January 2005 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Could you please tell me what Zen is, and how to pronounce it correctly?
— Chin, Malaysia
Zen is the Japanese word for the Chinese “Chan” (Cantonese “Sim”), which in turn is transliterated from the Sanskrit “Dhyana”.
Confusion often arises when people do not realize that Zen has four related meanings, as follows.
- A glimpse of Cosmic Reality
- Cosmic Reality (called by some cultures as God or the Great Void)
- Zen Buddhism
Hence, if you ask a yoga practitioner whether he practices Zen, his answer is “yes” if he refers to the first meaning, but “no” if he refers to the fourth meaning. He may also answer “hopefully” and “not yet” if he refers to the second and the third meaning.
The following situations illustrate these four meanings of Zen.
- I entered Zen (a meditative state of mind) while practicing my Shaolin Kungfu.
- Going deeper into Zen (a cosmic awakening) suddenly my kungfu patterns were no longer physical movements but a continuous flow of energy
- This reminded me that the ultimate aim of my Shaolin training was to attend Zen (total realization of Cosmic Reality).
- And one might not be a follower of Zen (Zen Buddhism) to attain this highest realization.
You can have more details by logging into my webpage http://www.shaolin-wahnam.org/zen.html It is difficult to convey pronunciation over an e-mail, but if you pronounce it the way it is spelt your pronunciation will be intelligible to most people.
For the last 3 years I've been practicing nei kung and chi gong from my teacher. About a year ago, my teacher moved to the east coast and I have lost contact with him. I've been practicing on my own since then. About 6 months ago, I started to have problems, my chi is stuck in the chest area, specifically between the nipples and beneath the sternum. As a result, my head gets heavy, my face gets red, my blood pressure has gone up to 140/90 and my hands and feet get cold very easily. Also, I get tired very easily and my heart beats faster than usual.
Under my teacher's guidance, whenever I had problems like these, he was able to remedy the problems effectively and in a timely fashion. I know I did something wrong with my practice, but I just don't know what. For the last month, I stopped practicing and concentrated on practicing Lifting the Sky and Carry the Moon along with Self-Manifested Qi that I learned from your Chi Kung books.
I'm planning to come to your Intensive Chi Kung Course but meanwhile is there anything I can do to improve the situation?
— Tim, USA
It appears that you have a serious blockage beneath your sternum, probably caused by incorrect nei kung or chi kung training. But don't worry. It can be overcome quite readily by performing the following remedial exercise.
Stand upright and be totally relaxed. Gently massage (about 2 or 3 times) the spot where you have the blockage, or where you feel pain. Make sure your mouth is gently open when you massage.
Next, smile from your heart. (Don't worry how to do it, just do it.) Then perform “Lifting the Sky” about 30 times, breathing in gently through your nose, but breathing out loudly with your mouth wide open but in a gentle manner. You should not force your breathing out. Open your mouth wide and let your breath come out loudly (but gently).
After “Lifting the Sky” about 30 times, close your eyes (if you haven't closed them earlier) and do nothing. “Do nothing” literally means do nothing. It means that if your chi moves you, you do not tense your leg muscles or anything to stop the flow. If the chi does not move you, you just stand relaxed. It also means you do not think of anything.
In other words, after “Lifting the Sky” about 30 times, you let go and enjoy your chi flow, or remain still and relaxed if there is no chi flow movement. Make sure your mouth is gently open and you do not think of anything during this chi flow or standing still period. After some time (generally about 5 to 10 minutes) of chi flow or standing still, gently think of your dan tian. Stand upright and complete the exercise.
Perform this remedial exercise three times a day, once in the morning, once in the evening, and once at night. For the time being, do not practice any other chi kung exercise or kungfu. Focus on the remedial exercises to recover good health first. Then you may continue your other chi kung exercises or kungfu.
You should overcome your problem within a month. If your blockage is not deep, it may be overcome in a few days. However, should you still have the blockage when you come for my intensive course, I shall transmit some chi to clear the blockage for you. Irrespective of whether the blockage is cleared, identify yourself to me so that I can have a look at it. This blockage is along the “ren” or “conceptual” meridian. If left un-cleared, it may have far reaching consequences. But don't worry about it, the problem can be readily solved.
Sustaining injuries during sparring but leaving them unattended to, is unfortunately routine among most martial art students today. Such internal injuries will affect the functioning of internal organs, and although they may not be manifested as diseases identified in Western medicine (because Western medicine has no conceptual understanding of internal energy blockage), they can insidiously affect the daily performance as well as the life span of the person.
