Sifu Wong Kiew Kit receiving the “Qigong Master of the Year” award from Professor Steven K. H. Aung at the Second World Congress on Qigong in November 1997. Looking on is the Chairperson of the Congress, Dr Effie Chow
What is chi kung (or qigong)?
Chi kung, spelt as “qigong” in Romanized Chinese, is the art of developing energy, particularly for health, vitality, longevity, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation, irrespective of race, culture and religion.
The term “chi kung” is Chinese, but arts of energy have been practised by different peoples, especially in the past when they were kept as top secrets. The Indians call their energy art “yoga”, the Tibetans “wisdom art”, whereas the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks called it “the mystery art”.
Because of cultural and historical reasons, there may be some differences in the methods and emphasis in these different energy arts of different peoples, but they all deal with developing energy, and they all aim at promoting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, irrespective of one’s religion.
Various types of chi kung
There are literally hundreds of types of chi kung, because the term “chi kung” is actually a collective name for various arts of energy training.
For example, in the history of chi kung in China, physicians developed energy for healing, kungfu exponents for enhancing combat efficiency, Confucian scholars for mind expansion, and Taoist and Buddhist cultivators for spiritual growth.
Nevertheless, there are large, comprehensive schools of chi kung, such as Shaolin Chi Kung and Taijiquan Chi Kung, where the various different health, martial, mental and spiritual needs are fulfilled.
Different levels of chi kung attainment
Not only there are various types of chi kung serving different needs, there are also different levels of attainment within the same type of chi kung.
Numerous variables that determine the level of attainment include the appropriateness of the methods chosen, the competency of the teacher, as well as the dedication of the student. Obviously, assuming other factors being equal, a superior method, an experienced teacher or a student who practises regularly will produce better result than someone without these advantages.
But what is not so obvious to many people, including most chi kung practitioners today, is the operational level at which one practises chi kung. Chi kung training can be operated at the form level, the energy level or the mind level.
Form, energy and mind in chi kung training
Sifu Anthony Spinicchia of the United States enjoying Standing Zen, which is a high level chi kung bringing mind expansion and spiritual joy.
Although there are thousands of chi kung exercises, they all involve three elements, namely form, energy and mind. These three elements are also the “three treasures” of a person.
In other words, every human has form, energy and mind. Chi kung training develops all these three essential elements of a person.
However, due to various reasons, the great majority of chi kung practitioners today, including in China, practise only the form aspect of chi kung, neglecting the energy and the mind aspects.
Strictly speaking, this is not chi kung; it is only chi kung form, and in terms of giving health benefits I believe it is less effective than conventional physical exercise like swimming, playing field games and working out in a gym.
For convenience, I call this level of chi kung which pays attention only to form, low-level chi kung.
In my opinion, the least a practitioner should have is the energy aspect in order to justify calling his exercise chi kung, i.e. energy training. This is middle-level chi kung, and the practitioner makes a conscious, purposeful effort to influence his energy flow, such as clearing energy blockage and increasing energy level.
In terms of health benefits, middle-level chi kung is far superior to conventional physical exercise, as the benefits are a direct result of its practice, whereas in conventional physical exercise the health benefits come as a bonus.
High-level chi kung is where the mind is involved. After entering into what is known as “a chi kung state of mind”, which is a heightened state of consciousness, the practitioner can manipulate energy the way he wants, like tapping energy from the cosmos and directing it to whatever parts of his body.
At this level, it is beyond comparison with conventional physical exercise. Not only so-called “incurable” diseases can be cured, some masters may accomplish feats which ordinary people would regard as miracles — or fakery.
What disease can practising chi kung overcome?
Low-level chi kung may provide some gentle exercise for better blood circulation, muscle loosening and relaxation, but may not be strong enough to overcome diseases.
Middle-level chi kung may overcome diseases like asthma, tuberculosis, rheumatism, bodily pains, gastritis, insomnia, anxiety and nervousness, and effectively prevents common colds and fevers.
High-level chi kung can cure any diseases, including ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and cancer. This is not an exaggerated claim; personally I have helped many people to be relieved of their so-called incurable diseases.
There is also sound medical explanation for the cure. According to Chinese medical philosophy, illness occurs if there is insufficient vital energy to work the natural systems of the body (and mind), or if the flow of vital energy is disrupted.
The forte of chi kung is to increase energy level and to clear energy blockage, thus overcoming the illness, irrespective of what labels may be used to describe its symptoms.
I did not realize that Cosmic Shower was more advanced than Bone Marrow Cleansing.
— Sifu Angel Perez Oliveras, Puerto Rico
There are five levels in Bone Marrow Cleansing, so it takes two courses, Part 1 and Part 2, to complete the programme. These five levels range from basic to advanced levels. I can adjust the level I want to teach.
