One night, at Sifu Choe Hoong Choy’s house where he taught Wing Choon Kungfu in the garden at the back of his house, Uncle Cheong, a senior disciple of Sifu Choe Hoong Choy and well-respected kungfu master in his own right, visited the school. Some senior students were practising a staff set called Thirteen-Techniques Spear. Despite its name, it was a staff set, and a long tapering staff was used.
The students asked Uncle Cheong, who was an expert of the staff, about the combat application of a pattern called “High Mountain Flows Water”, where a staff was held slantingly away from the practitioner’s body with the head of the staff above the practitioner’s head, and the tapering tail of the staff slanting away almost touching the floor.
Uncle Cheong said, “It can be used to block a low sweeping attack.”
He then asked the student to sweep his legs and he blocked the attack using this pattern, “High Mountain Flows Water”.
Uncle Cheong then turned to me. “Kit Chye,” he said, “How would you use this pattern to block a low sweeping attack?”
“Kit Chye” (杰仔) was the name they called me. Other students would call me “Kit Kor” (杰哥), which means Elder Brother Kit. “Kit Chye” is an endearing term, often used by parents to call their children or elders to call their loved ones. It means “Kit, my lovely boy”.
“Uncle Cheong is an expert of the staff,” I replied indirectly.
“I know you are also an expert of the staff. Tell us one or two secrets.”
“I’m not sure whether I can tell one or two secrets.”
“Let’s ask our sifu.”
Uncle Cheong then turned to Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. “Sifu, would you let Kit Chye to reveal one or two secrets?”
“They are senior students. There’s no harm telling them one or two secrets,” Sifu Choe Hoong Choy said.
I took over the staff from Uncle Cheong, and asked the senior student to attack me with a low sweep.
As he did so, I blocked the attack as Uncle Cheong did earlier, but with the end of the staff gently hitting the attacker’s lower leg.
I asked him to attack again. I performed the same pattern blocking his attack, but this time with the tip of the staff pointing just an inch above a vital point between his lower leg and his foot.
Sifu Choe Hoong Choy and Uncle Cheong smiled noddingly.
“In a real fight,” Uncle Cheong told the student, “Your lower leg would be fractured as soon as you make the attack, or you would not be able to walk as your vital point at the foot would be dotted.”
I discovered the Shaolin arts and philosophy, and I am strongly attracted to the original traditional Shaolin lifestyle. Although my age is 59, I like to gain strength, solace, flexibility, health and fitness and spiritual health, and longevity and vitality at old age.
I am a physician in cardiovascular medicine and general medicine. I encounter a lot of fear, anxiety and stress in my patients.
So, it is good and wise to acquire Shaolin training myself and develop myself in order to help others for a very long time. I am convinced that Shoalin Kungfu, qi gong and Zen will help. I am aware of the holistic principle and combat form and meaning of the movements as well as universal energy.
Could you recommend to me where and how I can have the best and genuine Shoalin training? How do I start?
Please take into account that I am just starting and a beginner. I will read all your books in advance to get maximum information. I am also aware of the need to persevere.
At present I am reading your book, “The Complete book of Shaolin”. The other books will follow. But I understand that one doesn’t learn from a book, one learns from practice, instruction and repeating even blindly.
— Dr Joe, Netherlands
It is inspiring that you intend to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joys (irrespective of one’s religion) starting at 59. Indeed many of my students over 60 told me that they were healthier and fitter than they were at 30.
It is also inspiring that you wish to give confidence to your patients. When you are proficient in chi kung, you can teach your patients some simple chi kung exercise to give them confidence and increase their energy level as a supplement to the normal treatment you give them.
I would take this opportunity to explain that when you teach your patients simple chi kung exercise, you must not teach them at the same level that you practice, because doing so would cause them harm rather than benefit. You must teach them at a much lower level that is suitable for them.
Will you have harm instead of benefit if you practice at a high level? No, you will not. You will have more benefits.
Why is this so? This is because you attend my courses not only to practice chi kung at a high level but also learn remedial exercise to overcome harmful effects if you unknowingly make mistakes. But your patients do not have these benefits. So you only teach them at a low level of chi kung that is safe for them even if they make mistakes unknowingly. When you meet me in person, please remind me to show you about teaching and performing chi kung at different levels.
I would also take this opportunity to explain that what many chi kung instrucrtors teach nowadays is not chi kung but gentle physical exercise although they and their students use chi kung techniques. This statement is made in good faith, and not meant to belittle these chi kung instructors, who are usually kind and have good intention, but they themselves may not realize this important fact. Similarly, many Tai Chi instructors and students today do not realize that what they teach and practice is not Tai Chi Chuan, which is an internal martial art, but some external Tai Chi forms although they use genuine Tai Chi Chuan techniques.
Gentle physical exercise does not give confidence and increase energy level. That is why many chi kung practitioners today are still weak and sick because actually they practice gentle physical exercise, and not chi kung, which is meant to make practitioners strong and healthy.
