Sifu Wong Chun Nga breaking a brick with internal force almost 30 years ago when he was only 11 years old
At the “Secrets of Internal Force” course at the UK Summer Camp, I took notes that only about 5% of Kung Fu practitioners today were able to develop internal force, while in the past about 70% could. In Shaolin Wahnam we are happy that 100% of our practitioners are able to do so.
— Sifu Leonard Lackinger, Austria
You are right that very, very few kungfu practitioners today, including masters, have internal force. Most other martial artists do not believe in internal force.
It is simply ridiculous that not only 100% of our practitioners have internal force, but also they make good use of it to enrich their life. This is something even masters in the past could not do. Many well known masters in the past, like the famous Taijiquan master, Yang Deng Fu, and the famous Xingyiquan master, Kuo Yun Sheng, led miserable lives.
I might have forgotten but I can’t remember saying that 70% of kungfu practitioners in the past had internal force. If we take kungfu practitioners in the past in general, not just in the Shaolin Temples, I think less than 30% of them had internal force.
This 30% is a generous estimate. If we consider only kungfu students, leaving masters asides, I believe those with internal force would be less than 10%. Most kungfu styles were (and still are) considered “external”.
Only those who practiced internal styles for a long time, like Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang, had internal force. On the other hand, external kungfu masters who had practiced their arts, like Hoong Ka, Wing Choon, Choy-Li-Fatt, Praying Mantis and Eagle Claw, for a long time might have internal force, usually without their own realization.
My question refers to the “70%”. Does this estimation refer to practitioners at the Shaolin Temples only?
Given that my interpretation of the 70% refers to practitioners at the Shaolin Temples is correct, what would be your estimation, in percentage, of successful internal force practitioners outside of the Shaolin temples in the past?
Yes, if I had said that 70% of kungfu practitioners in the past had internal force, I would be referring to practitioners at the Shaolin Temples only.
Even at the Shaolin Temples, Shaolin Kungfu was often referred to as external, different from the flowing force, for example, of practitioners practicing Taijiquan at the Chen Village. Even the Shaolin monks used “external” methods, like hitting sandbags and carrying water, when they had internal force.
Apart from the Shaolin Temples at Henan, Quanzhou and on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, my estimate of kungfu practitioners in the past with internal force is less than 30%. The situation today is worse. Less than 5% of kungfu practitioners now have internal force.
Shaolin Kungfu, usually considered external by most people, is practiced as an internal art in our school
Also, from what I learned from you, I would say that even practitioners who had the rare chance of learning from an internal master would only be taught internal methods after showing their worth by years of external training first.
After learning the methods many still could not produce internal force consistently, because they did not know the secrets and underlying philosophy we have today.
I believe that internal training was always hard to find, be it today or in ancient China.
Both Northern and Southern Shaolin were (and still are) considered external. We are freaks to practice them as internal arts, which they really are, especially at an advanced level, though our students now could practice them as internal arts right at the beginning.
Indeed, internal training was, and is, very hard to find, today or in classical China. Your siheng, Kai, for example, spent a few years traveling to the East to seek for internal force, but to no avail.
My estimate of practitioners outside the Shaolin Temple in the past, and outside of Shaolin Wahnam now, who had or have internal force is less than 10% in general, which is a generous estimate. Base on my own experience, those with internal force is probably around 3%, and none of them know how to use it consciously to enrich their life. Because of their internal force, these rare masters may be more effective in their work, and more rewarding in their life, but they do not consciously apply it as we do.
We sound boastful, but we are merely stating the truth.
Thoughts come to my mind all the time. How do I clear my mind of all thoughts?
— Alexei, Russia
Just do it.
In other words, if you want to clear your mind of all thoughts, just clear your mind of all thoughts, instead of thinking of how to clear your mind of all thoughts, or why or when or what is it to clear your mind of all thoughts.
The same method is applicable in daily life, which will make life more pleasant for you.
For example, if you want to find a new job, go for a holiday, or buy a present for your wife, just do it, i.e. find a new job, go for a holiday, or buy a present for your wife.
Instead of just doing what they want to do, many people intellectualize, and make themselves stressful. They intellectualise, for example, why they should find a new job, where they should go for a holiday, and how they should buy a present for their wife. They may intellectualize for a long time, but never get to do what they want to do.
In principle it is like standing up from the chair you are sitting on. Just do it. Just stand up. But instead of just doing it, i.e. just standing up, you start to intellectualize why you should stand up, how you can stand up, and whether you should stand up or remain sitting on the chair.
Students in our school are able to generate a chi flow on the very first day of their learning chi kung from us
Why do many chi kung practitioners not have any chi flow despite practicing chi kung for many years, whereas we have a chi flow on the very first day we learn chi kung?
— June, Singapore
There are a few ways to answer this question, though all these different ways eventually refer to the same truth.
Many chi kung practitioners do not have any chi flow despite practicing chi kung for many years, whereas you have a chi flow on the very first day you learn chi kung because the many practitioners do not have the skills to generate a chi flow although they use correct or even the same techniques, but you can generate a chi flow on the very first day because you have the necessary skills.
Suppose a wealthy person gives a car to people who do not have the skills of driving. Although they may have the car for many years, they still cannot drive it. But if you have the skills of driving, you can drive the car on the very first day it is given to you.
Another way to answer the question is that many chi kung practitioners do not realise that they need special skills to generate a chi flow. They may not even know what a chi flow is. They think, wrongly, that if they perform chi kung techniques, they will have the benefits of chi kung. It is also not complimentary to them that they they do not realise this fact, that they do not get the benefits of practicing chi kung. Many chi kung practitioners are still weak and sick despite many years of practice.
On the other hand, you know the difference between skills and techniques, as this has been clearly explained to you. You also know that chi flow is the essence of chi kung, and that it is chi flow that gives the benefits of chi kung, not the chi kung techniques. In other words, even when practitioners practice chi kung techniques correctly, but do not experience any chi flow, they will not have chi kung benefits like overcoming pain and illness, and enjoying good health and vitality.
