November 2003 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Could you please tell me in your opinion my best option in learning and practicing genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung today? I have had no experience in any martial art. My goal is to treat this not as a hobby but as a lifetime commitment just as you have devoted yourself to it.
I want to become the very best I can be and obtain the best possible results, whether that means practicing 20 hours each day or only 1 hour each day depending of course what is recommended by my teacher.
— Chris, Australia
Choosing any career requires much thought and consideration. It is more so when you choose the Shaolin arts not only as a career but also as a lifetime commitment.
Among some other considerations, you need to be clear about what exactly you will be committed to, what you life will be like, what the training and organization will take, and how satisfying you will find such a life to be. You will have to work out your own answers to these questions, but the following are my suggestions.
You will be committed to become the very best Shaolin master you can be, as you have rightly stated, to teach the Shaolin arts to deserving students, and to pass on the arts to posterity. You must be willing to train at least an hour a day (preferably more) for a few years, and be prepared to face initial disappointment and difficulties in organizating classes to teach. You will, however, save a lot of time in searching for a master. My price is not the large sum of money you are ready to pay, but your practicing the Ten Shaolin Laws and your commitment to the above aims and ideals.
After you have learnt some basic kungfu forms from any teacher in your home area, you can attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. If you cannot find a suitable teacher in your area, you may learn from my books. It is best if you and a small group of about four people in your area can attend the intensive course together so that all of you can practice together, especially in sparring, when you return home. If this is not feasible, you can come with a friend. If this is also not feasible, you can come alone.
It is important that you must continue to practice at home what you have learnt from my course. Then you can attend one or two more intensive courses. Alternatively you can organize a group of interested students in your home area and invite me to teach.
After you can handle black-belts quite comfortably using typical Shaolin techniques, you can teach Shaolin Kungfu in the name of Shaolin Wahnam. This will take about two years or less. You may also teach Shaolin Chi Kung.
It is an interesting paradox that while many other people are keen to become instructors quickly, those who have learnt from me and whom I have asked to teach, are reluctant to do so. The reason is that after having been exposed to the great depth and extent of the Shaolin arts, they honestly feel inadequate to be instructors despite their actually having attained a reasonably high standard compared to the great majority of kungfu practitioners today.
I have to remind them not to compare their attainment with the potential of what the Shaolin arts can offer, nor compare with mine as I have spent 50 years on the Shaolin arts, but with what is generally taught by other kungfu instructors today. I am actually quite impatient to have more worthy instructors to teach Shaolin Kungfu the way we believe it was taught in the past, i.e. not just kungfu forms but with emphasis on internal force, combat application and spiritual cultivation, as well as relating our training to our daily living, a feature which is unique to our Shaolin Wahnam School. In other words, we do not merely teach chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu or Wahnam Taijiquan, but emphasize, for example, how our good health, mental freshness as well as relevant combat principles can enrich our daily work and play.
Do you believe that a student can derive better benefits from private lessons than from group lessons, as your courses are of group lessons? I am willing to make any sacrifice. I would be interested to know, for example, how did your students who have become Shaolin instructors train from you since you don't teach on a weekly basis but only a few intensive courses each year?
It is commonly believe that private lessons are more beneficial to a student than group lessons, but this is not necessarily so, because many variables are involved, and these variables range from the personality of the masters and students to the nature and manner of the teaching.
Private lessons give the advantage of individual attention whereby the master can personally correct the mistakes of the student, and demonstrate subtle points. Group lessons enable the student to have variety and expose him to difficulties as well as their solutions other students face. As an idealist, and following the examples of my own teachers, I employ both private and group lessons in my teaching.
Students often learn in groups, but also perform individually for my attention. Basic exercises like fundamental force training and combat sequences are taught in groups, but specialized force training, selected sets and their applications, like Tiger-Crane and Five Animals, are often taught individually.
My Shaolin instructors learned from me the way I have described above. They attended my intensive courses and practiced on their own at home. When they were ready I asked them to teach. I continue to teach them when I see them, and they continue training while teaching. This system works well in our modern situations.
I am twenty and I have practiced meditation on my own. However I have had one experience that set me forth on my quest to learn as much as I can about “the cosmos” or my inner energy, or the energy that is all around us at all times. I practiced for 10 to 20 minutes daily and felt nothing. However one day I felt nothing again, but it was different. I could not feel where I stopped and the world began, also I noticed I could not hear any noise besides my own thoughts. My fan and computer were on but I was unaware of any sound. I don't know anything about this and it hasn't happened again.