When I first taught Bone Marrow Cleansing, I taught its highest level, the level of cleansing nerves, which was higher than Cosmic Shower when the latter was initially taught. I have since lowered the level of cleansing nerves.
Meanwhile, the level of Cosmic Shower, which initially was just cosmic energy showering down the body, has been raised due to improvement of my teaching methodology. Now I teach Cosmic Shower for strengthening too, strengthening at all levels, i.e. the physical,. emotional, mental and spiritual. As a result, in general Cosmic Shower is now of a higher level than Bone Marrow Cleansing.
Nevertheless, this is relative because we can vary the level on which to operate the art we are practicing. In other words, not only I myself can vary the level of the exercise we practice, I also teach students how to do so. This is a master’s ability. Actually even many masters cannot do so. These masters practice the art at the level when they first learned it from their teachers. They may become more skillful at their level, but they do not go beyond the level of the exercise they learned it.
As an analogy, if a student learns and relearns his secondary school material, he may be very good at his secondary school material, far better than other secondary school students, but he won’t be able to deal with university material.
But our students are different. They are taught how to use their secondary school level at university level. They not only learn that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, which secondary school students learn, but also how this relationship can benefit both Peurto Rico and continental United States, material that university students would discuss.
In Cosmic Shower, which actually is university material in chi kung as not many chi kung practitioners have a chance to learn such a skill even when they may have practiced for many years, our students not only learn how to let cosmic energy flow through their body, but also how and why the cosmic flow can clear their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual blockage to enrich their daily lives in all aspects.
Is it alright for beginning students to take Bone Marrow Cleansing after Generating Energy Flow, and skip Cosmic Shower and Cosmic Breathing? Can they take all the chi kung courses offered if they want to?
Yes, students who are fresh beginners can take the Bone Marrow Cleansing course after taking the Generating Chi Flow course, and skip Cosmic Shower and Cosmic Breathing.
In fact they can take all the qigong courses as long as they have taken the Generating Energy Flow course. The Generating Energy Flow course is fundamental, which means not only basic but also very important.
It is basic because without generating an energy flow, one is not practicing chi kung even when he performs chi kung techniques. He performs the chi kung techniques as gentle physical exercise, and may not realize the fact. More than 80% of all chi kung practitioners in the world fall under this category.
Some people may be angry at this statement, and that is their business. But if those in this category take heed of the advice and do something about it, but not necessarily learning from us, they will start to get chi kung benefits which they have missed despite all those years of dedicated training.
Our chi kung programme where even fresh beginners can take all the chi kung courses offered is actually quite ridiculous — in a good sense. Students progress form a fresh beginners’ level to a masters’ level in just two days.
Even genuine masters, who are rare and have dedicated their lives to practicing chi kung for more than 20 years, may not have the skills of Bone Marrow Cleansing, Cosmic Shower or Cosmic Breathing. They are masters of the art they practice, which, honestly without being disrespectful to them, are relatively of a low level, consisting of repeating chi kung techniques many, many times to generate some energy flow.
Most other masters are, strictly speaking, not even genuine chi kung practitioners because they perform chi kung techniques not as energy exercise but as gentle physical exercise. They cannot generate an energy flow. But we still call them “masters” out of respect.
Isn’t it ridiculous that fresh beginners at our chi kung courses can learn not only techniques but more importantly skills that even masters may not learn? But our students do not become masters in two days. They still need time to practice their techniques and skills to master them.
But our students do not need 20 years to become masters, they need only 2 years. Why do our students need only one-tenth the time? It is because we understand the underlying philosophy and our training is systematic and progressive.
Generating Energy Flow is sufficient to fulfill the needs of most people
What advice should I give the students?
Some good advice to tell beginning students is for them to focus on Generating Energy Flow, and to practice the more advanced exercises like Bone Marrow Cleansing, Cosmic Shower and Cosmic Breathing only occasionally to maintain the skills and techniques. They may practice these more advanced exercises later on when they have become more proficient in chi kung.
For people who want to overcome pain and illness and to maintain well-being, it is not necessary to learn the more advanced exercises. Generating Energy Flow is more than enough to fulfill the needs of most people.
But “not necessary” does not mean “not beneficial”. As an analogy, if one is prepared to walk, it is not necessary to own a bicycle, a car or take a flight on an aeroplane. If he is to see a friend on the next street, it would be easier to walk.
But he has to walk, if he remains in his house he would not see his friend. In the same way, if he wants to overcome pain and illness, he has to practice Generating Energy Flow. If he does not practice, he will not get well.
