THE THREE SECRETS
The beauty of this pattern demonstrated by Sifu Ronan Sexton lies not in its outward form but in its elegance of movement, internal force and mental focus, which are manifestations of “jing”, “qi” and “shen”.
The following discussion is reproduced from the thread Dispelling Ignorance and Restoring the Glory of Kungfu started in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum on 15th April 2006.
Actually we've shared a lot of secrets publicly, more than many readers may even realize, because some of these secrets may pass unnoticed by them
Sifu Ronan Sexton
Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
22nd April 2006
Hey everyone, been real busy last few days so finally got some time to post again
It's unfortunate that the video (about a public match between a Taijiquan patriarch and a White Crane Kungfu master) Anthony posted is not only famous but is widely used as proof that Taijiquan can be used for real fighting. Everyone I know who's seen that video is shocked at the level of fighting displayed.
I could never understand why it had become so famous, but now I do. I used to think "Surely anyone can see that they're not using Kungfu for fighting, right?" but now I realize that many uninitiated will simply believe what they're told without question.
If they're told that what they're looking at is high level Kungfu then that's what they'll believe. If they do question it they'll most likely be told the only reason they can't appreciate the depth of skill shown is that they themselves lack skill and depth. And so they pretend to see the depth so as not to feel foolish. Reminds me of a story I heard when I was a kid called "The Emperor's New Clothes". If you haven't heard the story then please ask me, I'll be happy to tell it...it's a good story.
Hey Adam, good to hear from you and even better to hear your training's going well. That's really interesting that your students would rather learn a more solid looking Kungfu set than practice their flowery Wushu sets. Maybe it shows a changing of the times, but we'll have to wait and see.
So I promised I'd discuss ”The Three Secrets” as taught in our school. “The three secrets” actually refer to three levels of secrets.
When Sifu first made public video clips and pictures of some important kungfu sets we practice in Shaolin Wahnam, some of my brothers were quite concerned. They asked Sifu whether revealing our secrets could give some advantage to people who would use them against us.
Sifu explained, as I said in my earlier posts, that the secrets lie not in the forms but in the application . He also said that when people pay a lot of attention to secrets in the forms it indicates that they probably can't use their forms for combat. The reason was obvious to the initiated, which we later discovered from our direct experience. I'd invite Shaolin Wahnam members as well as forum guests to give their own experiences regarding this.
Of course we also pay attention to our forms, but we do so with the intention of getting better at using them for combat. We don't just practice them over and over again, hoping that one day a secret will jump out at us. We practice them to deepen our skills. We work on better breath control, building and utilizing internal force, improving our footwork and our techniques, our focus and our relaxation during fighting. There are many reasons for practicing our forms and pleasing spectators generally isn't one of them.
Actually we've shared a lot of secrets publicly, more than many readers may even realize, because some of these secrets may pass unnoticed by them. As my Siheng Anthony has quoted Sifu, “We have so many secrets that we can afford to share some with the public.”
Then why doesn't Shaolin Wahanm share all secrets if the school is dedicated to dispelling ignorance? Why, for example, does my brother Marcus keep the secret of “Embracing Dragon Kick” for Shaolin Wahnam members only, and not reveal it openly to everyone in this forum?
Actually we in Shaolin Wahnam share all our secrets — some with all people, some with beginning students and some are reserved for deserving persons at the appropriate time.
For convenience, Sifu has classified secrets into three levels
- open secrets
- common secrets
- top secrets
Open secrets are shared openly with all people. Common secrets are shared commonly with all members of the Shaolin Wahnam Family. Top secrets are shared with top Shaolin Wahnam members.
Sifu also explained something very interesting about "secrets". Some of the most important secrets, for example, are open secrets, right there for everyone to see. They're not secrets at all from one perspective but are incredible secrets from another.
For example, probably the most important secret in internal force training is to be relaxed. It's not much of a secret because all those who teach internal force or claim to teach internal force, such as bogus masters, say this. Yet, very few people know how to relax. Hence, from this perspective, the success of internal force training lies in the secret of knowing how to relax.
This is another example of the fact that secrets lie not in the form but in its application. You may have the correct form, but if you don't know the secret of applying it correctly (i.e. how to relax when performing the form) you won't succeed in developing good internal force.
If you understand this, even theoretically, it's not difficult to see that those who talk about keeping secret forms from others or say the secret forms are too complex for their students to know, don't have internal force developed from the forms. If they had, they would've known from their direct experience that changing their forms to be more complicated would make it harder to relax.
I'm sure there're many Shaolin Wahnam members who're really surprised at the simplicity of the forms, and more surprised at the profundity of the result -- in chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan. In chi kung, for example, even beginners in Shaolin Wahnam experience internal force when they perform the simple form of “Pushing Mountains”. Those who attended the Sinew Metamorphosis or Dan Tian Breathing courses taught by Sifu, were astounded at the tremendous internal force generated by just flicking their fingers three times or pressing on their abdomen. Wahnam Taijiquan students were surprised at the internal force generated by the simple form of Lifting Water.
I'll mention it again. In Kungfu and Taijiquan, there're no secrets in the forms. The secrets lie in the application. The forms are very simple. We not only show the forms in pictures but also in videos. We also don't hide the secrets in the application. In fact we emphasize the secret, reminding practitioners to be relaxed while training for internal force because we believe that in our current situation it's more important to share and keep the art alive.