To attain these two aims:
To have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joys for yourself
To be able to teach simple chi kung exercise to your patients, if you want, as a supplement to your usual medical treatment so that they can be confident and have more energy
I suggest the following option.
Attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Continue to practice on your own at home. It is sufficient if you practice just about 15 minutes daily. If you can, join a regular chi kung class taught by one of our certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors. If this is not feasible, you can practice on your own at home.
You should be able to achieve the two aims above in about 6 months.
Please see my courses and time-table on my home page. Please apply to the respective honorary organizer as soon as possible.
You can attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course without any prior chi kung experience. But if you wish to learn Shaolin Kungfu or Tai Chi Chuan from me, you need some prior experience. You can first learn some Shaolin Kungfu or Tai Chi Chuan from any of our certified instructors, or from any competent instructors outside our school. Then attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) Course.
I’d like to respectfully ask you for your advice. My wife has developed Alopecia Areata in 2012/2013 which probably progressed into Alopecia in 2014. It started during the first pregnancy in 2012 with few small bold spots on her head and she had finally lost all hair on her body in summer 2014, before our second baby was born
The hormonal changes were compounded by stress at work and lack of sleep.. Doctors told us that the disease is simply incurable and the only choice is the wig.
I hope chi kung could be a miracle cure for my wife, as the disease has likely been caused by hormonal changes in her body. Chi Kung could be the only chance to overcome the condition.
— Marian, UK
I am sorry to hear about your wife’s condition. But the good news is that she has a good chance to recover if she practices genuine, high-level chi kung.
Please note there are two dimensions in the term “genuine high-level chi kung”, namely the chi kung practiced must be genuine, and it must be of a high level.
For various reasons much of chi kung practiced today all over the world is not really chi kung but gentle physical exercise although practitioners use genuine chi kung techniques. Many people may be puzzled by this statement. How could their practice not be genuine chi kung when they practice genuine chi kung techniques?
They will have a better idea if we use a more familiar example of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan). Genuine Taijiquan is an internal martial art, but most people today practice it as an external dance-like form without any internal or martial aspect. But these dance-like practitioners use genuine Taijiquan techniques. They only can perform the external form of the techniques, but they do not have the skills to perform these techniques to develop internal force, and they also do not have the skills to apply these techniques for combat.
It is the same as chi kung. Most people only practice the external form of chi kung techniques, but they do not have the skills to use these techniques to generate an energy flow. Energy flow is the essence of chi kung. It is the energy flow that gives chi kung benefits, like overcoming illness and promoting good health, vitality and longevity. Merely performing the external forms does not give these benefits.
In other words, no matter what chi kung techniques your wife practices, and no matter how beautifully and for how long, if she cannot generate an energy flow, she will not be able to overcome her health problem. So, it is not a question of which chi kung exercise is good for her, but how effectively she can generate an energy flow. For this, she has to learn from a competent teacher.
Without energy flow, practitioners perform chi kung techniques as gentle physical exercise. It is energy flow that makes the practice as chi kung, which means energy art.
The second point is that the energy flow must be powerful enough to bring result. Even if the chi kung is genuine, if the energy flow is weak, which means the chi kung is of a low level, it may not be sufficient to help your wife overcome her problem. Your wife must practice high-level chi kung under the supervision of a competent teacher to overcome her hormonal imbalance and eventually to have normal hair growth.
There are three options for your wife to choose from:
Seek chi kung healing from the Holistic Health Cultivation Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Your wife is guaranteed to be cured within a year, or else she can have her money back. But she must attend daily healing sessions at the centre.
Your wife can learn chi kung from our instructors in UK. Please see our List of Instructors for information.
Attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course where she will learn how to generate an energy flow. She has to continue to practice on her own after the course. Please apply to my secretary for registration. Please see my home page for more details.
Amongst many benefits, practice kungfu gives us confidence
We understand that the child of 4 is more like a baby in development. Therefore we are not sure he will understand instructions for “Lifting the Sky”, etc. In such an instance how would you proceed to encourage chi flow?
— Sifu Tim Franklin, UK
Here are various ways to help those who may not be able to perform chi kung exercises themselves, like the child, to have chi flow to overcome their health problems.
You can channel chi to him.
His parents can learn chi kung from you, and then channel chi to him by stroking the child about half a foot from the child’s body from head to limbs, and from centre to extremities 2 or 3 times a day but not at noon.
You can transmit chi on water and let the child drink it.
You can transmit chi onto some suitable object, like a coin or a tiny pad, and let the child wear it on its body. Depending on the chi stored in the object, it may have to be renewed once a week or once a month.
I have personal experiences to verify that all the above methods work.
In my early years of chi kung healing I used to channel chi to patients. Later I found it more beneficial for them to generate chi flow themselves.
If the patients were too young or unable to practice chi kung themselves, their parents would practice and then channel chi to them.
When people brought their babies or small children to consult me at my chi kung clinic which I operated in Sungai Petani in my early years, and the babies or small children were too small to practice chi kung, I channel my chi to water or suitable objects for them. It worked very well.