Most importantly, besides the important knowledge, you are transmitted the skills from heart to heart at the course so that you can use the skills to perform the techniques to generate a chi flow on the very first day you learn chi kung. Once the skills are transmitted to you, especially when you practice these skills during the course, they are yours, and you can use the skills to generate a chi flow when you perform chi kung techniques.
A third way to answer the question is that you entered into a chi kung state of mind, and performed chi kung in a chi kung state of mind. Hence, even on the very first day you learned chi kung, you could generate a chi flow. Other practitioners do not know how to enter into a chi kung state of mind, and do not perform their chi kung techniques in a chi kung state of mind. They may not even know what the term is. Hence, they may have practiced chi kung techniques for many years, but still are unable to generate a chi flow.
All these are different ways to answer the same question. Having the necessary chi kung stills, differentiating between techniques and skills, and entering into a chi kung state of mind, refer to the same situation — the situation of generating a chi flow on the very first day you learn chi kung, or the situation of other practitioners not generating a chi flow despite having practicing chi kung for many years. Strictly speaking, these other practitioners do not practice chi kung; they merely perform chi kung forms, in the same way that many Taiji practitioners today do not practice Taijiquan, which is an internal, martial art; they merely perform external Taiji forms.
Although my explanation is clear, the uninitiated may not understand what I have explained although they may know the dictionary meaning of all the words used. They do not understand that it is necessary to have the right skills to generate a chi flow, that chi flow is the essence of chi kung, the difference between skills and techniques, and entering into a chi kung state of mind.
Despite my explanation, they still think that all they need to do is to practice chi kung techniques correctly and diligently, and eventually they will have the benefits of chi kung. Less than 20% of them if they practice for many years may eventually acquire the necessary skills and enjoy the benefits of chi kung, but usually they are unaware of the skills. The great majority merely practice chi kung forms.
What can we do when we loose trust in someone or someone looses trust in us? Irrespective of who is wrong or has a wrong perception. I have had two occasions now where this is an issue for me.
— Binia, Switzerland
Different people may react differently when they loose trust in someone or when someone looses trust in them. Many people will feel angry because they only see things their way, and presume the other party is wrong. The other party will also feel angry and presume these people are wrong.
If these people are weaker, in ability or status, they feel disappointed or dejected. Sometimes they rebel.
Often, both sides are right, but they see things from different perspective. The failure to understand and appreciate this fact leads to quarrels and fights, including amongst nations with much destruction.
We in Shaolin Wahnam see the issue the Shaolin Wahnam way. We realize that the same issue can be viewed from different perspective, and not that any side is right or wrong. We are able to differentiate opinions from facts, and realize that often opinions are more important.
Let us take an example. .Suppose a student thinks Boxing is more effective for combat than Shaolin Kungfu, This is his opinion.
It is not a fact that Boxing is more effective in combat than Shaolin Kungfu, although in his particular case at this particular time, if he uses Boxing he is more effective in combat than if he uses Shaolin Kungfu. But the fact is different for me. I am more effective in combat when I use Shaolin Kungfu than when I use Boxing.
With this understanding, I shall explain to him.that at present his Boxing is better than his Shaolin Kungfu because he has not practiced sufficiently to be skillful in Shaolin Kungfu. More importantly I shall explain to him the fact, not an opinion, that practicing Shaolin Kungfu the way we do in our school contributes to his good health, vitality, longevity and daily peak performance, whereas practicing Boxing would not. But if he persists in thinking that Boxing is better, I would not want to waste my time and would ask him to leave my class for his own benefit, and wish him well, as he does not have trust in my teaching.
Many kungfu practitioners find Boxing more effective for combat, but we in Shaolin Wahnam find kungfu more effective
Trying to solve the problem with having a good conversation was somehow also no more possible. I tried to practice “forgiveness” as you suggested to me in another matter and indeed this helped me a lot beyond my imagination. But somehow here with forgiveness I don’t seem to find the path. I would very much appreciate if you would share some of your wisdom with me.
Being able to forgive contribute to good health. The one who beneifts the most is the person who forgives, not the one forgiven. I have discovered from my many years of experience in healing that holding grudges insidiously leads to serious illness. Once a person can forgive, he (or she) lets go of the grudges, and allows chi flow to overcome the illness.
Forgiving and finding a solution to a problem are two different issues. Forgiving enables you to be calm and clear, and therefore you are in a better position to find a solution to your problem. But you still have to find a solution.
The Zen course you took some time ago gives you very useful tools to solve problems. Firstly, clear your mind of all thoughts. With mental clarity, you can effectively define your problem. Many people are constantly burdened with problems not because there are no solutions, but often without their own awareness, they do not know what their problems are.
Once, you have defined your problem, solutions often offer themselves readily. Choose the solution that is simple, direct and effective.
How do I handle the problem of trust regarding my parents and myself?
Handling the problem of gaining trust in your parents or your parents having trust is you is quite different from the example I gave earlier though the main principles are the same. The main principles are to differentiate opinions from facts, and to realize that different people have different opinions.
There are two main differences. In the example, being his teacher I am in a superior position. Secondly I do not have to waste time on a student who has no trust in my teaching; I prefer teaching other deserving students.
In your case, your parents are in a superior position. Secondly, you have only one father and one mother. You need to have trust in them and have to win their trust in you.
Having trust in your parents is easy. Just realize that they protected you and brought you up from a time when you were totally helpless to now when you are independent. Now you may (or may not) be better educated than them and earn more money than they did, but this should not negate your trust in them.
Winning trust in ones parents is also not difficult, though many young people today lack this skill as well as are ignorant of some facts.
First the facts. It is a fact, not an opinion, that parents are superior in status to children. A person may become the president of a country, but his parents are still his parents.
It is also a fact that there is a generation gap which results in difference of opinions. Many parents, for example, are not in favour of sex before marriage, but many young people today think that sex before marriage is a norm. Please note that here having sex before marriage is a fact, considering it undesirable or normal is an opinion.
