Sifu Andrew Barnett and his son, Bjoem, demonstrating Shaolin Kungfu in combat application
I have participated in a few of the local schools and can not find one to my liking. I have received a black belt in Kung fu and at this time I do not feel like I deserve it due to my lack of practice and not improving myself in my skills. Can you please send me any information that you may have?
— Joe, USA
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
At all times in all places real kungfu masters are rare. In China in the past there were many kungfu masters but very few of them would accept students. Today many people teach kungfu, or what they call kungfu, but finding a genuine master is more difficult than finding a gem in a hay stack. Refer to Qualities of a Good Master for details.
What is taught all over the world today, including in China, is either a modernized form for demonstration or a debased traditional form that uses karate, taekwondo or kickboxing techniques for combat. In my opinion neither is genuine kungfu.
This does not necessarily mean that these demonstrative or debased forms are not without their benefits. They are magnificient to watch and is an excellent way to keep the exponents agile and fit, but they are not the same as the kind of kungfu traditionally taught in the past.
In my opinion, the bottom line to decide whether one is trained in genuine kungfu is whether he (or she) can use the kungfu forms he has learnt for some decent self defence. If he can fight well but uses other martial art forms instead of kungfu forms, he does not qualify to have practised genuine kungfu.
The bottom line of my definition is that the kungfu he has learnt must be capable of being used for fighting, even if he loses the fight. The crucial point is that his kungfu forms are more than sufficient for his self defence; he needs not borrow or “steal” other martial art forms, and he should be able to defend himself in a typical kungfu manner. Bouncing about as in boxing and kicking high as in taekwondo, for example, are not typical manners in kungfu fighting.
Good kungfu goes beyond mere fighting. One characteristic feature of good kungfu is the training of internal force for good health as well as combat efficiency. If you ask what internal force is, it is unlikely you have any experience in its training. It is like someone who has not eaten an orange, asking what the taste of an orange is.
As far as I know, this internal force training is not found in most other martial arts. Western boxing and wrestling, for example, pay much attention to external strength and physical mass, and their exponents train in ways which typical kungfu masters would consider detrimental to health.
Some Eastern martial arts like aikido and karate mention about internal aspects like chi (or ki in Japanese), but their exponents do not spend as much time or go as deeply as typical kungfu exponents do in these internal aspects. A typical traditional kungfu exponent, for example, may actually spend more time practising Abdominal Breathing or Stance Standing (zhan zhuang) than practising patterns or sets — a practice that is not normally found in most other martial arts or modern demonstrative, debased kungfu forms.
The best kungfu, like Shaolin and Taijiquan, goes beyond the physical and leads to spiritual cultivation irrespective of race, culture and religion. The onus of spiritual cultivation is direct experience, not mere talking or book learning, and is practised according to the students’ developmental levels.
For those who have so far wasted their time in unwholesome activities, or those who feel empty and lost despite abundant material wealth, turning to a happy, rewarding life here and now is a remarkable spiritual achievement; at the other scale, the spiritually advanced aim for the highest attainment known variously as return to God, unity with the Cosmos, enlightenment or in Zen terms simply going home.
A magnificient demonstration of modern wushu, which is different from traditional kungfu
Reproduced from Questions 1 in Selection of Questions and Answers March 1998
While combat efficiency is important, Shaolin Kungfu is not just a fighting art but a complete programme of personal development
What does Shaolin Kungfu represent? What is the purpose of learning this style?
— Juan, Mexico
Shaolin Kungfu is the style of martial art first developed at the Shaolin Monastery in China, and is now practised by many people in various parts of the world irrespective of race, culture and religion.
Many kungfu styles branched out from Shaolin Kungfu, and some examples include Eagle Claw Kungfu, Praying Mantis Kungfu, Hoong Ka Kungfu, Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu and Wing Choon Kungfu.
In my opinion, shared by many other people, Shaolin Kungfu represents the pinnacle of martial art development. Indeed, as early as the Tang Dynasty in China more than a thousand years ago, the saying “Shaolin Kungfu is the foremost martial art beneath heaven” was already popular.
