August 2001 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I have been interested in your courses and teaching from reading your books and visiting your website. However, the 4 day intensive workshops don't seem that intensive.
I have books that teach macro and micro cosmic orbit, and other chi kung but I'm a bit hesitant to practice these arts as well as golden bell or any other super chi-kung without the guidance of someone as capable as you are.
I do practice good chi kung, the fairly safe stuff like “Lifting the Sky”, but I am looking to cultivate direct pointing at reality, one pointed mind, and an immovable mind and I'm not sure that unguided or potentially misguided chi work will help. I humbly ask if you accept lay disciples, and if your intensive chi kung workshop would offer a suitable amount of training material for a year or so.
— Paul, United States of America
It is understandable for most people to think that a three-day course is insufficient for their needs. If they have spent many years practising chi kung, and have been told that mastering it needs a long time of regular training, it is reasonable for them to ask what can one learn in three days.
Nevertheless my chi kung course in Malaysia is intensive, and it is the best chi kung course I have ever offered. In the three-day course, you will not only learn but actually achieve a level of chi kung attainment which took me, myself, more than 10 years to achieve, and which many chi kung practitioners today may never achieve even if they train for their whole life!
Here I wish to clarify two points. One, I had wonderful teachers, whom I am forever grateful to, and whom I can never pay back enough. Two, I was a fast learner. Then, why was it that it took me more than 10 years to attain what students of my intensive chi kung course take only 3 days? There are many reasons which will be too verbose to explain in this e-mail. Instead I shall briefly explain what you will achieve in the intensive chi kung course.
By the end of the three-day course, you will attain — not just learn, and there is a big difference between learning and attaining — the ability to be focused and relaxed, to have a one-pointed mind, to tap energy from the cosmos, to generate an internal energy flow, to develop internal force, to direct energy to various parts of your body according to your wish, and to massage internal organs!
Did my students really achieve these abilities? Of course, and they did not have to wait for a few years to know; they could demonstrate these abilities during the course itself. If a student could not achieve all or at least most of these abilities, I would not want to accept his fee.
This is what I mean by “intensive”. It is intensive because you can achieve in three days what most other people, if they are lucky enough to have the appropriate methods, would take a few years. Yet, the course is fun. Compared to my intensive Shaolin Kungfu course, it is actually child-play.
My intensive Shaolin Kungfu course in Malaysia is intensive in both the abilities achieved as well as the effort put in. You will achieve in 5 days what many other kungfu students would take many years to achieve if they practise genuine kungfu, but which students of external kungfu forms will never achieve even if they train for their whole life-time. But students to my kungfu intensive course have to put in a lot, I repeat, a lot of hard work.
The material you learn in my intensive chi kung course will be enough not just for a year but for your whole life. You need not take another chi kung lesson from me — although a few students come back to repeat the same course to deepen their skills.
What you will learn will be enough to overcome any pain or illness that you may have, to maintain good health and fitness (you need not do any other exercise), to give your vitality to enjoy your work and play, to expand your mind, and to give you spiritual joys. It is, as mentioned above, the best chi kung course I have ever offered.
Shaolin Kungfu has become of much interest to me, seeing that all other martial arts are so basic. Shaolin is quite complicated and I like it. Not only does it have the external side, but the internal.
— Sachin, United Kingdom
Shaolin Kungfu is the greatest martial art. Please see Why Shaolin Kungfu is the Greatest Martial Art for a justification of this claim. Not only its forms are beautiful, its force fantastic, and its combat application excellent, it provides radiant health and longevity, expands the mind and leads to the highest spiritual attainment.
Nevertheless, if you learn from a genuine master, Shaolin Kungfu is not complicated! It is actually simple, and at the same time profound. Good teachers make difficult things simple; mediocre teachers make easy things complicated.
Beginning students in Shaolin Kungfu will find that the very first things they learn from a master are very simple, like standing upright and be relaxed, gently focusing on their breathing, and freeing their mind of all thoughts. Yet, if they follow these simple instructions and nothing else, they shall soon experience some most profound effects, like feeling energy surging inside them, or feeling so peaceful and happy.
Would you attain similar results practising on your own from books or from mediocre instructors even when you follow the same instructions. You will not! Why? Because although the instructions are simple, without a master's supervision they are difficult to follow. For instance, instead of standing upright and be relaxed, you would be leaning back and tensing your legs, and neither you nor your mediocre instructors would realize it.
A mediocre instructor would find merely asking you to stand upright too simple for his teaching. Hence, he might ask you to hold your head up, tilt your chin down, keep your back straight, curve your shoulders round, hook your knees in, and stretch your fingers out. In short he would make a simple job of standing upright into a complicated task. Instead of becoming peaceful and happy as your progress in your training, both you and the mediocre instructor would become more stressful and blocked.