If a person is recently hit, the internal injury can be readily overcome by performing the remedial exercise described above. This remedial exercise is very effective and is safe to be performed on one's own. But do not add anything extra to the instructions. Do not, for example, add any visualization; doing so may cause complications and harmful side-effects.
However, if the internal injury is severe or long dated, and if he does not have access to a chi kung master who can clear the blockage for him, the person is strongly advised to consult a physician of traditional Chinese medicine, and ask for medical concoction for clearing internal energy and blood blockage. There are numerous medical formulae for such concoction, and they are very effective for overcoming internal injury.
Although I learned mostly nei kung and chi kung from my teacher, he also taught me some kung fu, and I'm debating as to whether I should go to your Intensive Chi Kung Course or to your Intensive Shaolin Kung Fu Course since I'm also interested in ShaolinKung Fu. If I choose to take the Intensive Shaolin Kung Fu course, would I also be able to learn the core of Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung, at least enough to help me fix my problem?
If you can perform basic kungfu patterns reasonably well, it is better for you to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. These basic kungfu patterns are found in the kungfu set “Lohan Asks the Way”, which you can see at /review/lohan.html, and which is also called “Four Directional Hand Attacks” found in my book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”.
The kungfu course includes core chi kung exercises, which not only is more than enough to overcome your blockage problem, but also enables you to perform all kungfu movements as chi kung! You will develop so much internal force and chi flow which you can use to clear blockage, if any, that you will know from direct experience why I say that overcoming your present blockage at your sternum is easy.
I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course rather than my Intensive Chi Kung Course. But please be warned that it is a very tough course, where you are pushed to your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits so as to surpass them in order that you will come out of the course as a better person in all aspects.
If you cannot perform the basic kungfu patterns, you will not be able to follow the kungfu course. In this case, you should attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course, which is a breeze in comparison to the tough kungfu course.
I surfed on the internet today and found your website about the Tiger-Crane sparing, which is very interesting. I have learned the Tiger-Crane Set from Wong Fei Hoong's fourth wife in 1969, but the techniques are completely difference from yours. I have learned that Wong Fei Hoong did not like to kick. In the Tiger-Crane Set, there is only one kick, is that true? When I practice the kick, I almost loose balance, and it does not seem good to be used for combat.
— John, USA
My version of the Tiger-Crane Set is traceable to the Venerable Harng Yein, whereas Wong Fei Hoong's version is traceable to Lok Ah Choy. Harng Yein was the senior classmate of Loh Ah Choy under the Venerable Chee Seen, the abbot of the southern Shaolin Temple at the time it was burnt by the Manchurian Army. Please see Similarities and Differences of Tiger-Crane Sets for details.
You are mistaken to think that the great Shaolin master, Wong Fei Hoong, did not like kicks. In fact he was more famous for his “No-Shadow Kicks” than his “Tiger-Claws”. “No-Shadow Kicks” and “Tiger-Claws” are the two specialized arts from the Tiger-Crane Set.
When I was learning the Tiger-Crane Set from my sifu, Uncle Righteousness, I had the rare opportunity to see some hand sketches purportedly passed down by Wong Fei Hoong. These sketches were very brief, but because I knew the Tiger-Crane Set and its underlying principles, they were invaluable in illustrating to me the secrets of the “No-Shadow Kicks”.
Years later the “No-Shadow Kicks” were extremely effective in my sparring as well as real fighting. When I demonstrated these “No-Shadow Kicks” on some senior disciples, they were amazed. Although they were good fighters themselves, they did not even know they had been kicked (in sparring we always stopped just before the target) had I not frozen the kicks for them to realize!
As the “No-Shadow Kicks” are secrets of Shaolin Kungfu, I would not disclose them here, but the following brief description is permissible. The “No-Shadow Kicks” refer to a range of kicks, including the “organ kick”, “tiger-tail kick”, “clutch kick”, and “thrust kick”.
You did not know they were found in your Tiger-Crane Set because you had not arrived at a stage to be “enlightened” on its secrets by your teacher. I would give you a clue here. The pattern called “Sun and Moon Shadow Hand” (called “Moon Shines on Hands and Legs” in Wong Fei Hoong's version) incorporates a “No-Shadow Kick”.
You could not kick well because you lack both understanding and practice. Even to execute a simple kick, one needs to practice it diligently, otherwise it would be a liability. “No-Shadow Kicks” are very high level kicks demanding not just great skills but also tactics and strategies.