The main purpose of learning Shaolin Kungfu is to have a complete programme of personal development from the most basic to the most advanced levels. At the physical level, Shaolin Kungfu provides health, fitness, agility and vitality, besides the ability to defend ourselves. At the emotional level, Shaolin Kungfu gives us joy and tranquillity.
Shaolin Kungfu trains us to be mentally focused, and enables us to expand our mind. At its highest level, Shaolin Kungfu leads to spiritual fulfillment, irrespective of religion. Obviously, Shaolin Kungfu is not just a fighting art.
It is also significant to note that an important aspect of the Shaolin teaching is direct experience, which in this case means that a Shaolin disciple does not merely talk about good health and mind expansion, or just read up on spirituality, but actually experience these benefits. If he does not experience, according to his developmental stage, the appropriate results Shaolin Kungfu is purported to give, he should seriously review his training.
An important aspect of Shaolin teaching is direct experience. Shaolin practitioners do not merely talk about spiritual cultivation but actually experience it.
One must be properly train to be a chi kung teacher. The above chi kung exercise, for example, is very powerful; untrained teachers may bring harm rather than benefit teaching it.
I’ve gained a lot of benefits from the chi kung class. Can I teach my friends to help them?
— Javier, Costa Rica
No, you should not. You may be able to practice chi kung, but you are unable to teach it effectively. As an analogy, having undergone a surgical operation does not qualify you to be a surgeon.
You may cause harm to them instead of bringing benefits if you try to teach them chi kung techniques as chi kung. It is because you are not trained to teach chi kung.
If you teach chi kung techniques as gentle physical exercise, which you are likely to do, you will give your friends a wrong concept of chi kung. They will think that they practice chi kung when they actually practice gentle physical exercise. They will not get any chi kung benefits, like good health, vitality and longevity. This in fact has happened to more than 80% of chi kung practitioners all over the world.
As many people may not understand the explanation here, it is helpful to elaborate. More than 80% of chi kung practitioners practice chi kung techniques as gentle physical exercise, and not as chi kung which is energy exercise. Hence, they get benefits of gentle physical exercise like loosening joints and muscles, and not chi kung benefits like overcoming pain and illness, and getting good health, vitality and longevity.
Most of these practitioners do not realize this fact. Why are they ignorant of the fact? It is because the forms are the same in gentle physical exercise and chi kung. They use genuine chi kung techniques, but lack the skills to practice them as energy exercise. They only practice the forms as gentle physical exercise.
The same situation happens in Taijiquan. More than 90% of Taiji practitioners practice genuine Taijiquan techniques as external dancelike movements, and not as an internal martial art. They have no internal force, and cannot defend themselves.
The same situation happens in other martial arts. More than 90% of martial artists today practice their art for demonstration or as a generous exchange of blows, but not as an art of sefl-defence. They lack the necessary skills to use their marital art techniques to defend themselves. In free sparring they even take being hit and kicked for granted!.
I had just finished performing the Cosmic Consciousness exercise when a horrible feeling came over me suddenly, and then my heart felt like it contracted and became cold, and then my entire body became so cold as if i had been put into a freezer. I tried thinking of my dan tien to reduce the shock.
My joints all started to ache like I was suddenly becoming very ill. I felt so horrible and this haunted feeling was growing, My fear and anxiety started going through the roof and I could not stop it no matter what I tried. Amongst other things, I tried doing a few simple Lifting The Sky exercises without qi flow
Though not asleep, at one point, I saw an image of a woman’s skeleton with only some flesh left on it and no head being dragged across the room on some sort of trapeze-like device — she was flung over it. I was intensely alarmed! This image came out of nowhere, and did not help my state of mind. Eventually my body warmed back up and after some time I fell asleep.
— Elizabeth, USA
Congratulations. Your experience was a deep cleansing of your bad karma. Some gentle chi flow will help to ease you of the terror and get you back to normal pleasant living. This deep cleansing was due to your practicing too deeply. Expanding into the Cosmos, which you called Cosmic Consciousness exercise, is very advanced and to be practiced by those at an advanced or master’s level.
