Tag Archives: sparring

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS NOVEMBER 2015 PART 3 BY GRANDMASTER WONG KIEW KIT

(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans15b/nov15-3.html)

Tai Chi Chuan, Taijiquan

Genuine Taijiquan is an internal martial art

Question 1

Wong Sigung,

Because I have learned from Sifu Anthony Korahais, I believe that is the proper way to address you. If not, please forgive me.

— David, USA

Answer

Thank you for your kind thoughts and proper address. An even better way for you to address me is just “Sigung”, and not “Wong Sigung” or “Sigung Wong”.

Of course you don’t mean it, but it is helpful to know that prefixing or suffixing a person’s surname by his students, like “Lau Sifu” or “Sifu Lau” instead of just “Sifu”, distant them from him. The public would call him “Lau Sifu” or “Sifu Lau”, but his students call him “Sifu”.

Your case in this e-mail is different. You mentioned “Sifu Anthony Korahais” because you wanted to indicate which of our certified instructors in our school you meant. But when you talk to him, you just address him as “Sifu”, and not “Sifu Anthony” or “Sifu Korahais”.

Editorial Note

Because Grandmaster Wong has a long waiting list, these questions were received more than a year ago at a time when Sifu Anthony Korahais was still in Shaolin Wahnam. Sifu Anthony has since left the school, and by Sifu Anthony’s choice, Grandmaster Wong is no longer his sifu. Hence, those students who used to address Grandmaster Wong as “sigung” should now address him as “sifu” if they wish to continue learning from Grandmaster Wong. They would also continue to address Sifu Anthony as “sifu”.

Question 2

Thank you very much for generously sharing your very valuable art. I am also particularly thankful for your website titled Showing Respect to the Master and the years of questions and answers you have archived.

Answer

I am glad that many of our Shaolin Wahnam students have told me that our arts have greatly enriched their lives.

Showing respect to the master is mainly for the students’ benefit. Many other people may not know this, or believe it is so. Showing respect to the master gives the students an excellent mind-set to benefit most from the master’s teaching.

Many people, both inside and outside our school, have also told me that they have benefited much from my Question-Answer Series. As there is a long waiting list, these questions and answers are often posted for public reading about a year later.

I would take this opportunity to mention an interesting point from the many questions I have received. Before looking at the name of the enquirer, I can often tell whether he is a member of our Shaolin Wahnam Family by just looking at the way he asks his questions.

There are three characteristics that differentiate our family members from members of the public, namely mental clarity, courtesy and open-mindedness.

Our family members are clear in their writing. I can easily know what they write. On the other hand, although questions by members of the public are edited for grammar and spelling before they are being posted in my Question-Answer Series, you can differentiate them if you examine closely.

Clear writing shows mental clarity. I am glad our training has resulted in mental clarity demonstrated in the e-mails our students sent to me.

Our family members are polite. Your opening paragraph is a good example. Some members of the public do not even bother to address the person they send their e-mails to. They just start asking their questions.

And some do not state their names at the end of their e-mails. If I post their questions in my Question-Answer Series, I have to guess at their names form their e-mail addresses.

Courtesy to others is an indication of self-respect. Self-respect is very important for successful living.

Our family members are open-minded. They realize and accept that other people may not agree with their views which they cherish dearly. Open-mindedness is present in your questions regarding low-level Mao Shan, and regarding talking to other people about our chi kung.

Being open-minded certainly make our life happier. It also enables us to improve ourselves.

Baguazhang Circle Walking

Circle Walking in Baguazhang

Question 3

Once you mentioned that the form of payment for low maoshan was to be either permanently deformed, forever poor, or without children. This disturbed me greatly. I can only imagine the payment and reward associated with high maoshan.

Why would anyone agree to any of those things? Is it black magic for unscrupulous people who desire quick and easy cultivation? I cannot imagine why someone would accept those terms when wonderful arts like Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Chuan exist.

Answer

There are three levels of Mao Shan, or Taoist magic, namely low level, middle level and high level, sometimes known as black Mao Shan, grey Mao Shan and white Mao Shan.

