The big irony is that many martial artists are unhealthy and are unable to defend themselves. Here Evelyn and Sifu Leonard apply Shaolin Kungfu in combat.
“The big irony is that many martial artists are unhealthy and are unable to defend themselves despite spending many years training a martial art! Not only they injure themselves in free sparring and their injuries are routinely left unattended to, the way they train is usually detrimental to both their physical, emotional and spiritual health. Many people may be surprised at my statements that many martial artists today cannot defend themselves. If they can, they accept being hit and kicked for granted as part of their training.” — Quoted from Grandmaster Wong’s answer.
May I ask, sifu, should one avoid being hit altogether? How? What about in the sense of blocking? I suppose it is better to avoid contact than to have to block? When I practice blocks with my friend my arms are often sore/ bruised but we figured this would toughen us. I am grateful for your instruction Sifu,
— Lee, USA
Of course one should avoid being hit altogether. That is the main purpose of practicing an art of self-defence. That is also the main reason why I said people who freely exchanged blows in free sparring were not learning a martial art though they thought they did.
How does one avoid being hit? That is what he learns in a martial art, any martial art. Thee are two categories to accomplish this.
One category is to ward off the attack. There are many ways of warding off. Blocking an attack as described by you where your arm become sore or bruised is third-class. In first-class warding off you use minimum force to overcome maximum strength.
The second category of avoiding hit is to dodge the attack. There are also many ways of dodging.
You will learn these first-class responses to avoid being hit in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or the Intensive Taijiquan Course.
Having your arms sored or bruised from blocking is a poor way to toughen your arms. It is more likely to weaken your arms than to toughen them. A sore or bruised arm is painful and injured. Pain and injry weaken a person, not just his arms.
There are many excellent methods in our school for strengthening arms. Some examples are One-Finger Shooting Zen, Golden Bridge, Separating Water, and even Grasping Sparrowâ€™s Tail. The uninitiated may wonder how these exercises, especially Grasping Sparrowâ€™s Tail, can strengthen arms. Not only they do, they are excellent â€“ if practiced correctly.
Please take note that toughening, in the sense of conditioning, may not necessary be strengthening. If you punch your fist onto a wall, for example, you may toughen or condition your knuckles, but may not necessary add power to your punch. Hence, when we practice Thirty Punches, which is an exercise to increase power of the punch, we punch into empty space, and not onto a sandbag.
I would like to continue to strengthen my stances. I can see the difference between someone who knows many forms but wobbles on their legs and someone who has powerful stances but few forms.
What would be the you-wei and the wu-wei of horse stance? Right now I try to imagine my self relaxing and letting my chi sink to my feet. I can tell when I get tense that it rises up to my torso and chest but if I relax I can sink it down and hold the floor with my toes better.
Stances are very important in kungfu, and their benefits are transferred to daily life. Stances develop internal force and mental clarity.
The “you-wei” part of stance training consists of two steps. The first step is to get the poise correct. In the Horse-Riding Stance, for example, ensure that you are upright. The second step is to relax, relax and relax.
The “wu-wei” part is to be spontaneous. Don’t think of anything, including not imagining yourself relaxing and letting your chi sink to your feet. Just spontaneously remain upright and relaxed in your stance.
Stances are very important in kungfu training. Grandmaster Wong showed the importance of waist rotation in a Bow-Arrow Stance during a kungfu class in Madrid.
My wonderful girlfriend told me that she wanted to fast during Ramadan this year. She told me it was all about discipline and being spiritual. My initial thought and feeling was concern when I heard this. Personally I know little about Ramadan but I don’t see the spiritual side to forcing oneself to stay off food. Of course I could be wrong. Should I be concerned here? I always want to support her in whatever she wishes to do but I also want her to be safe as this is my natural instinct to protect her.
— Sifu Mark Hartnett, Ireland
Rituals of any religion help practitioners to practice their faith and thus purify their spirit. If a practitioner has strong spiritual roots, like a Zen monk, he may not need rituals yet attain high spiritual levels.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan also purifies the body, which contributes to purification of the spirit. If your girlfriend understands these deeper meaning, fasting during Ramadan is good for her. On the other hand, there are religious fanatics who follow religious rituals but act in a way God or whatever term the Supreme Reality is addressed asks his followers not to do.
If your girlfriend wishes to fast, ask her to prepare herself if it is the first time she attempts it. Her body needs time to adjust to fasting.
Fasting demands discipline, and is spiritual as it purifies both the body and the spirit. It is natural that you are concerned for her. A good approach is to tell her the significance of fasting and let her make her choice. As she is not a Muslim, she needs not fast the whole month of Ramadan, or during part of it. She can fasts for any day or two to make some adjustment and preparation.
I have been very lucky to spend time with a Hoong Ka master, and he emphasizes a lot of Asking Bridge to develop sensing skills for sparring. Whenever I spar with him and some of his senior students, their sensing skills are such that he is often able to simply “slip” out of my attempts to tame or close his hands unless I have superior force and chin-na.
— Frederick, USA
The Hoong Ka master defeated you because of skills and not because of techniques. Even if you use other techniques, he will still be able to defeat you.
This does not mean that techniques are not important. When he slips away, you can strike his retreating arm, or kick his leg.
You can also improve your skills of “bridging gap” and “follow-through”. When he tries to escape from your taming or closing hand, you “follow-through” with your taming or closing hand, and bridge the gap of his retreat. You should spend some time practicing on your own before applying the skills on your opponents.
