February 2000 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I was depressed for about 2 years and now I still don't feel 100% right. On a good day I'm so joyful and energetic, that I feel this relief in my chest. It feels so good I feel like I'm a kid and I have all this energy and the day is so bright and beautiful, and I want to go out and just become something, meet people and live to the fullest. Other days I get up and I feel like a totally different person. All those good feelings are gone; I just want to go back to sleep
— Eugene, USA
Chi kung will overcome your problem. When you have a lot of energy from your chi kung practice, you will have no time for depression. Yes, feeling joyful and energetic is what you will get when you are revitalized from your chi kung training. Wanting to go back to sleep is what happens when your energy runs out.
But I'm so sure that chi kung can help me that I don't get depressed too much. I want to turn my life around! Since I took your class in San Francisco I had some unbelievable days that I was so overjoyed just from being me and feeling great — I never wanted to end this feeling. All the problems went away and I felt strong inside and very confident.
Wonderful. When you have made chi kung — genuine high-level chi kung — a part of your daily life, you will be joyful and energetic. You need about 15 to 30 minutes of practice a day. You are at the prime of youth. With energy, you will find life a joy to live.
I'm also very bad at relationships. I haven't had a girlfriend for a very long time and I feel like drifted away from my friends.
When you practise chi kung, you not only transform yourself physically and emotionally, but also mentally and spiritually. Your friends and your surroundings may not have changed, but you have. With a beautiful heart, you will find your relationships and your surroundings more beautiful. Many of my students have reported such transformation to me.
I know there is such a wonderful, exciting world out there, but I feel like I'm stuck in a black hole and struggling to get out, but I'm having such a hard time.
Your missing ingredient is energy. You will learn to harness and manage energy well in my intensive chi kung course. With more energy and better energy management as well as emotional and spiritual transformation, you will again find there is such a wonderful, exciting world out there. This is certain.
Dear Sifu, you had such an impact on me during the 3rd World Qigong Congress that I know there is a cure for my, I would say worst, “disease”. It has disabled me in many ways and did not let me experience all the things I want to experience. I had enough of it. Once again, thank you for accepting me in your chi kung course.
I have helped many people with similar problems like yours. Compared with other people who have serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disorders, which I also help them to overcome, your problems are actually child-play.
I do not mean that your problems are not real; they are and they can be distressful, but overcoming them is comparatively easy. Indeed in chi kung, it is easier to overcome emotional problems than physical diseases.
The trouble with conventional medicine, including psychiatry, is that it lacks a conceptual framework to deal with such problems, which are problems of consciousness or spirit. Conventional medicine has alienates the body from the spirit; it addresses illness only at the physical level. Chi kung, on the other hand, addresses all the three dimensions of a person, namely his physical body, his energy and his spirit.
Are you going to have some classes in Europe? It's a little closer and much cheaper. I'm very limited on money, but I know every penny I'll spend on this trip will be worth it. I apologize for being impatient and desperate but are you going to have any classes earlier?
I shall teach large classes in Spain in March and April, but it is best for you to take an intensive course from me in Malaysia. Besides having personal teaching from me, your staying in Malaysia, a beautiful country with friendly people, will act like an emotional platform for you to change into a new, joyful and rewarding life. Hence, besides taking the course, you should also spend some time seeing the country and experiencing a very different culture.
Dear Sifu, I didn't mean to pour my feelings out like this but I know you'll understand me in a way others, like my friends and family, won't. I feel like there is so much built-up in my chest and my body that I just want to explode or just go back in time and start over. I want to feel young (18) — I'll be 23 in March — and energetic, so I can start all over and succeed.
I can understand you very well. From the chi kung perspective, your emotional problems have a physical basis. Your lung system is blocked, hence you feel depressed. Your heart system is blocked, hence you are unable to experience joy even though conditions for joy may be present.
Other people who do not have this perspective will misunderstand you, saying you think too much or worry unnecessarily, or various other factors. They try to reason with you, explaining why you should not be depressed or unhappy, but their reasoning does not work because your problem is not one of a dull mind. You know better than them that you should not be depressed or unhappy, yet you are depressed and unhappy. Why? Not because you do not know intellectually, but because your emotional energies have been blocked.
There could be numerous causes why the emotional energies are blocked, such as a bad childhood experience, severe deposition of toxic waste, or some organic dysfunction, and it is difficult to pinpoint the cause. But the fantastic thing about chi kung is that you don't even have to know the cause! Irrespective of whether the cause is x or y or z, so long as you clear the blockage, the locked emotions will be flushed out, and your depression and unhappiness will disappear.
This paradigm, which is actually so simple, is so different from the conventional western paradigm of reducing a problem to its minute cause, that many westerners just do not believe in it. But whether you believe in it or not, it works, and chi kung is an excellent way to make it work, as can be substantiated from my success with many such cases. Changing to a new, exotic environment provides an ideal background to make it work. The intensive chi kung course will not only overcome your emotional problems but will make life more rewarding for you.