This was inspired from seeing patients drinking sanctified water made from ashes of talismans given by deities in my childhood days as well as by Immortal Li at my sifu’s temple. Often these patients had seen many doctors to no avail, but were cured of their ailments by drinking this sanctified water.
Whether people believe in such methods is a different issues, but the fact remained that the patients were cured. I was puzzled by this fact. Later I concluded that the deities transmitted their chi or blessings to talismans, and the chi or blessings were transmitted to the sanctified water.
For the treatment to be successful, the parents must pay a high fee for your chi kung treatment. If you do it for free, or charge an average fee, the parents may not appreciate it and the treatment may not work. They must want the treatment enough to pay a high fee for it.
The issue is not whether they are rich or poor. The issue is the value they place on their child’s recovery. Even if they cannot afford the healing fee, they will borrow the money if they value their child’s recovery highly enough. And even when your fee is high, it is still low compared to the child’s good health. After all, the child’s problem is supposed to be “incurable” by conventional medicine.
I feel at a loss in that it seems I do not know how to not worry, intellectualize, and yet still make decisions, interact with life. I don’t know how to care and do, without deciding what to do via contemplating and intellectualizing.
I do not understand how to do things, like decide whether to take a job that I feel too tired for but need money, or the best route to help connect my family with help they need, or where to live now with no permanent home, or to decide what attitude to have with regards to my friend.
With so much up in the air in my chaotic life, I do not know how to get through all of it without thinking and contemplating and considering it all, planning, making positive and negative lists, considering, but it gets all crazy in my head with the thoughts just causing storms. The thought processes are huge surges of over-thinking, like Attention Deficiency Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
— Elizabeth, USA
If you run blindly across a busy street, you risk being hit by a motor vehicle. So you just don’t do it. It is very simple.
If you jump down a three-story building, you risk to have your legs broken. So you just don’t do it. It is very simple.
If you continue worrying and intellectualizing, you risk to be more and more sick. So, you just don’t do it. It is very simple.
Not to worry and not to intellectualize is far less demanding than not to run blindly across a busy street, or not to jump down from a three-storey building. If you fail in the task, you don’t have to die. But if you fail to stop running blindly across a busy street, or fail to stop jumping down from a three-storey building, you may lose your life.
Don’t do something is easier than doing something. Don’t worry and don’t intellectualize is easier than worry and intellectualize. You just don’t do it.
If you have to do something, or want to do something, just do it. You don’t need to worry or intellectualize about it.
If you want to eat your dinner, just eat your dinner and enjoy it. You don’t have to worry or intellectualize how you should eat your dinner or whether you should wear a blue dress or a red dress while eating your dinner.
Amongst many benefits, practicing chi kung will enable practitioners to have a clear and relaxed mind
Here is my current plan. I honestly feel that my dad’s best hope of recovery is if he comes to the Kuala Lampur program for one year, and has energetic assistance every day. My father fears traveling in non-Western countries where diarrhea and pathogen illness is common for travelers. He got very ill once in Mexico. I do not know if I will be able to get him there, but I hope so. As of now, he is refusing for fear of getting sick like I did and also because he is so tired to travel that far, and can’t imagine staying a full year.
I am working with my family on how to speak with dad in a less confrontational way, more feminine, and less telling him what to do. He is now so impaired by the Alzheimer’s aspect of the Parkinson’s Disease that he is becoming more and more like a belligerent child. He apparently has now started refusing to put on a seatbelt — it is hard for him to do it, but he has always done that, and now it’s just all so weird. He’s so angry at his state and his mind is so not its normal self. My “old” dad would never ever behave the way he is now.
In April, they are agreeing to come to a class with you in Canada or the United States. I hope you will have a class you think suitable for them. I am watching the website. Then I will stay with them maybe another month or so to keep their practice going. I am not feeling good about staying into summer, as that is high risk season, when infection is much more likely. It is not safe to be outdoors, as their area is hyper Lyme endemic, and they live in the woods.
My friend is also offering to help me finally sell off all my belongings in Seattle to raise money and get out of the storage space during the summer. So I am hoping they will have enough of a habit to carry on, and then once dad starts seeing some exciting results, he will realize
If you want to ask your father to go to the Holistic Health Cultivation Centre in Kuala Lumpur or to attend my courses in Canada or the United States, just do it.
If you father wants to come to the Centre or attend my course, just do it.
There is no need to worry and intellectuzlize.
I’m just a bit curious about unsheathing swords in Chinese kungfu, Are there any techniques to unsheath your sword from your back?
— Nareshwar, India
You just pull the sword out with your hand. If the sword is long, you may have to bend your body forward.
A swordsman uses the scabbard to keep his sword, he uses his sword for fighting
What I was trying to clarify was whether a swordsman actually used the scabbard in Chinese martial art. Did he use his scabbard to block an opponent’s weapon?
A swordsman used the scabbard to keep his sword. He used his sword for fighting.
When he met an inferior opponent, for fun he might use the scabbard, with his sword in it, so as not to hurt his opponent.