Grandmaster Wong employs a pattern from Hoong Ka Kungfu, called Southern Shaolin in our school, in combat application
My attempts to simply close someone with a taming or pressing palm are generally defeated by my sparring partner simply turning their body into the Unicorn Stance or retreating if they have superior footwork to me. Is there an aspect of taming/closing an opponent that I miss, or should all attempts to tame or close an opponent use chin-na to “confirm” the taming/closing?
No, you have not missed the basic techniques of taming and closing, though you may not have learned sophisticated techniques of following through, like using chin-na to subdue your opponents.
But you attended the Baguazhang course at the UK Summer Camp. There are a lot of techniques and tactics you can use from the Baguazhang course to defeat your opponent when he turns aside into a Unicorn Step or when he retreats.
When he turns aside into a Unicron Step, for example, you can employ your Baguazhang footwork to follow his turning and strike him, or you can go to the other side and fell him from behind. When he retreats, you can rush forward, but taking care of your own safety, and push him off the arena, or you can jump forward with “Wild Crane Kicks Leg”.
It is not necessary to use chin-na to confirm taming or closing, but for one trained in chin-na, it is an excellent way to subdue opponents. When a chin-na master wishes to apply a chin-na grip on his opponent, it is unlikely the opponent could escape.
How would you recommend approaching sparring with someone who has superior sensitivity skills? I have had some success with using the “disappearing” that I discussed with you last year in sparring, which sometimes gives me opportunities, but I know that there are certain people I have met who can always notice me, so I do not want to rely too much on such an ability; I would personally rather have more solid fundamentals than rely on such a “trick.”
There are two main approaches. One is to avoid his sensing skills. Using kicks, for example, is a good tactic. Instead of having arm contact, you can kick at him.
The other approach indicates the hallmark of a master. Change his sensing skills, which are his strong points, to his weakness. Chin-na and dim mak are excellent in this respect.
Sifu Tim uses his leg to neutralize a groin attack from Frederick in a Baguazhang combat application
Another situation that I run across in sparring is sparring partners who have a lot of muscular strength. My usual tactic is to “borrow” my sparring partner’s force and use soft counters to conserve my energy and to guide their force away into emptiness so that I can set up a decisive strike, mainly using Baguazhang strategies and movements from the Swimming Dragon set and adding a Baguazhang “flavor” to the Hoong Ka I am learning here.
Dim mark is excellent for overcoming opponents with a lot of muscular strength, but you need to learn dim mak at a course from a master willing to teach you.
Many kungfu styles are well-known for the smaller-sized to defeat the bigger and stronger, and Baguazahgn is one of them. You can use Baguazhang techniques and tactics to get to an opponent’s side or back to strike him.
Sometimes, however, my sparring partners will “lock up” with a lot of tension and will not “give” me any force to work with, and I find that very difficult to handle. I can handle the situation usually with a combination of superior agility (getting to their sides or back, or simply feinting and striking a different body part) and stamina (simply outlasting their muscular tension), but I do not know if there is a better way to approach this sort of situation.
Don’t use force against force if your opponent is physically stronger.
All the methods you mentioned are excellent.
You can get to your opponent’s back to fell him. Don’t fell him with brutal strength. Off-balance him, and he falls easily.
You can also strike his vital spots, like his eyes, throat and sexual organ. But of course you stop an inch from target.
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.
One of the most wonderful things that I have been gifted through our trainings and especially through Sigung’s wisdom and help is to enjoy a happy family life. It is one of the greatest gifts, I think, to love and feel loved within a family.
I would like to contribute the following question:
We are all different. We think, act and feel differently i.e. have different needs, aspirations, walk of lives etc. Apart from sharing our love and joy with our family members (family in a narrow and more wider sense), what are the skills and how can we train them to understand the other person better in order to be able to nurture them more effectively?
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Indeed, having a happy family life is one of the greatest gifts in life. It is also one of the values we cherish in our school. As I have said often, we do not just practice chi kung or kungfu, we apply what we have learned to enrich our life and the lives of others.
We think, act and feel differently i.e. have different needs, aspirations, and walks of lives. It is precisely important to realise this fact in order to have a happy family life.
Let us look at the needs, aspirations, walks of lives and other relevant factors of our blood family and our Shaolin Wahnam Family.
We are all different. We think, act and feel differently i.e. have different needs, aspirations, and walks of lives etc. Apart from sharing our love and joy with our family members, both in a narrow and more wider sense, what are the skills and how can we train them to understand the other person better in order to be able to nurture them more effectively?
The first skill is to realise this difference. For example, we in Shaolin Wahnam have enjoyed the benefits of our arts, and naturally we want our immediate family members to have these benefits too.
It will be foolhardy and bring a lot of unpleasantness to force our arts on them. Although they are our brothers and sisters, fathers or mothers, nieces and nephews, they live their lives differently. Let them live the lives the way they want. Do not try to force them to live their lives the way we want. It is their lives.
But we can show by examples. If you happened to have an illness and recovered by practicing our chi kung, tell them not only the effect but also the joys of your practice. Remind them that you need to put in effort. If they do not listen, that is their choice, and also their right.
You now live life healthy and happily. Tell them that it is the result of your practicing chi kung. If they want to have this health and happiness, they can practice our chi kung. They have to pay the fees for the training, and most importantly they have to practice everyday. It won’t take up too much of their time. they need to practice just about 10 minutes a session, twice a day.
