May 2004 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I believe it was fate (destiny/karma) that allowed me to find out about you. I am Christian but I realize that God is so vast so big that any religion only has one version of Him. Qigong made me realize again how incomprehensible God is to human thought.
— Christopher, Singapore
The qigong (chi kung) experiences of my students as well as my own qigong experiences have made God, or by any other name we call the Supreme Reality, comprehensible and real to us. One of the most beautiful benefits I have obtained from my practice and study of qigong is that all the world's great religions teach the same Truth, although in different words with different connotations.
I am now in the Shaolin Wahnam Centre in Costa Rica, and have just completed a qigong class on Dan Tian Breathing. It was a particularly powerful course. During one session, a man and a woman, who happened to be important persons in society, cried because the chi flow from the Dan Tian Breathing purged out their deep rooted negative emotions. In Buddhist terms, the energy cleansed out bad karma (probably from previous lives) from their mind. In Christian terms, they had a spiritual purification.
A few persons had satori, which is a Zen term meaning spiritual awakening. For example, Piti, who is a Shaolin Wahnam qigong instructor as well as a trainer for top business executives, experienced an “internal explosion” with bright lights radiating out from “inside” his “body”, though he found he had no physical body but that his spirit was expanding into Cosmic Reality. In Christian terms, in that timeless moment, he was uniting with God. He told us he was filled with tremendous peace and joy. In our school, Shaolin Wahnam, we normally do not ask about a person's religion, but I think Piti is Christian. Such experiences are not uncommon in our classes.
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this questions-answers series, most people, even though they understand the dictionary meanings of all the works in the above description, will not really understand what we say here even if they believe us. Many will not believe us — that is not our concern. We just want to share, with those who appreciate, what we actually experienced, which confirms that what great masters have written is true.
I am a little disturbed about your saying Jesus was reincarnated and he was just a qigong master. As Christians we believe he was the Son of God. But I am quite sure that he was filled with great divine and cosmic energy — he meditated a lot every day. It is strange how many different cultures came to find the same powers through meditation. For me, I believe that Jesus did not need to practice any qigong — he was overflowing with cosmic power himself. But that is just my belief and I thought I would just share it.
When I was in Ireland two weeks ago, a seventy-year old Catholic priest attended my qigong class. During question time, he asked me my views on reincarnation. I mentioned that as recorded in the Bible, Jesus was the reincarnation of Elijah. On another occasion when Jesus first met John (in their present life), he told John he had met him before, implicitly in a previous life. The kind, elderly priest was pleased with my views.
I am sorry if you misunderstood me. I said Jesus was a great qigong master. Jesus, for example, walked over water and healed the blind by touching them. These were great qigong feats. But I never implied he was just a qigong master. I also did not mean that he practiced qigong the way we now do. He probably had not heard of the term “qigong”. Although I am not Christian, I sincerely have great respect for Jesus. I also have no doubt that Jesus was overflowing with cosmic power himself.
This afternoon during question time in the Dan Tian Breathing class, there was an occasion for me to say that Buddhism is not a religion as many Westerners conceptualized it, and many things people regarded as historical facts in Buddhism may not be facts.
For example, many people regard Siddhatha Guatama as the founder of Buddhism. This is not true in all schools of Buddhism, because there was no founder. There were many Buddhas before Siddhatha Guatama, and there will be many after him. Right now there are literally millions of Buddhas in millions of stars and galaxies. What is a Buddha? A Buddha is an enlightened being. Jesus, Mohamed and Moses, being enlightened beings, are Buddhas.
You mentioned that Jesus is the Son of God. Do you know what actually is meant by the Son of God? Do you also know that we all are children of God?
You may like to know the concept of Trinity, that is God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. The concept of Trinity is similar to the Triple Body of the Buddha.
The Buddha exists in three bodies, namely the Spiritual Body of the Buddha, the Reward Body of the Buddha, and the Transformational Body of the Boddha.