We should be grateful to our parents. The third point is actually an opinion, but it has become so established and has been taught by so many great teachers that it has been considered as a fact by many people. The Buddha, known for his immense wisdom irrespective of one’s religion, has taught that even if a person carries his invalid father or mother on his shoulders everyday for 50 years of his life, and does this for 500 lifetimes, he still has not repaid the debt he owes to his parents.
Of course, another person may have a different opinion. He may think that it is stupid to respect ones parents. He may step on his parents or spit on them.
Irrespective of whether it is a fact or an opinion, it is good to respect ones parents, and evil to disrespect them. Good is whatever that brings benefit, and evil is whatever that brings harm. One who disrespect his parents will result in harm — to himself, to his parents or to other people. Realizing this fact, i.e. it is good to respect one’s parents, will make it easier to accept their different opinions.
But winning trust in ones parents is not just accepting their different opinions. More importantly, it is spending time with them and be kind to them. Parents actually do not care whether their children are wealthy or famous — a misconception that many young people have — but they do care that their children spend time with them and are kind to them.
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 Wong performing a Taijiquan pattern, “White Crane Flaps Wings”
I will be taking part of the next Intensive Taijiquan Course in Sabah. It is the course I have been waiting for since I asked to be accepted as a student in 2009.
— Sifu Angel Perez Oliveras, Puerto Rico
The Intensive Taijiquan Course in Sabah from 25th to 31st March 2016 is excellent for you. It is a course that you must not miss. You will find that not only your martial art will be brought to a new wonderful level, but more importantly your life will be a joy everyday. It is indeed difficult for those doing Taiji dance to realize what they have missed in daily life.
You were already an international sparring champion. But when you apply Taijiquan on your opponents, who may be half or one-third your age, you will find them like children!. There is simply nowhere your opponents can counter your attack. I mentioned this before a few times, and I also realized that some people thought I was boastful, though I never meant to be, but I am merely stating the truth.
But, of course, another truth is that very, very few Taiji practitioners today, including many so-called masters, know Taijiquan combat. But Taijiquan combat is easy for you; you only have to change your Taekwondo techniques into Taijiquan techniques in sparring.
Yet, the best benefit of the Intensive Taijiquan Course is not combat efficiency. Combat efficiency is secondary, only a bonus, something some course participants may not even pay much attention to. One of the greatest benefits of the course is that you will be healthy, fit, fast and powerful, physically and mentally, even beyond 70. I am happy I can speak from personal experience.
I remember very well your advice then. It was during a Sinew Metamorphosis course in Las Vegas. I asked what to do in order to improve my Taiji dance, though I was not fully aware I was doing Taiji dancing at that time, but I could sense something wasn’t right.
Your advice was to incorporate what I had learned during the course with my Taiji practice — to enter the qigong state of mind, generate qi flow and perform my sets in qi flow. As expected my practice became alive!. I am very excited that I will finally be able to take part in an Intensive Taijiquan Course.
What you have done with your qigong training on Taijiquan, before you attend the Intensive Taijiquan Course, is excellent.
For those who have been doing Taiji dance and may not have the opportunity to attend an Intensive Taijiquan Course but have the opportunity to learn qigong from us, should follow you example and draw inspiration from your results.
When they perform their Taiji dance, they should enter into a qigong state of mind, generate a qi flow and perform their Taiji sets in qi flow. Their Taiji dance will come alive, it will become an internal art, no more just an external dance-like form.
But for the martial aspect of Taijiquan, they have to learn from our Taijiquan instructors or attend my Intensive Taijiquan Course.
We are incredibly generous with our Intensive Taijiquan Course. Even those who are not our Shaolin Wahnam students but have practiced Taiji dance for some time, can still join our course.
They have heard that by practicing genuine Taijiquan they can be fit and healthy as well as combat efficient even at old age. But if they do not believe in our claims, that is their business, not ours.
In fact, I am now thinking of offering the Intensive Taijiquan Course as well as the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course only to our Family members, and not open to the public. We need not be generous to the point of casing pearls before swines.
“Shift Horse Ask Way” from San Feng Wudang Set
I experienced some breakthroughs performing the 24-Pattern Set, which I had been practicing following your first advice. But since I was able to finally perform Dragon Strength Circulation Chi Set completely, I feel that the rest of my training had gone to a complete new dimension.
I cannot even imagine what will happen when I could assimilate and incorporate the full scope of what you will transmit in Sabah. I want to be as best prepared as possible, so I am training daily for the Intensive Taijiquan Course. I have been doing my stance training for quite some time now, learning and perfecting the 12 basic combat sequences, the four basic sets and of course the 24 Pattern Set
It is no surprise to me that you have some breakthroughs with the 24-Pattern Taijiquan Set. Although it is called a simplified set, it has wonderful benefits, especially when you practice it with the skills you have learned in our school
The Dragon Strength Circulation Chi Set is incredible, It is the pinnacle of my kiungfu development. Having attended the course, you will enhance whatever kungfu you practice, as well as whatever you do in your daily life.
You are preparing very well for the Intensive Taijiquan Course. You already have much internal force from your qigong training, but at the course we shall further learn the skills and techniques of developing internal force using Taijiquan methods. Most Taiji dancers have the techniques, but they don’t have the skills, and they don’t realize it.
Would now be a good time to ask what discoveries and ‘ah ha’ moments you have experienced while composing the San Feng Wudang Set?
— Sifu Tim Franklin, UK /p>
Editorial Note: This question was asked before the UK Simmer Camp 2015, but because of a long waiting list the answer is released here only now.
The discoveries and aha experiences occurred mostly not during the composition of the San Feng Wudang Set, not even during the reconstruction of Wudang Taijiquan from which the San Feng Set derived, but from the time I first practiced Taijiquan.
When I composed the San Feng Wudang Set, it was mainly shortening Wudang Taijiquan to a manageable length, while maintaining the spirit, principles and benefits of Wudang Taijiquan.