I am not at all interested in becoming a dancer or gymnast but want to learn for an extended period of time traditional and authentic kung fu. The only places I find that are available are in China, in academies where training lasts all day (this is what I am searching for). I do not want to travel to such a place and be taught to “dance” I want to learn the spiritual and defensive aspects of this ancient art.
— Arran, Canada
You may have missed some of my question-answer series where I have explained that what is generally taught in China today, including at the modern Shaolin Temple, is not traditional kungfu but modernized wushu. In modernized wushu there are no spiritual or defencive aspects.
There may be exceptional cases of masters in China today teaching traditional kungfu, but they are very rare and you have to search hard for them.
I have been researching for at least 8 months and decided that I should request you this favor. A friend who studies Hung Gar said it would be wise for he also wishes to attend this academy if it is authentic like it says. I realize that you cannot retrieve much information on the site but perhaps you are familiar with it. The site I wish you to authorize is xxx.
I have to refuse you this favour because it has been our policy not to publicly “authorize” or comment on whether particular schools are authentic.
You are grossly mistaken to think that by viewing its website one cannot decide whether the art taught in a school is what it claims. Not just masters but even students of reasonable levels can readily tell whether an art is traditional kungfu or modernize wushu.
There are many illustrations in my website showing the difference between traditional kungfu and modernized wushu. By studying them you may pick up some clues to tell the difference yourself.
Two tell-tale marks of genuine traditional kungfu are traditional force training methods like zhan zhuang (stance training) and hard chi kung, and combat application using the kungfu patterns they practice. If you find students of a school using typical Western methods like rope-skipping and weight training, and free sparring using Kickboxing, it is most unlikely the school teaches genuine traditional kungfu.
I have your book “Art of Chi Kung” and want to practice the art to cure my sleeping problem. Would you kindly advise which of the exercises will be most helpful to strengthen my breathing so that I will continue to breathe after I have fallen asleep. At the present time I have to use a CPAP pump to keep me breathing during sleep. I am a 64 year old woman in good health otherwise.
— Joy, Australia
“Separating Water” from my book will be most helpful for your case. Naturally, if you practice this exercise at a low level of skills, you will get only little result, whereas if you practice it at a high level of skill you will get great result. This statement may appear trite but actually many people do not appreciate its significance, otherwise they will learn from a living master rather than from books.
Worse, many people do not realize that if they practice it as a physical exercise, which is often the case when they learn from books, they may get no result. And the worst is that if they practice it wrongly they may get adverse result.
Hence, if you wish to sleep naturally every night without using the CPAP pump, the best is for you to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia to learn high level chi kung skills. But if this is not feasible, perform “Separating Water” as described in my book once in the morning and once at night.
I became very ill with a bad flu and bronchitis and was bed ridden for 6 weeks. I then went to Australia and underwent a series of test, scans and biopsies. All the way along each doctor gave me antibiotics, none of which were the right treatment. They found a mass of unknown shadow in my left lung which is still there. The lab results say I have a disease called micobacteria avium complex (bird TB) in my left lung.
I was told by my doctor to take very strong antibiotics and immediately my body and emotions reacted so adversely after 3 doses that I stopped because I felt like I was poisoned and assaulted and have become very emotional. Since then I have tried all sorts of alternative medicines, acupuncture, homeopathy, essential oils and been to a Balinese healer and none so far have had results.
I believe you are a very unique and wise man. I am asking you Sifu Wong if it would be possible for you to assist me to become healthy and disease free again?
— Sarasvati, Indonesia
I am sorry to hear of your illness, but the good news is that it can be overcome by practicing high level chi kung.
Different peoples have different ways or paradigms to view health and illness, and the one you have described to me concerning your illness is that of Western medicine. There is no doubt that Western medicine has contributed greatly to our well being. But there are some areas where the Western medical paradigm may not satisfactorily address or explain.
One such area is where doctors could not detect the actual cause of the illness, they could only detect the symptoms. Another area is where doctors do not have the appropriate antidotes to overcome the agents they suspect cause the disease. Your illness falls within these two areas.
Chi kung uses a different paradigm, that of traditional Chinese medicine, and is very different from that of Western medicine. Hence, to understand how chi kung can overcome your illness, you need to have a paradigm shift.
It is useful to note that a paradigm is not a set of absolute truths; it is just a way of viewing things and events. For example, if a person has eaten too much protein and becomes sick, we may say that he does not have the right amino-acids to digest the protein. This way of viewing the event is a paradigm, which is usually used by people educated in the Western tradition. In this paradigm, if we cannot define the right kinds of amino-acids, we cannot solve the problem.