It is alright if you practice it once a while, like once a month, but certainly you should not practice it too often until you have become advanced. Even for those at an advanced level, they need not practice it often, though they would not have severe cleansing symptoms if they practice often.
For us, i.e. the great majority of people who live in the phenomenal world, the most useful exercises are those taught on the first day of my Intensive Chi Kung Course, which are meant to overcome illness for those who are sick, and to give good health, vitality and longevity when they are already healthy. Even for our advanced practitioners, it is not easy to realize how powerful our advanced exercises are.
“Expanding into the Cosmos” is a very advanced skill, and should be practiced undert the supervision of a master
Can I learn to become a best fighter in your school?
— Pranav, India
You have come to a wrong school to learn to be a best fighter. Although we are combat efficient, and many of our students are international free sparring champions, fighting is low in our priority.
High in our priority in our aspirations for our training is to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity, peak performance and spiritual joys irrespective of religion. Nevertheless, not to make a mockery of ourselves in training a martial art, we pride ourselves to employ our arts in combat.
We also have helped many people overcome pain and illness, including so-called incurable diseases. We take this as a stepping-stone. In other words, overcoming pain and illness is not a fundamental aim for us to practice chi kung and kungfu. A fundamental aim is to have good health. Having good health means we are free from being sick or in pain.
It is legitimate to ask that if we do not take fighting as a top priority in our training, why do we train combat efficiency. It is mainly because our combat training enriches our daily life without us having really to fight.
Practicing chi kung also enriches our daily life, but practicing a martial art makes it more immediate. For example, attaining good health is the climax of many schools of chi kung, but it is only a starting point of a martial art. In other words, chi kung practitioners would consider their practice successfully completed when they have attained good health. But martial artists would consider having good health the start of their training.
As another example, chi kung practitioners generally have more time in making wise decisions. But for martial artists, like when a punch or a kick is coming from an opponent, they have to make fast and wise decisions on the spot.
I was lying in bed and suddenly “it/he” was there again, for the third time now. But this time it was much more powerful. In my ear I started to have something that I would call a tinnitus. Although the sound was very brief and not loud, it had this powerful vibes.
I did recognize it immediately again and then I could literally feel how it was lying next to me, right at my back. I felt like paralyzed and got a shock and wanted to scream but was not able to. I did not know what was happening and without thinking I simply started to recite Guan Yin Boddhisvattva’s name over and over again.
I then got calm and fell asleep. This happened to me twice before. But when it happened earlier, I never felt this tinnitus and it/he would be on the other side of the bed, like there would be a distance between us. And I remember it always felt powerful and somehow also “frightening”, but I had never really big fear or a shock and was rather easily able to go back to sleep.
But this time it stays with me. I have no idea what this thing/being is. I can only humbly say that I really think it is for real and not any imagination in my head.
How do I know if I have to protect myself and how could I do it? If I don’t consider the moment when it happens, I don’t really feel like I am in danger but I feel a lot of respect and uncertainty as I do not know what this is.
— Abelle, France
The being was real. But you don’t have to be afraid. You can attain confidence with the following facts and action:
Your chi flow is powerful — not powerful when compared to your sifu’s but powerful compared to most other people. Other beings would be repelled by your powerful chi; it is like electricity to them. If you are frightened, it is because of your own emotions.
You can chant the Guan Yin mantra, which is very powerful. Not only the mantra will repel the being, it will also sooth you.
You can apply One-Finger Zen onto the being. This is a drastic step and may hurt the being, so don’t use it unless necessary, and usually it is not necessary. Even if you had to use it, warn the being first. If the being did not heed the warning, point your One-Finger Zen at the being with your index finger pointing upward, not pointing at the being. The being would flee away. If it still didn’t, then point your index finger at it and visualize powerful chi shooting from your One-Finger Zen at the being.
I once used the One-Finger Shooting Zen on a monster, which was much more powerful than a ghost or natural spirit and which was disturbing a student. It fled away immediately.
While we train combat efficiency, we place higher priority on other benefits like good health, vitality, longevity and peak performance in our kungfu training
I remember when I had the opportunity to take courses for the first time with you, I later saw a ghost (according to my Sifu after hearing my descriptions) here in my apartment.