Low level Mao Shan practitioners are concerned mainly with acquiring magical powers overcoming others and causing difficulties for others, which generally result in dong harm. Middle level Mao Shan practitioners have abilities of low level Mao Shan as well as high level Mao Shan. High level Mao Shan practitioners have abilities of low and middle levels Mao Shan, and more, but are concerned with healing and helping people.

Hence, the division into low, middle and high levels Mao Shan is based mainly on the application of Taoist magic, and not on the attainment of practitioners, but the tradition and philosophy of respective schools focus on these specific levels.

A requirement for students to undergo training in low level Mao Shan is to choose one of the following three conditions — to be permanently deformed, to be unable to accumulate money, and to have no children. Normally people would not agree to any of these conditions, but some persons due to evil intention of various reasons may accept one of these conditions. A common condition chosen by these people is an inability to accumulate money or not to have children.

Someone who has no ability or desire to earn money honorably and honestly may choose the second condition. After successfully competed his training, he can invent money and use it lavishly, but the money cannot be used the following day. Someone who wants to avenge some great wrongs done to his family may sacrifice family life and choose the third condition to take revenge.

Low level Mao Shao is black magic, and can be very powerful. While many low level Mao Shan practitioners who use his magic to harm other people for no better reasons than earn money from those who pay them to do so, are unscrupulous, others are not, like those who want an easy carefree life, and those who want to avenge great wrongs. These practitioners, for example, would not use their magic on poor hawkers, or harm innocent people.

While it is true that wonderful arts like genuine Tai Chi Chuan and genuine Shaolin Chuan, or Shaolin Kungfu, exist, it is also true that these wonderful arts are very rare today. Those who have a chance to learn these arts, like students in our school, are indeed very lucky. Much of Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Kungfu practiced today are grossly debased.

It is also very rare today to practice Mao Shan, regardless of its level. Even when students have a chance, besides the conditions required by the teacher, the training is also very tough.

Question 4

Finally, do you have any advice on speaking with other people about qigong?

From reading your question and answer series, I know that many people respond unfavorably to your talking about it. I also have tried unsuccessfully to talk with people about it without results.

Oddly, the people who stand to benefit the most seem to be the least interested. However, most of them act as though they didn’t hear me or I am obviously deceived. I am sad to be unable to share the great benefits I’ve received with others.

Answer

My advice is that you may talk about the benefits of qigong in general to all people. If they do not show interest, you need not continue. Only for those who are interested to know more and gain benefits themselves, should you spend time elaborating.

Don’t waste your time on undeserving people. This may sound harsh, but it is good advice based on my many years of experience.

While many people respond unfavorably to my talking about qigong, many other people respond favorably to it. My website, for example, is one of the top 500 most visited websites in the world. Considering that only a small proportion of the world’s people are interested in qigong and kungfu or any martial art, this is a remarkable achievement. Moreover, many of our instructors and students learned from me after hearing me talking about qigong and kungfu in my websites or books.

If you talk to people interested in qigong or who want to benefit from qigong, you will have results. If you talk to people who are not interested or do not believe in the benefits qigong can bring, they think they are doing you a favour by listening to you.

People whom you think will benefit most from your telling them of our qigong and the benefits you have gained, are undeserving of your time and effort. You would spend your time more fruitfully by taking your girlfriend out or finding one if you do not have a girlfriend yet, or spending quality time with your parents.

On the other hand, it is their right not to be interested or to believe you, though it is not very wise of them considering the benefits you have derived from your qigong practice. You need not feel sad that you are unable to share the great benefits you have received with others. It is their choice. You should feel happy that you have the opportunities to enjoy these wonderful benefits.

San Zhan internal force

The internal force in Wuzuquan is more flowing than condolidated

Question 5

I was curious about some of the Baguazhang training methods used in other schools, particularly the methods I learnt from my old Baguazhang sifu before learning Baguazhang from you.

His school’s fundamental set consists of Walking the Circle with the upper body held in different positions. My old sifu mentioned that doing so would train “different forms of jin” and condition the body’s strength and flexibility.

