October 2001 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I have been a self-taught student for 2 years in qigong and kungfu due to the reasons that I can't find any master or instructor such as you that teaches genuine Shaolin or Taijiquan techniques. You have warned many readers that practicing without a master's supervision is dangerous, and this warning is deep in my mind.
— Yasmine, Malaysia
The warning that practising without a master's supervision is dangerous, applies to advanced qigong and kungfu, such as when internal organs, visualization and internal force are involved. If it is low level qigong or kungfu at a physical level, it is safe if you follow the given instructions respectfully.
Much of qigong and kungfu taught in the public as well as described in books, is low level. For example, qigong taught in large groups and kungfu illustrated in books with a lot of pictures are generally low level.
The difference between high level and low level qigong or kungfu is often not in its type or form but in how it is being practised. Take the famous qigong pattern, “Lifting the Sky”. It can be performed as low level qigong for stretching muscles and loosening joints, or as high level qigong for tapping cosmic energy. “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”, the famous Taijiquan pattern, can be performed at a low level as dance, or at a high level for developing internal force.
In the past few weeks, I found myself indulged in standing the Three-Circle Stance because of feeling fresh. And there's been feeling on both of my palms. Is this a good phenomenon or is that chi?
This is a good phenomenon. It shows that you have developed some chi or energy at your arms and palms.
But do be very careful. This good phenomenon may turn to become bad if the energy you have developed remain stagnant, or you become tensed without your conscious knowing. In both cases, your training may distort your normal energy field bringing harmful effects, which may be manifested variously, some examples of which are chronic pain, hormonal imbalance and feeling depressed or agitated.
The Three-Circle Stance looks simple, and is actually simple if taught by a master, but it is easy for self-taught students to make serious mistakes without themselves knowing. Among my qigong students, some attempted this Three-Circle Stance before on their own and harmed themselves. They overcame their harmful effects by performing self-manifested chi flow learnt from me.
I heard from my friends and also read from books that standing the Three-Circle Stance and the Xingyi Sanzai Stance is crucial to developing chi and internal force.
Zhan zhuang or stance training is the most important single category of exercise for developing internal force. It can be safely said that all Taijiquan masters, all Xingyi masters, most Bagua masters, and many Shaolin masters obtained their internal force from zhan zhuang. Many Shaolin masters used other methods to develop internal force because Shaolin Kungfu is very rich in internal force training.
Different kungfu styles favour certain stances for zhan zhuang. In Taijiquan the most important stance for zhan zhuang is the Three-Circle Stance, so much so that it is sometimes called the Taiji Stance, though it is also used in other kungfu styles, including in Shaolin. The most important zhan zhuang method in Xingyi Kungfu is the Sanzai or Three-Treasure Stance. Bagua masters use the formations of their eight fundamental palms for zhan zhuang.
In Shaolin Kungfu, the most important stance for developing internal force is the Horse-Riding Stance. There are many zhan zhuang stances in Shaolin Kungfu, the most popular of which is Golden Bridge. Besides zhan zhuang there are many other methods for internal force training in Shaolin Kungfu. One-Finger Shooting Zen and Sinew Metamorphosis are two famous examples.
Chi and internal force are closely related. Sometimes there two terms are used interchangeably. Technically speaking, chi is the ingredient, internal force is the product.
My instructor also tells me that this would take 3 to 4 years. I wonder why by just standing, it can generate chi and internal force, and why it must take 3 to 4 years?
To the uninitiated it is just standing, but to the initiated it is more than just standing.
Every person is made up of three components, namely “jing”, “qi” and “shen”, which mean physical body, energy and mind. In a zhan zhuang exercise, the initiated practitioner assumes just one physical position so that he can fully focus on energy and mind. If he performs many physical movements, he may be distracted from energy and mind to pay attention to the physical body.
But he does not merely assume any physical position, he assumes a position that is best suited for his purpose. Hence, there are different stances for zhan zhuang for different specific purposes.
Once he has taken care of his physical position and does not have to worry about it any more, he focuses on his mind. He assumes one of two mental positions. He focuses his mind on one point, or he focuses his mind on nothing. In Zen terms, he attains one-mind or no-mind.
After having taken care of his mind, he concentrates on energy training. He does one of two tasks. He lets his energy flow or he lets his energy accumulate. This is accomplished naturally. If his energy flows, he lets it flow. If it accumulates, he lets it accumulate. Either task will generate tremendous internal force.
In theory the principles and workings of zhan zhuang are simple. In practice they are most difficult. Most people cannot remain motionlessly relaxed in one position. They tense their muscles. As a result, instead of attaining a one-pointed mind or no mind, their mind becomes stressful, and instead of letting their energy flow or accumulate, their energy becomes locked up in their tensed muscles. So, instead of generating tremendous internal force and peace of mind, they have harmful side-effects.
Many students do not feel any internal force even though they may have practised for a few years. This is because they have never got past the first requirement of attaining a motionlessly relaxed position. The luckier ones may have some feeling of internal force inside them after three to four years.