The ghost was wandering around somehow and was here for quite some time. Only later I asked him to leave and did send him blessings according to the instructions I gladly received as it started to disturb me. But he never ever felt so strong as this being now. This being now feels to be much stronger than me.
This being was likely to be an asura, or a titan. A titan is much more powerful than a ghost. Asuras are as powerful as dewas, or gods, but they did not become gods because of their negative emotions. The principal emotion of male asuras is anger, whereas that of female asuras, who are very beautiful, is jealousy. On the other hand, the principal emotion of gods is joy.
Ghosts are less powerful and of a lower spiritual level than humans. Many humans are afraid of ghosts because of ignorance and uncertainty. The fear is due to their own emotions. Ghosts actually shun humans but if a ghost was severely wronged, it might risk its own comfort to seek revenge from the responsible humans.
Our attitude towards ghosts should not be fear, but pity. Ghosts are pitiful. They are usually hungry and often lost. If you see one, like when it could not leave you in time, send it blessings and let it leave.
I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but I did indeed cancel in a very short notice, on my day of departure, a trip over New Year’s Eve and stayed for almost two weeks unexpectedly at home. I experienced two weeks of very deep rest and peace and beautiful moments with uplifting thoughts. Maybe this is a coincidence.
If not, maybe this being is even visiting me for some good and I should feel gratitude? But why would it then have this powerful, frightening touch?
Sigung, how can I know about the intention of this being?
There are three ways to find out the intention of the being:
Ask the being itself. You should do so only when you feel confident facing the being. Don’t do so if you feel afraid.Don’t promise the being anything, even if its requests are reasonable and within your means. Say that you may try to help but tell it that you can’t promise anything. If its requests are unreasonable, tell the being firmly but calmly that they are unreasonable. If the requests are beyond your means, tell it that they are beyond your means and it has to find help elsewhere.
You may ask Guan Yin Bodhisattva for the answer and guidance. Go into a chi kung state of mind, pay homage to Guan Yin Bodhisattva, then ask your question and request for guidance. Conclude by thanking the Bodhisattva.
You may ask the Cosmos. Go into a chi kung state of mind. Ask your question and seek for guidance. Conclude by thanking the Cosmos.
High-level chi kung gives us radiant energy that lower spirits are afraid of
Why do we see these beings?
These beings as well as higher spiritual beings are around us all the time, but most of us cannot see them, nor they see us because our energy and theirs vibrate at different frequencies. It is just like we do not see waves of energy that carry information across the world until these waves manifest on our computers.
Years ago when I was a student under my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, he told me an invaluable lesson. He said in Chinese (Cantonese), “Khui tau sam chet yow shen meng”, which means “When you raise your head to look up three feet, there are gods.” He mentioned this when he was explaining a moral value to me that we must be righteous and have a clear conscious all the time.
When we practice chi kung, we open some psychic points that are normally close to most other people. This enables us to see such beings.
I would like to take up my Kung Fu training again. I do love my own Chi Kung training but I do indeed also miss my Kung Fu and the possibility to train with other people. Kung Fu has always been a big challenge for me, but I also feel it’s a big opportunity for me and many good things that happened during the last years are due to my training I feel.
Sigung, am I allowed to take a Kung Fu class with a Sisook if he would accept me? I hope that the question is not disrespectful. Taking classes with my Sisook wouldn’t change my gratitude and respect I feel towards my Sifu whom I indeed honor for everything that he has done for me and for the way he spreads the Shaolin Arts.
It is good that you have decided to resume your kungfu training. The Shaolin Kungfu practiced in our school is so wonderful. Not only it will give you a lot of benefits, it will also enhance your femininity. Indeed, it is a golden opportunity for women to practice our Shaolin Kungfu, though most of them do not realize it, and some are too lazy to do so. Most other kinds of kungfu or any martial art practiced elsewhere make women rough.
It is best if you learn from your sifu. He is an excellent teacher and has the interest of his students at heart. But if this is not feasible, you can learn from your sisook.
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.