The Spiritual Body of the Buddha is everything there is — infinite, eternal and omnipresent. It is undifferentiated, it is not separated into you and me, into mountains and streams, moons and stars, or anything. It is just One Cosmic Reality. In scientific terms, it is the unified spread of energy. In Christian terms, it is God the Holy Spirit.
But because we are unenlightened, we do not see the One Cosmic Reality as undifferentiated, but as differentiated into separate entities like you and me, mountains and streams, moons and stars. In Buddhist terms these countless entities are the transformational bodies of the Buddha. And a particular transformational body of the Buddha, or in scientific terms a particular mass of cosmic energy, manifested at a particular time in history as Siddhatha Guatama.
In other words, Siddhatha Guatama is an integral part of the One Cosmic Reality, but because humans cannot see Cosmic Reality as undifferentiated but as differentiated entities, humans see that part of Cosmic Reality as Siddhatha Guatama. Similarly, in Christian context Jesus is an integral part of God the Holy Spirit, but manifested to humans as God the Son.
The Reward Body of the Buddha is the divine form of the Buddha pious Buddhists see in heaven, or in this world when they are in a heightened state of consciousness. It is similar to God the Father, the divine form pious Christians meet in heaven or in a deep state of religious ecstasy still on earth.
I was reading your web page /answers/ans02a/mar02-2.html. Please let me know if my greeting is inappropriate. I would have written “Huang Shifu jing qi” if I could send the message in Chinese, but I do not know how to write Chinese on an email. So, I hope my English form of address is OK.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Your e-mails, including the way you address me, are courteous and respectful.
Most people wrote to me politely. A few sent e-mails presumably to me via my secretary without stating for whom the e-mails were for, or without stating their own names or pen-names. They did not mean to be impolite. It was due to carelessness or probably it was the way they were used to writing e-mails.
Since I receive more e-mails than I can answer, it is logical that priority is given to those e-mails which fulfill the requirements of addressing me, stating my webpage reference, and stating the senders' names. It is also fair that I should highlight this so that those who sincerely wish to write to me do not have their e-mails automatically deleted by my secretary for not complying with these requirements.
I was wondering how one should continue practising Shaolin Kungfu after the Intensive course? The Shaolin kungfu course lays great foundations but as you have said many times, supervision under a master is vital. How would we know if our posture is wrong, or an application is done correctly even if we practice what we have learnt in the course?
All those who attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, as well as my Intensive Taijiquan Cours, have prior kungfu or other martial art experience. Some of them have taught kungfu or other martial arts for many years. What they want to learn — which is also a main objective of my intensive course — is what they have been searching for for years, but could not find anywhere.
Explicitly, the two aspects they have been searching for are internal force training and combat application using the typical patterns they perform in solo practice. Yet, deep inside many of them is the search for the spiritual aspect of kungfu. My intensive courses fulfill these three needs. In fact my intensive courses are primarily for internal force training, combat application and spiritual cultivation.
The onus of my courses is not on teaching more and more forms, but helping students to acquire appropriate skills. The skills they successfully attain during my courses are actually quite fantastic, like attaining a one-pointed mind, entering a higher level of consciousness, tapping energy from the cosmos, generating internal energy flow, developing internal force, good timing and spacing, good judgment, quick-decision making, spontaneous response, fluidity of movement, expanding the spirit, and finding spiritual joy. After learning these skills and the methodology to acquire them during my intensive courses, practicing them on their own is not difficult.
To those who never have any experience of such training, these skills do not mean anything, they just remain as hollow words. Skills to expand the spirit and to find spiritual joys will be unintelligible to them. They either do not believe what we say or have a very different interpretation of what we mean.
Even the most basic of combat skills, good timing and spacing, may not be meaningful to the uninitiated. Many uninitiated students think they have good timing and spacing when actually they don't. Some do not even know what actually good timing and spacing are. They do not know, for example, the three points of time when we can respond to an opponent's movements, or how by placing a foot in a slightly different position can alter important factors in a combat situation.
Most think that they can naturally improve their timing and spacing through free sparring. This is not true. In fact free sparring without systematic preparation conditions the practitioners' bad habits and hinders further progress. Good timing and spacing need to be systematically trained. Most students do not spend any time at all in such training. Some are not even aware that such skills need to be trained; they presume that these skills come naturally with time.