If they do not spend the time practicing our chi kung, they would waste the time anyway, and probably remain sickly and unhappy. But it is their choice. Don’t pay the fees for them, or force them to practice if they do not want health and happiness. Realising this difference in choice is very important in sharing love and joy with them, or at lease avoiding dislike and unpleasantness.
An excellent way to develop this skill is mental clarity and realisation. Our arts give us mental clarity. What is needed is to realize the different needs and aspirations.. You also show by personal example. You yourself, practice our arts everyday.
Another important skill is to talk about things that they like to hear, not about things you want to talk about or you want them to hear. What you say must be truthful. Don’t lie to them to make things pleasant.
For example, your brother may want a better paying job. Don’t tell him that he has no money. It is not what he wants to hear though it is truthful. Don’t tell him he can strike a lottery. It is what he wants to hear but it is unlikely to be truthful.
Tell him that he can find a job that he likes and pays better, but he must make the effort to find it. If he just continues doing his job, it is unlikely his boss will give him more money, or a better paying job will come to him. But, if he chooses not to look for a better paying job, it is his choice. He chooses a low-paying job over putting effort to find a better paying one. Don’t nag him saying that he has no money or that there are plenty of better-paying jobs outside..
Another excellent way to share your love and joy with your family members, irrespective of whether they are in your immediate family or part of the Happy Shaolin Wahnam Family, is to have regular get-togethers. Such get-togethers may be picnics, outings or dinners.
For your immediate family, you may have to organise such get-togethers. It is easier for our extended Shaolin Wahnam Family. Your regular class is a good get-together where you can practice your skills of sharing love and happiness. You can also attend my regional courses or intensive courses to share love and happiness with other members in other countries.
It is common, especially in immediate families, that family members spend their time playing with their mobile phones instead of with other family members. You may have to suggest a rule that mobile phones are not allowed in such family gatherings. If anyone has to take an important call, he (or she) must do so briefly away from the gathering, and come back to the gathering quickly. If he does this often, he has to shut off his mobile phone. Taking calls is not as important as sharing love and happiness at a family gathering.
A better way is to lead the conversation so skilfully that other people voluntarily shut off their mobile phones. The topics of conversation must be so interesting that they involve everybody in the gathering. And you must be ready to be a good listener, not speaking most of the time.
You may, for example, start the interesting conversation by saying, “Mom, tell us how you keep our family together when we were small”, or “Dad, how ddi you spend time with our family when we were tiny children?“ If anyone is disinterested, for which you must be on the lookout, you can ask that someone what he thinks of the conversation. If his answer is short, like “Interesting”, ask him to tell the gathering what he finds interesting.
You may need to pay for the gathering to get it going. Paying some money is certainly worthwhile for you to share your love and joy with your family members. Later, you may suggest that family members pay a share of the gathering, or take turns to pay for the gathering. If any of your family member is unable to pay his share due to financial difficulty, you may secretly pay for him without others knowing so that he will not feel embarrassed.
If anyone does not attend the gathering, you can suggest a heavy fine. You may say something like “The gathering is in honour of our dad and mom who sacrificed much for our well being. It is insulting to them if you don’t attend.” Of course you dad and mom won’t be paying for the gathering.
If you follow these golden guidelines, you will make your family members more loving and caring for one another. The guidelines are:
Recognize that different people, even your family members, have different needs and aspiration. Let them live the lives they want. Do not force them to live the lives you want.
Say something pleasant and truthful in their presence. Do not say anything that may hurt their feelings or sensitivities. Organize family gatherings regularly. Mobile phones are not allowed in such gatherings. Lead the conversation so that everyone will enjoy the gathering.
But how would you develop these skills or abilities. These skills or abilities are related to mental clarity and internal force. If you have mental clarity, not only you realise the importance of having a happy family, you are also in a better position to acquire the skills or abilities for it.
You need internal force to learn the skills and carry out the abilities. If you just know that having a happy family is important, that is not enough. You must be able to make your family happy. Internal force will give you the necessary energy.
The training in our school gives us mental clarity and internal force. They will make our family happy if you carry out the suggestions mentioned above. Having a happy family life is a wonderful value to cherish. But you need to put in some effort to be successful.
Grandmaster Wong, his wife his son and daughter-inlaw and grandchildren
Why is Shaolin Kungfu more effective in combat than other martial arts?
– Tomas, United Kingdom
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
We can derive a good answer from my own experience.
In my younger days, as now over 70 I still consider myself young, I actually went out to look for sparring opponents to test my combat efficiency. I soon discovered that when I used techniques which were also found in other martial arts, like Black Tiger Steals Heart which is a thrust punch, and Happy Bird Hops up Branch which is a side-kick, my opponents of other martial arts could defend readily. But when I used techniques not found in their martial arts, like Lohan Tames Tiger and Rising Dragon and Galloping Tiger, my opponents would have difficulty defending.
The underlying philosophy, which occurred to me not at the time of sparring but much later, was quite obvious. If techniques A, B, C, D were found in their martial arts, and you used A, B, C, D against them, they would know how to defend. If techniques P, Q, R were not found in their martial arts, and you used P, Q, R against them, they would not know how to defend.
When you attacked your opponent, you must make sure he could not attack you at the same time. This was not difficult for me because “safety first” was a cardinal principle in my kungfu training. I always covered my opponents before attacking them, and as I used attacking techniques that they did not know, I always beat them.
Skills are more important than techniques in combat. Even when your techniques are superior, but if your opponent is more skilful, like he is faster and more powerful, he will still beat you. I did not realise this important principle at first. I only differentiated between skills and techniques much later. But I overcame this problem because initially I chose opponents who were of a same level as or lower level than me. Later when my combat skills improved, but still without consciously knowing the difference between skills and techniques, my choice of opponents became more liberal.