Using the scabbard or his sword to block an opponent’s weapon was a clear indication that he did not know how to use his sword skillfully. The hallmark of Chinese swordsmanship was agility. A swordsman might sometimes use his sword to deflect an opponent’s weapon, but he never used his sword, or its scabbard, to block it.
The swordsmanship of the Japanese master in the first video you sent me was excellent. This, I believed, was how a Samurai would fight
His excellent swordsmanship was a sharp contrast to what I saw in a Kendo class in my young days. Two combatants put on cage-like protection gear and hit (or slash) each other with their wooden swords. In 5 minutes they hit each other more than 30 times. It was hilarious. There was no attempt at all to defend against any attack. It was good for executives to let off steam.
The swordsman in the second video was mediocre. Notice that in the many encounters this swordsman in the second video needed three moves to finish his opponent when the swordsman in the first video needed only one.
The opponent in the second video had to freeze himself to allow the swordsman to complete his three moves. In the first video, the swordsman finished off the opponent as soon as the opponent made a move.
Another question, if you don’t mind. Are there any shield techniques in Shaolin Kung Fu, shield techniques as in Sword and shield, etc?
Yes, there are shield techniques in Shaolin Kungfu.
In the past the shield was listed as one of the 18 main weapons, indicating the importance Chinese martial artists considered the shield to be. In battle formations, solders often used shields to cover themselves from charges of lances or from rains of arrows afar.
Nevertheless, the shield is not used in conjunction with the sword. It is because using the shield with the sword would distract, rather than contribute, to combat efficiency. The shield is sometimes used in conjunction with the sabre, and sometimes with one Butterfly Knife.
In Chinese martial art, the sword, known as “jian”, is different from a sabre, known as “dao”. Using a Chinese sword like a sabre, as is sometimes seen in kungfu movies, is a clear indication that the user does not know how to use a sword properly, though many people may not realize it.
A sword is double-edged and is light, whereas a sabre is single-edged and is heavy. Application of the sword depends much on the wrist, whereas application of the sabre depends much on the arm.
In strict kungfu terminology, the Samurai sword and many European swords are sabres, but since their terms have become established, they are being continuously used.
Due to lack of deeper understanding amongst most Chinese, some kungfu terms have been misrepresented, and subsequently mistranslated into English. For example, Shaolin Kungfu is usually regarded as hard and external. As I have often mentioned, much to the displeasure of some people, there are more soft and internal aspects in Shaolin Kungfu than all the internal arts put together!
Xingyiquan (often spelt as Hsing Yi Chuan) is usually grouped together with Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) and Baguazhang (Pa Kua Chang) as Wudang Kungfu and regarded as Taoist. The facts are that there is nothing Wudang and nothing Taoist about Xingyiquan, except the fundamental Xingyiquan set is called Five-Element Fist.
It may be worthwhile to mention the following facts, especially for those who may be dualistic in their thinking. Saying that there is nothing Wudang and nothing Taoist in Xingyiquan does not distract from the great value of Wudang Kungfu and Taoist practice. Just as saying that a bicycle is not a computer does not distract from the value of a computer.
The Five Elements are also found in Shaolin. Different versions of the Five-Element Fist, for example, are popularly practiced in some Hoong Ka and Choy-Li-Fatt schools.
The term “Five Elements” is also wrongly translated! In Chinese the term is “wu xing”, which means “five movements”.
To say that the world is made up of five elements, namely metal, wood, water, fire and earth, is factually wrong. What is meant is that the countless movements or processes in the world can be classified into five archetypes, represented by metal, which indicates resonance, wood, which indicates growth, water, which indicates spreading, fire, which indicates rising, and earth, which indicates coming together.
As the term “Five Elements” has become established, it is being used, often without realizing its misrepresentation. Personally, I prefer to use the term “Five Elemental Processes”, maintaining the established root “element” as well as to indicate that the processes are elemental.
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.
It was a great joy teaching these school children. But the joy was greater for my parents, my wife and me when our first child, Wong Sau Foong, arrived in 1972.
Her name, which means “Beautiful Phoenix”, was bestowed upon her by Immortal Li, a patron immortal in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school , which also acted as a temple.
Sau Foong is our first bundle of joy who brought a lot of happiness to our family. When she was small, she stayed with my parents in Penang and was a special pet of my mother. I remember that my mother used to tie Sau Foong’s hair on top of her head like a little tree when she was a baby girl.
Like me, she loves reading. And like me too, she chooses teaching as her profession. She won a scholarship to study the Teaching of English as a Second Language in Bognor Regis in southern England. I did not teach chi kung in England then but in other countries in Europe like Spain and Portugal, but I made a special trip to England to see her. She stayed with a lovely couple called John and Bernie, and their son and daughter. Sau Foong became part of the family.
Bognor Regis is a beautiful little seaside town along the south coast of England facing France. I landed in London and took a train to West Sussex passing through some of the most beautiful countryside I had seen. When I arrived at Bognor Regis, the time was 5 o’clock in the evening but it was already dark as it was winter. Sau Foong waited for me at the railway station and we took a cab to her house.
The next day, we walked to the town, and through a park to the university college where she studied. We also went to the beach and looked across to France. John also took me in his car for sightseeing in the surrounding area.
