July 2007 (Part 3)


Kung Fu Sparring

Luis of Shaolin Wahnam Ireland sparring with Sifu Simon of Shaolin Wahnam England during an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia

Question 1

I'm a bit afraid of sending this email because I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I'm very thankful for all the knowledge you share in the website. I used to practice what were designed “traditional kung fu” and modern wushu, which I thought to be the “supreme kung fu” for some time. Without you, I would be thinking that I was good at kung fu, when actually I'm really not. Thank you.

— Jorge, Portugal


Thank you for your sincerity and respectfulness.

Yours is a situation common to thousands of kungfu or wushu practitioners all over the world today. The good news is that you and others like you can convert what you are practicing into genuine, traditional kungfu. It will need time and effort, but more important are awareness, knowledge and determination. Nevertheless, the rewards are more than worth all the trouble.

Firstly, you need to be aware that what you practice is not genuine, traditional kungfu. You already have this awareness, whereas most people don't. Even if they do, because they have invested so much time and interest in what they practice, they refuse to believe their kungfu is not genuine. Hence, they would not make the next move.

The next move is to have the knowledge for the conversion, and it involves two parts — the “what” and the “how”. What actually is genuine, traditional kungfu, and how you can realize it?

Knowing the “what” is very important, otherwise you could have wasted much time traveling on deviated route. The most basic requirement of kungfu is that it is capable for combat. This means if you cannot apply your kungfu for combat, then it is not genuine or traditional. You may or may not win in the combat, and you may or may not like combat, but you can use it for combat.

This is straight-forward and logical, but it can pose a lot of problems for many practitioners. Indeed, today most practitioners, including some "masters", cannot apply their kungfu for combat, though some of them may be formidable fighters using other martial arts. But for various reasons, particularly those of vested interest, many of them refuse to accept this fact, and give justifications that theirs is genuine kungfu even when they have to borrow techniques from other martial arts for their sparring or fighting.

If you are contented with this basic requirement, then you can use combat efficiency as a working guideline to determine whether the kungfu you practice is genuine and traditional. But in Shaolin Wahnam, while we consider combat efficiency essential, we do not regard it high on our priority for practicing kungfu. We believe that practicing good kungfu should give us health and vitality. In other words, even when we can fight well but if we are not healthy or full of vitality, then we would conclude that we practice genuine, traditional kungfu but it may not be of a high level.

Above good kungfu is great kungfu. Our concept of great kungfu is that it contributes to our spiritual development, irrespective of religion. Spiritual development may be manifested as being calm and peaceful, feeling free and happy, and at high levels having a glimpse of God or Cosmic Reality. The progression is inclusive. In other words, the benefits of great kungfu include those of good kungfu and basic kungfu.

For convenience, we classify genuine, traditional kungfu into three levels. Basic kungfu is capable of combat. Good kungfu is capable of combat and contributes to health and vitality. Great kungfu is capable of combat, contributes to health and vitality, and contributes to spiritual development.

With this knowledge, the path becomes clear, though by no means easy. You search for the best available means within your resources to achieve your goals according to the kungfu level you aim at. If you aim for the best, you would search for the best available master within your means to teach you great kungfu. If your resources are limited, you may have to be contented with an ordinary instructor who teaches you kungfu fighting.

But if you learn only kungfu forms and cannot apply them for combat, or you can fight but use other martial art techniques, then you should know you are not practicing genuine, traditional kungfu, though it is fine if you are happy with it provided your training does not harm your health or your spirit.

Finding a genuine kungfu master to teach you is difficult, but more difficult is for you to practice diligently what he has taught. This calls for sacrifice and determination. But the rewards are great. If you have an opportunity to practice great kungfu, you will not only be combat efficient, healthy and full of vitality, but also peaceful, happy and filled with spiritual joys.

Question 2

Unfortunately, I wasn`t able to attend your regional course in Portugal. But that gave me the opportunity to know more about Shaolin Wahnam Institute, and to define objectives and evaluate everything.


I conduct regional courses in Portugal at least once a year. Please check my website for my time-table.

But you can learn from our Shaolin Wahnam master in Portugal. His contact numbers are info@shaolin-wahnam-portugal.com and http://www.shaolin-wahnam-portugal.com/contactos.htm.

Defining aims and objectives, and evaluating our progress is very useful. It saves us a lot of time, and ensures we are on the right path. You will find very helpful information on my webpage Getting the Best Benefits from your Training.

Kung Fu Sparring

Participants at the regional Shaolin Kungfu Course in Switzerland in August 2006 practicing free sparring. The woman student in the foreground was a fresh beginner. She had no martial art experience before, and started learning Shaolin Kungfu just three days before this video was taken. Yet she could apply the kungfu patterns she had learnt for sparring. She was an inspiration for all of us.