If he has to go to a faraway place, it would be faster and more comfortable to take a car or an aeroplane. The car and the plane are not necessary, though very beneficial. The Polynesian people, for example, reached the East Indies before cars and planes were invented, though their journey took much longer time and was less comfortable, besides being more risky.
So, although the more advanced chi kung courses are not necessary, they are very beneficial. Indeed, it would be unwise if beginning students do not make full use of this opportunity to learn these courses, as the present plan is that I visit Puerto Rico only once in two years to teach the techniques and transmit the skills of these courses. This will be good advice to them, i.e. don’t miss the opportunity when it is available.
In the pattern, “Immortal Emerges from Cave”, which part of the hand should make contact with an opponent’s arm?
I normally use the outer edge of the palm and sometimes the base of the palm.
— Sifu Leonard Lackinger, Austria
In “Immortal Emerges from Cave” the outer edge of the palm should make contact with an opponent’s elbow or forearm. This may result in dislocating the opponent’s elbow or fracturing his forearm. It is a strike, and not a block.
However, if you wish to be merciful, you can use the base of your palm to stop his attack, instead of dislocating his elbow or fracturing his forearm.
Editorial Note: Sifu Leonard Lackinger’s other questions are found at August 2015 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
A well executed “Immortal Emerges from Cave” can dislocate an opponent’s elbow or break his arm in just one move
Would you regard this pattern as a direct counter or only as a floating defence movement?
This pattern can be used as a no-defence-direct-counter, or as a floating movement.
The reason why I ask is because it is one of the hardest of the basic patterns, causing much damage on the opponent’s arm if done with some force.
The harder an opponent attacks you, the easier it will be for you to dislocate his elbow or break his arm. If you do not want to hurt him, you can float his attacking movement.
Grandmaster Wong demonstrating “Fierce Tiger Cleanses Claws”
Thank you for providing the ranking of chi kung techniques in your great 10 Questions Series on the Five-Animal Play.
As the art of Bone Marrow Cleansing consists of 5 levels, I tried to put them into the list separately.
Self-Manifested Chi Movement
5 Animal Play
18 Lohan Hands
18 Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Techniques
Bone Marrow Cleansing – Skin Level
Grasping Sparrow’s Tail
18 Lohan Art
Bone Marrow Cleansing – Flesh Level
One Finger Shooting Zen
Bone Marrow Cleansing – Meridian Level
Bone Marrow Cleansing – Organ Level
Bone Marrow Cleansing – Bone Marrow Level
Phenomenal Big Universe
Cosmic Breathing (Transcendental Big Universe)
Merging with the Cosmos (Transcendental Big Universe)
Would you regard that list as correct?
The listing is subjective, and may vary according to some factors, like different practitioners, different times even for the same practitioner, state of mind, level of focus and relaxation, and developmental stage.
Generally your list is correct.
Provided they suit to this list, where would you put Iron Wire, Fierce Tiger Cleanses Claws and Forceful Big Windmill?
I would place Iron Wire after Golden Bridge, Fierce Tiger Cleanses Claws after Bone Marrow Cleansing Organ Level, and Forceful Big Windmill after Bone Marrow Cleansing Flesh Level.
I know that it’s mainly a mind play and that the true ranking depends on the skill and focus of the practitioner, but the list is a good guideline for selecting the program for current and future advanced chi kung classes.
You are right. The mind set, skill and focus of the practitioner are very important.
One main reason why we have remarkable result is because we operate at the mind level. This explains why past masters mentioned that the greatest kungfu was at the mind.
Operating at the mind level does not mean visualization, as some people wrongly imagine, though visualization is sometimes employed. In fact, one can obtain tremendous result by keeping the mind clear, i.e. without any visualization.
Operating at the mind level generally means how deeply a practitioner enters into a meditative state of mind while practicing his art.
Skill is of course very important too. It is another main reason why we can obtain remarkable result.
Most people, including many masters, think that by practicing the right technique they can get the desired result. In my earlier years, I thought in this way too.
But it is so clear that this is not so, though most people fail to realize it. But once we realize it, it can become quite shocking. More than 80% of chi kung practitioners do not derive chi kung benefits although the chi kung techniques they employ are correct. More than 90% of kungfu practitioners cannot use their kungfu for combat although their kungfu techniques are correct. The reason is that they do not have the required skills.
Focus is related to mind, though it is possible to be focused yet not in a meditative or chi kung state of mind. Of course, when one is in a chi kung state of mind, he is focused.
Being focused is not the same as being concentrated in a stressful manner. Due to the limitation of language, some people may have this misconception. That is why they wonder, wrongly, how one could be focused and relaxed at the same time.
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.