When Sau Foong returned to Malaysia after completing her studies in England, she was very lucky to be posted to Penang, which was the hope of many teachers. She taught in Convent Light Street, which is a premier girl school in the country. Despite being new, she was made a discipline teacher of the school.
Although she loves teaching very much, at my suggestion she resigned from the school to help me with some business venture. But teaching is her love, besides her husband, of course. Sau Foong and Teoh Swee Fatt, an accountant, were happily married in 2004. Sau Foong returned to the teaching profession, teaching English in a university college in Penang.
She returns to our house in Sungai Petani every weekend to be with us. And when she returns to her condominium in Penang, my wife will always cook a lot of dishes for her and her husband to take back with them.
“At least they can have some home cooking,” my wife is fond of saying.
“This,” I muse to myself, “is a mother’s love for her daughter.”
Sifu I am still unclear about the harm that could be brought by over training or the training is too powerful.
— Dr Foong, Director of Holistic Health Cultivation Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Your question, or comment, is illuminating, and I would like to give a more detailed answer.
Over-training is a unique problem in our school. By “unique” I don’t mean that no one in the past over-trained. What I mean is that no school as a whole in the past and at present over-train at a scale and depth as we do.
Our over-training is closely related to our unbelievable cost-effectiveness. Our student can attain in one month what most other students would attain in one year — if they are lucky enough to practice genuine chi kung or genuine kungfu.
Most people, understandably, may consider us boastful over this statement, and some may become angry. They may concede that our school is twice better than most schools, or may be even three times better, which is a lot.
When I was a school teacher many years ago, I earned $2000 a month. When a colleague earned $4000 a month, that was a lot. If another colleague earned $6000 per month, that was incredible. (I was, of course, happy for them.)
But most people would not believe that we are more than 10 times more cost-effective than others, just as most teachers would not believe that a teacher could earn more than $20,000 a month.
Yet our typical student is more than 10 times more cost-effective than most other students, just as some rare teachers, not necessarily teaching in public schools, earn more than $20,000, though this is a small sum for some high-income earners like doctors and businessmen.
My conclusion that our typical students gain more than 10 times the benefits gained by other students is not made out of imagination, but based on facts.
Our typical students have internal force after practicing for three months. How many other kungfu practitioners have internal force after practicing for three years? Our typical students can use our kungfu for combat after practicing for six months. How many other kungfu practitioners can use their kungfu for combat after practicing for six years.
Your Holistic Health Cultivation Centre has helped many people suffering from so-called incurable diseases, including cancer, to recover after undergoing healing sessions for a few months. How many patients of so-called incurable diseases overcome their illness after treatment elsewhere after many years?
These examples are facts, not opinions. Anyone can find out whether the statements are true.
Hence, when our typical student gets 10 times the result of what other students get in other school, our students are over-training. Over-training means the benefits one receives from his training is too much or too fast for his body to adjust to, resulting in unpleasantness, tiredness, pain or other adverse effects. These adverse effects are a sigh to tell the practitioner to slow down his training so as to allow the body more time for adjustment.
There are two main ways to slow down one’s training — by reducing the time of training or reducing the intensity of training.
When one trains an hour a day, he can reduce the training by training for 15 minutes. But if he trains for only 15 minutes a day, like what our students do, there is not much time for him to reduce, though now, because of our increased efficiency, I advise our students to train for only 10 minutes.
We can also reduce the time of training by reducing its regularity. If a student trains for 10 minutes a day everyday, and still finds himself over-training, he can train once in two days, or once in three days. If he is advanced and powerful and still finds himself over-training, he can train just once a week.
But most of our students enjoy their training. They may not be happy training just once a week. An excellent approach to prevent over-training is to reduce its intensity. This is very effective for our instructors and advanced students who over-train.
An excellent way to reduce the intensity is not to go too deeply into a chi kung state of mind. In fact it is precisely because we enter into a deep chi kung state of mind that we have excellent result.
In theory it is simple, but in practice it may be difficult, even for our students. Here are some suggestions. Don’t take too long, like a minute, to be relaxed and clear the mind of all thoughts, and remain in this heightened level of consciousness. Take just a second or two. Relaxed, clear your mind and perform your exercise.
You can also focus on your form. If you are a beginner, get the outward form correct as best as you can. If you are advanced, aim for picture=perfect form. When you focus on your outward form, you perform the chi kung exercise more on the physical level and less on the mind level. Your result will be less, but it is still a lot compared to what other practitioners get, and minimize the possibility of you over-training.
You may notice that when students begin to learn form me, I ask them to not worry about their form. This is to get them onto the mind level and generate a chi flow. As they become more advanced, they pay more attention to their form.
Another suggestion which is negative but can prevent over-training is to purposely intellectualize and purposely tense your muscles once awhile. Tensing your muscles is not advisable, unless for specific reasons, but thinking of good thoughts while practicing is permissible. The intellectualizing will get you out of or to a shallower level of a chi kung state of mind, thus producing less result and preventing onver-training.