— Luis, Italy
If you wish to practice meditation for fun or for relaxation, it may be alright to do so on your own. But if you wish to practice meditation to learn about the cosmos or your inner energy or the energy that is all around us at all times, you have to learn not just from any instructor but from a competent instructor, preferably a master. If you try to meddle about on your own, not only you will learn nothing, you may harm yourself.
There are many meditation teachers, but very few competent ones. A good way to tell incompetent meditation teachers from the genuine ones, is to see whether they are dull-minded or mentally fresh. The dull-minded teachers are also usually depressed and they lack luster in their eyes.
What you have described about your meditation experience and which you thought was fantastic, is nothing spectacular. If you learn from a competent instructor, you could have such experiences on the first day of your training. It is not even the start of meditation proper; it is only a preliminary stage.
This shows how little you know about meditation, how easily you could be cheated ny bogus teachers, and how humble you should learn to be if you wish to learn from a genuine master.
But recently I have an insane drive to learn more so that one day I can harvest my energy. I suppose I have always been kind hearted, and easy to get along with. Also I am a great judge of character and I have learned to trust my intuition so much I can depend on it regularly. I have been told all of my life that I am older than my age, that I am wise beyond my years. I accept the complement graciously and I don't use it to feel superior. Could it be that I have had extensive training in another time that is so powerful that it is coming back to me now when I am coming into adulthood?
One should be dedicated to his search for knowledge or skills, but it is silly and harmful to have an insane drive to learn anything.
In the previous case where you thought you had remarkable result in self-taught meditation, you were mistaken in your judgment and intuition. You were also mistaken in this case where you thought you had powerful training in another time, presumably in your past lives.
Similarly in the following four cases where you thought you could not find an adequate teacher, where you felt wanting to know by itself was enough, where you felt much of what had been learnt was now lost, and where you implied learning kungfu or tai chi would lead you to the secrets of mind and the cosmos, you were all mistaken. If you were mistaken in six out of six cases, and if you think you are wise, you have to review how reliable are your judgment and intuition.
Regarding your question as to whether you had extensive and powerful training in another time, and basing on what you have written in your e-mail, the answer is No. As mentioned earlier, your experience was nothing powerful. A fresh beginner learning from a competent meditation teacher even for one day can have more powerful experiences than what you had.
I have an instinct to learn all that I can but I am afraid I will not find an adequate teacher. I feel like wanting to know is enough. But without proper guidance, will I ever achieve my full potential? Is my will to learn the secrets of mind and body enough that I may teach myself with enough patience? I feel that much of what was once learned is now forgotten and lost. How can I make a correct judgment when deciding who will be my master for kung fu and tai chi?
Be more humble, and don't start insulting thousands of meditation, kungfu and tai chi teachers, thinking they are not adequate enough to teach you. Indeed, judging from what you have written, even an average student of meditation, kungfu or tai chi can teach you quite a lot that can benefit you much.
For example, even an ordinary student can tell you from his personal experience that when you do not even know the basics, learning all you can is folly. He will also tell you that without proper guidance, not only you cannot approach you full potential, you cannot even be proficient in the minimum requirements.
Don't be so egoistic to think that you know enough to teach yourself better than teachers do. There is much more in the secrets of mind and body, or in meditation, kungfu and tai chi than what you can ever imagine. What do you know about mind and body? Do you know, for example, the difference between mind and thoughts, or the relationship between mind and body?
Much of what was once learnt is not forgotten or lost. Much of it is still preserved by masters and recorded in books, though you and most ordinary people may not know about it. My book, “The Art of Chi Kung”, for example, summarizes the wisdom of more than 200 chi kung classics.
You don't seem to know, nor your intuition tells you, that typical kungfu and tai chi classes today do not teach you about meditation, if that is what you are looking for to learn about mind and the cosmos. You also don't seem to know that genuine masters are very rare today, and if you ever meet one, the question is not whether you decide he is adequate enough to teach you but whether you are worthy enough to be his student. But if you are contented with kungfu gymnastics, tai chi dance, or merely sitting cross-legged but mistakenly called meditation, it really does not matter much whom you learn from.