I have a question about the “wave” in the soft martial arts. I have read a few sources that say great power can be gained from using your body as a wave. I refer you to the Tai Chi Chuan push technique. Can you please tell me what the wave is and the best way to train in this technique to add power to my self-defense methods.
— Jeremy, USA
The “wave” concept is found not just in the “soft” or internal martial arts, but also in the “hard” or external. In Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu, for example, a master may use the wave concept in such a way that no matter what you do, you will find his movements overwhelming you, like waves tossing you about in a choppy sea.
When you throw him a punch, you may find his arm crushing down on your punching arm. When you try to draw back your arm to prevent it from being hit, you may find his other arm swinging right into your solar plexus. As you try to move sideways or to your back to avoid the swinging attack, you may find his attack has changed direction and comes smashing onto your face.
In Tai Chi Chuan this wave concept suggest that you flow with your opponent's movements instead of clashing against them. For example, if your opponent gives you a powerful thrust punch, instead of blocking it you deflect it aside along its punching momentum, as in the “peng” technique of “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”. As he withdraws his arm, you follow his withdrawing momentum and manoeuvre him into an awkward position, using the “lu” technique, then strike him with your forearm using the “li” technique. This is an example of the wave concept in using tactics.
The wave concept is also generally used in the application of force in Tai Chi Chuan. Fundamentally it is implemented with internal energy flow using continuous, circular movements. You must not exert any mechanical strength or use staccato movements; doing so would disrupt the energy flow. The force executed is “soft”, never-ending and powerful, like that of rolling waves, where one wave ends another begins. Not only your trunk but your whole body, including your hands, legs and your mind, flows like waves.
The push or “li” technique is only a part of this continuous wave movement. In fact all Tai Chi Chuan movements resemble waves, with no beginning and no ending.
Any Tai Chi Chuan pattern can be used to train and to execute the wave movement, because it is a skill and not a technique. In other words, once you have developed the skill of the wave movement, you can apply this skill for any technique. In fact when you perform a Tai Chi Chuan set correctly, you are developing this wave movement skill. But if you wish to select individual patterns to practise this skill, “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” and “Cloud Hands” are excellent choice.
It is significant to note that if you want to develop such skills, you have to learn personally from a master. If you merely read the instructions from a book, or copy the performance from a video, you will only succeed in learning their external forms, which, without the skills and force, resemble some dance. This is one reason why I say that anyone who thinks he can learn kungfu (including Tai Chi Chuan) from a video does not know what kungfu really is.
I have learnt qigong for a number of years and through personal experience I have experienced the Tan Tien as 3 or 4 fingers' width below the navel and three fingers' width inside the abdomen. However, recently a number of books have stipulated that the Tan Tien is 3 or 4 fingers' width below the navel but located on the central channel or axis of the body. What is your opinion on this. Finally, I just want to tell you that I have read all your books and have found them to be most helpful.
— Chee Gay, Malaysia
“Dan tian” (tan tien) literally means “elixir field”. “Elixir” refers to vital energy that has consolidated into a pearl. Hence, dan tian refers to a spot in a person's body where his vital energy has accumulated into a field.
As a chi kung practitioner can accumulates his energy in a field at various spots in his body, there are various energy fields or dan tian. Theoretically there are countless energy fields as there are countless spots where a practitioner may choose to accumulate his energy, but in practice these energy fields are located in certain specific spots as these spots represent the ideal positions where energy should be accumulated.
The most ideal position for storing energy is at the qi-hai vital point or the guan-yuan vital point, which are respectively two “inches” or three "inches' below the naval, and about two “inches” beneath the skin surface at the abdomen. The "inch" here is neither the Chinese inch nor the British inch, but a biological inch, which is the distance between the first and the second joints of the right index finger of the person in question. Qi-hai means “sea of energy”, and guan-yuan means “gate of origin”. They are so named because when a person relaxes totally, his energy, if it is flowing well, will naturally accumulate at qi-hai ; it was from guan-yuan that his original energy first blossomed into his life-long growth.
Every person obtained his (or her) original energy from his father and mother. Realizing this fact, anyone with some human sense will be kind to his parents. Only those who do not even have cow-sense will consider his conceptual moment, which was both beautiful and sacred and which produced his original energy, as an unfortunate accident.
The qi-hai dan tian or the guan-yuan dan tian is called the abdominal dan tian, to be distinguished from other dan tian, but because it is the most important, when the term “dan tian” is mentioned without any qualifying prefix, it usually refers to the abdominal dan tian. You are right in saying that the dan tian is about 3 or 4 fingers' width below the naval and beneath the skin, as 2 or 3 biological inches is about 3 or 4 fingers' width.