When I reconstructed Wudang Taijiquan from classical sources, I already have practiced and benefited from Taijiquan for quite some time. But what struck me impressively was that the Wudang Taijiquan Set was more like a Shaolin set than what many Taijiquan practitioners conceptualized Taijiquan to be.
Even the patterns from the Wudang Taijiquan Set were like Shaolin patterns, and their names were poetic like Shaolin pattern names, and not technical like many Yang Style Taijiquan patterns and some Chen Style Taijiquan patterns.
There were many discoveries and aha experiences when I first practiced Taijiquan, which was Yang Style Taijiquan at that time. I discovered that if I performed a Taijiquan set fast, it looked like Shaolin Kungfu, and if I performed a Shaolin set slowly it looked like Taijiquan.
Even at this early age I knew that Taijiquan had to be performed fast if it had to be used for combat. This was not a problem for me, I just performed it like Shaolin Kungfu. I was able to apply all Taijiquan patterns for combat because of my training in Shaolin combat application. This was quite an aha experience as most Taijiquan practitioners did not know the martial aspect of Taijiquan.
I was quite good at Taijiquan but did not teach it despite many requests. I considered my best to be Shaolin Kungfu, and I wanted to teach my best. It was Rama who rightly commented to me that although my best was Shaolin Kungfu, many people preferred Taijiquan for some legitimate reasons, and it would be a great pity if I did not teach them, that I changed my mind.
When I taught in Australia in the 1980s, before my regular travels to teach in the West in the 1990s, Ken, a Taijiquan instructor in Bendigo, requested me to show him some Taijiquan. I taught him how to develop internal force using Lifting Water. Not only he could develop internal force in just that session when he only heard about internal force before that, I myself was amazed at the tremendous amount of internal force I developed after lifting my arms only a few times.
With hindsight I later realized that I entered in a deep chi kung state of mind, and I also led Ken into a chi kung state of mind. I concluded that if I used the same methods but different Taijiquan patterns, I could also develop internal force.
This was a discovery and aha experience. If a practitioner performs his Taijiquan set or part of it slowly and gracefully, without intellectualizing and without tensing his muscles, he could develop internal force without having to perform other internal force training methods.
It also led to my discovery and aha experience that Taijiquan itself was chi kung, and that it was unnecessary to incorporate other chi kung methods from elsewhere, like Lifting the Sky and Carrying the Moon from Eighteen Lohan Hands, into Taijiquan to develop internal force.
This discovery had far-reaching effects, and later contributed to the flow method and the otherwise ridiculous concept that making any movements, including comical or odd movements, in a chi kung state of mind, we could generate a chi flow or develop internal force! This was indeed amazing, considering that many masters had spent years chasing after internal force but to no avail.
I also discovered and had aha experiences how Taijiquan could enrich Shaolin Kungfu. If a student was rigid in his movement, by practicing his Shaolin sequences as if he was perfroming Taijiquan, he could not only overcome his rigid problem but make his movements flowing.
I discovered two important reasons why a small-sized Taijiquan exponent could defeat a bigger-sized opponent. One reason was internal force. The other reason was Taijiquan mechanics, and the core of Taijiquan mechanics was waist rotation. By rotating the waist, many Shaolin techniques that were otherwise difficult to perform, became easy.
Waist rotation led to fa-jing, or exploding force. The Taijiquan principle of “starting from the back leg, rotating the waist and ending at the hand” became very useful. By applying the principle of rotating the waist, I could help Shaolin students not only to explode spiral force in “Black tiger Steals Heart”, but make their palm strikes powerful, realizing the Shaolin principle that the palm was more powerful than the fist.
Waist rotation and exploding force were also found in Shaolin Kungfu, but were emphasized in Taijiquan. My discoveries and aha experiences in Taijiquan enriched my practice and teaching of Shaolin Kungfu.
The Complete Book of Shaolin
Can we apply this positive attitude in our everyday life even when situations are negative?
— Raphael, Austria
Yes, we can. There are countless attitude one can adopt in any situation, but all these attitudes can be divided into two broad categories, the negative way which most people adopt, and the positive way which is the Shaolin Wahnam way.
This positive attitude, or the Shaolin Wahnam way, can be applied to all situations, including negative situations. Suppose a person is very sick and he consults a doctor. After examining the patient, the doctor can adopt a negative attitude, like telling the patient that he is going to die, or adopt a positive attitude, telling the patient that he has a chance to recover.
It is important to note that in both cases the doctor is not telling a lie. The patient will die one day, regardless of whether it will happen in a few months’ time or after fifty years. It is also possible that the patient will recover even when he suffers form a so-called incurable disease.
The doctor’s attitude is very important, not only to the patient but also to himself. Whether his attitude is negative or positive will not change the present reality; irrespective of what the doctor thinks, the patient is still sick with a serious illness. But it will greatly affect how the future will unfold. It will not only bring grief or joy to the patient, but also affect what his treatment will be like.
The patient’s reaction can also be negative or positive irrespective of other people’s opinion. If the doctor told hem that he would die, he could reply that the doctor was wrong and he would live. If the doctor told him that he had a chance to recover, he could say that it was not just a chance but he would certainly recover, and return to thank the doctor with a bunch of flowers.
What is the most important character trait for a Shaolin practitioner to have to take his art to the highest level?
— Jinne, Canada
The main character trait for a Shaolin practitioner to have to take his art to the highest level is gratitude. This may be a surprise to some people who may think it is determination or intelligence or something else, but from my many years of experience both as a student and a teacher, it is gratitude. In fact, gratitude is needed at all levels.
At a beginning level, a student needs to have gratitude to learn effectively from his teacher If he lacks gratitude, like if he practices according to what he thinks is correct and not according to what his teacher asks him to do, which many students do often without their realizing, he will miss the essence of the art right at the beginning.
If a student lacks gratitude at the intermediate level, he will not progress to the advanced level. Compared to other students he may have accomplished much, especially when kungfu and chi kung today have degraded beyond recognition. where students hurt themselves with free exchange of blows instead of learning to defend themselves in kungfu, or perform outward forms as gentle exercise without any experience of energy flow in chi kung. But he will be stagnant at this level. But if he is grateful that he has an opportunity to learn an esoteric art, he will follow his master’s teaching and progress.