— Fredrick Chu, USA

Answer

Your old Baguazhang sifu was correct. Performing Walking the Circle using different positions will develop different forms of jin or internal force. For example when you use “Black Bear From Cave”, you develop “sinking force” at your palms. When you use “Great Roc Spreads Wings”, you develop “spreading force” at your arms.

Using these different positions for Walking the Circle is similar to the Eight Internal Palms which I mentioned in the webpage, Brief Descriptions of Baguazhang Classics and Comments on Songs of Baguazhang, when answering questions raised by you.

In the Walking the Circle we learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012, we used the Eight External Palms. We could develop internal force although we used an external method because we were skilful. Indeed, we could develop internal force no matter what external kungfu sets we used.

As you are now proficient in the Eight External Palm, you can progress to using the different positions taught in your old sifu’s set when practicing Circle Walking. You will find that the internal force developed is more powerful.

Question 6

I experimented a little with returning to my old sifu’s set and experimenting with Circle Walking while holding my upper body in postures from the Wahnam Baguazhang Eight Mother Palms and felt my energy flow going to different parts of the body, but didn’t know if such practice would be efficient or fruitful in the long run.

Answer

Yes, this practice will be efficient and fruitful. It is a development from using the Eight External Palms learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012 to using Eight Internal Palms of your old sifu’s set although the exact patterns may not be the same.

You should practice your old sifu’s set the way you practice Circle Walking learnt in Shaolin Wahnam though the hand and body positions may be different. Your mind must be free from thoughts and you must be relaxed. You don’t have to worry about how to develop different forms of jin. The different hand and body positions will do that.

When you use the Eight External Palms learned in our school, your energy flow goes to different parts of your body because you have generated flowing internal force. When you use the hand and body positions of your old sifu’s set, this flowing energy will consolidate into different types of internal force due to the various hand and body positions. You don’t have to worry how. The various hand and body positions will result in different types of force.

It is both safer and more effective to first develop flowing force, then consolidate the force, or just develop consolidated force. Starting with the method learnt in Shaolin Wahnam, and progressing to your old sifu’s set is an excellent approach.

Choy-Li-Fatt internal force

The internal force in Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu is more consolidated than flowing

Question 7

I would appreciate any insight you might have on the practice of Circle Walking with the upper body held in various postures and how it might compare to other methods of force training, such as simply holding the Green Dragon posture in circle walking, using the “secret” method of Walking the Circle for internal force by holding a posture for a period of time, then taking the next step along the circle to hold a posture for a period of time, and repeating until completing the circle, and the master’s method of Baguazhang force training that you taught us at the Summer Camp.

Answer

These are various methods to develop internal force. We are able to understand and benefit from these different methods because of our breadth and depth, which extend beyond Baguazhang, and from which we can draw inspiration and practice.

These different Baguazhang methods enable us to develop internal force that can have different proportion of flowing and consolidated force. The whole range of internal force in kungfu can extend from the soft, flowing force of Yang Style Taijiquan to the hard, consolidated force of Iron Wire.

Because both these styles as well as other styles of internal force, like Flower Set and Xingyiquan, are practiced in our school, we are able to draw from these styles to enrich our Baguazahgn in a way that other Baguazhang schools may not be able to. This positive transfer of skills is enhanced by my understanding and practice of Dragon Strength.

A rough guideline showing the ratios of flowing force to consolidated force in various kungfu styles are as follows:

  • Yang Style Taijiquan 90 – 10

  • Wuzuquan 80 – 20

  • Chen Style Taijiquan 70 – 30

  • Dragon Strength 60 – 40

  • Wudang Taijiquan 50 – 50

  • Flower Set 40 – 60

  • Baguazhang 40 – 60

  • Praying Mantis 40 – 60

  • Tantui 40 – 60

  • Triple Stretch 30 – 70

  • Wing Choon 20 – 80

  • Xingyiquan 20 – 80

  • Eagle Claw 20 – 80

  • Choy-Li-Fatt 10 – 90

  • Iron Wire 10 – 90

Please take not that the about listing is a rough guide, and there can be variation. Some Yang Style Taijiquan practitioners, for example, may have 20% or 30% of consolidated force instead of 10%. Generally only masters may have flowing force or consolidated force. Students may use physical momentum as in Aikido, or muscular strength as in Karate, and mistake it for flowing force and consolidated force.

