mental clarity, besides tremendous internal force. I have no doubt that the flow-method contributed much to the attainment of mental clarity, but I have not found out the philosophical explanation yet.
I had another confirmation recently in Frankfurt (September 2012). After teaching the force-method the first two days to develop internal force in the Triple Stretch, which produced a lot of force, I taught the students the flow-method on the third day. I asked them to compare the two methods and tell me from their direct experience which method produced more force. This time I was not surprised that 10 of them told me the flow-method and 2 said they were not sure.
It is a great joy to be a husband and father — an old picture showing Grandmaster Wong, his wife and their three eldest children in the garden of the house where they are still staying
You said that becoming a wife/husband and mother/father is one of the most spiritually fulfilling things in this world. But spiritual fulfillment isn’t a given if I have to sacrifice so much and the man doesn’t. A relationship is made of two people, so both should strive to be the best they can be and sacrifice all they can. Not only the women, and not only the men either. How can a relationship be wholesome if that were so?
— Fabienne, Switzerland
Ask not what your husband and children can do for you. Ask what you can do for your husband and children. You and not they practice our elite arts.
Spiritual fulfillment is not a given attainment. You have to make effort and sacrifice to attain it.
While a relationship of husband and wife is made up of two people, and ideally both should strive for family happiness, you need not wait for the other person to make this come true. As an elite person who has practiced our Shaolin Wahnam arts, you take the lead.
If your thought, speech and action are appropriate, the other will follow, and both will contribute to the family happiness. It does not matter even when the other person does little work, or not at all, but you still need him to make a rewarding relationship.
While doing further research in Buddhism and its origins, I didn’t have to look far at all to find other offending examples of women being treated like lesser beings and/or being reduced to tools of convenience and satisfaction.
Can you please tell me what you think about these examples?
My main comment is that society and customs at the time of the Buddha were vastly different from those of ours. By the standard of Buddha’s time, what the Buddha did to women was extremely generous.
My other comments follow each of your examples.
Your Example (1) The most advanced Buddhist nuns had to sit behind the most novice monks simply because their body was deemed inferior. It is our body that is able to grow and give life.
My Comment: At that time in India, no matter how accomplished women were, they were still considered inferior to males.
Your Example (2) The Buddha himself was against teaching women at first. He refused to teach his own aunt, the woman that nursed and raised him when he was but a small and defenceless child. If it weren’t for the Venerable Ananda, women probably never would’ve been taught by the Buddha himself, and I am forever grateful for that. If “not teaching women” was for the sake of monks not being distracted or tempted, then the monks were much more at fault than the nuns. Men should be able to control themselves, a sentiment which is blissfully ignored by many males in our society.
My Comment: It was a custom at the time to teach only males. The Buddha’s teaching of women was unprecedented.
Not teaching women for the sake of the monks was only one of a few reasons. The main reason for not teaching women was due to culture and custom.
If a beautiful woman temptingly stripes in front of a man, it is not easy for him to resist the temptation even when he can otherwise has good control of his sexual desires.
Xi Shi, one of the four most beautiful women of China
Past kings and emperors had multiple wives. What purpose did that serve except prestige? The beauty of women as a means of manipulation is even present in the 36 Strategies (“From Nothing is born Something”). Don’t you think that men who are easily manipulated by the beauty of women are disgraceful?
The purpose of having multiple wives was more than just prestige. A Chinese emperor was required by rites and customs to have more than a thousand wives, irrespective of whether he liked it or not, but it so happened that usually he liked it.
One important reason, besides the obvious variety of sexual pleasure an emperor could enjoy, was to ensure he had a male heir to succeed him.
There is nothing wrong to use the beauty of women in strategies. Some women, like the famous beauties of China, Xi Shi and Diao Chan, were proud to be able to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the country, and the people sincerely honoured them.
A well known strategy of the 36 Strategies is simply called “Beauty Strategy”. Many famous strategists used this strategy elegantly and successfully.
You may be pleased to know that there is a Chinese saying as follows. “Even heroes may not escape the temptations of beautiful women.” When heroes can fall to beauties, mere mortals stand little chance of survival.
I don’t think that men who are easily manipulated by the beauty of women are disgraceful. I think they are normal.