Another very important factor in combat is force, especially internal force. When I had developed remarkable internal force, I found that I could not only defeat opponents more easily but also opponents who were younger and bigger-sized than me.
A significant factor contributing to victory in combat is the application of tactics and strategies, which are rich in Shaolin Kungfu but not frequently found in other martial arts. At first I was unaware of combat tactics and strategies, but they were already incorporated in the combat sequences I used. Later with better understanding of combat tactics and strategies, my combat efficiency improved.
Hence, the many reason why Shaolin Kungfu is more combat effective than many other martial arts are a rich range of combat techniques not found in other martial arts, the focus of developing skills in genuine Shaolin training, the development and use of internal force in combat, and the application of combat tactics and skills.
What benefits you can find in Shaolin Kungfu that cannot be found in other martial arts?
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
An excellent answer was supplied by Kai (Sifu Kai Uwe Jettkandt, Chief Instructor of Shaolin Wahnam Germany), who was already a world known martial art master and an international all-style free sparring champion before he learned from me.
Kai told many Shaolin Wahnam members that he practiced Shaolin Kungfu because it fulfilled to a very high-level all the three attainments he looked for in any martial art — good health, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation. Kai explained that many martial arts were good for fighting but bad for health. Some martial arts were good for health, but not effective for combat and lacked spiritual cultivation. Shaolin Kungfu has all these attainments to a very high level.
One can have these three attainments irrespective of his age. In many other martial arts, as a person ages, his health and combat efficiency are affected. But in Shaolin Kungfu, a practitioner actually becomes healthier and more combat efficient.
Many Shaolin Wahnam members told me that they were healthier and fitter at 50 than they were at 30. In many other martial arts, as a person becomes older, his strength and stamina become weaker, and therefore his combat ability is less efficient. But due to internal force which is independent of age, size and gender, and which also contributes much to his health, vitality and longevity, he becomes more combat efficient as he grows older.
Shaolin Kungfu is extremely rich in philosophy, which records the essence of centuries of past masters. Not only the combat tactics and strategies enable present Shaolin practitioners to be more combat efficient, its philosophy enriches their daily life.
Not many people may realize that Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are the only two martial arts that originated from spiritual cultivation. All other martial arts gear towards fighting. Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of the Shaolin arts, and Zhang San Feng, the first patriarch of Taijiquan, practiced their arts to attain Zen or Tao, which in Western language means return to God the Holy Spirit.
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.
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 email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
Cleansing, building and nourishing are important functions in chi kung training
What is the difference between cleansing, building and nourishing?
— Amerigo, Switzerland
In cleansing, chi flow clears away impurities of a practitioner, resulting in him recovering from pain and illness, or makes him healthier and more lively. It is the first stage of chi kung training. It is also the most usual function of chi flow.
In building, chi flow strengthens a practitioner quantitatively, making him stronger and having more vitality. It is the second stage of chi kung training. This is the main function of internal force training.
In nourishing, chi flow strengthens a practitioner qualitatively, giving him longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys. It is the third stage of chi kung training. This is the main function of longevity cultivation. It enables a person at an old age to be still healthy and full of vitality.
To say that cleansing, building and nourishing are at the first, second and third stage of chi kung training is a matter of emphasis. All these three functions operate at the same time in chi kung training. When a practitioner cleanses, he also builds and nourishes his energy flow, but cleansing is emphasised at the first stage, building at the second stage, and nourishing at the third stage.
If a person is sick, he should focus on cleansing. Building more energy may be harmful to a sick person. For example, if a person’s heart is weak, injecting stimulant to make his heart work harder may kill him.
A person’s meridians should be quite clear when he builds his energy. Adding more energy when it is blocked could harm him, or make him angry or depressed. Some martial artists are victims of this situation, often without their knowing.
A person should be healthy and fit before emphasising on nourishing. Nourishing without cleansing and building may result in being weak and sick at old age.
How does one directs his chi to cleanse, build or nourish? Normally he does not have to do anything special. The chi flow generated by his chi kung practice will cleanse, build and nourish in that order of emphasis. This is the concept of “wu-wei”, which is often described as not doing anything and everything will be done for you. What is not explained is the other half of the secret, the concept of “you-wei”, which is doing the right thing first, then followed by “wu-wei”.
If a practitioner is sick, for example, by practicing chi kung and without doing any thing extra, his chi flow will cleanse him, clearing away his energy blockage to restore him to good health. If a practitioner is weak, after “you-wei” where he performs appropriate chi kung exercise to generate a chi flow, “wu-wei” will take over to strengthen him. If a practitioner is healthy but not peaceful and happy, his chi flow as a result of chi kung practice will nourish him giving him a better quality of life.
However, if a practitioner is knowledgeable, he can choose certain exercises that have special emphasis on cleansing, building or nourishing. For example, Self-Manifested Chi Movement and Five-Animal Play emphasize cleansing, stance training and Eighteen-Lohan Art emphasize building, and Cosmic Shower and Cosmic Breathing emphasise nourishing.
If a practitioner is skillful, he can use his mind to direct his chi flow to cleanse, build or nourish. Nevertheless, unless the practitioner has good reasons to do otherwise, employing the concept of “wu-wei”, after having performed “you-wei”, is safer and usually more effective.
My work involves much traveling. During the long traveling in my car, I think of things in my past which make me unhappy. How do I overcome this problem?