By itself, i.e. without transference of learning from breadth and depth, Baguazhang force is about 40& flowing and 60% consolidated. A Baguazhang practitioner who has such force is probably a master or at an advanced level.

In our school, however, even students have internal force right at the start of their Baguazhang training, and due to the advantage of breadth and depth some may vary the proportion between flowing force and consolidated force.

A comparison of the various methods of Baguazhang force training using Circle Walking is as follows.

When the upper body is held in various postures, various types of consolidated force are developed according to the postures. When only the Green Dragon posture is used in Circle Walking, flowing force is developed, especially when various palm changes are performed at the end of a circle, like what you learned at the UK Summer Camp 2012.

As mentioned earlier, it is both safer and more effective to develop flowing force before consolidated force. If a practitioner starts straight away with consolidating force, the risk of causing energy blockage is higher. If he starts with flowing force, even when he makes a same mistake, energy flow will clear away the blockage.

Before energy can be consolidated, it must be flowing. This is a fact many people may not know. Hence, our students, who start with chi flow, can develop the same amount of internal force in a month whereas other students would need a year. Understandably, other people may be angry at this statement, and call us arrogant. That is their problem, not ours.

Another fact many people may not know is that consolidated force is also flowing, but at a slow pace. If a practitioner locks up his energy, it becomes stagnant and forms muscles.

When a Baguazhang practitioner uses the secret method of Circle Walking holding the Green Dragon posture for some time, then walk the next step and hold the posture for some time until he completes the circle, he focuses on developing consolidated force, but ensures that it is also flowing. This method should be practiced only after he has developed flowing force using the mobile Circle Walking.

The master’s method taught at the UK Summer Camp 2012 is a progression form this method of Stance Training in Circle Walking. It develops different types of internal force using various Eight Internal Palms, and at the same time ensures that force is flowing. It should be practice after Stance Training in Circle Waling.

Hence an effective progression of internal force training in Baguazhang is as follows:

  1. Mobile Circle Walking holding the Green Dragon posture.

  2. Stance Training using the Green Dragon posture in Circle Walking.

  3. Circle Walking using the Eight Internal Palms.

The third level may be performed at two stages — mobile circle walking with the eight internal palms, and stance training in circle walking with the eight internal palms.

Question 8

In addition to developing the force for which Baguazhang is well-known, I want to sharpen the overall skill of getting to an opponent’s back to deliver a decisive strike for which Baguazhang is famous. I’ve lately been imagining an imaginary opponent coming at me with simple strikes (for example, Black Tiger Steals Heart) and then using my footwork to step to the imaginary opponent’s side and responding with one of the 64 application palms.

I’ve found in my imaginary opponent and with real sparring partners that it is very easy to get to the back of an opponent who gives me a lot of force and forward momentum, but it is more difficult with a cautious opponent. Would you be able to give me some advice on how to best train the skill of getting to an opponent’s back, especially such a cautious opponent?

Answer

You method of practicing with an imaginary opponent and then testing it on a teal opponent is excellent. It was the method past masters practiced to become combat efficient. This was the method I frequently practiced to remain unbeaten. It is also the method I ask our Shaolin Wahnam instructors and students to practice to win sparring competitions.

If you are very fluent in executing your combat sequence, which must take into account of safety first, your opponent just has no chance against you. He will be retreating trying to cover your strikes.

Occasionally, an opponent may be very skillful that he can neutralize your attack and counter attack. You make an instant modification, irrespective of whether you are attacking him from the front, side or back, and continue to subdue hum.

Of course, with a cautious opponent, it is relatively not as easy to get to his back, or to attack him from any direction. There are two effective tactics for this situation. One is called “false-false, real-real”, and the other “tricking an opponent to advance to futility”.

In “false-false, real-real”, which is pronounced in an impossible sound in Mandarin based on tonal values, “shi-shi, shi-shi”, you make one or two feint attacks, which can turn to be real if your opponent fails to respond. As he responds to your feint moves, you get to his back.