Question 3

I have seen probably all the video clips in your website. Your demonstrations, words and the stories I heard about you make me have no doubt about your mastery. On the other hand, I can't stay impressed with the level of your students shown in the videos, despite I have the notion that they are only training. Of course there are some that I enjoy, like Sifu Anthony Korahais whose demonstrations and posts on the forum are great. There can be many others that I haven't seen.


The videos are mainly meant for students who attended the course to review what they had done. A lot of material is imparted in both my intensive and regional courses, and the videos act as a helpful resource for their reference.

The videos were taken impromptu, and are released without editing. They sometimes show mistakes students made, which we leave unedited on purpose. The videos are not meant to impress others how good we are, though we hope the videos may inspire some practitioners to search for, or even find, what they realize has been missing in their own training.

Many shown on our videos are beginners, and we are actually proud that despite their short time they could attain reasonable standard. We are proud that all of them, from fresh beginners to advanced practitioners, can spar using typical kungfu patterns after just a few days of systematic training. We are even more proud that they have a lot of fun and laughter training together and helping one another.

Question 4

Anyway, this confuses me since I believe in your method. I believe in the master, so I would expect the students to be better. I would like to ask you how many of your students are efficient in combat? I could define 3 three levels here: first being able to defend against a non-martial artist, then a common martial artist of another art and then an exponent of other martial arts.


I like your questions. They touch on delicate issues but you ask them sincerely and respectfully. I shall answer them honestly, as I have always been doing, although I suspect those who have been critical of us, like those kungfu practitioners who favoure Kick-Boxing techniques to kungfu techniques in their sparring, and those who do not believe in internal force, may doubt my answers.

All Shaolin Wahnam students who have practiced kungfu with us (Shaolin or Taijiquan) for more than six months would be competent to defend against opponents who have not practiced any martial arts.

Shaolin Wahnam students who have practiced kungfu for less than six months would have difficulty defending themselves against opponents who practice other styles of kungfu or other martial arts. But if our students have practiced consistently for a year, they would be competent to defend against these opponents. After three years our students should have no difficulty handling their opponents.

This is so because kungfu skills and techniques are more complex than those of other martial arts, so it takes more time for our students to be familiar with them. But once they are skillful with kungfu techniqeus, they would find using kungfu in sparring or fighting more advantageous than using other martial arts.

For example, a Shaolin Wahnam student and a Boxer begin their training at the same time. For the first six months, the Shaolin Wahnam student will have much difficulty defending against the Boxer. After a year, our student can defend competently. After three years, he can handle the Boxer comfortably.

Kungfu students of most other schools today use Boxing and Kick-Boxing in their sparring. Hence, for our purpose here, we can classify them as opponents of other martial arts.

Please bear in mind the comparison here is between students of similar training experience. In other words, if we take a Shaolin Wahnam student of one year's experience, we compare him with another student of another martial art also with one year's experience. It would not be fair to compare a student of one year's experience with a seasoned fighter of more than ten years' experience.

This may be a main reason why you were not impressed with the students' performance in the videos. You forgot that many of them were beginners, and you might have unconsciously compared them with seasoned fighters.

Take, for example, the video clips shown on the webpage Testing the Shaolin Wahnam Sparring Methodology on Beginners. Except for Lucas and Adofo who had practiced a few years of Karate before, none of the participants had prior martial art experience (except Carlos and Rosa who also attended the Taijiquan course immediately before this). Yet, they could apply kungfu patterns for sparring after just three days of intensive training. I believe they could defend themselves adequately against opponents who had three days' training in any martial art.

Another reason for your doubt in the students' sparring was their lack of aggression and muscular tension, which might give you a false impression that they lacked power. But our students did not need aggressiveness and muscular tension to be powerful; they used internal force. Could they have internal force after just three days of training? They could, or else they would be unable to spar for about an hour without feeling tired.

Stance Training

Stance training is an important aspect of our kungfu training. Participants practice various stances at the Shaolin Review Course of December 2006. Charles of Shaolin Wahnam Canada is practicing the Three-Circle Stance in the foreground, while behind him Peter of Shaolin Wahnam England is practicing the Single-Leg Stance.

Question 5

Why aren't the others efficient? Because of their objectives? Motivations? Lack of training? Result of not seeing the master constantly? I also would like if you think some of your students may reach your level. Although I don't expect to achieve a high level, this question is also very important for me because I have seen some good demonstrations of masters, but their students were always miles away from the master. I would like to know better the chances of being successful.


Some of the reason why the students you saw in the video clips were not as efficient as I am, have been given in the previous answer. Some of the students had trained for only a few months, whereas I have trained for more than 50 years. It is unreasonable to compare them with me.

But if you compare their performance with other students who have trained for a similar length of time, their performance was impressive. In fact if you examine the video series I mentioned in the previous answer, most of the students who had only three days of Shaolin training, did not fare too badly in free sparring against Lucas and Adofo who had a few years of Karate training.

They did not cringe in pain when knocking arms with the experienced martial artists, nor were they panting for breath despite sparring for an hour! How many persons you know who had only three days of Shaolin training could do this?