— Bojan, Switzerland
Here are three solutions. Choose the one you think is the best.
Firstly, don’t think of your problem. Clear you mind of all thoughts and enjoy the scenery.
Secondly, don’t think of things in the past that make you unhappy. Think of what you are going to do after your travel to make your wife and your children happy.
Thirdly, make the problem of your problem, i.e. unhappy thoughts of your past, into an opportunity for improvement. Suppose that in the past you wanted to study law, but for some reasons you couldn’t realize your ambition. Think of how lucky you now are being a salesman instead of a lawyer. Instead of attending court you now can enjoy the passing scenery. Instead of worrying over how to present your case the next day, now you can enjoy the evening with your family.
Or be happy with the thought, as well as the subsequent action, that now you can realize your ambition to study law when you couldn’t in the past. One probably reason you didn’t study law was due to lack of money. Another probably reason was because of your parents’ objection. Now you have the money, and are free from your parents’ objection. Make up your mind to resign from your salesman’s job, study law and become a lawyer.
Isabella sinks her stance to neutralize Hugo’s attack
Essentially the trick he taught is this: If you can trap and tame an opponent and control their center of mass while also striking, and perhaps kicking simultaneously it is like giving your opponent the sensory illusion that he is fighting 2 or 3 opponents at once. Not only the opponent has to contend with being off balanced but he also has to contend with incoming direct attacks as well.
— David, USA
An effective counter against this illusion is to let you chi gently sink into your dan tian, and simultaneously shift your stance over to your back leg, without moving your legs. This body-movement, or shen-fa, is called “shallow” or “tun” in Chinese.
This body-movement gives you better focus and at the same time moves your target away from his attack, irrespective of whether it is single or multiple or an illusion of attack from a few persons.
This concept is frequently used in Taijiquan. After swallowing, a Taijiquan exponent shoots out to counter-attack.
Editorial Note: David’s other questions can be read in the previous issue, July 2015 Part 1
So in short I am curious, Sigung, if this is a concept and skill I should incorporate in my kung fu toolbox permanently? If so can Sigung give me advice on how to enhance it or “Wahnamize” it and make it better?
If you find it useful, you can include the concept and application into your kungfu toolbox. In fact, that was why Shaolin Kungfu is so extensive. Shaolin Kungfu is not only an inspiration for many other martial arts, it is also a receptacle for the best of other martial arts.
You don’t have to “Wahnamize” the concept and application. Just take it and use it as it is. Later, when you are fluent with the concept and the application, you may modify it to suit your combat situation. This is in line with the principle “seen hook kai seong, hou ying kai ping” which is “first learn the standard, then modify according to changes”.
As the concept and application come from Wing Choon, and Wing Choon is included in our Shaolin Wahnam teaching, it is unlikely you have to make modification so that the concept and application are in line with our Shaolin Wahnam practice and philosophy. However, if a learnt concept and application come from a martial art that is different from ours, then we may have to “Wahnamize” it.
It is important to remember that if we have to “Wahnamize” a concept or an application, it is not because we want to claim it as our own, but because the modification minimizes its weakness and improves its effectiveness.
We have to acknowledge and be grateful to the source for the new concept or application. For example, many of the take-downs and pin-downs we now practice were first taught by your sipak, Kai, at a Special Advanced Combined Course in Sungai Petani in 2005. They were new to me initially, but later I discovered that these wrestling techniques were actually found in Shaolin Kungfu. But before Kai taught them at the course, I only knew the Shaolin patterns but not their applications. Kai’s demonstration gave me an inspiration to discover their applications.
I had to make some modifications to these wrestling techniques because an exponent using them would be exposed. The exposure was alright in wrestling protected by safety rules, but they could pose serious problems in Shaolin Kungfu where fighting was free.
For example, the wrestling shoot and take-down were similar to the Shaolin patterns “Angry Bull Charges at Fence” and “Emptying Rug-Sack”, except that in the wrestling techniques the attacker could be seriously struck by an opponent, but this was not allowed in wrestling rules, whereas in the Shaolin techniques the attacker had to cover the opponent before making an attack.
Sifu Kai Uwe demonstrating a pattern known in Shaolin Kungfu as “Lohan Taking Noon Nap”
I would like to mention that I have had what could only be described as an experience with Tiger Force. It was a Tiger Spirit chi flow, I was moving through various tiger patterns with such ferocity. My stance was immovable yet flowing, Tiger Force surged through me and I felt courageous, focused, and agile.
It is important to note that “tiger spirit chi flow” here means chi flow that resembled the movements of a tiger. It does not mean that a spirit entered you and made your movements like those of a tiger.
While your use of the term “tiger force” is apt, and the term is sometimes used in Shaolin terminology, we usually call “tiger force” just internal force.
Some people could have read that amongst the Shaolin “five animals”, the dragon form trains spirit, the snake form trains energy, the tiger form trains bone, the leopard form trains strength, and the crane form trains essence. They may not understand what is meant by the tiger form trains bone, and the crane form trains essence.
“Bone” here means internal force, and “essence” means elegance of form.
My Daan and Seong Fu Jow techniques were manifesting with flowing stances and six harmonies. After this I went into what seemed to be Double Stability of Golden Bridge Flow Mode, and I felt like I was expanding and contracting. Finally when I closed the session I was left with an impression of actually being a Human-Tiger! It was very surreal.
Congratulations for the remarkable experience. It is due to your dedicated training.