However I am a beginner and I would like it very much if you could point me in the right direction on how to start, how to build up my progress in flexibility, fluidity, strength etc. I am already a bodybuilder for 7 years, so strength is not an issue for me, nor going through pain barriers.
If you are looking for a practical answer to your question of how to start Shaolin Kungfu, and how to build up your flexibility, fluidity, and strength, I would suggest you practise correctly and progressively “Lifting the Sky”, the Horse-Riding Stance, and leg stretching exercises — and nothing more — daily for at least six months.
Many people might be disappointed with the answer, but that was how most masters were made in the first six months of their kungfu career.
For a philosophical answer, I would recommend that first you read up from reliable, established sources what genuine Shaolin Kungfu is, next find a genuine Shaolin master who is willing to teach you, and then train the way he asks you to.
If you are serious about Shaolin kungfu training, by following this direction you can achieve what most others will take more than five times longer to achieve.
While a lot of hard work is essential in Shaolin kungfu training, it is silly to endure pain to progress, or “punish yourself” as practitioners in some strenuous arts call it. So they are greatly discouraged.
Pain is a symptom of energy blockage, indicating that something is wrong in the body (and mind). While there may be some muscular ache at the initial stage of the training, pain should not occur. As you progress, your prior energy blockage will be cleared and you will be full of vitality, mentally fresh and free.
These benefits — considered fantastic by those who practise exercises which actually lock up their body systems and stress their mind — are the inevitable results of genuine Shaolin kungfu training; it is not for no good reasons that Shaolin Kungfu is considered by many as the greatest martial art.
I encounter the following effect after learning qigong for 2 months. Please advise whether the effect is good or bad. During sleep I was suddenly awaken by strong vibration of my legs. I also felt vibration on my blanket. I also felt vibration on my arms, like using an electric massager. I turned to another body position and then nothing happen. All the vibration felt good and relaxing except it was mentally frightening. I did not notice any warmth. Also, I could not sleep as soundly as I used to after learning the qigong. I awake very easily by noise.
— Benson, Singapore
Your vibration was due to qi flowing inside your body, but because you were tense or you had much blockage, or both, the qi could not flow smoothly, and hence it caused the vibration.
Depending on various factors, the vibration can be good or bad. You have generated some chi and it is attempting to break through your blockage. Alternatively, if your blockage is “dense”, the qi blow might fail to make a break-through, and this caused more stagnate qi which is bad. A good indication is the way you feel. If you feel pleasant, the effect is good; if you feel painful (except what we called the “good pain”), it is harmful.
Generally, if you practise qigong on your own without proper supervision, it is not advisable to have vibration. Even if initially the vibration is good, it may turn out of control without your knowing, and that will be harmful.
“Lifting the Sky” is a very good exercise for your situation. If your vibration is that of the bad category, this qigong exercise can help you to overcome or least minimize the harmful effects. If it is of the good category, it will enhance your good effects.
All the effects begin only when I can perform the qi vibration — both legs are shoulders apart, reverse breathing and draw earth qi up to the body from the legs. Begin by slightly vibrating the legs with muscles, then qi will take over automatically. With the legs relaxed, the whole body will vibrate quite strongly but my mind is still conscious. Anytime I can stop or slow down the vibration by visualising qi down to my tan-tain then yong chuan down to the earth.
I would not recommend the qi vibration exercise you described, especially if you practise on your own. It is easy for you to make mistakes without your knowing, and the consequences can be quite serious.
Even if you practise correctly, the energy you sucked up from the ground is not beneficial to you. Ground energy is suitable for plants, insects, bats and rodents, but not suitable for humans, who take “heaven” energy from above and clear “stale” energy into the ground.
I use to practise the qigong and Tai Chi Chuan in the evening from 9 pm to 10.30pm. Does the late evening training cause the effect? Anyway I shall try to practise in the morning.
Your vibration is not due to your training time. In fact, nine to eleven at night is a very good time to practise qigong. Nevertheless, it is good to practise in the morning, before 9 a.m., at least once a while so that you have a harmony of both yin and yang, or lunar and solar, energy.
I have been a dedicated student of the Jow Ga Kung Fu until a stomach illness rendered me unable to continue training on a regular basis in the last 4 years. I have now overcome this illness and over the last 3 months I have been gradually preparing myself for the continuation of my kung fu practice.
— Robert, Australia
I am always happy to help dedicated kungfu students.
I do not know what caused your stomach illness but it reminds me of an important kungfu tenet, “Seen keong sun, hou fong sun”, which is in Cantonese (the main dialect of most Chinese Jow Ga Kungfu exponents), and means “First be healthy, then be combat efficient.”