Another question concerns sparring. How would a student practice sparring on his own after the course when he does not have a sparring partner? Those who ask this question have not learnt sparring systematically. If they have, they would realize that practicing on their own is very important. In fact that is how masters become very combat efficient, though they usually do not have sparring partners. Nevertheless, if you have a sparring partner who attend my intensive courses together with you, it will be a great advantage, especially at the earlier stages. But you still have to practice a lot on your own.
During the intensive courses, you will have many opportunities to practice sparring with different partners. You will learn sufficient training methods and relevant combat skills that enable you to practice sparring competently on your own after the courses. The methodological training during the courses, including explanation of basic philosophy and principles, will enable you not only to know if your postures are wrong, or an application is done correctly, but also to perform more efficiently techniques that you learned earlier elsewhere or that you may learn from other sources later.
A rough analogy with learning how to drive may be useful. Let us say you have a car but do not know how to drive, just like you have kungfu forms but do not know how to use them in combat. After you have successfully learnt the skills of driving, you can continue to practice driving on your own and you can drive any other cars. Similarly, after you have successfully learnt the skills of kungfu, you can practice kungfu on your own and you may use other kungfu forms.
You also mentioned that you do not teach the Xiao Zhou Tian (Small Universe) because the student may practice wrongly, so the student should practice under your supervision for months if not years. Would this also apply to more advanced levels of Shaolin Kungfu? But as you only offer one Intensive Shaolin Kungfu course, how would a student progress later? In my earlier email, I enquired about the Yizhi Chan. That sort of qigong surely needs a master's constant guidance.
If I am not certain that my students will benefit from my teaching, be it Small Universe, One-Finger Zen (Yi Zhi Chan) or any other art, I shall not teach it. This is one of the two fundamental ethical requirements of any teacher, namely knowing what he is teaching, and ensuring that his teaching is safe and beneficial.
Unfortunately, many teachers today do not know what they are teaching. They teach physical exercise but call it qigong; they teach a dance but call it Taijiquan; they teach gymnastic but call it Shaolin Kungfu.
That is also the reason why when someone asks me if I could stop by his friend's house and teach his friend a chi kung exercise to overcome his cancer, I usually say no. I know that if his friend is not interested enough to come to me to learn, he will not practice, especially if I teach him free of charge. Not only this will bring him no benefit and is a waste of my time, it may also spoil his chance of wanting to practice genuine chi kung to overcome his cancer.
One-Finger Zen is an advanced qigong exercise like Small Universe. But the nature and learning process of the two arts are different. “One Finger Shooting Zen”, which is a crucial technique in the art of One-Finger Zen, is taught in my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, but not Small Universe. Once a student can perform “One Finger Shooting Zen” correctly, and this can be easily achieved during the course itself, he can continue to practice on his own.
This is not the case with Small Universe. A student may learn the techniques of Small Universe in 15 minutes, but a 3-day course may not be sufficient time for him to acquire the skills of Small Universe.
It is like studying literature and playing the piano. You can attend a 5-day course on literature, and go home to read the prescribed books for a year. You may learn piano playing in a 5-day course, but you still cannot practice playing a piano competently on your own for a year without a teacher's supervision.
Nevertheless, in response to popular requests, I am working on the possibility of a 5-day course for Small Universe. If it is feasible, I may offer it in future.
In the March 2002 Pt 2 Q&A, you said that breaking granite or having spears thrust against one's throat is low-level qigong (da li xi). I am concerned because one test of the Taiji gong I am learning is being able to do all those. The lineage is said to be from Yang Lu Chan to Yang Shao Hou and downwards. Surely, qigong from these masters would not be mere showmen qigong?
I don't think the two great Taijiquan masters, Yang Lu Chan or Yang Shao Hou, performed these feats.