I have meditated on this for a small while and to my happiness I have discovered a small school that claims to teach the “ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi”. I hope that the ancient art is what I will be learning and not a dance. The Sigung claims to learn his skills from a Chinese master, and says he was the first non-Chinese student accepted by the master in 1972. Could you possibly verify this information for me? I hope this Sigung is what I have been searching for.
I have not heard of the Sigung nor his master you mentioned, and cannot verify whether he is teaching genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan or just a dance.
There is a lot of information in this website to help you tell genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan from the bogus. I shall summarize the information as follows.
Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Taijiquan have classical Shaolin or Taijiquan forms, with typical stances like Horse-Riding, Bow-Arrow and False-Leg. You can find many pictures showing such forms in this website. Bouncing about, punching with the shoulder thrown forward, and kicking wildly are not typical Shaolin or Taijiquan forms.
Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan emphasize internal force training and combat application. However, many Shaolin schools today employ external force training. Genuine Shaolin and Taijiquan exponents use typical Shaolin or Taijiquan forms in their sparring. If they use techniques from Karate, Taekwondo or Kickboxing, you can safely conclude that theirs is not genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan, though they may perform genuine Shaolin or Taijiquan forms in solo practice.
Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are meant for spiritual cultivation. However, many Shaolin and Taijiquan schools today have missed this spiritual dimension, and teach purely martial arts. Nevertheless, genuine Shaolin and Taijiquan exponents, even though they practice their arts for martial purposes only, are cheerful and relaxed. If they are tensed and aggressive, you can suspect whether what they practice is genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan.
I have the impression I was accidentally or instinctively practicing Chi Kung three years ago. To fight an emotional explosion I begun visualizing a “me” who was spiritually strong, invulnerable in a world without hatred, and who could manipulate that world.
I was using movements form martial arts, visualization and music simultaneously. It was like dancing, but only using martial arts instead of dancing moves. That resulted in a strange feeling that flowed inside me. It was something like energy. I was feeling my skin on my face being pulled, and a flow of energy especially on my upper body.
For almost a year I kept doing this and I've never felt so lively in my life before. Was that some kind of Chi? I could also feel myself changing. At the end of the year I had the desperate need to stay alone.
— Alexis, Greece
Yes, what you felt was chi, and what you did was some sort of chi kung, but it was unorthodox. What you did was risky, and in this case you had adverse effects.
But do not worry. Do the following remedial exercise to overcome your deviation. You need to do it three times a day — in the morning, evening and at night — for a few months.
Stand upright and be totally relaxed. Smile from your heart. Don't worry how you should do it, just do it. Just smile from your heart.
Then perform “Lifting the Sky” about 30 times according to the manner I have described in my books. It is alright if you miss a few steps, but do not add anything extra.
Then stand upright and be totally relaxed. If you have done “Lifting the Sky” correctly for some weeks, you may generate some chi flow inside your body, and if you relax enough the chi flow may move you. Just sway with the flow. Should your movements become vigorous, gently slow down. Enjoy the sway for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Then close your eyes, if you have not closed them already, and stand still for a short while. Rub your palms together to warm them, then warm your eyes with your palms, open your eyes and walk about briskly to complete the whole exercise.
“Lifting the Sky” is a miraculous chi kung exercise. Practitioners ranging from novices to masters can practice it at their respective levels and derive benefits according to their respective needs and aspirations.
Unfortunately near the end of that year I was recruited in the army unwillingly. Getting humiliated by superiors everyday, bad diet, loss of sleep etc I wasn't myself anymore. Now I am 20 years old and I am suffering from depression because I don't feel like myself anymore and my soldiering ends in three months. I am internally and externally changed. I feel older and have no inspiration for creativity. I also forget easily.
You should view your military service as an opportunity to serve your country, and you should be proud of it. You may or may not agree with your present government, but you cannot neglect the duty to your country.
At 20 you are at the start of the best period of your life. Whether you have changed or not, it is your life, and you owe it to yourself and your parents to make the best of it.
Take out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and write on top of the paper the word “Assets”. Draw a line down the middle of the paper to make two columns. At the top of one column write “What I have”, and on the top of the other column write “What the majority of 20-year old persons in other parts of the world (like Asia or Africa) have”.
List out your assets. The following come to mind at random. “Good education, good food, medical care, free time, a computer, social security, comfortable housing.” For the others, I could think of “rudimental schooling, square meals, fresh air, sunshine, natural surroundings.”