It is often at the advanced level where students would one day become masters themselves that these students fail. As they have attained abilities not available to most other practitioners, they become disrespectful and arrogant, thinking that there is no much they can get from their masters. If they have gratitude, they can overcome this hurdle. As they are arrogant they will also not benefit from other masters or other sources.
One-Finger Shooting Zen
Besides the books you have written, what other books you would recommend?
I read many books in my younger days, especially when I was at university, ranging from science to religion, from literature to medicine, and many of them were wonderful. I would mention a few that come readily to mind. Most of which were published many years ago.
The Limits of Science by Pierre Rousseau
Frontiers by Isaac Asimov
Mathematics for the Million by Lancelot Hogben
Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I also read many kungfu and other martial art books in English, but generally I was not impressed except Tai Chi Chin Na by Dr Yang Jwing Ming which was outstandinig.
Of course I read many kungfu and chi kung classics in Chinese. Three of the classics I cherished much are
Classic of Shaolin Kungfu — a rare collection of 40 volumes compilled by the Venerable Fu Ju in the year 901 in the Song Dynasty
Internal Cultivation of Zhang San Feng
Shaolin Internal Arts
The classic that has a great impact on my spiritual cultivation is “Awakening of Faith in Mahayana”, written by Asvaghosha in Sanskrit in the 2nd century Before the Common Era, and translated into Chinese by Paramartha in the 6th century of the Common Era. The Chinese text was very concise and short, but has very profound significance.
It inspired me to write a long translation, interpretation and commentary of the work. The manuscript, written many years ago and entitled “In Quest of Cosmic Reality”, is still unpublished, but I consider it to be one of my best writings.
Many people kindly wrote to tell me that they had enjoyed and benefitted much from my published books, and some said that they had found my books the best they had read on the respective subjects.
Of these books, the one I like best is my autobiography, “The Way of the Master”. It contains many interesting stories, and reveals many secrets.
Other recommendable books include:
The Complete Book of Zen
The Art of Chi Kung
The Complete Book of Shaolin
The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine
The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan
In writing these books, I ensured that even if readers were not interested in the subject matter, they would enjoy reading them.
If you could choose one stance or move to train to the highest level, what would it be?
If I would choose just one stance or move to train to the highest level, it would be “One-Finger Shooting Zen” in kungfu and “Lifting the Sky” in chi kung.
“One-Finger Shooting Zen” provides tremendous internal force and mental clarity, which enhance not only all aspects of kungfu but also all aspects of daily life.
The benefits of “Lifing the Sky” range from the very basic to the very advanced and everything in between. At the very basic level, “Lifting the Sky” enables a practitioner to be relaxed. At the most advanced level, it enables a practitioner to merge with Cosmic Reality, called variously as returning to God the Holy Spirit, attaining Enlightenment or merging with the Great Void. “Lifting the Sky” both circulates and builds energy, satisfying the two essential dimensions of all chi kung training.
Of course, a practitioner must perform “One-Finger Shooting Zen” and “Lifting the Sky” correctly as internal arts. Unfortunately, most practitioners today perform “One-Finger Shooting Zen” as gymnastics and “Lifting the Sky” as gentle physical exercise, missing their essence and wonderful benefits.
These two wonderful exercises have great sentimental values for me. They were the first exercises I learned tom my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
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
Kungfu is for fighting — using kungfu techniques, not kick-boxing or techniques of other martial systems
I want to learn kungfu.
— Ali, Pakistan
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Many people want to learn kungfu, but end up learning kungfu forms or kick-boxing instead. Learning kungfu forms or kick-boxing is fine, but it is different from learning kungfu.
Before you learn kungfu, or any art, it is wise to know what that art is. This may sound trite or unnecessary, but it will not only save you a lot of time but also prevent you from much injury.
For convenience we may classify kungfu into three types: ordinary kungfu, good kungfu, and great kungfu.
Ordinary kungfu is for self-defence. There are also other arts of self-defence, like kick-boxing, karate and taekwondo. The main difference is their forms. Kick-boxing uses kick-boxing forms, karate uses karate forms, taekwondo uses taekwondo forms, and kungfu uses kungfu forms.
There are different styles of kungfu, like Shaolin, Taijiquan, Praying Mantis and Baguzzhang. Praying Mantis kungfu forms can be very different from Baguazhang kungfu forms.
About 90% of those who say they practice kungfu only perform kungfu forms. Strictly speaking they do not practice genuine kungfu because they cannot apply their kungfu forms for fighting. Many of them may not admit this fact. Some may not even realize it.
Of those who practice only kungfu forms and cannot use their kungfu forms for fighting, 70% of them perform their kungfu forms for demonstration. Past masters referred to such demonstrative kungfu forms as â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€. 30% of them use kick-boxing or other martial techniques, but not kungfu, for fighting.
I would like to clarify that personally I have nothing against them. What and how they choose to practice is their right and business. Actually many of those who practice â€œflowery fists and embroidery kicksâ€ are very nice people â€“ the type of people I would like to have tea with, though I disagree with their concept and practice of kungfu.
So, kungfu is quite rare. Kungfu is for fighting. But the great majority of those who say they practice kungfu, cannot use their kungfu for fighting, though some of them are good fighters using kick-boxing or other martial techniques.
For every 100 persons who say they practice kungfu, only about 10 can use their kungfu for fighting. In our classification, we call this ordinary kungfu.
But kungfu is not just for fighting, though combat efficiency is its most basic requirement. Good kungfu contributes to health, vitality and longevity. While the percentage of those who practice genuine kungfu is low, only about 10%, amongst those who practice genuine kungfu, the percentage of good kungfu is high, about 70%. So about 7 out of the 10 practitioners of genuine kungfu have good health. They also have high moral values.
Amongst those who practice â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€, the percentage of good health is also very high, about 90%, or about 63 of 70 practitioners. But they cannot be said to practice good kungfu, not even ordinary kungfu, because they cannot use their kungfu for combat.