But it is very important that you are in full control. In this case, you were in full control of your force and movement, as well as intention. Your single and double tiger-claws manifested in flowing force, you moved into Double Stability Golden Bridge, and you had an impression of being a human-tiger because you allowed all these to happen spontaneously.
For the sake of discussion though in reality it might not be recommended, if you intended to change your tiger-claws into open palms to be manifested in consolidated force, move into a Single-Leg Stance with your hands spread out, and felt yourself to be a flying crane, you should be able to do so.
It is like in chi kung. You may roll on the ground and make noise like a monkey because you allow these actions to happen. If, for some reason like you do not want to disturb others in a park where you have your practice, you can remain swaying while standing up and not making any loud noise. You should have full control over your force, movement and intention.
Dr Damian applies a single tiger-claw to ward off Grandmaster Wong’s thrust punch
So my question to you Sigung is whether there is such a thing as Tiger Force. Does it have any relation to Dragon Force, does every animal have a Force associated with it?
Yes, there is tiger force, and the Chinese term is “hu jing”, which means “internal force of a tiger”. However, the term is not commonly used.
Tiger force is ferocious, whereas dragon force is flowing. Dragon force, though it looks softer, is generally more powerful than tiger-force. A high-level master can change from tiger-force to dragon force or any other type of force, and vice versa. Lesser masters would not be able to do so.
Whether a practitioner develops his force into tiger force, dragon force or any other kinds of force depends on the methods of his training as well as the way he applies it. If he uses methods like jabbing beans, gripping jars, Fierce Tiger Cleanses Claws, he develops tiger force. If he uses methods like Cloud Hands, Swimming Dragon and Dragon Manifests Majesty, he develops dragon force.
It is not rigid that every animal has a force associated with it, but the type of force manifested by certain animal forms is often named after the animal for convenience. For example, the type of force manifested by a practitioner using a snake form, like White Snake Shoots Venom, is called a snake force. The force manifested by a practitioner using a leopard form, like Golden Leopard Enters Rock, is called the leopard force. The force manifested by a practitioner using a crane form, like White Crane Flaps Wings, is called the crane force.
By practicing shooting a palm at a candle flame until the flame can be extinguished from a distance, one can develop the snake force. By constantly punching a sandbag with a leopard punch, he can develop the leopard force. By practicing San Zhan, he can develop the crane force.
By practicing One-Finger Shooting Zen a practitioner can manifest his force in many different ways. By practicing Dragon Strength a practitioner develops dragon force, but he can convert his dragon force to any types of force.
Different exponents may use the same method of force training, like the Eighteen-Lohan Art. Depending on how they use the same type of force, it may be called differently. The force manifested by a practitioner using a monkey form, like Spiritual Monkey Emerges from Cave, is called the monkey force. The force manifested by a practitioner using a praying mantis form, like Seven-Star Hook Hand, is called the praying mantis force.
It is like in Taijiquan or Iron Wire where practitioners develop the same type of force, but when it is used in different ways, it is named differently. When a Taijiquan practitioner uses his force to ward off, it is called “ward-off” or “peng” force. When he uses the force to roll back, it is called “roll-back” or “lu” force. When an Iron Wire practitioner uses his force to press into an opponent, it is called “press” or “pik” force. When he uses his force to strike in a straight line, it is called “straight” or “cheit” force.
Most importantly, can you give me advice about how I can use this “Tiger Force” to better my life and my kung fu?
Tiger force is well-known for its ferocity and courage, and is most useful for business, leadership and positions of authority. These qualities should also be applied in our ordinary daily life.
In a positive way, ferocity is assertiveness. When you talk to your friends or colleague, for example, when the situations warrant it, you should be assertive, and the courage of the tiger-force will enable you to do so.
Assertiveness and courage should be tampered with wisdom and good judgment. We must also know the limits when we should be assertive and courageous, not allowing these qualities to become bullheadedness and bravado.
In kungfu the tiger force is excellent for chin-na and pressing attack. It is particularly useful where techniques of the tiger-claw are frequently used, like in the Taming Tiger Set of Hoong Ka Kungfu.
It was probably that your training of the Taming Tiger Set developed your tiger force. This tiger-force will in return enhance your application of the set.
A common problem with some of our students is that they are not ferocious in their attack. They lack an element of threat. This lack is caused by a lack of courage. Tiger-force overcomes this common weakness and enhances not just the application of the tiger-claw but any style of kungfu you may use.
But again, we must guard against ferocity and courage turning into bullheadedness and bravado. These qualities should be tampered with wisdom and good judgment.. The mental clarity you derive from your training will contribute to good judgment and wisdom — in combat and in daily life.
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.
Sifu Andrew Barnett and his son, Bjoem, demonstrating Shaolin Kungfu in combat application
I have participated in a few of the local schools and can not find one to my liking. I have received a black belt in Kung fu and at this time I do not feel like I deserve it due to my lack of practice and not improving myself in my skills. Can you please send me any information that you may have?
— Joe, USA
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
At all times in all places real kungfu masters are rare. In China in the past there were many kungfu masters but very few of them would accept students. Today many people teach kungfu, or what they call kungfu, but finding a genuine master is more difficult than finding a gem in a hay stack. Refer to Qualities of a Good Master for details.
What is taught all over the world today, including in China, is either a modernized form for demonstration or a debased traditional form that uses karate, taekwondo or kickboxing techniques for combat. In my opinion neither is genuine kungfu.
This does not necessarily mean that these demonstrative or debased forms are not without their benefits. They are magnificient to watch and is an excellent way to keep the exponents agile and fit, but they are not the same as the kind of kungfu traditionally taught in the past.