If you examine the kungfu history of China, you will also not find any descriptions of any well known kungfu masters of any styles publicly or privately lying on a bed of nails to have someone breaking a piece of granite on their chest with a sledgehammer, or having spears thrust onto their throats and palms and then breaking the spears by bending forward.
However there are descriptions of traveling stuntmen doing such “da li xi”, or “strongmen-shows” in street demonstrations. Hence, to suggest to a master in the past to demonstrate such a fest could be an insult.
I would not want to teach such feats, but I could actually teach you or any able-bodied person to lie on a bed of nails and have a piece of granite broken on your chest by another person with a sledgehammer, or have a spear thrust on your throat and breaking it by bending forward after one day's or after seven days' training respectively.
Although you or a stuntman can perform such feats, if someone strikes your or his chest or throat with an ordinary punch or palm thrust, you or the stuntman will be injured.
Other benefits are health and combat efficiency. The association also teaches the Xiao-Da Zhou Tian though I am far from learning those. Actually, I thought that to break granite requires some qigong at least, or one's bones and flesh would be injured.
Xiao-Da Zhou Tian, or Small Universe and Big Universe, are excellent for health and combat efficiency, but performing stuntmen's shows do not promote health and combat efficiency.
You should differentiate between merely knowing the techniques of Small Universe and Big Universe, and actually deriving practical benefits from these arts. Among my qigong students, especially in Spain, there were many who said they had learnt Small Universe before. Although Small Universe is excellent for overcoming all illness, these students were sick when they first met me. Yet, their Small Universe techniques, as they described to me, were correct. They recovered from their illness after practicing “Generating Energy Flow” learnt from me.
Using your palm, arm, leg or head to break a piece of granite, without using any tricks, requires high-level qigong. But you do not need to know any qigong to have a piece of granite on your chest broken by someone with a sledgehammer. Nevertheless, you need to be strong enough to support the granite. What is important is the skill of the person welding the sledgehammer.
I have passed your book “Art of Chi Kung” to my teacher who is suffering from cancer. I was afraid she would scoff at qigong, since unlike me, she is English-educated and has never been in touch with Chinese culture. But to my surprise she was very receptive. I would like to inquire for her whether you can pay special attention to her if she comes for the Intensive course.
I pay personal attention to every student who attends any of my intensive courses. If she reminds me of her case, I shall take special note of her.
In Chinese medical philosophy, there is no such thing as an incurable disease. But that does not mean every patient can be cured. Even when a patient suffers from an ordinary disease that can be readily cured, but if his condition has become too serious, or if there are other interfering factors, he may not be cured.
I have helped many people overcome cancer. It is sad that due to various reasons, this fact is not known by many cancer patients. It is even sadder when some people call me a liar when they do not even bother to check their facts first.
I have a long chapter on why and how practicing genuine qigong can overcome cancer in my book, “The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine”. Your teacher would be inspired after reading it.
Dear Master Wong I know that Kungfu smartly “hides” its martial applications but I have a question for you however. How would a Kungfu real expert face a tough wrestler much heavier than him? I mean someone supposed to be VERY strong at ground-fighting (an aspect of real fighting which Kungfu, at least for what I know, lacks and/or under-estimates) with grappling techniques such as locks and chokes. I hope you will give me an answer! Respectfully yours.
— David, Italy
David, yours is a sincere, polite question which deserves a sincere, honest answer.
Firstly, kungfu does not hide its martial applications (though some kungfu masters may do). Many kungfu students do not know these martial applications because they practice kungfu as a sport and not as a martial art! Even if they know the martial applications, they lack the skills and force to apply them effectively.
Like most people today, including most Chinese in modern China, you have not been exposed to genuine traditional kungfu, and therefore have no idea how powerful genuine traditional kungfu is.
I have often mentioned that genuine traditional kungfu is rare today, but because their concept of genuine tradition kungfu is totally different from mine, some people are offended and accuse me of speaking condescendingly on other people's kungfu or chi kung. I can understand their feelings, and would not want to argue with them.
Regarding genuine traditional kungfu, even my son, Wong Chun Nga, could break a genuine brick when he was just ten years old after only a few months of chi kung training. You can imagine what a genuine kungfu master with twenty years of internal force training could do to the head of a wrestler or any opponent.