Other dan tian include the top dan tian at bai-hui and tian-mu , the middle dan tian at tan zhong , the low dan tian at hui-yin , the back dan tian at ming-men and ling=tai , the hand dan tian at lao-gong and the foot dan tian at yong-chuan . Apart from the hand and the foot dan tian, the other dan tian are located along the ren mai and the du mai , or the conceptual meridian and the governing meridain.
Instead of (or after) circulating energy flow along the ren mai and the du mai , the break-through of which is called attaining the Small Universe (or micro-cosmic flow), many Taoist cultivators accumulate their energy in fields along the axis of the body, i.e. the perpendicular from the base of the spine at hui-yin to the top of the head at bai-hui .
Between these two bottom and top energy fields are two lower and middle energy fields, known respectively as huang-ting (yellow palace) and chong ting (central palace). The huang-ting energy field is behind the guan-yuan energy field (the one you mentioned in your question), and the chong-ting energy field is behind the tan- zhong energy field.
Please tell me your views on the combat part of Tai Chi Quan.
— Gurmeet, UK
Tai Chi Chuan, or Taijiquan in Romanized Chinese, is an internal martial art. There is no doubt about this fact, and it can be easily verified. The term “Tai Chi Chuan” (Taijiquan) is a shortened form of “Tai Chi Chuan Fa” (Taiji-quanfa), which in Chinese, word by word, means “Grand Ultimate Martial Art.” If you examine Tai Chi Chuan classics written in Chinese by past masters, all of them without a single exception treat it as a martial art.
The trouble is that most people today, including in China, do not practise Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art; they practise it as a gentle exercise, sometimes with music accompaniment. This is because during a few generations of its transmission in the last 50 or so years, its martial aspect was lost.
How did this happen? Practising Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art needed much time and effort. Students had to perfect their forms. This itself took a few years. Besides, they had to develop internal force and practise combat application. This demanded much effort and endurance. Most students had neither patience nor endurance, but some of them were impatient to become masters themselves without first becoming good students.
So, without their masters' approval, they started to teach others, often in public parks and without charging fees. Then their students taught other students and the trend continued to the present day when it has become a norm. A similar development is happening now in chi kung. Many people who know some external chi kung forms, but know nothing about energy management, are impatient to teach others.
Indeed anyone with some knowledge of how Tai Chi Chuan was taught and practised in the past, where the art was kept as top secret and masters might not teach even students paid them a lot of money, would immediately see the incongruence of people teaching Tai Chi publicly and for free or for a nominal fee. The situation has degraded so ridiculously that some modern Tai Chi instructors have to appease their students to attract them to learn, and some students consider it doing their instructors a favour by learning.
What these instructors teach is only forms; they themselves do not have internal force or know combat application. Their students like them, not because the lessons are cheap but because the lessons are enjoyable and easy, very different from the demanding training of genuine Tai Chi Chuan in the past.
These Tai chi instructors and their students are also usually gentle, friendly persons, quite unlike many instructors and students of other martial arts who are often rough and aggressive. If they have taught for some time, the ignorant public call them masters. Some of these masters publish books, usually called Tai Chi (not Tai Chi Chuan) and usually in English, and almost always these books merely show how to perform the external forms of Tai Chi Chuan, usually illustrated with photographs.
These teachers and practitioners of degraded Tai Chi are generally nice people, and they fulfill important functions of socialization and recreation. But my views are different. As I have always regarded Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art, I regard its combat part essential. Without combat efficiency as well as internal force, the art degrades into a gentle exercise or a dance.
The combat dimension of Tai Chi Chuan is not only effective, but superior to that of most other martial arts. Its superiority lies not just in techniques but also in all other aspects of combat, including the nature of force, use of tactics and strategies, and relation to health — aspects that most other martial arts do not seem to consider.
Regarding techniques, many other martial arts are limited in their range. A judo exponent, for example, is limited in his defence against kicks, and a taekwondo exponent limited against throws, whereas a Tai Chi Chuan exponent (but not a Tai Chi dancer) is trained to handle all types of attacks.
Most other martial arts mainly use mechanical strength, whereas Tai Chi Chuan uses internal force which has more scope and depth. Most other arts pay little or no attention to tactics and strategies, as evident in the free exchange of blows which is normal in their fighting. Skilful use of tactics and strategies is crucial in Tai Chi Chuan, as evident in such Tai Chi Chuan tenets like “exploiting the opponent's strength against himself” and “starting later but arriving earlier”.
Most other martial arts are actually detrimental to health. The training methods often over-burden the internal organs of the practitioners, and injuries sustained are routinely left untreated. On the other hand, Tai Chi Chuan promotes health. Tai Chi Chuan training ensures the exponents to be calm and relaxed, generate their energy flow, and strengthen internal organs.
If you wish to learn Tai Chi Chuan combat, obviously you have to learn from someone who knows Tai Chi Chuan combat. If you learn from one who teaches only Tai Chi forms, you will only know how to perform Tai Chi form.