In my opinion, the bottom line to decide whether one is trained in genuine kungfu is whether he (or she) can use the kungfu forms he has learnt for some decent self defence. If he can fight well but uses other martial art forms instead of kungfu forms, he does not qualify to have practised genuine kungfu.
The bottom line of my definition is that the kungfu he has learnt must be capable of being used for fighting, even if he loses the fight. The crucial point is that his kungfu forms are more than sufficient for his self defence; he needs not borrow or “steal” other martial art forms, and he should be able to defend himself in a typical kungfu manner. Bouncing about as in boxing and kicking high as in taekwondo, for example, are not typical manners in kungfu fighting.
Good kungfu goes beyond mere fighting. One characteristic feature of good kungfu is the training of internal force for good health as well as combat efficiency. If you ask what internal force is, it is unlikely you have any experience in its training. It is like someone who has not eaten an orange, asking what the taste of an orange is.
As far as I know, this internal force training is not found in most other martial arts. Western boxing and wrestling, for example, pay much attention to external strength and physical mass, and their exponents train in ways which typical kungfu masters would consider detrimental to health.
Some Eastern martial arts like aikido and karate mention about internal aspects like chi (or ki in Japanese), but their exponents do not spend as much time or go as deeply as typical kungfu exponents do in these internal aspects. A typical traditional kungfu exponent, for example, may actually spend more time practising Abdominal Breathing or Stance Standing (zhan zhuang) than practising patterns or sets — a practice that is not normally found in most other martial arts or modern demonstrative, debased kungfu forms.
The best kungfu, like Shaolin and Taijiquan, goes beyond the physical and leads to spiritual cultivation irrespective of race, culture and religion. The onus of spiritual cultivation is direct experience, not mere talking or book learning, and is practised according to the students’ developmental levels.
For those who have so far wasted their time in unwholesome activities, or those who feel empty and lost despite abundant material wealth, turning to a happy, rewarding life here and now is a remarkable spiritual achievement; at the other scale, the spiritually advanced aim for the highest attainment known variously as return to God, unity with the Cosmos, enlightenment or in Zen terms simply going home.
A magnificient demonstration of modern wushu, which is different from traditional kungfu
Reproduced from Questions 1 in Selection of Questions and Answers March 1998
An important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is force training
Can Sifu please tell us more about how training in Sigung’s school was? How many students did Sigung teach and how many people trained together in a class?
When I met Sisook, Sigungs’s eldest son, recently in Penang he told us that a minimum requirement for beginners was to sit in the Horse-Riding Stance for a whole hour. Can Sifu please tell us more about the training procedure and the progression of the students during this initial phase? How does the outcome of this approach compare to our comparatively short, but powerful stance training sessions in regards to immediate and long-term effects?
We also learned about a technique that Sisook called “sleeping” which is lying between two chairs. Can Sifu tell us more about this technique?
Sifu Leonard Lackinger
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Recalling my days training under my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, is both nostalgic and memorable. They were some of the happiest days of my life, and I am eternally grateful to my sifu for his kindness and teaching.
Much of the time at my initial stage of training, I trained alone. There were no other students, and my sifu was often not present. I went to my sifu’s house, which also acted as a temple, every afternoon to train. These were sessions of training, not learning.
Sometimes when my sifu was at home, he would watched me, nodded and then walked away. Sometimes he would say, “Very good, carry on!” Occasionally he would teach me a technique or two, and I would practice and practice it to become skilful.
At my sifu’s house there was a big altar where many statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Taoist gods were worshipped. Students voluntarily offered a joss stick — just one joss stick — at a main incense burner. Initially, due to my ignorance and arrogance, I never did that. I remember telling myself that I went there to learn kungfu, not religion. But after an intimate conversation with Immortal Li, for whom I am also eternally grateful, I always offered a joss stick before I started training.
Later I requested to train at my sifu’s house at night where some of my seniors also trained. There were not many of them, usually just three or four. My sifu was very selective in accepting students, though I was quite surprised that he accepted me quite readily. I was not only the youngest in kungfu age but also the weakest. My seniors literally handled me in sparring like a small boy, though later due to my dedicated training I could put up some semblance of defence.
It may be of interest to note that before I joined my sifu’s class I could beat all other martial artists in free sparring. But then I chose my sparring partners carefully, and I did a lot of homework before I sparred. With hindsight, this was the seed of my 30-opponent programme.
With foresight, this may inspire our family members in Shaolin Wahnam of the tremendous depth of kungfu. It was not without good reasons, and certainly not due to vanity but with much frustration, when I said that it was not difficult to beat other martial artists in free sparring — if our family members confidently used kungfu, and put in a bit of free sparring practice.
All my four sifus, who were patriarchs in their arts, placed a lot of importance on the Horse-Riding Stance. Some of my seniors came to class just to practice the stance. Indeed, most of the time of training of my seniors was either force training or combat application. There was not much time spent on set practice.
However, I did not have to spend much time on stance training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. This was probably because my stances were already good. My sifu asked me to show him the stances. He said they were good, and he moved on to other aspects of kungfu training. In fact he taught me Lifting the Sky before even asking me to show him the stances. After seeing my stances, he taught me One-Finger Shooting Zen. I still remember very well what he told me right at the start.