To make your victory doubly sure, you anticipate a few possible responses he is likely to make. You make the necessary modifications and subdue him. If his response is so out-landish that you have not prepared a suitable modification, let him go and wait for another opportunity.

In the tactic of “tricking an opponent to advance to futility”, which is “yin di le kong” in Mandarin Chinese, you trick you opponent to advance to attack you, but you space yourself that his attacks are futile. When he is the midst of his attacks, you slip to his side or back to strike him.

Again, to make victory doubly sure, you anticipate a few possible responses he will make in that situation, and use defeat him with appropriate modifications. If his rare response is outside your prepared modification, let him go and wait for another opportunity.

Question 9

A little bit ago, I experimented with “Through the Woods” for fun. I began Circle Walking through the obstacles and using the obstacles as placeholders for the position of imaginary opponents and just spontaneously delivering various strikes in free flow. It was a very eye-opening experience. I felt as though I were training the skill to really deliver decisive strikes on the move, especially since the idea arose from the training that I had to be able to use just one pattern to strike someone down in a situation with multiple opponents.

The patterns that came out most during my experiences with “Through the Woods” were Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue (though from the Bagua stance, not the Bow Arrow stance), Yellow Dragon Plays With Water, Heavenly King Carries Umbrella, Golden Dragon Spirals Around Pillar, Cloud Dragon Spirals Around, and Wind Strikes Brain Gate, using the names of the patterns from 64 Patterns of Baguazhang.

Are there particular patterns in Baguazhang that are more suited for fighting in a situation with multiple attackers? I noticed I was using the Bagua stance almost the entire time, not the Bow Arrow or Horse Riding stances.

Answer

This was a secret training taught to me by my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. It was extremely effective, and I once taught it at an advanced course for instructors.

There are no particular patterns that are specially suited for this situation. You can use any suitable patterns. But as you are on the move, you have to strike down an opponent with just one decisive pattern, and simultaneously cover yourself adequately from possible attacks from others.

You can let the patterns come out in chi flow as you go through the woods. Some suitable patterns are Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue, Pure Blade Cuts Grass and Yellow Dragon Plays with Water.



If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at secretary@shaolin.org stating your name, country and e-mail address.

HOW DID SHAOLIN WAHNAM PRACTITIONERS SPAR IN THE PAST?

(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/video-clips-5/sp-old/sp-old.html)

shaolin wahnam

Tai Chee Yong sparring with Grandmaster Wong



How did Shaolin Wahnam practitioners spar in the past?

They sparred like what our present-day students do. We are lucky that Sifu Eugene Siterman recorded some sparring practice amongst Grandmaster Wong’s old students when he attended an Intensive Chi Kung Course in 2000.

How did Shaolin Practitioners Spar in the Past from Wong Kiew Kit on Vimeo.

SPARRING AND KUNGFU CULTURE

(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/sp-issues/sparring-culture.html)

Grand Free Sparring Competition

An invaluable old picture taken about 30 years ago showing Poh Luk and Ah Kai (both are Sifu Wong’s senior classmates) engaged in an annual grand free sparring competition in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Shaolin school.
Notice that the combatants did not wear any protective gears and they used typical Shaolin Kungfu. There were no rules and no referees. The combatants just fought, but usually there were no injuries because the combatants could defend themselves well, and on infrequent occasions when they couldn’t, the opponents would control their strikes expertly. Such an annual grand free sparring competition amongst classmates followed the old tradition of the southern Shaolin Monastery in China.

Question

Finally we spar using gloves for about 30 minutes.

— Suis, Country Withheld

Answers by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit

Not a single kungfu master in the past used gloves for sparring. Indeed I believe that any instructor asking his students to use gloves, himself has had no experience of genuine kungfu sparring. Using gloves to spar, especially without methodical preparation, almost always results in the students resorting to boxing or kick-boxing techniques.

Question

I just hate sparring. I feel like a living punch bag. When I spar with senior students I am helpless; I can hardly touch them.

Answer

Your case, which is also the case of the majority of kungfu students today, is unfortunate. Sparring is an essential, and actually a lively and enjoyable, part of kungfu training. It is often in sparring, pre-arranged or free, that the beauty and efficiency of kungfu is brought to life.

