(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/sp-issues/real-kungfu.html)
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
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/taijiquan/stances.html)
Please click on the picture or the caption below to view the video
Stance-training is very important in all styles of kungfu, of course including Taijiquan. It is the single most important category of exercises to develop internal force.
The following are important points regarding the various stances in our school, Shaolin Wahnam.
Feet along a straight line
Feet hooked in
Front knee not beyond front ankle
Body and hips in line
Front leg and foot in line
Body slightly bent forward
The lessons in the above video were taught by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit during the Intensive Taijiquan Course in Sabah from 25th to 31st March 2016.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans15b/oct15-1.html)
Past masters took many years to attain energy flowing at the five levels, but we can attain this in just four hours! How is it possible?
— Lukas, Germany
This is ridiculous but true.
There are two main reasons.
Past masters did not differentiate between techniques and skills, whereas we do. They practiced any techniques they were taught when they were students. When conditions were ideal, they developed the necessary skills, often without their conscious knowing. These ideal conditions happened infrequently even when they practice every day. Over a long period, like after many years, they accumulated enough results, which happened haphazardly, to feel energy flowing at these five levels.
Let us take an analogy. In this course, many students come from other countries, like from England, Austria and Holland. If they do not have the right techniques, like a car or a train, and do not have the right skills, like traveling along the correct routes, but just travel haphazardly even they travel everyday they will take many years to arrive at Frankfurt if they ever do. But they took only a few hours to arrive because they have the right techniques and the right skills, i.e. they drove a car or took a train, and travelled along the right routes.
Secondly, instead of developing the necessary skills on their own, which would take at least few months, I transmitted the skills to them so that they could get the benefits immediately.
Is there any difference between Golden Bridge and Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level in developing internal force?
Yes, there is some difference. The force developed in Golden Bridge is colsolidated, whereas the force developed in Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level is relatively more flowing.
It is significant to note that the comparison is relative. Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level is more consolidated than many other methods of force training, but compared to Golden Bridge it is more flowing.
As a rough guide the proportions of consolidating and flowing are as follows in the following force training methods.
Golden Bridge 90-10
Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level 85-15
Iron Wire 80-20
Flower Set 50-50
108-Pattern Yang Style Taijiquan 10-90
This list is flexible and serves as a rough guide. It varies according to many factors, like the mood, knowledge and ability of a practitioner. In our chase, we can vary the proportion according to our wish. We may, for example, practice Iron Wire with a proportion of 20% consolidating and 80% flowing.
There is also a difference between the time needed between Golden Bridge and Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level to develop internal force.
If one takes 15 minutes to develop a certain amount of internal force in Golden Bridge, he takes only 10 minutes to develop the same amount in Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level. This again is only a rough guide, and may vary due to different factors.
Nevertheless, as revealed just now by practitioners who had trained in both methods (during a Bone Marrow Cleansing Course in Germany in Sept 2014) that although they found Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level more forceful, they still preferred Golden Bridge. The important lesson is that being better and preference are not necessary the same, and this important lesson is applicable in daily life.
Some men may find other women more beautiful than their wives, but they still prefer their wives. Some women know that other men earn more money than their husbands, but they still prefer their husbands.
Grandmaster Wong’s youngest son, Wong Chun Yian, performing the Golden Bridge
Is our Bone Marrow Cleansing the same as Bone Marrow Cleansing taught by Bodhidharma?
It is not the same. But we still use the term “Bone Marrow Cleansing” in honour of Bodhidharma.
Bodhisharma’s Bone Marrow Cleansing referred to four levels of his teaching on spiritual development. Our Bone Marrow Cleansing refers to five levels of energy flow in energy development.
In other words, by following Bodhidharma’s teaching, practitioners developed their spirit at four levels, figuratively described as the levels of the skin, the flesh, the bone and the bone marrow. The legend of Hui Ke receiving Bodhidharma’s teaching describes this development. By following our teaching in the Bone Marrow Course, practitioners develop their energy flow at five levels, more literally described as the levels of the skin, the muscles, the meridians, the internal organs and the bone marrow.
Why do we use five levels of energy flow and not four or any other number? It is because past masters discovered through the ages that there were five levels of energy flow. When people practiced chi kung successfully — genuine chi kung and not gentle physical exercise as is mostly practiced nowadays — after some time, which might range from a year to a few years, they found energy flowing at their skin level. After Some time, the energy flowed at their muscle level, then at their meridian level. After some time the energy flowing at their meridian level entered their internal organs. Eventually the energy flowed at their bone marrow level.
Depending on various factors, from the time they started practicing chi kung to the time the energy flowed at their bone marrow level might ranged from five to twenty years. This happened only to those who succeeded in their training, and they formed a minority. Most practitioners would not have progressed this far, even when they practice genuine chi kung.
In our case, the term “Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level” can be misleading. It may be more exact to call it “Developing Internal Force at Muscle Level” as this actually describes the skill and the result. Or we may call it “Consolidating Energy at Muscle Level”, as a lot of energy is consolidated at the muscles though it is still flowing. Nevertheless, we call it “Bone Marrow Cleansing at Muscle Level” as it is the second level of our Bone Marrow Cleansing Course.