“One-Finger Shooting Zen is very important in Shaolin training,” he said. “It developed two of the most important of the Shaolin arts, dim mak and tiger-claw. Here we teach the best right at the beginning so that you have sufficient time to practice. Practice it every day. “
Right at the beginning of my kungfu career with Uncle Righteousness, I knew the Horse-Riding Stance was very important. “People in the past practiced only the Horse-riding Stance for at least a year or two,” I was often told, even by people who themselves did not know kungfu. But I did not know in details why was stance training so important. I only knew that the stances formed the foundation of kungfu, but did not know why.
Later I discovered that stance training sunk our chi to our dan tian. All kungfu movements were built upon stances. It developed internal force. Much later I discovered that it also developed mental clarity.
The Horse-Riding Stance in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school was different from that in most other kungfu schools, like the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness. Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was higher and narrower, and was pyramid shaped. Uncle Righteousness’ Horse-Riding Stance was lower and wider, and was box-shaped.
Interestingly, the Horse-Riding Stance I learned from my other two sifus, Sifu Chee Kim Thong and Sifu Choy Hoong Choy, was also high and narrow. But at that time I thought of them as a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wuzuquan and a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wing Choon Kungfu, and not as Horse-Riding Stance in general. I associate the Horse-Riding Stance in general with the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness, as most other kungfu schools, especially Hoong Ka, also performed the stance in this way.
Thus, I was initially surprised why Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was quite high. But as a good student, I just followed what my sifu taught me.
Another important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is combat application
The higher and narrower Horse-Riding Stance was certainly more comfortable. It was later after I had started teaching that I discovered that the higher and narrow Horse-Riding Stance, which gave it a pyramid-shape, better facilitated cosmic energy to be accumulated at the dan tian, thus building internal force.
Students at Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school practiced individually, not in a group, i.e. each student practiced his kungfu on his own, though often they paired for sequence training or free sparring. They also arrived at and left the school at their own convenience, though they might leave at the same time to end the night session.
Students usually started their training with stances and One-Finger Shooting Zen. This was how I usually started my practice too, though my sifu did not spent time formally teaching me the stances. Next they practiced their own kungfu set, or part of it. Often they started with Four Gates, the fundamental set, or part of it. Then they got a partner to practice combat sequences or free sparring, or practiced force training on their own, like rubbing their arms against hard edges of pillars and Iron Palm.
Students seldom practiced a whole kungfu set, but go over again and again some sequences in the set. Hence, sequence sparring came naturally to us. Weapon training was seldom. The weapon most frequently practiced was the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff.
The training procedure I went through was “ku lian”, or “bitter-training”. Ku-lian i.e. enduring long hours of training before one could get a little benefit, is also the approach of most kungfu practitioners in the past as well as today, including those who practice kungfu forms for demonstration or bounce about in free exchange of blows. But my ku-lian certainly gave me more benefits than to most other practitioners.
In contrast, the training procedure of our students in Shaolin Wahnam is a big joke. We tell our students not to train too hard, least they over-train. We tell our students that achieving just 30% of what they achieved while learning in courses taught by me is sufficient to meet their needs. We tell our students to enjoy themselves — and we really mean it.
Yet, despite such enjoyment and less time in training, our students get more benefit than I got when I was a student. And by extension, as I was a very good student with a high level of attainment, our students have more benefits in less time than most other practitioners. Indeed, as some of our instructors have rightly commented, many of our students do not realise how very lucky they are.
Our approach is simply ridiculous in regard to both immediate and long-term effects. Students who practice stance training in my courses experienced internal force discernibly immediately after the training session. In my student’s days in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school I would need about 3 months to experience similar internal force. With Uncle Righteousness who was famous for his fighting, and with Sifu Chee Kim Thong who was famous for his internal force, I did not feel any internal force after training the Horse-Riding Stance for many years!
Students who attended my courses would experience a chi flow on the very first day of their training. It took me more than a year training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam for me to experience a chi flow, and it was nothing like what our typical students now experience. I did not have any chi flow training with my other sighs.
Internal force is the essence of good kungfu. Chi flow is the essence of any chi kung.
The long-term effects of our students are marvellous. After training in our school for a year, internal force enables our students to attain peak performance, chi flow enables our students to overcome illness, and to have good health, vitality and longevity.
Until I trained with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I did not experience any internal force earlier although I underwent stance training delicately. Hence, I cannot say that internal force contributed to my peak performance in my earlier years.
When I was sick in my earlier years, which was actually seldom, I had to take medication. I did not know that chi flow could overcome illness. More importantly I did not know that chi flow could prevent illness.
Once when I was injured by my siheng in free sparring, my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, who was an excellent traumatologist, applied medication on me for six months. If I had a chi flow immediately, I could have flushed out the injury in less than half an hour!
More significantly, chi flow gives our students good health, vitality and longevity. I have no doubt that my kungfu training, despite without chi flow in my earlier years, has contributed greatly to my good health, vitality and longevity, but I did not know the philosophy of how it worked as our students know it now. I also did not know in my student’s days how to transfer the benefits of my kungfu training to enrich my daily life, although it must have done so unknowingly, as our students now do.
The technique of lying between two chairs is called “tit pan kiew” in Cantonese or “tie ban jiao” in Mandarin, which means “iron-plank-bridge” in English. It is a very powerful internal force training method. My sifu taught me this method secretly. I don’t know whether he also taught other students.
When I accidentally placed my arm or leg on my wife, she complained that it was very heavy though I did not intentionally apply any force. This gave an idea how powerful “iron-plank-bridge” was.
Actually I almost forgot about this training method, though at the time when I learned from my sifu, I practiced it diligently every night. One reason is that we now have so many effective force training methods which are certainly more comfortable.