I was always so impressed at the efficiency of Shaolin Kungfu. Everything down to the last "T" is efficient. In training, in application, in teaching. The main thing that I found was so great is that the Art has its own in-built filter. We don't have to worry about bad people practicing and reaching a high level in Wahnam (although we still vet certain undesirables in our classes). If someone were to start practicing our Kungfu or Chi Kung with a huge ego and malicious thoughts in mind, either they wouldn't get very far at all, or the training itself would make them a better person.
This information on relaxing is very useful to you if you wish to train for internal force. If you have a master to guide you, then you're very lucky, luckier than most. But even if you don't have a master right now, at least you know how to search for one and if you meet a “master” who tells you that you have to train for many years before he tells you the secret techniques, you now know he's misleading you.
Well, summer's slowly inching its way in so I'm gonna go enjoy it. What a beautiful Saturday afternoon!
I'll post again soon and talk a bit more about secrets in Kungfu.
The big secret in developing internal force via stance training is to be relaxed. Here Sifu Emiko Hsuen of Shaolin Wahnam Canada relaxes herself in “Golden Bridge”.
Shaolin Wahnam USA
22nd April 2006
“...that the secrets lie not in the forms but in the application.... I'd invite Shaolin Wahnam members as well as forum guests to give their own experiences regarding this.”
I am still a beginner, so I haven't experienced this that many times, but one instance where this concept really hit home was actually last weekend. My Sihing, Chris (Grimlock), made it to Florida last weekend and we were fortunate enough to get a joint lesson on Saturday. The main focus of the lesson was on the combat sequences. We started the sequences with self-choice for 1-4 (it was really amazing the difference in force and skill just after a couple of months) and then moved on to 5-8.
We had previously trained sequences 1-6 together, but I'm going to focus on “Dark Dragon Draws Water” in Sequence 6. Sifu (Antonius) had already taught us both how to apply it without the “Single Tiger” first, and we had both been practicing it on our own (form). Chris and I were going through Sequence 6 a few times and Sifu stopped us. He said something to the effect of, "I don't think you guys appreciate how effective Dark Dragon really is because you learned the counter (Big Bar Boss) at the same time. Practice the sequence stopping without doing the counter to Dark Dragon."
We did it a couple of times, and Sifu again stopped us and gave us some instructions on the finer points of the application. I honestly can't remember a word of what that was, but I remember the feeling of having the technique properly applied to me. The next time Chris executed the Dark Dragon just as my punch completed, and it was a "Holy crap!" moment. Within a few more tries I was also able to apply it with the right timing. We both had been practicing the form for awhile, and both knew the application intellectually, but I don't think we would have really "got it" even if we'd practiced it for days/weeks maybe even years.
On a bit of a side note, one thing I realized was that this technique would be effective even to someone who tried to pull their punch back because with the correct application, you would actually use it before/as they would pull the punch. The reason I mention this is because as a beginner, I still have my doubts every once in awhile as to how well the Kung Fu would work against the more modern styles. It was nice to have an experience that showed it to me as opposed to being told to keep practicing and you'll eventually get it. The experience also helped me realize that pretty much all of the techniques can be applied at a deeper level once I'm ready to learn them.
My post got a little sidetracked in there, but I hope I got my point across.
Wishing everyone the best,
US, Canada, China
23nd April 2006
Dear Ronan and others,
Here are a few of my thoughts,
Here I believe we are all talking about a healing process that takes place in the light of dispelling ignorance and restoring the glory of Kung fu.
But an open question to all, and what I believe to be a great aspect of this thread that has not yet been touched upon is, HOW?
How do we attack this situation of modern times and the widespread degradation of a great art?
How can we commune with those uneducated in these matters in a harmonious way?
How does one dispel this ignorance in themselves and eventually others?
How do we maintain our purposes in doing such a great task?
What are these purposes?
I believe this to be a delicate matter.
Maybe this is a shadow of the Setting Aims thread (Kungfu Section). Nevertheless, I believe it to be important not only to list the problems, our experiences, but also list and discuss ways to solve the problems at hand.
I know that our experiences are ways to solve the problems. I also know that it is as simple as practice, practice, practice. (See wuwei thread)
But if we commune to set up our results and methods of application about this healing process, I believe The Wahnam Community and others attending this forum will benefit greatly, and we would still be able to maintain the original focus of this thread.
To Sihing Mark Appleford and other Wahnam Sifus and instructors,
At the attendance of the Intensive Course, during our nightly discussions I often noticed when we were involved discussions, your comments and expression towards others was very non-confrontational, smooth, and 'apparently' indirect but 'actually' very specific.
A method which nonetheless I saw to elicit the responder to answer their own question and be very subtle yet powerful in your own expression is subtly observing various 'signs' in the responder and carefully adjusting your own expression accordingly.
If this is a method (for lack of a better word) which may have arisen out of necessity from experiences of your path, I ask you humbly if you could elaborate on any parallels this might have to this thread.
In my own teaching, if my students have a problem, usually their bigger problems like ignorance and/or obstinance (for unlike Wahnam, not all my students want to be in class), if I tell them too directly what their problem is, I will no doubt injure both them and myself.
There are ways to overcome this obstacle.
I have many ideas and experiences of doing so.
How can we ourselves become more aware of the importance of this aspect of spreading and transmitting the Shaolin arts?
More to come,
Got to run,
I look forward to your responses.