Purposely tensing our muscles can be useful in specific situations. When I sparred with somebody and accidentally hit him, and I sensed that my internal force was going into him, I purposely tense my muscle to prevent the flow of internal force hurting him. When you have over-trained but for some reason you still want to train, you can tense your muscles to prevent a lot of force developing. It can be uncomfortable. You have to do a gentle chi flow to clear the blockage.
Performing physical activities like practicing kungfu sets at a physical level, sparring with classmates, or going out with your family or friends, is a good way to expend energy, thus reducing over-cleansing due to over-training.
Remember that practicing chi kung is to enrich our life and the lives of others, and not to enslave ourselves to it. If you can get benefits in 10 minutes, you don’t have to practice for an hour. Use the time to enjoy other wholesome activities.
Over-training is very important in healing, i.e. teaching patients at a level much higher than they can absorb, or enabling them to recover faster then they can cope with. I shall deal with this topic in the next question you ask.
A healer told me that too powerful chi kung would not harm a patient. I told him that it would be harmful. The healer said that he was already an expert in chi kung healing. What is your comment, Sifu?
You are right and the healer wrong.
Too powerful chi kung is not only harmful to sick people, it is also harmful to healthy persons. It is like asking someone to run a marathon or lift heavy weights.
Even when he is healthy, if he is untrained, running a marathon or lifting weights will be harmful to him. If he is sick, it will aggravate his illness or may even kill him.
It is like taking medication. If a doctor asks a patient to take two pills, the patient must take two pills. If he takes 10 pills, he may be killed.
As you know very well, chi kung for healing is the lowest level of chi kung. The other levels in ascending order are chi kung fro health, chi kung for scholars, chi kung for warriors, and chi kung for spiritual cultivation. Although it is at the lowest level, chi kung for healing is the most useful today. This is because many people today, unlike in the past, practice chi kung to overcome their pain and illness.
If a healer teaches chi kung for warriors to sick people , he may kill them. It is like putting an engine of an aeroplane in a small car.
That healer may be an expert if he knows a lot about chi kung healing, but he may not be a master healer. A master healer is determined not by how much he knows but how well he helps patients overcome their illness.
One way to prevent over-training is not to enter deeply into a chi kung state of mind
Someone told me that as long as a person spent one hundred thousand hours on an art, he became a genius. I don’t agree because there are many other factors involved for one to become a genius or a real expert. What is your opinion, Sifu?
I agree with you, and disagree with the person who said that if one practiced an art one hundred thousand hours he would become a genius. If his practice is wrong, he becomes a big fool. Not only he has waste his time and effort, he has harmed himself, often seriously and unnecessarily.
This is the case with many martial artists today. They practice a martial art so as to become healthy and be able to defend themselves. But the more they practice the more unhealthy they become, and they cannot defend themselves. They merely exchange blows and kicks with their sparring partners in free sparring, and their injuries are usually unattended to.
Here is a list of factors a student may work on to get the best benefits from the practice of any art.
Have a sound philosophical understanding of the art.
Define his aims and objectives in pursuing the art.
Find the best available teacher according to his (the student’s) resources.
Practice the art according to the way the teacher teaches, and not according to the way the student thinks the art should be practiced.
Periodically access his result according to his set aims and objectives.
The same guidelines can also be applied to a patient seeking to overcome his illness and attain good health, vitality and longevity.
Have a philosophical understanding of his illness and healing.
Set aims and objectives, like overcoming his illness, and attaining good health, vitality and longevity.
Seek the best healer according to his resources.
Practice the healing procedure according to what the healer prescribes and not according to what the patient thinks to be done.
Periodically access his result according to his set aims and objectives.
I’ve been reviewing some videos to further increase my knowledge of what the world thinks about Baguazhang and recently saw a few Baguazhang weapons videos.
— Fredrick Chu, USA
What you are doing will contribute much to your understanding and attainment in Baguazhang. But it is important to know that what the world thinks of Baguazhang and what videos show on Baguazhang weapons may not be what Baguazzhang and Baguazhang weapons really are. This awareness is even more important in many other styles of kungfu, chi kung and spiritual cultivation.
Indeed, it is shocking how much kungfu, chi kung and spiritual cultivation have deviated from their original purposes and practice as shown in what the world thinks of these arts, and in what videos, even by well known world masters, show these arts to be.
What the world thinks of kungfu is often represented by Bruce Lee, despite the fact that Bruce Lee rejected both kungfu philosophy and methodology. For example, Bruce Lee thought that stance training, which forms the foundation of all kungfu, was ineffective, and his training methods were precisely what traditional kingfu masters warned against.
If you examine videos showing free sparring amongst kungfu practitioners, with the exception of those from Shaolin Wahnam, virtually all of them use boxing and kick-boxing, with hardly any kungfu techniques. If you watch videos on kungfu weapons, again with the exception of those from Shaolin Wahnam, there are hardly any on using kungfu weapons in combat, which is precisely the reason why the weapons are for.