The great sage, Confucius, advises, “Food and sex are normal instincts.”
While talking to a very close friend of mine, it occurred to us that certain monastic rules and explanations of Buddhist cosmology and reincarnation state that people are born a woman because of some bad karma. Is this true? If so, that’s heart-breaking.
I try hard to be the best I can be, so I try and look at this as a blessing in disguise. As a woman, I might be better suited to clear deep-rooted, emotional or even karmic problems. According to my friend, a senior instructor in our school mentioned that women tend to be more sensitive and able to pass certain “milestones” in Kung Fu and Qigong more quickly. But still, it sucks to be told that I might be inferior.
In any case, I feel torn between righteous fury because of this caveman-ish injustice being prevalent to this day (sometimes even in Shaolin Wahnam, of all places), and grief for all the oppression and lost potential that women had to deal with ever since known history. Will it boil down to the fact that, as a woman, I have to make a very hard choice? Either reach high achievements or become a wife and mother?
It was true that in the past at a time when women’s position was inferior to men’s, many people believed that to be born a woman was due to bad karma. But this was relative. It was bad karma compared to being born as gods, or even as men. But it was good karma compared to being born an animal, or even a very beautiful female titan. Yet the very same people would probably think that being born a woman in a noble family was due to better karma than being born a male slave.
But conditions are different today. Even when Chinese culture prefers sons to daughters, many Chinese families I know prefer to have daughters than to have sons. When they are married, daughters with their husbands stay with the parents; or at least return home frequently, whereas the sons when married together with their wives are lost to their in-laws.
Hence, you should not be heart-broken, but instead take being born a woman as a blessing.
Indeed, to be born human, male or female, is a great blessing. He or she must have accumulated a lot of good karma in the past. To be born wholesome is a greater blessing. The blessing to be born in a highly civilized society like yours is even greater. And the greatest blessing is to be born human, male or female, wholesome in a civilized society and be exposed to spiritual teaching like ours in Shaolin Wahnam. We have a lot to be grateful for.
Don’t just try to be the best person you can be, do it. Don’t strive but enjoy your cultivation. While whether women are better suited than men to clear emotional and karmic problems, and pass milestones in kungfu and qigong training is debatable, there is no doubt that women today, especially in Western societies, enjoy privileges men normally don’t, like having their heavy luggage carried by men, and their food served to them first while their man friends may still mouth-water, provided that these women don’t mistake women equality to be female chauvinism.
Your righteous fury, sense of caveman-ish injustice, and grief of oppression and lost potential of women, are all the result of your imagination. Since known history, women never had such opportunities and benefits as they have today. Women in the past did not go to school or even out of their house, had no opportunities of employment, and could not choose their own husbands. Now you can reach high achievements and at the same time become a wife and mother. You should celebrate instead of groan over your opportunities.
I love my wife for who she is, not what I want her to be
Sigung, may I please know how you feel about this issue? Do you feel like females are worth less than male beings, be it animal or human? Or did I just misunderstand your intentions behind the article you wrote about becoming a good wife? Do you love your own wife so much because she manipulated you into doing what she wants (even if she did it sweetly), or because she was supportive, sincere, loving and strong?
My feeling about this issue is very clear — to myself as well as to others. Definitely I do not feel females are worth less than males, animal or human. I regard them as equal, but not the same.
During question time, for example, when both male and female students asked questions about the same time, I always practiced “lady’s first”.
During demonstration I usually chose male students or instructors. Some people mistook this gesture as my disregard for women. It was just the opposite. It was my regard for them that I chose male demonstrators. I did not want to take advantage of their feminine beauty, or let other people have this impression, especial in the West where many masters, unfortunately, exploit their female students.
These may be little gestures, but they demonstrate my high regards for women.
You misunderstood my intentions behind the article I wrote about becoming a good wife. My intentions are noble, and are aimed at helping women get the men they love. They are too many eligible, loveable but unmarried women, as well as too many unmarried men who are scared to get married, in the West.
I love my wife very much for what she is, including her many faults. She did not manipulate me into doing what she wants, even in a sweet way. If she did, I would have sufficient ways to counter it, also in a sweet way. She does not need to do so because she is appreciative, sincere, loving and strong.