Nevertheless, I am proud and happy to say that practically everyone who attended my intensive courses in Malaysia — in chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan — discernably felt internal force on the very first day of their zhan zhuang training! Then, why most other people need three to four years?
It is because these other people, and possibly their teachers, do not understand the principles behind zhan zhuang. Even if they understood, they lack the skills and appropriate effort to put the principles into practice. It needs great skills, for example, for a teacher to get his students relaxed, and great effort for the students to remain motionlessly relaxed for a period of time. Hence, if they force themselves into a tensed position with an agitated mind, they may train for a few years but not only they have no internal force, they may sustain serious harmful effects.
What is the difference between chi possessed by a qigong master (for medical purpose) and that of a kungfu master (for attack)?
Basically the qi (chi) is the same, though the methods to acquire it and how it is used may be different. Because of the difference in origin and application, the qi of a qigong master is often referred to as “soft”, whereas that of a kungfu master as “hard”.
The qi of a qigong master can be used for combat, and the qi of a kungfu master can be used for healing. Generally a kungfu master's qi is more powerful. Hence, all things being equal, a qigong master who is also a kungfu master, will be more effective in qigong healing than a qigong master who does not know kungfu.
What is the difference between someone who has been practicing stance for many years, and someone who has just been practicing it for 1 or 2 years?
The effects of a person who has practised zhan zhuang for many years will be more powerful than another who has practised for one or two years.
If they have practised wrongly, the first person will suffer more serious harm. If they have practised correctly, the first person will have more benefits.
Would you know of the Taoist Wuliu School. I have heard they teach their grandsons and not son. Is this an advanced system of Chi Kung? They use energized fasting (Bi Gu) regularly to detoxify the body.
— Jeff, USA
I have not heard of the Wuliu School of chi kung. One reason why some masters taught their grandsons and not sons was because their chi kung required the practitioners to be virgin males. Such chi kung was usually powerful, and was meant for martial art purposes, but would not be suitable in today's societies.
One of the objectives of bigu, or not taking grains, is detoxification. But there are other objectives. On the other hand, there are also other ways of detoxification. Our self-manifested chi flow is one of these effective ways.
A more significant objective of bigu is spiritual purification. In the past Taoist masters often employed bigu in their cultivation.
A practical objective of bigu is to enable the practitioner to survive without taking food! Some years ago in my younger days when I was idealistic, I reckoned bigu an effective method to help people in poor countries solve their food problem. I even thought that the way we ate for our energy needs was very cost ineffective.
For examples, millions of calories were needed for a plant to grow. A lot of plants were needed to produce grains to feed a chicken. But when we ate a piece of chicken we obtained only a few thousands calories of energy. Whereas in chi kung if we need a few thousands calories, we take in a few thousands calories from the cosmos. It is the most cost-effective
But before I could effectively teach others bigu, I myself must verify its effects. So I underwent some form of bigu; I did not eat solid food for about 20 day. I only drank water and some fruit juice. During that period my weight remained the same, and I was actually more energetic and fresh. I carried on vigorous activities like sparring with my students with better effect. So bigu was feasible.
Nevertheless, I did not carry out my earlier intention of teaching bigu to starving people because as I became more matured I realized that it would be better and more feasible for economists to teach them how to increase production than for me to teach them chi kung. Philosophically speaking, should I teach them chi kung it should be aimed at enhancing their energy and mind level so as to increase their material production, rather than equipping them with bigu so that they could afford to remain poor.
I have a joint condition since my teenage years and my condition was diagnosed as ankylosing spondilitis two years ago. It is a condition where gradually all the major joints calcify and fuse resulting in stiffness. It is also an auto-immune disease that affects my blood and major organs. This condition also deteriorates as I get older. Based on what I know of yoga, I hope that it would help my physical condition and also to find peace. Now I am off pain-killers and my doctor is happy with my progress.
— Jacqueline, Singapore
Ankylosing spondilitis can be cured. I have helped a few people to overcome this so-called incurable disease. A good example is Manuel from Servilla in southern Spain.
Manuel suffered from ankylosing spondilitis for many years. His condition was so severe that he could not turn around like a normal person; he had to turn his whole body because the vertebrae along his spine had been fused. But during self-manifested chi movement in my chi kung class, Manuel always flipped his spine vigorously. His specialist doctor would faint seeing him move in such a way.
After about a year of chi kung training his illness was overcome. Not only he can now turn his spine like a normal person does, he is also fit and healthy. His doctor was amazed. After seeing this miraculous recovery she herself joined my chi kung class. Then other people with ankylosing spondilitis learned chi kung from me too, and also had their problem relieved.
Many people may not believe these cases of recovery from ankylosing spondilitis, but they are true. If you need confirmation or details, you can contact Manuel himself.