If you watch videos on the demonstration of a Guandao, or the Knife of Guan, which is a long, heavy weapon, you will see that the controlling hand of most demonstrators holds the weapon just below its blade, and that the blade of the weapon is flimsy, which negate its advantage of being a long weapon, and a heavy weapon. Holding the weapon just below its blade would not enable its practitioner to use it on horseback or to cut it through the armour of an opponent, which were precisely what a Guandao was for.
A Small Universe Course where participants attain a “real break-through”
One of the weapons that many people mention when discussing Baguazhang is the Deer Horn Knife (I’ve also heard them called the Meridian Knives and the Mandarin Duck Knives). I have to admit, the weapons look rather spectacular, having many cutting edges and sharp points.
I was wondering what are the special characteristics of the Deer Horn Knives? How do they enhance Baguazhang practice? Are certain weapons more conducive to enhancing or bringing out the best of Baguazhang, such as the straight sword, the single knife, or the huge “Bagua dadao”?
The Dear Horn Knives are so named because diagrammatically they resemble the antlers of a stag. They are also called Meridian Knives and Mandarin Duck Knives because they are always used in pair.
Indeed, they look spectacular. The weapons are just sharp edges and points.
The special characteristics of the Dear Horn Knives are its sharp blades and points, which make them highly destructive. It is almost impossible for an opponent to dislodge the weapons from the exponent. The horns of the weapons can be used to lock or capture an opponent’s weapon.
Any hit of the weapons will cause bloodshed. The main techniques are cutting, slicing and piercing.
Interestingly, while the Deer Horn Knives are closely associated with Baguazhang, their training does not enhance Baguazhang practice. Circulating the hands round the body is a special feature of Baguazhang, but the sharp blades and points of the Deer Horn Knives do not facilitate this feature. But the agility of Baguazhmg contributes to an effective application of these weapons, so long as the exponent does not circulate the weapons round his body and cut himself.
The straight sword is the most conducive in bringing out the best in Baguazhang, and vice versa. In both the sword and Baguazhang, agility and flowing movement are of utmost importance. The swordsman, however, must not use his sword to circulate round his body like what a Baguazhang exponent does with his hands.
The Single Knife, or sabre, is also conducive in bringing out the qualities in Baguazhang, and vice versa. Circulating the sabre or the arms round the body is a frequently used skill in sabre and Baguazhang performance and application.
The huge Bagua Dadao is a large sabre that is quite out of size. Because of its huge size, it is good for training internal force or mechanical strength for those who have no internal force. Personally, I do not favour it because its excessive large size distract its application as a sabre
About a week or two ago, I felt the “false breakthrough” of the Small Universe during Baguazhang Circle Walking. It was the first time that I’ve clearly felt energy flowing through meridians (normally, my energy feels more diffuse or like waves passing across my body). I was walking the circle and my posture aligned in such a way that I began clearly feeling pockets of energy flowing along the Small Universe circuit.
I was wondering if Baguazhang, or any other particular martial arts, particularly well known for achieving the Small Universe and Big Universe?
Congratulations for your break-through of the Small Universe, even though it is “false” or apparent, and not “real” or permanent. A “false break-through” does not mean it is only an illusion and that there is really no break-through.
The term “false” is used relative to “real”. A “false break-through” does not mean there is no break-through. It occurs when a bubble of energy goes round the Ren and Du Meridians, and the defilements that block the meridians are being pushed through by the bubble of energy, but they may resume their blockage after the bubble has gone through.
A “real break-through” occurs when the Du and Ren Meridians are fully filled with energy flowing continuously and harmoniously round the meridians. A real break-through of the Small Universe enables practitioners to live beyond a hundred years.
Baguazhang being an internal art is more suitable than many other kungfu styles for attaining a Small Universe. But only Baguashang masters who have practiced for many years may have this attainment. It will be faster if they learn the art of Small Universe separately. But Baguashang practitioners who practice only the external aspects of Baguazhang will never attain the Small Universe.
If all other things were equal, Wudang Taijiquan and Dragon Strength would be more effective than Baguazhang to attain the Small Universe. This is because the internal force in these two arts is more flowing than that in Baguazhang.
Your attaining a break-through of the Small Universe, even a “false” one, is remarkable. Congratulations. Such an attainment is not likely to happen in most other schools.
A historical Baguazhang course at the UK Summer Camp 2012
Also, I remember hearing from my Sifu that Reverse Breathing is an important part of Small Universe training. I do know that at some point I would like to open the Small Universe, thanks to you, Sigung, and my Sifu’s writing about its amazing benefits.
I learnt Reverse Breathing at Goat Stance from my old Taijiquan sifu, and I had some good benefits like beginning to build and store energy at my dan tian, but I haven’t practiced it in a long time (mostly because shortly thereafter, I learnt from you and my Sifu in Florida).
Would it be worthwhile for me to begin practicing Reverse Breathing at Goat Stance if I wanted to further pursue the Small Universe, or should I wait until I’m able to spend a fair amount of time with you or my Sifu (for example, at a Small Universe course) to learn how to attain the Small Universe?