She has to be very strong, bringing up five lovely children at a time when I was financially poor, not only without any complaints but also with love and devotion. Now I earn more money, I like spending it on her to make her happy, but she spends it on our children and grandchildren, and that wisely and not lavishly, and our children have to say, “Papa and mama, we have enough money to be comfortable.”
While with Shaolin Wahnam, I learned that we are all part of the same universe and that our world is an illusion, influenced by our perception. Why can’t this simple principle be applied to such a natural, sacred and simple bond as marriage, for example? Shaolin Wahnam gets so many aspects about daily life perfectly right, yet misogyny is still observable. Shouldn’t we stand above this petty differentiation?
For example, we are making the difference between hard and soft chi for the sake of understanding. We can do that with the concept of men and women, too. But only for the sake of understanding and explanation. It should flow into each other and ultimately be one. Men and women can’t be without each other in the long run (for the simple sake of continuously populating this planet), so let’s make it an equal business. Based on love and respect, not on superiority and manipulation.
You have highlighted a very important point that can bring meaning and happiness to our daily life. Our phenomenal world, which is an illusion, is much influenced by our perception. My article on Perception and Reality illustrates this very important point.
Paradoxically, your problem in this issue is due to your perception. The reality is the same, that men and women can’t be without each other, and their mutual well-being should be based on love and respect, and not on superiority and manipulation. This is the theme in my article you mentioned, How to Trap a Good Husband and be a Good Wife, as well as in the teaching of Shaolin Wahnam.
However you interpreted my article from a different perspective. I advise that to get a husband whom she has found lovable and eligible, the woman should fulfil the qualities that he wants in his wife. He wants his wife to be attractive, feminine and yielding. But you thought, wrongly, that if a woman conforms to these qualities, she would make herself inferior as well as manipulate him to marry her.
Although you may not have explicitly said it, you imply that to demonstrate your superiority, or at least your equality, you need not confirm to his likings. If you are already attractive, feminine and yielding, that is fine. You already process qualities that he likes. But, for the sake of illustration here, if you were unattractive, dominating and demanding, you need not make yourself attractive, feminine and yielding to win him. He has to accept you for what you are.
You consider, again wrongly, that if you have to make yourself attractive, feminine and yielding to win him, you will be manipulative. This is your flawed perspective. A better perspective is that you make a sacrifice to attain a greater mutual goal.
An example will make this point clearer. Suppose you are a manufacturer producing red T-shirts. A customer orders blue T-shirts. This is his likes. But you think that if you conform to his likes, you are demeaning yourself and accepting your inferiority. But if you conform to his likes, you are manipulative to win his sale. You can choose to be stubborn and clinch onto your flawed perspective, but you will lose the sale or your man whom you feel will make a good husband. Your perspective is flawed because you confuse woman equality with being dog-headedness, and confuse sacrifice with manipulation.
This principle of fulfilling the needs of the other person and making sacrifice for greater mutual benefit can be applied to marriages as well as all other aspects of life. To implement this principle successfully, you have to be clear in your vision and direction, and noble in your perspective. Marrying any man that comes your way is not being clear in your vision and direction. Being stubborn even when your views are flawed and mistaking sacrifice to be manipulation is being unclear in your perspective.
Misogyry, or hating women, is definitely not a trait in Shaolin Wahnam. We have many perfect husbands in our school. Some men in our school may not be perfect husbands, but certainly they don’t hate women. If you feel that misogyny is observable in our school, for your own sake, you really have to examine your mind-set. Ironically, it is you who need to clear yourself from this mess of petty differentiation.
Besides better understanding, differentiating between hard and soft, or men and women, also enables us to be cost effective and bring us a lot of benefits. You are the one who can’t differentiate between men and women. Although you may differentiate them by sex, you fail to differentiate them by their roles and aspirations. You seem to treat women as men.
Men and women cannot ultimately be one. A man is a man, and a woman is a woman. It is utterly unnatural if anyone of them become a man-woman, or for the female chauvinists, a woman-man. Playing their roles and fulfilling their aspirations also cannot be equal business. Whether in love making, rearing children or any other aspects of family life, men perform their roles and fulfil their aspirations as men, and women as women. In love making, for example, by instinct, a man’s aspiration is his immediate pleasure, whereas a woman’s aspiration is to have love.