We often claim that our students can achieve in six months what most others may take three years. Understandably, this statement makes us look very boastful. But those who have trained with us realize it is actually an understatement. In six months our typical student can develop internal force and use kungfu for combat. He will be able to defend against all forms of attacks, namely strikes, kicks, felling, and grips. A typical student who has trained elsewhere for three years normally has not accomplished most of these feats. Normally he can only perform solo sets, and sometimes use Kick-Boxing to free spar.

Hence, with such rapid progress, Shaolin Wahnam students have a good chance to surpass their sifus if they train consistently and diligently.

Question 6

I've been practicing Wahnam Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan for about a year and a half, and I've had amazing results. I'm currently recovering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a muscle disease which prevents my muscles from growing, in turn leaving my physical body very weak, especially my thighs and shoulders. Is there a specific exercise that promotes muscle growth that doesn't require something such as running/tough physical training?

— Andrew, Ecuador


It is nice to hear from you. I am sorry it has taken me some time to reply.

I am very happy to read in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum that you have recovered from a disease which “doctors had so joyously explained that you would not get better, you could only try and keep the muscle you had or end up in a wheelchair”. It is indeed a wonderful achievement. Congratulations.

You have been doing very well in your practice. Just keep it up.

Nevertheless, I shall still answer your question above. As you have found out from your own experience, all chi kung exercises promote muscle growth and does not require something like running and tough physical training. Understandably, the result from low-level chi kung is little and it takes a long time to achieve, whereas high-level chi kung like what we practice produces a lot of good result in a short time.

Some exercises, however, are more cost-effective than others in promoting muscle growth. Two excellent exercises for this purpose are “Pushing Mountains” and “Nourishing Kidneys”. “Sinew Metamorphosis” is particularly powerful, but needs to be learnt from a master. The answer is only of academic interest. As you have been deriving wonderful results, all you need to do is to carry on as you have been doing.

Stance Training

Participants at the Specialized Shaolin Kungfu Course of April 2007 practice the Single-Leg Stance. In front from left to right are Steve from Australia, Sifu Eugene from the United States, and Charles from Canada.

Question 7

Since I'm still recovering from a very weak state, I'm unable to do such physical movements, but I've found that Zhan Zhuang is quite helpful. If I were to practice Zhan Zhuang every night, what would be a suitable form to do in the morning to complement it? Thank you for the world of opportunity you have already shown me!


If you practice zhan zhuang, make sure you do not over-strain yourself. For the time being, avoid strenuous stances like Horse-Riding and Single-Leg, and attempt the less demanding ones like Three-Circle Stance. Indeed, Three-Circle Stance is good for your purpose.

This does not mean you cannot attempt Horse-Riding, Single-Leg and other strenous stances at all, but you should not focus on them. Remember to relax and enjoy your stance training.

A good exercise to complement your stance training at night is “Lifting the Sky”, followed by chi flow and Standing Meditation.

You are lucky that Sifu Jose Antonio is staying in the same city as you, and Sifu Rama visits Ecuador regularly. Sifu Rama and Sifu Jose Antonio are two of our best instructors.

Question 8

Are there any courses on overcoming incurable disease this year? I have cancer and asthma, and have been learning chi kung on my own, but seem to have reached a plateau.

— Liz, Australia


I am sorry to hear of your health problems. But the good new is that cancer and asthma can be overcome if your practice high level chi kung learnt from a competent teacher.

There are three reasons why you reach a plateau. Firstly, you should practice chi kung and not merely learn it. When you practice, you go over old material again and again, whereas when you learn, you acquire new material.

Secondly, you should learn chi kung from a competent teacher, not on your own. When you learn from a competent teacher you acquire skills, whereas when you learn on your own you acquire techniques. If you only know the techniques but without the skills when practicing chi kung, you are unlikely to get good results.

Thirdly, the chi kung that you learn is probably of a low level, which may not be powerful enough to overcome your health problems. You need to learn high level chi kung from a competent teacher, and practice it skillfully to derive good results.

Cancer and asthma are serious illness. Do you really believe that by learning chi kung on your own, you can overcome these diseases? If this could be so easily done, then there should not be so many people suffering from cancer and asthma.

Indeed, not only you need to learn from a living teacher, the teacher must be competent. The sad fact is that today competent chi kung teachers are rare. Many people start teaching chi kung to others after they have learnt some chi kung exercises from books, and most, if not all, of them have no idea or experience of what chi is.

Not only you must learn from a competent teacher, the chi kung he teaches must be of a high level. Even when he is competent but if what he teaches is of a low level, it is not powerful enough to overcome cancer and asthma.

Even when you have learnt high level chi kung from a competent teacher, you have to practice it correctly and consistently. Wrong and inconsistent practice will not give your good results.

Yes, my Intensive Chi Kung Courses have helped many people overcome so-called incurable diseases, including cancer and asthma. Please refer to my website for details and apply to my secretary if you wish to attend.



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