Why is the percentage of good health amongst â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€ practitioners, 90%, higher than that of genuine kungfu practitioners, 70%? It is because genuine kungfu practitioners engage in combat where they may tense their muscles to generate mechanical strength. Those who practice kungfu forms but use kick-boxing or other martial techniques for combat do not have good health because they sustain a lot of injury which is routinely left unattended to.
Great kungfu, which is not only for combat and good health but also for spiritual cultivation, is very rare. Only 1% of those who say they practice kungfu may have a chance to practice great kungfu.
Please take note that spiritual cultivation is different from moral cultivation, though they are closely related. A morally cultivated person is kind and considerate, but he may or may not believe in his own spirit. He may think that he is only a physical body. Spiritual cultivation is the cultivation of the spirit. A spiritually cultivated person is relaxed, peaceful and happy, and at high levels may have glimpses of Cosmic Realty.
Please also take note that spiritual cultivation is non-religious. Any person of any religion or without any professed religion can cultivate spiritually. Spiritual cultivation will enable a religious person to be a better follower of his own religion because it makes his religions teaching come alive.
To sum up, kungfu is rare. Most people practice only kungfu forms, and use kick-boxing or other martial techniques when they have to fight. Genuine kungfu may be ordinary, good or great. Ordinary kungfu is for fighting. Good kungfu is for fighting and good health. Great kungfu is for fighting, good health and spiritual cultivation.
It is a golden opportunity to be able to practice great kungfu. But because kungfu today is so debased, the public generally does not have a good impression of kungfu practitioners. They think of them as rough and aggressive. In fact it is the reverse. A genuine kungfu practitioner is gentle and considerate to others, relaxed and happy to himself.
You have often said that some of the most important lessons and skills we learn in our school are taught right at the beginning.
— Sifu Tim Franklin, United Kingdoms
You are perfectly right. While many masters teach their best arts to their selected students after the students have spent many years with them, we teach every student the best arts right at the beginning. I remember clearly what my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, told me when he taught me One-finger Shooting Zen. He said, “One-Finger Zen and Tiger-Claw are two of the most advanced arts in Shaolin. They are taught to students right at the start in our school so that they can train everyday and have sufficient time to master them.” One-Finger Zen is used in “dim-mark” and “Tiger-Claw in “chin-na”, and both are found in One-finger Shooting Zen.
The very first arts we teach in any chi kung, Shaolin or Taijiquan class, and also we use to start subsequent classes, are entering into a chi kung state of mind, entering Zen or entering Tao. Without entering into a chi kung state of mind or entering Tao, a person cannot perform genuine chi kung or genuine Taijiquan, even when he uses genuine chi kung or Taijiquan techniques. He merely performs gentle physical exercise or Taiji dance.
One may be able to perform genuine kungfu without entering Zen, but his performance remains at a physical and low level. Only by entering Zen can he develop internal force and brings his Shaolin performance to a high level.
Sometimes these important lessons can be missed by some as they eagerly pursue other “more interesting” aspects of our arts. This, in our opinion, would be a mistake as the beginning teachings are not only really interesting, but also help build a strong foundation, to fully appreciate and develop the skills required for deeper practices and benefits.
More likely today is that these important first lessons are not even taught at all. Most chi kung, Shaolin and Taijiquan teachers are unaware of these important lessons.
A very small percentage of these teachers, less than 5% of the total number of people who practice chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, may eventually become real masters after many years of dedicated training, and have high levels of chi kung, Shaolin and Taijiquan attainments, but they are still unaware that they could reach high levels of attainment because, without their conscious knowing, they had entered a chi kung state of mind, entered Zen or entered Tao during thair training.
More likely, some students chase after novelties, like tingling sensations at their finger tips in chi kung, winning trophies in Shaolin competitions, and learning exotic sets in Taijiquan. They have forgotten the aims of practicing their arts, like enjoying good health in chi kung practice, and being able to use their arts for combat in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan. Realizing these aims as well as other wonderful benefits are only possible if they have practiced well the initial lessons.
The ever-victorious strategy
The aims of the 2016 UK Summer camp are to ensure students/teachers not only develop these skills but also realise them as well, for if they don’t they would have missed a wonderful opportunity to experience life as a meaningful flow of energy.
It is telling that you make a difference between realizing these skills and developing them. Most practitioners neither realize the great importance of these basic skills nor develop them.
Some may realize the importance of these skills, but never develop them. They know, for example, that they have to be relaxed and not thinking of anything in order to generate an energy flow, but they never succeed in generating an energy flow.
On the other hand, some may have developed their skills, but they never realize what these skills are. They may have developed internal force through years of dedicated training, for example, but they never realize that they need to be in a Zen or Tao state of mind for the internal force development. Many chi kung and kungfu practitioners have missed the wonderful opportunity to experience life as a meaningful flow of energy. Indeed, many of them may not really understand what the expression means although they know the dictionary meaning of all the words used.
Those who realize its meaning and experience life as a meaningful flow of energy will have good health, vitality and longevity besides other benefits. But many who practice chi kung are weak and sick, and many who practiced Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are stressful and injured, though the arts they practice are supposed to enhance their flow of energy.
We have already discussed the aims of the 5 day Foundations of Kung Fu course, for which we are very much looking forward to.
It is beneficial to elaborate on the benefits of the kungfu course at the coming UK Summer Camp.
I have often mentioned an ever-victorious strategy against other kungfu styles or other martial arts, which is to apply a combat sequence relentlessly but taking great care of our own safety, against an opponent in free sparring.
Though I used this strategy in my own free sparring in my younger days and remained undefeated, it will be the first time I teach instructors and students in our school to put this philosophy into practice at the kungfu course during the coming UK Summer Camp.
Barry suggested that I devised 4 combat sequences, and course participants would choose one. I have done that and shall post the 4 combat sequences on my website later on for participants to choose.