I would not like any wrestler come to challenge me to prove what I say, but a tough wrestler much heavier than a kungfu master, would be killed by the kungfu master with a palm strike on his head if the wrestler were to be so unwise as to rush in to attempt a take-down. Alternatively the kungfu master would use a tiger-claw to tear out the wrestler's throat or double dragon claws to dislocate the wrestler's neck, killing or maiming the wrestler in just one move. It does not matter how tough or heavy the wrestler is.
You are mistaken to think that kungfu lacks or underestimates ground fighting. Kungfu is not a sport, it is a serious fighting art where there are no safety rules. This explains why ground fighting is seldom used in kungfu, because to get a kungfu master onto the ground, an opponent has to use techniques like grappling, wrestling or judo throws. These techniques are not advisable in a real fight where there are no safety rules.
Imagine you are involved in a real fight. You rush in to grab your opponent's legs for a “shoot” or hold him for a throw. If he is a ruthless seasoned fighter, while you are at close quarters and your hands are engaged in grabbing or holding him, he would pierce two fingers into your eyes or drive a hard punch into your genitals. The strike of a kungfu master would be worse.
But such a scenario would never happen in Europe or North America. If you wrestle with him, he would probably wrestle with you. At the most he might give you a few relatively safe punches. The mentality of fighting is different. In such cases ground fighting would be useful.
Some people would ask, “Why don't kungfu masters enter wrestling matches and win prizes?” Wrestling matches use wrestling rules which are unfavorable to kungfu masters. In principle it is like asking a footballer why he does not enter a hockey match.
But the most important reason is that kungfu masters are not keen to exhibit their fighting skills in public. Some of them do not want others to know they know kungfu. Certainly they do not want to deliberately place themselves in situations where they might have to tear out someone's testicles or gorge out someone's eyes.
I am currently without a teacher. However a local teacher has offered to take me on. The only trouble is that I will be moving away to University in 3 months where there is another teacher offering classes. I would imagine to change teachers would be a mistake especially after such short notice.
Is it better to just take advantage of any training offered and make use of otherwise idle time on my hands? Or use the three months to cover the objectives in your chapter “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”? Or not to learn any Kung Fu now as it would be better to be taught from scratch? Or take advantage of a teacher willing to take me on for 3 months before swapping over to a teacher at university?
— Paul, USA
Some of the important benefits of kungfu training are to enable you to have sound judgment and make quick decisions. You also learn that if you make a wrong decision, you will make correction or adjustment immediately without fuss or hesitation. You can read about how we in Shaolin Wahnam develop such skills in our combat sequence training found in the Review Section of my website.
In our law abiding societies where real fighting seldom or almost never occurs, developing such skills of decision making is actually more useful that developing combat skills for punching and kicking. If you are uncertain or have no confidence yourself to make decisions on the questions you asked, you will defeat some important purposes of kungfu training.
Assess the pros and cons of each of the questions you asked. You may find it helpful to write the pros and cons on paper. Although you asked four questions, there are actually three issues to consider, as the first and the forth questions are similar. Before you consider each issue, clear your mind of all thoughts and focus on the issue only, without letting other irrelevant thoughts come into your mind.
Then assess the overall situation and make a decision. Do not be afraid to come to a decision. You can take comfort in the fact that actually it does not matter very much what decision you make. There are not life-death issues. Neither are they issues that will affect your subsequent life irreversibly.
Once you have made a decision, any decision in this case, stick to it. Do not ever wonder if the decision you have made is the best one, but make the best of what you have decided. Here, as often in business or even in life where the outcome of a decision is not serious, making a bad decision is better than not making any decision. Use this situation where you are faced with three issues concerning kungfu training, as an opportunity to be decisive.
Do not take too much time to come to a decision. You can actually decide in half an hour, Nevertheless you may spend a bit more time on it, but do not take more than three hours. Remember that in kungfu combat where a decision may have life-death consequences, you make a decision in the split of a second and stick to it.
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