I don't keep records of such and other miraculous cases, as I have never intended to use them for publicity. Hence I don't have his contact particulars. But you can contact Master Jose Diaz, my chi kung organizer in Servilla, Spain. His phone number is 34-636-373496, and his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I beleive he still has records of Manuel and other former ankylosing spondilitis sufferers.
I would strongly recommend you to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia. Please refer to https://www.shaolin.org/general/ck-course.html for details.
I understand that Yoga and Shaolin Kungfu originated in different countries. Could you please enlighten me on what you think the differences and similarities are in terms of philosophy and practice between the two?
First, I shall talk about their negative similarity. Both great arts have been so debased that they have lost any semblance of their greatness.
Yoga has been grossly debased into performing funny postures. Yoga is supposed to train the spirit, but many yoga teachers I have met are depressed and dull!
Shaolin Kungfu has been grossly debased into gymnastics. Shaolin Kungfu is supposed to be a martial art, but many Shaolin Kungfu teachers I have met cannot effectively use their art for combat (although some of them are good fighters using karate, taekwondo or kickboxing techniques).
Now, let us come to their positive similarity and difference in terms of philosophy and practice. Both arts aim at the greatest achievement any being can ever achieve, i.e. the highest spiritual fulfillment which is called by different terms by different cultures.
In yoga it is the union with Brahman; in Shaolin Kungfu it is nirvana or enlightenment. In western terms, it is the return to God. In scientific terms, it is the collapse of individaul particles into undifferentiated energy. In common terms, it is actualizing cosmic reality, or sometimes referred to in a prosaic way as returning Home.
These terms, however, are meaningless to most people. At best most people only understand the dictionary meaning of these tems, without knowing what the words actually mean. That is why many masters say the attainment and experiences are inexplicable — not that they cannot be described in words, but that without direct experience you do not know what the words really means.
A low-level example is as follows. I am now writing this reply to you from Frankfurt, Germany. If you have not been to Frankfurt, you would not know what Frankfurt looks like no matter how I use words, or even pictures, to describe it to you. But if you have been to Frankfurt, you do not need any description; you know from direct experience.
The actual practice to realize the greatest aim is vastly difference, but their principles are the same. In yoga, the practical approach is from hatha yoga to pranayama to raja yoga. In Shaolin, it is from kungfu to chi kung to Zen. In common language, both arts proceed from training of the physical body to training of energy (called prana in yoga, chi in Shaolin), to training of mind or spirit.
Due to geographical, cultural and other factors, the methods used in the practice are typically different. Yoga uses asanas or yoga postures, whereas Shaolin Kungfu uses kungfu patterns. The breathing techniques as well as meditation techniques in yoga and Shaolin are also typically different. In mathematical imagery, yoga aims at one, Zen aims at zero.
Is it conflicting physically and mentally to learn both as I believe in the spiritual aspects that both arts teach?
The answer is yes or no, yes and no, either yes or no, neither yes nor no. It depends on many variables.
Ideally it is not conflicting physicaly and mentally to learn yoga and Shaolin Kungfu at the same time. Both arts complement each other in all their physical, energetic and spiritual aspects.
In practice, if all things are equal, it is unnecessary to train both arts at the same time, as any one can lead you to the same general goals.
But as many things are not equal, practising yoga may be more suitable for some purposes, and practising Shaolin Kungfu more suitable for other purposes. If you practise both arts at the same time, they may be complementary in some aspects and conflicting in other aspects.
If you ask me for my opinion, I would advise that a healthy young woman at 28 should leave aside serious spiritual cultivation for the time being. If she is unmarried, she should seriously spend time finding a good husband. If she is already married, she should spend more time for her family, besides her work if she is a career woman.
In both cases, practising either hatha yoga or Shaolin Kungfu, but not both as it would take too much of her time, is recommendable. But if she has pain and illness, as in your case, her first priority is to overcome her health problems.
When she is past 50 and healthy, after fulfilling her responsibilites to her family, and only if she is ready, she can devote more time seriously to spiritual cultication. She can choose either raja yoga or Zen, but not both as this would be distracting. Besides dedication and endurance, spiritual cultivation demands focus and direction.
Can you please recommend a master in Singapore that I can learn the basics of Shaolin kungfu from as I understand that your intensive course is more suitable for those who have been practising at least 3 years?
Both yoga and Shaolin Kungfu teach that one should do the right thing at the right time. Learning yoga or Shaolin kungfu form is not suitable for you now.
Your most urgent task now is to overcome ankylosing spondilitis, ensure that your joints are flexible, restore your immune system, and enhance the working of your organs. In short you have to be healthy and fit before thinking of yoga or Shaolin Kungfu, and even before thinking of marriage if you are single, or fulfilling your responsibilities to your family if you are married.
And now you have a golden opportunity. I cannot guarantee that by attending my Intensive Chi Kung Course you will definitely be cured as this depends on other factors besides chi kung training, but I can say you have a very high chance of overcoming all your health problems. If you think travelling to Malaysia is too troublesome or my course fee is too expensive, you are not serious about becoming healthy.