If we apply any one of the 4 combat sequences flowingly and forcefully, our opponents would have no chance to fight back. They would be overwhelmed by our flow and force. Even if they could match our flow and force, they have no techniques in their repertoire to defend against our pressing attack. they will be pressed back against a wall.
However, if an opponent is very skillful, he may escape our pressing attack, and counter attack with typical techniques from his art. We shall learn to counter these typical techniques and continue to press him back against a wall.
While attaining this specific objective of winning free sparring, which will make our kungfu training meaningful, we shall also place much focus on our general aims of attaining good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys.
To most other martial artists, to attain good health, which includes being free from stress and injuries, is antagonistic to free sparring. Many other martial artists are stressful and injured in free sparring. But we are elite. Not only we will be relaxed, but we learn to be unhurt in free sparring.
The course will even attain more than this, Not only we shall be relaxed and unhurt in free sparring, the free sparring will contribute to our good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys! It is hard for others to believe, even to comprehend. One has to experience the course to find out.
Five-Animal Play in Barcelona
We would also like to explore and share with you our understanding of the foundations of Chi Kung, our ideas for a series of Chi Kung courses and how this fits in with the Kung Fu.
Referring back to your Q&A in 1998 regarding intensive courses we understand the foundation skills of Chi Kung can be narrowed to two things:
We had a chat about how people could use these skills and agreed that someone would need to be able to do the following:
Enter a Chi Kung state of mind
Maintain a Chi Kung state of mind
Generate a smooth flow of energy
Maintain a smooth flow of energy
Apply a smooth flow of energy
All of these skills are on a continuum. Some students are more skillful than others. We think at the highest level a master would be able to do these things under any circumstances in their:
chi kung practice
kung fu practice
sparring under pressure
fighting for real
any aspect of their daily life, whatever the outside pressures.
The foundations can be taken and used at any level. Shaolin Wahnam students can aspire to the highest levels, if they realise thatâ€™s what they can aim for.
Your description is excellent. It clearly describes in a systematic manner what we do in our school, which you have nicely summed as circulating energy and building energy. Indeed, these are the two aspects of any genuine chi kung training, described in Chinese as “xing qi” and “yang qi”, which literally means “circulate energy” and “nourish energy”.
I am glad that all our instructors and students can circulate and nourish energy in their chi kung and kungfu practice, most can do so in sparring under pressure. Real fighting is, fortunately, rare in our modern societies, but I believe many of our instructors and students can do so. I also believe that they can circulate and nourish energy in their daily life where they are under pressure. In other words, due to their training in our school, they can remain relaxed and be able to think and react accordingly even in difficult situations.
If you like, we may create simulated situations during our chi kung courses at the UK Summer Camp for our students to apply their chi kung training in difficult situations. You may, for example, suddenly rush into the training hall and announce that there is a fire to see how our students react. It is best that such simulated situations are to be created when I am not in the hall.
I am nervous and stressful. I find it hard to relax. How do I enter into a chi kung state of mind?
— Koncha, Spain
Editorial Note: Asked in class by a beginning student in Grandmaster Wong’s basic Five-Animal Play course.
Just follow my instructions as best as you comfortably can. In half an hourâ€™s time you will find you are able to relax. By the end of the course today, you will be able to relax easily.
This is a practical answer, and the best answer. You can assess whether what I say is true in half an hour, and again by the end of the course. You donâ€™t have to wait for three months to find out.
(Editorial Note: in half an hour after the practice session, Koncha found out from her own experience she could relax. By the end of the course she found out she could relax easily._
But I shall also give you an academic answer, which some people like to hear but is not as useful as the practical answer.
Your problem of not being able to relax is very common. In my early years of teaching, many people who first learned from me told me the same problem. Gradually less and less people told me this problem. Now very few people mention this problem.
If you donâ€™t do anything, you will be relaxed physically and mentally. In practical terms, if you do not tense your muscles, you will be able to relax physically. If you do not intellectualise, you will be able to relax mentally.
Most people cannot relax because they close their mouth and tense their muscles, usually unknowingly. They have been so conditioned to closing their mouth and tensing their muscles that they do not consciously realise it. They are stressful because myriad thoughts come to their head. Again, they have been so conditioned to having countless thoughts that they are no conscious of it.
They also do not know, although it is actually quite simple but may not be easy to those who are habitually tensed and stressful, that if they make an effort not to tense their muscles and not to think of any thoughts, they can relax. Not doing something is simpler than doing something. Not tensing their muscles and not thinking of anything is simpler than tensing their muscles and thinking of something.
Having picture-perfect form is important in kungfu
Can we have a shower before or after our practice?
— Camilia, Spain
Yes, we can.
Our art is powerful, so we can enjoy such privileges. Other practitioners may not have such privileges. They have to wait for half an hour before or after a practice session before taking a shower.
In the same way, if we made some mistakes during our practice, we donâ€™t have to worry. Our chi flow will erase whatever harm the mistakes might have caused. Other practitioners do not have this privilege. If they made some mistakes, the harm would remain as they did not have any chi flow to flush away the harm.
In my book, â€œChi Kung for Health and Vitalityâ€, I mentioned 10 doâ€™s and 10 donâ€™ts. One of the donâ€™ts is not to have a shower immediately before or after we practice. This book as well as the doâ€™s and donâ€™ts mentioned in it, are meant for readers who do not have an opportunity to learn from me personally. Their result learning from a book, even when they have practiced perfectly, is far less than those who learn from me personally. Hence, for them, they have to wait for at least half and hour before and after practice for a shower.
Moreover, the book was written about 20 years ago at a time when my teaching was not as high level as it is now. Now students learning personally from me have more powerful result, and enjoy the privilege of having a shower immediately before or after a practice.
Why is it important for us to perform the form correctly in a kungfu set?
— Omar. United Kingdom
It is important to perform the form of a kungfu set, like San Feng Wudang Set, correctly necause the success of its combat application depends on its correct form. If the form of a kungfu pattern is not correct, not only it looses its combat effectiveness, it may also offer opportunities for opponents to counter-attack.