Something is basically wrong if anyone becomes a living punch bag in sparring, in which case it ceases to be sparring, it has become a free exchange of kicks and blows. In traditional kungfu sparring, including free sparring, no one should be hurt. In the past, even free sparring was carried out with weapons; hurting one another was out of the question.

Question

Our teacher tells us to try to use the techniques that we have learned and to attack. But till now it is merely exchanging blows and doing chain punches. I try to be relaxed and to use the techniques and to stay in my stance but everything just goes too fast.

Answer

The teacher did not have proper training in kungfu sparring when he was a student, otherwise he would not merely ask his students to try to use their techniques, he would instead actually and systematically teach them how to use the techniques.

Let us take an analogy. Suppose you are a properly trained swimming instructor. You would first teach your students the appropriate swimming techniques. Next you would have them practise the techniques systematically, first with full control, then as they progress you would gradually release the control. Only when they are competent you would allow them to swim, but still under close supervision and relevant correction whenever they make mistakes. You do not simply throw your students into water and ask them to try to swim.

Question

Sometimes I try to defend only but I can’t deflect anything,. I’m too slow. I have been sparring since the first lesson.

Answer

This is because you have not been properly trained. Asking a kungfu student to free spar in his first lesson is like throwing a beginner into deep water in his first swimming lesson and asking him to try to swim.

There are many types of sparring, and I reckon that here you are referring to free sparring. In traditional kungfu training, free sparring comes at the end of combat training, and not at the start. Free sparring is not meant to teach fighting, as many modern instructors mistakenly think; it is meant to test and confirm that the students can fight. And they can fight effectively only if they have been systematically trained to do so.

Wrong application of sword

Sparring is found in all styles of kungfu, including Taijiquan of course. Goh from Singapore practiced sparring with Geoffrey from England at an Intensive Taijiquan Course in Malaysia in September 2004.

Question

Most other students seem to enjoy the sparring. I have talked to senior students about it. They say it is normal to get a lot of hits in the beginning, sparring is to develop stamina, sparring is a way to see if the techniques work. You must learn to accept hits and learn how to really hit instead of merely touching a person.

Answer

It is not normal to be hit, not even once. That is the fundamental purpose of combat training. Should this happen in the past, especially when sparring with weapons, the students would have been killed many times over. If in your sparring practice you are hit, it is accidental, not normal, and it indicates that you have failed in your purpose.

Sparring may develop stamina, but that is not its main purpose. There are other and better methods to develop stamina.

Sparring is not a way to see if the techniques work. In the first place, there is no questions about whether the techniques work. If there is any doubt, that technique should be discarded. Only techniques that have proven to work well are selected and practised, and in any particular combat situation the best one amongst the many available proven techniques is applied. In combat there is no room for chance; the combatant has to be 100% sure.

If in real combat or free sparring, a combatant is hit, it is not because his chosen technique cannot work, but because he lacks the appropriate skills to use the technique effectively. The fact that he chose the technique means not only it can work but it is the best for that particular situation. If he does not know which technique to use, then he should not be sparring in the first place. He is simply not prepared; he should go back to earlier stages of pre-arranged sparring.

Accepting hits and really hitting others may be normal in a brawl, but certainly not normal in traditional kungfu sparring. A kungfu exponent is expected to effectively defend against all hits, and if during sparring practice his partner could not defend against his attacks, he should merely touch his partner and not actually hitting.

Even in a real fight, he should avoid hurting an opponent unnecessarily. This is known in kungfu culture as “dim tou wai chi” (in Cantonese). It means in sparring or a real fight, you merely touch your partner or opponent, not really hurting him.

In the past when a master touched another master in a match, the latter would withdraw and gracefully acknowledge defeat. Sometimes he might kneel down and prostrate, and thanked the victorious master for sparring his life — in Cantonese it would sound something like: thor cheah si fu sau ha lau cheng, which means “Thank you, master, for showing mercy under your hands.” This is traditional kungfu culture. Continuing to brutally strike a helpless opponent, and proudly demonstrating to a maddening crowd how merciless he is, is a culture of barbarians.