Can we practice different levels in the same session of Bone Marrow Cleansing?
Yes, you can although generally you will get better results by practicing just one level per session.
If you practice more than one level, you need not repeat the techniques for the subsequent levels. You only need the gentle visualization. Secondly you can practice the various levels in any order, not necessary in ascending order.
Let’s say you wish to practice Bone Marrow Cleansing at the levels of the meridians and the skin. You can start with Pushing Mountain, and direct your energy to flow along the meridians. When you are satisfied with this level of energy flow, you just direct energy to flow along your skin. You need not perform Lifting the Sky to generate energy flow at the skin level, you just use your visualization when you are in a chi kung state of mind. If you wish to perform Lifting the Sky, you can also do do.
The nature of training is different in kungfu and chi kung. Hence, one may train longer in kungfu and not be over-trained though its training methods are more powerful
You recommend only 15 minutes in chi kung training but an hour in kungfu training. Can you please elaborate?
The force training in kungfu is usually more powerful than the force training in chi kung. So, will you be over-training if you practice kungfu for an hour, whereas it is recommended that you practice only for 15 minutes in chi kung?
No, it is because the nature of kungfu training is different from that in chi kung training. In kungfu training, besides developing force you also perform a lot of mobile activities like set practice and combat application. These mobile activities spread your force so that you will not be over-trained, even when you have more energy at the end of the training session than before.
But if you just perform force training in kungfu for more than 15 minutes, like just practice zhan zhuang, One-finger Shooting Zen and Lifting Water, unless you have spent some time in the training to progress gradually so that you body can take the extra energy, you will be over-training.
In chi kung training, you only perform force development. Practicing more than 15 minutes of force development may be over-training as your physical body is not ready to take the extra energy.
Can we practice the Three-Circle Stance in the Horse-Riding Stance instead of the Goat Stance, and practice the Golden Bridge in the Goat Stance instead of the Horse-Riding Stance?
— Oliver, France
Yes, you can.
Indeed, in the past many Taijiquan practitioners performed carrying the Cosmos, which was the hand form in the Three-Circle Stance, in the Horse-Riding Stance instead of the Goat Stance.
Some practitioners perform Golden Bridge in the Goat Stance instead of the Horse-Riding Stance.
The effects are different. Carrying the Cosmos in the Horse-Riding Stance produces more internal force than in the Goat Stance. Practicing Golden Bridge in the Goat Stance is more relaxing than in the Horse-Riding Stance.
I am troubled by a neurosis. Whenever, for example, I’m about to sit down or settle somewhere, I always have to check that there are no visible life forms present, like bugs, so that I won’t crush them. I base this on the principle that all lives are equal. But is this the truth? Can I safely sit down without always checking, or do I have to try my best to avoid killing anything?
— Jussi, USA
No, it is not true that all lives are equal. The lifespan of a bug, for example, is only a few months, whereas the lifespan of a human is many years. A bug does not have the opportunity to practice chi kung, whereas a human has. If he practices chi kung, i.e. genuine chi kung, and not merely gentle physical exercise which many people mistake for chi kung, he will live longer, healthier and with more vitality.
It is also not necessary true that you will crush a bug when you sit down. I actually don’t know how bugs feel, but I reckon that a bug would feel warm and comfortable when the soft part of your body rests on it. So sit down comfortably whenever you want to.
Your problem is not just crushing a bug or warming it. Your problem is certainly more series. I would strongly recommend you to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Please see my website at http://www.shaolin.org for more details, and apply to my secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration.
I usually asked people with such problems to practice genuine chi kung, but from experience I have found that many of them end up with gentle physical exercise that does not overcome their problems. To save you time and effort, I ask you straightaway to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. You will not only overcome your neurosis and other health problems if you have, you will also find life more joyful and meaningful.
Do you recommend physical exercise or is Chi Kung enough for overcoming depression and anxiety? If so, what kind of exercise would be the best?
Just practicing high-level chi kung is enough for overcoming depression and anxiety. It is not necessary to practice physical exercise or take food supplement.
Please take note of two important points: it must be genuine chi kung, and it must be of a high level. Genuine high-level chi kung is of course very rare nowadays.
It is not what chi kung techniques one should practice, but how he practices them that is important. The same chi kung techniques can be practiced as low-level chi kung, or as gentle physical exercise which is not chi kung at all.
Not many people can actually understand the above two statements even when they understand the dictionary meaning of all the words. An analogy may make the two statements clearer.
It is not what swimming techniques or surgery techniques one performs, but how well or badly he performs them that is important. The same techniques can be performed as low-level swimming or surgery, or not swimming or surgery at all.
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.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/video-clips-11/uk-summer-camp-2015/fa-jing.html)
Fa-jing means exploding force. There are two fundamental requirements:
The exponent must have sufficient internal force to explode
He must have the right mechanics
An effective way to develop internal force is zhan zhuang or stance training.
Past masters have provided an excellent way for exploding force, namely to start from the back leg, rotate the waist, and complete at the hand.