However, a physician trained in a different paradigm would see the event differently. He would see the food the patient has eaten not as protein but as food producing “heat”. He may not even use “medicine” but recommend food that is “cooling”. Hence, without knowing anything about amino-acids, he can help his patient who has eaten too much protein to overcome his problem. This paradigm of classifying food as hot, cold, wet, damp, etc is used by people trained in the Chinese or Eastern tradition.
In the Chinese paradigm, health is expressed as yin-yang harmony. Here, yin represents our natural ability to adjust to constantly changing conditions both inside and outside our body. Yang represent all the agents that cause changes and may lead to illness. Yin-yang harmony is natural, and is maintained by harmonious chi flow. Harmonious chi flow means that energy flows to all parts of your body to enable them to work harmoniously.
In your case and according to the Western medical paradigm, your doctors found an unknown mass of shadow or agents responsible for micobacteria avium complex in your left lung. They believe that these factors cause your illness. Because they could not define what these factors were, or had no appropriate antidotes to overcome these factors, they could not cure your illness.
In the Chinese paradigm, the situation is amazingly simple, so simple that many people find it hard to believe. The external factors that cause changes in your body, and in this case they are the unknown mass of shadow or agents responsible for micobacteria avium, are represented as yang. Your natural ability, which is represented by yin, can not cope with these changes, thus resulting in yin-yang disharmony. The cause of yin-yang disharmony is blockage of energy flow.
It is significant to note that in the Chinese paradigm, the cause of your illness is not the unknown mass of shadow or the agents responsible for micobacteria avium, but blockage of energy flow. If the blockage is cleared and harmonious energy flow restored, your natural ability, which is yin, will be able to adjust to the shadow mass or agents, which are yang. Once yin-yang are in balance, you will have good health.
Physicians trained in this Chinese medical paradigm take much trouble to diagnose where the energy blockage is. Having found the site of blockage, they use various approaches like acupuncture, massage therapy and herbs, to clear the blockage. Take note that the Chinese physicians do not need to know the exact nature of the shadow mass or the micobacteria avium agents.
It is also not relevant even if the diagnosis by your Western doctors was wrong, and the disease-causing factors are something else. So long as the Chinese physicians succeed in clearing your energy blockage, your own natural ability will overcome the disease-causing agents, irrespective of what they may be!
Why is this so? It is because yin-yang harmony is natural. As an analogy, it does not matter whether you know the food you have eaten is protein, fat, carbohydrate or by any other terms food may be classified, so long as energy flows harmoniously to your stomach to enable your stomach to function naturally, the food will be digested. But if the energy flow is blocked, it does not matter whether you have eaten protein, fat or carbohydrate, you will have indigestion.
Similarly, it does not matter whether the bacteria or viruses that enter your left lung are micobacteria avium agents, or x, y or z. So long as energy flows harmoniously to your left lung to enable your defence system to work naturally, you will overcome the bacteria or viruses, irrespective of what they are! This in fact happens to all people all the time. Countless bacteria and viruses of countless types are found in all people. So long as their energy flow enables their defence system to function naturally, they will not be sick. Hence, according to the Chinese medical paradigm, some people, like you, become sick not because of the bacteria or viruses or other factors, but because of energy blockage.
In your case, the disease-causing agents, or yang, happen to be micobacteria avium agents. Should they be malaria, dysentery or pneumonia agents instead, you might have malaria, dysentery or pneumonia. But if your energy flow is harmonious enabling your natural ability, or yin, to overcome them, you will be healthy even if micobacteria avium, malaria, dysentery, pneumonia or other bacteria and viruses have entered your body.
Nevertheless, Chinese physicians face a daunting task. Their diagnosis must be accurate. They must be able to define where the energy blockage is. If they can't, they will be unable to clear the blockage.
Chi kung masters do not have this problem; they do not need accurate diagnosis! This is because while Chinese physicians work at higher levels of organs and meridians, chi kung master work at the fundamental level of chi flow.
In other words, Chinese physicians have to diagnose at which of the many organs or meridian systems the blockage is, which will involve numerous variables. But chi kung masters work on only one variable, that is to generate chi flow. When sufficiently powerful chi flow has been generated over a reasonable period of time, it will flow all over the body and clear whatever blockage along its way. This is a natural characteristic of chi flow.
Although any genuine chi kung can generate chi flow, you need to practice high level chi kung, because low and medium level chi kung would not be powerful enough for your case. I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course.
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- Why Shaolin Kungfu is the Greatest Martial Art