There was no need for a master to strike hard to demonstrate his force. It was common knowledge that every master would have trained to be so powerful that he could kill or maim with just one strike. Kungfu in the past mainly involved force training, not learning flowery movements for demonstration as is the norm today.

That one touch was not connected randomly, it always aimed at a vital spot. If a forceful strike on a vital spot could not put an opponent out of action, it would at least daze him momentarily, which would be sufficient for the master to follow up instantly and from close quarters a second and a third strike on the same vital spot.

Question

I know my sparring skills will improve if I continue doing it

Answer

The way you have been practising your haphazard sparring not only will not improve your kungfu skills, but it is actually detrimental to your development. You are actually conditioning yourself to take unnecessary punishment which may lead to serious injury, and learning to be insensitive, brutal and aggressive which is bad for your psyche.

Right aplication of sword

Besides unarmed sparring, there is also sparring with weapons. Indeed sparring with weapons was more important in the past than unarmed sparring. Here Sifu Wong demonstrates an application of the Shaolin sword against a sweeping staff attack from his senior disciple, Goh Kok Hin, during a sparring practice.

Question

My teacher says our sparring is very light compared to other martial arts like kickboxing. This way of training feels like the hard way to learn self-defence. I have read your book “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” and I think the Shaolin training methods that you describe are a lot more advanced.

Answer

Your teacher has confused brawling with sparring. Kungfu sparring is elegant and safe, but can be very destructive if needed be — more destructive than other martial arts, including kickboxing. Though it is far from pleasant, an able-bodied adult may stand a few kicks from a kickboxer, but he would not last one strike to his eyes or groin from a kungfu exponent.

There is no self-defence in the way of training you have described. It is merely a matter of enduring your partner’s strikes while striking hard at your partner at the same time. I do not consider it the “hard” way, in the sense that though the training is tough it brings benefits eventually. I consider it silly; I really cannot think of any reasons why one should subject himself to such punishment, and with no benefits in sight. If he wants to let off stream, he might do kendo; if he wants to be a fierce fighter, he might do Muai Thai Boxing.

Question

When I go home after training I feel frustrated. I can’t stop thinking what I’ve done wrong and how to improve my fighting.

Answer

You haven’t done anything wrong in your training; it is the training that is wrong. Hence, you got the results the training gave because you carried out your training correctly. Obviously what you need is to change to another type of training which enables you to be combat efficient without having to suffer injuries, and to be calm and fresh instead of being tensed and tired. All genuine kungfu training gives such results — in practical terms, not just in writing.

Question

When I feel frustrated I read your webpages or books. They give me inspiration to continue my practise. But after the last training my head ached and it seemed like a sign to quit.

Answer

I am glad you have derived inspiration from my books and webpages. I wish to stress that what I have written in my books and webpages are true, and is written from direct experience. Someone practising the ways I have described will get the results as promised. You can verify this by reading the comments my students have written , and although other people may regard such experiences as exceptional, they are actually typical of what my students have. In other words, almost everyone who learned from me have had similar experiences.

But you have to learn directly from me. It is difficult to have similar experiences by learning from my books, otherwise you too would have those wonderful results. It is not that I have kept some secrets from my books. In fact one would get much more information from my books than from learning personally from me. The reason is that those wonderful results are obtained from developing skills, and not just from gathering knowledge, and while knowledge can be gathered from books, skills need to be acquired from a master.

Question

For the past few months I am thinking of quitting Wing Chun. I know I will get better when I continue training but I don’t know if it’s worth it any more. Quitting feels like a personal defeat and I think the best of Wing Chun has yet to come. Is it too early to quit? Sifu, could you please give me some advice.

Answer

Often it is not what you learn, but how you learn it that is more important. If you learn Wing Chun the way it was taught by traditional masters, you would have good results. But the ways you described in your training are not the ways the traditional masters taught it. If you continue hurting yourself in your training, physically as well as psychically, the worst, not the best, has yet to come.

In such a situation, quitting is certainly not a personally defeat. On the contrary, it represents a realization that you have been on a wrong path, and now you want to change for a right one. It needs courage and determination to change.

LINKS

Reproduced from Question 2 in Selection of Questions and Answers — April 2000 Part 3