Take out another piece of paper, write “Liabilities” on top, and make two columns, one for you and one for the others. The following may apply to you: “Loneliness, not knowing what to do, depression.” I could not think of more.
But for the others, there is a long list: “Fear of the police, fear of the soldiers, will I have something to eat tomorrow, where will my meal come from, no rest from work, not being paid for working, no free time, no computer, no dating, no cars, no money, no books, no warm water, no medical care, etc.”
When you compare you situation with the majority of 20 year-olds in other parts of the world, you will realize how lucky you actually are. This may make you smile.
And if you regularly practice the exercise I have described for you, you will find you will have energy and inspiration to start the best part of your life.
That's why I've recently bought two of your books, ”The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” and ”The Art of Chi Kung”, in the hope that I might regain my old self back. But what occurred to me today was strange. And I am also worried.
I tried to practice Induced Chi Flow despite the fact I didn't seem to make it work the last 3 efforts. Today though I tried to combine music, and it worked. What I found strange though was that I didn't practice “Lifting the Sky” and ”Carrying the Moon" almost at all.
What you experience was nothing strange. You might not be successful in the first three efforts, but you might be successful in the fourth.
Chi flow can be induced not only by practicing “Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon”. There are other chi kung patterns as well other methods to induce chi flow, like what you did.
Nevertheless, while you might be successful to induce chi flow on your own by using music as you had done, it was not advisable for you to do so without the supervision of a master or a competent instructor. This involves the same principle as a small child crossing a road on his own. He might cross the road safely on his own once or even a few times, but it is still dangerous for him to do so without the supervision of an adult.
Also my involuntary movement was according to the music. The chi flow seemed to dance literally with the sound. The worrying part was that although at first I could feel the energy, I couldn't feel it later.
But I kept moving involuntarily. Also a bit later my sister knocked at my door to see what I was doing and I lost concentration, and a feeling of stress occurred at my heart. This didn't stop my movement though. But it wasn't the pleasant feeling I had at first. And I am worried that bad chi was flowing in my body instead.
You involuntary movements following the music, and your chi flow dancing with the sound are normal, in the sense that they are not something unnatural and harmful. But they are not usual occurrences, in the sense that they do not happen often.
Your chi was still flowing though you did not feel it, especially when the chi had slowed down substantially. This was nothing unusual; it was normal. In fact chi flows in everyone, irrespective of whether he practices chi kung or not, but he normally does not feel the flow.
You unpleasant feeling was due to the sudden interruption of your sister knocking at the door. As you felt stressful, some chi might have logged at your heart. Your worrying aggravates your deviation. But do not worry. The remedial exercise on “Lifting the Sky” I recommended earlier will clear your deviation.
Could it be bad chi? Also is there anything you could advise specifically for disappearing depression like in my case? What do you think about my previous and my recent experiences?
At first when the chi was flowing, it was good. But when it became logged at your heart or other parts of your body and became stagnant, the originally good chi became bad chi.
“Lifting the Sky” is a good exercise to overcome depression and other health problems. An excellent exercise to overcome depression, even better than “Lifting the Sky”, is “Separating Water”. However, “Separating Water” is a powerful exercise, and if you perform it wrongly you would have serious adverse effects. Therefore, it is better for you to perform “Lifting the Sky” instead. Although it may take more time to overcome your depression, it is much safer.
Your experiences are a good example that one should not play about with chi kung without proper supervision from a competent instructor. I have mentioned this warning many times in this website. Masters have also mentioned it in their books. Yet many people refuse to accept the good warning.
There are some reasons why these people do not heed the warning. Two main ones are as follows.
They do not believe the masters, probably thinking that the masters want to keep chi kung to themselves or to students who learn form the masters personally. This is especially so in modern times when genuine traditional masters are very rare, and those regarded as “masters” by the public due to respect or ignorance are not really masters. As the standard of chi kung taught by these so-called masters is not high, many people do not take their words seriously. And some real masters give invaluable advice, they think the masters are exaggerating.
The second reason is that many people cannot tell the difference between chi kung and gentle physical exercise. As a result, what were originally chi kung exercises are now frequently practiced as gentle physical exercises. The forms can be exactly the same, but the essence is different. One may learn gentle physical exercises from books, videos or novices who just learned them 5 minutes earlier. Even if mistakes are made and deviations result, the harm is usually negligible. But this is not the case with chi kung exercises. Harmful effects from wrong practice can sometimes be very serious.