Five-Animal Play — the Monkey
Sigung, you are the greatest person and teacher I have ever known and probably ever will. Your opinion matters a lot to me. This subject is very dear to my heart and highly important for my own future. I am terrified that you might push a very out-dated opinion of women and marriage onto students who won’t think twice about the wisdom you generously share and will simply accept it as fact.
I know at least three married couples in Wahnam where the wife does not adhere to your standard of what a “good wife” should be like. Yet they are all wonderfully happy. On the other hand, I see many Wahnam women with high achievements being unmarried to this day. I don’t know if that is their personal choice or simply their adapting to current circumstances.
They are all inspirations to me, yet I absolutely do wish to get married and have children one day. But not when things are still like this. The status quo scares me and makes me hold onto my personal freedom and joy and open way of expression even more.
I guess I just wish to know why these kinds of things are still happening the way they are. It breaks my heart to think that, no matter how high my achievements might be in the future, I’ll never be deemed “as good” as male students, simply because I’m a woman.
If that were the case, and knowing my passion and deep emotions, I might just become that bitter kind of “liberated” woman you said men are scared of. As of now, I am still very young, optimistic and eager to learn. I hope this issue can be resolved. If not in today’s society, then at least let it be resolved in my heart!
Thank you very much for your patience and I will be forever grateful (even more so than I already am) if you could help me break through this blockage. I also hope that my sincere, yet still somewhat critical inquiry won’t result in me not being welcome in Shaolin Wahnam anymore.
Thank you for your very kind words.
One of the proudest achievements of our school is that our teaching has enabled our family members, single or married, to enrich their daily lives. This achievement is more important than being extremely combat efficient, developing tremendous internal force, or even overcoming pain and illness and attaining good health, vitality and longevity.
Our teaching, including that of happy marriage, is successfully time-tested. You view the issue in a matter of 30 years; I view it over many centuries. Even in a short period of 30 years, your perspective has proven to be unsuccessful, resulting in many people remaining unmarried though they are eligible and lovable.
I do not push my teaching onto our students. I always encourage them to assess any teaching to the best of their understanding and experience.
You have misconceived my advice on what a good wife should be like. You wrongly think that a good wife should abandon her ability and wisdom and follow her husband blindly. I advise that a good wife should use her ability and wisdom to make her family happy.
Even if we presume that the three married couples you mentioned do not adhere to my advice on being a good wife, if they and their husbands and children are happy, I am happy for them. In fact I would advise them to carry on what they have been doing, and don’t follow what I mentioned in the article. The article is not for them. It is meant for women who want to but have not accomplished a happy family.
If those Shaolin Wahnam women with high achievements choose not to have a family they need not follow my advice in the article. If they wish to have a happy family, my advice will be very useful.
Getting married and having children is a woman’s instinct. It is also a wonderful thing to do. Never before in history have women this golden opportunity to be married and have children, and still have freedom, joy and open way of expression. You are living in this golden age but you don’t realize it.
Your problem and heart-breaking situation is the result of your own faulty imagination. Change your perspective from a negative way to the Shaolin Wahnam way and you may see the golden age you are in.
Why should you choose to be a bitter liberated woman whom men are scared of, when you can be a sweet liberated woman whom men adore? Becoming such a sweet, liberated and adorable woman is not by fancy. You have to put in a lot of hard work. Following my advice in the article you mentioned, after you have realized your previous faulty perspective, will provide a practical way to achieve your goal.
Of course you will be welcome in Shaolin Wahnam, more so after you have raised these interesting questions that will benefit many men and women.
Can children practice the Five-Animal Play?
— Konchia, Spain
Yes, they can if they have competent teachers. Nowadays, competent teachers teaching Five-Animal Play or other types of chi kung are rare. Most teachers teach chi kung techniques as gentle physical exercise, and not as chi kung.
Gentle physical exercise works on the physical body, whereas chi kung works on energy. Gentle physical exercise cannot overcome pain and illness, and cannot enable practitioners to have more energy and mental clarity, but chi kung can.
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.