When you practise kungfu, you should not be sick. It is bad enough if you have a cold or fever once or twice a year, but that may be tolerable. If the sickness rendered you unfit for regular training for four years, you should seriously examine what went wrong. You failed in the first part of the important kungfu tenet.
Among other questions, you should examine whether your way of training provides for promoting health. Surprising it may be, many martial systems today not only ignore this aspect, but are actually detrimental to health. For example, systems that habitually require their students to tense their muscles and scream are harmful even if they never spar. If sparring is unmethodical and consists mainly of punching and kicking one another, it will inevitably bring internal injuries to the students.
Another question is whether you over-trained. “Gradual progress” is a very important principle in force training, especially in developing “hard” force. Not only the progress be gradual, the training must also be natural. Using heavy mechanical means and taking chemical supplements are unnatural methods. The celebrated Bruce Lee did not follow these two principles, and he paid a heavy price for his mistake.
A good guideline is whether you feel tired and worn out after your training. If you do, something is wrong. In all genuine kungfu training, the practitioners are not only fresh and calm but have more energy at the end of the training than before.
I now have at my disposal a training area which is a small room in an industrial warehouse which I am currently leasing. It also is in a way my temple, freeing me from outward distraction, enabling me to practice meditation and kung fu.
An industrial warehouse is not a good place to locate your temple or even kungfu training centre. When you practise chi kung, which is an integral part of good kungfu, you would be taking in a lot of industrial waste, which in its gaseous form may be too fine for you to notice but is harmful nevertheless.Even if you do not practise chi kung “formally”, your deep breathing resulting from vigorous exercise would also take in a lot of industrial waste, especially when you intend to train everyday for many years.
I am committing myself to my training on a full time scale spending most or all of my days and nights there besides attending classes and obtaining meals for the purpose of developing myself through Buddhism, kung fu and the Shaolin Way in order to help not only myself but also others.
Unless you have renounced worldly life to become a monk, it is not necessary, and unwise, to spend most or all of your days and nights on Buddhism, kungfu and the Shaolin Way. All these three teachings, which are closely related, are meant to enrich our lives, not to enslave ourselves to them.
If you have good teachers and follow a well-planned programme, you can attain a reasonably high standard in five years by practising two hours a day. On the other hand, if you grope about on your own, driven on by misguided dedication, you may still remain at a low level after twenty years.
You should spend sufficient time on your studies as well as on extra-mural activities, if you are attending school or university. You should spend some time enjoying wholesome activities with your friends, both male and female.
And most important — more important than studying Buddhism or practising kungfu, if you follow the Buddha's teaching — is to spend time to repay the kindness and love that your parents have bestowed upon you. You should also spend time for yourself, such as admiring sunset or listening to waves laughing.
If you can find time and joy in doing things like the above, your training has enriched your life and the lives of others. If you are so busy or involved in your training that you cannot spare ten minutes for your friends, parents or your dog, your training has enslaved you.
As you are going to devote much time to Buddhism, kungfu and the Shaolin way, it is only wise to have a sound understanding of their scope and depth. If, for example, you thought that Buddhism were just chanting some mantras, or kungfu some beautiful forms spiced with free sparring, you would have wasted your time.
Needless to say their scope and depth cannot be satisfactorily described within the limitations of an e-mail, but I can offer much help by mentioning their salient points.
The gist of Buddhism is summed up by the Buddha himself as avoiding all evil, doing good, and cultivating the mind. The hallmarks of Buddhism are wisdom and compassion.
One cannot rightly say he is trained in kungfu if he cannot effectively use typical kungfu techniques for combat, even though he may be a good fighter using techniques of other martial arts. Many kungfu styles are basically physical fighting arts, but great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan is also meant for spiritual development.
An excellent way to follow the Shaolin Way, which is non-religious, is to practise The Ten Shaolin Laws. Two outstanding features of the Shaolin Way are righteousness and courage. An underlying principle is that effort, dedication and perseverance are essential to accomplish any noble goals.
I aspire to open my own school in the future in order to help others who wish to travel on a similar path and to be of service to the community at large. I am hopeful that you may respond to this email and I would be grateful to hear some advice which may influence me for the better.
If you can afford the time and money, I would highly recommend you to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia. Please see https://www.shaolin.org/general/kf-course.html for details. The onus of the course is on internal force training, combat application and spiritual development.
You must be prepared to work very hard, and you will be well rewarded. Often you will be pushed to your limits, so that you will emerge from the course a better person physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. You will experience, as far as I know, the type of training students underwent at the southern Shaolin Temple two hundred years ago.
The course does not turn you into a master overnight. You will be taught fundamental Shaolin skills and techniques, which you have to continue training diligently on your own after the course if you wish to be a good kungfu practitioner. You can incorporate what you will have learnt in the course into your original Jow Ga style