Reverse Breathing is an advanced art. It should be learnt from a competent teacher as wrong practice can cause serious problems.
When I was learning the Small Universe from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I made a mistake unknowingly while practicing Reverse Breathing. My chi accumulated about an inch on one side of my dan tian (I can’t remember now whether it was on the left side or the right side). It took me about three months of remedial exercise to correct it.
Many people mistake Reverse Breathing as Chest Breathing. They are different, though they look alike. In both cases, a practitioner’s chest rises as he breaths in. It rises more in Chest Breathing than in Reverse Breathing.
But in Chest Breathing it is air that goes into the chest. In Reverse Breathing it is energy, not air, that goes into the dan tian, or flows in a small universal circuit.
You should not attempt Reverse Breathing on your own. You can learn it from your sifu if you spend a fair amount of time with him, or learn it from me at a Small Universe course.
I was talking with Sifu recently and he told me that at my level I really needed to begin practicing regularly with other people to further refine my sparring and fighting skills. Funnily enough, shortly after the Legacy of Wong Fei Hoong Summer Camp (which I was unfortunately unable to attend), I was lucky enough to find a good school of Hoong Ka Kung Fu.
One of the things I liked immediately was the fact that the school does a lot of Asking Bridge in preparation for free sparring. Even though I haven’t had more than a handful of opportunities to train with and spar with people in the past two years, my stances, footwork, and internal force served me very well; I was routinely driving back and out-flanking people who had been in this school for about four or five years. The sifu complimented me on my solid stances and how my footwork always seemed to cut off my partner’s avenues of escape. I wanted to thank you again for teaching me those skills in Baguazhang, they are coming in handy a lot here!
This is no surprise because we pay a lot of attention on stances and footwork, but many other schools don’t. And Baguazhang is well known for footwork.
I did have a question about Asking Bridge and “bridging” in general. I noticed that this school and many others (which I’ve seen mostly in documentaries and on YouTube) use the One Finger Zen hand-form (which they call “Bridge Hand”) and their forearms for initially contacting with an opponent’s arms, especially during or immediately after defending against a strike.
What is it about this hand-form that makes it so popular in Hoong Ka schools compared to, say, the thread hand, Tiger Claws, or open palms? I personally feel more comfortable and sensitive with the thread-hand and open palms, but that may just be my Baguazhang background.
“Bridge Hand” or “kiew sau” in Chinese (Cantonese) refers to the forearm, not the One-Finger Zen hand form. The forearm is called a “bridge” because it is the part that is usually in contact with an opponent.
The term “Bridge Hand” is usually used in Hoong Ka Kungfu, and other styles derived from Southern Shaolin. It is seldom used in internal arts like Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan, or styles derived from Northern Shaolin like Praying Mantis, Tantui and Wuzuquan.
Besides in our school, the One-Finger Zen hand form, which is different from “Bridge Hand”, is now found mainly in Hoong Ka Kungfu, and rarely in other kungfu styles. It is mainly used to develop internal force, and at advanced levels for dim mark, i.e. dotting energy points. However, I suspect that most students today just perform the external form of One-Finger Zen hand form without knowing its inner significance.
I once asked my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, why the One-Finger Zen hand form was used to develop internal force. He told me that it activated the lung meridian. I followed up asking why was the lung meridian in particular activated in developing internal force. He said, in Cantonese, “fai wei hei zi fu”, which in Englsih means the lungs are the organs for energy. As developing internal force needs flowing energy, activating the lung meridians using One-Finger Zen is a very cost-effective hand form
In Hoong Ka Kungfu the One-Finger Zen hand form is used to develop internal force, though many Hoong Ka practitioners may not know how to do so, or may not even realize it. They perform the hand form because it is found in their sets, just as most kungfu practitioners of any style today perform their patterns because the patterns are found in their style, but they do not know the significance of these patterns.
In combat or even in solo performance, the thread hand using the dragon hand form, the tiger claw and the open palm are equally popular. In fact, when deflecting an opponent’s attack, like a thrust punch, Hoong Ka practitioners seldom use the One-Finger Zen hand form; they use the thread hand, the tiger claw or the open palm.
As an analogy, the Horse-Riding Stance is usually employed when developing internal force. But in combat it is seldom used.
Why is the One-Finger Zen hand form found in Hoong Ka and not in other styles. This was probably because the One-Finger Zen hand form was widely used in developing internal force in Southern Shaolin, and Hoong Ka Kungfu was the moist typical of Southern Shaolin. In fact, Hoong Ka patriarchs like Wong Fei Hoong and Lam Sai Weng called their kungfu Shaolin, and not Hoong Ka.
Then why is the One-Finger Zen hand form not found in other Southern Shaolin styles like Wing Choon and Choy-Li-Fatt. This was probably because the first patriarchs of these styles used other methods of force training. Yim Wing Choon, for example, used Siu Lin Tou which did not have the One-Finger Zen hand form. Chan Harng, the founder of Choy-Li-Fatt used a wooden man.
Editorial Note: Fredericks other questions will be continued at June 2015 Part 3 issue of the Question-Answer Series.