Let us take a simple example. An opponent executes a middle thrust punch, like Black Tiger Steals Heart. An exponent responds with Shift Horse Ask Way from the San Feng Wudang Set. This response is excellent when the form is performed correctly. It minimizes the opponentâ€™s force, and places the exponent in a favourable position to counter-attack without little opening for the opponent.
However, if the form is incorrect, not only the same response does not give the exponents these advantages, but also it offers the opponent opportunities to defeat the exponent. If the exponent does not rotate his waist, for example, he will not be able to minimize the opponentâ€™s force. If he does not sink back in his stance, he may too close for the opponentâ€™s attack. If he does not position his legs correctly, he exposes his groin for the opponent to attack. If he leans backward or foreard, his balance is unfavourable for him.
The wrong form places the exponent in an awkward position. Even if the opponent may not be successful in his initial attack, the awkward position of the exponent makes it easy for the opponent to continue, and makes it difficult for the exponent to respond.
Hence, picture-perfect form is very important in kungfu, even for beginners. If beginners have their form correct right at the start, they donâ€™t have to spend much time and effort relearning it later on.
However, you may notice that I am not particular about form for beginners in chi kung. In fact, for beginners if their form is not perfect, though not incorrect, I usually ignore it. The main reason, for ignoring minor mistakes as well as for not particular on picture-perfect form, is that I want beginning students to get on to energy flow as fast as possible.
If I pay too much attention to picture-perfect form, beginning students will be unduly worried about their form, get out from the chi kung state of mind which if often induce, and perform the chi kung technique as gentle physical exercise. Even with imperfect form, so long as the students relax and do not intellectualize, they can generate an energy flow.
As students progress, we pay more attention on form. When students have reached an advanced level, they could have picture-perfect form. Hence, I often mention in class when teaching a new technique that beginning students need not worry about details but just get the general picture right, whereas advanced practitioners can focus on finer points, like picture-perfect form.
However, we have come full-circle. We have become so cost-effective that sometimes I tell advanced practitioners to purposely get their form wrong, to tense their muscles , or to intellectualize sometimes so that they may not have too powerful result from their practice to prevent over-training! This is a big job to other people.
Nevertheless, instructors whether in chi kung or kungfu, whether they teach beginners or advanced students, must have picture-perfect form. It is because they are models for their students to follow when practicing any kungfu or chi kung techniques.
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.
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 email@example.com stating your name, country and e-mail address.
Why do so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits you describe?
— Lin, Dubai
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
It is because these many people actually do not practice chi kung, they practice gentle physical exercise, though they do not realize it, whereas we practice genuine high-level chi kung.
The patterns are the same, but the arts are different. Let us take an example of Lifting the Sky.
Most other people practice Lifting the Sky as gentle physical exercise but they honestly think it is chi kung.
We practice Lifting the Sky not just as chi kung but as high-level chi kung.
There are two dimensions of difference: the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the difference between ordinary chi kung and high-level chi kung.
Firstly, we need to know the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung. It is the failure to know this difference that causes thousands of people waste years of practice without obtaining any chi kung benefits. There are, for example, many chi kung instructors, even masters, who have taught chi kung for more than 10 years yet are routinely sick or in pain. This shouldn’t be as a basic benefit of chi kung practice is good health, which means free from sickness and pain.
In other words if they have practiced chi kung, genuine chi kung, they would not be sick or in pain. It is understandable if they are sick or in pain once a while, but certainly not routinely. In the same way, if you eat sufficient food and drink sufficient water, you would not go hungry or thirsty.
The fact is that these chi kung practitioners and masters do not actually practice chi kung, though they may not realize it. They practice gentle physical exercise but mistake it as chi kung. Similarly many people practice external Tai Chi forms as a dance but mistake it as Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art.
It is easy to make this mistake because the forms of gentle physical exercise and chi kung, and the forms of Tai Chi dance and Tai Chi Chuan are the same. It is how they are practiced, i.e. the skills involved, that makes the difference.
In gentle physical exercise, one practices the forms at a physical level. In chi kung, one practices the same forms at three levels — physical, energetic and spiritual. In other words, in gentle physical exercise one works only on the physical body, like loosening muscles and joints. In chi kung one works at the physical level, the energy level and the spiritual level, like loosening muscles and joints, having more vitality, and becoming peaceful and happy.
If a practitioner does not know what working on energy and spirit is, then he is unlikely to be practicing chi kung, though he may honestly think he is. As an analogy, if you are eating an orange, you will know what an orange is. If you had not eaten an orange or even seen one, you would not know what actually an orange was even when it was clearly described to you.
Thus, thousands of people who think that they practice chi kung do not get the chi kung benefits I describe because actually they do not practice chi kung; they only practice gentle physical exercise. No matter for how long and how well they have practiced, they only get benefits of gently physical exercise like relaxation, grace and balance, which are worthy benefits by themselves, but they will not get chi kung benefits like overcoming illness, enjoying good health, vitality and longevity, and experiencing mental clarity and spiritual joys.
Secondly, it is useful to know the difference between ordinary chi kung, which is usually low-level, and high-level chi kung. The difference is that ordinary chi kung takes a long time to obtain little benefit, whereas high-level chi kung takes a short time to obtain a lot of benefit. The forms, or techniques, may be the same. It is the skills that make the difference.
Let us take the technique, Lifting the Sky, as an example. In low-level chi kung, one needs to practice Lifting the Sky for many months before he can feel a noticeable increase of his energy level. In high-level chi kung he can feel a noticeable increase after practicing for just a few days. In our case, you felt a noticeable increase of energy level after just one practice session!
If someone is sick with a serious illness like cancer or clinical depression, he may not overcome his illness by practicing low-level chi kung. If he practices high-level chi kung, not only he can overcome his illness, but also be becomes healthier than he was before.
Very few people have the chance to practice high-level chi kung. This is another reason why so many other people who practice chi kung do not get the benefits I describe.
A high-level chi kung class in China
This article was taken from Question and Answer 1 of July 2014 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.