October 2008 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu course, and how thankful I am to have been able to attend. As I said at the graduation dinner I have been doing martial arts for many years, but in all those years this last week was the first time I had felt my arms charged with internal force with nearly every movement. I had felt that feeling before, but it was only occasionally and almost as if by accident.
— Matt, USA
Congratulations for the good results you have had. You did very well at the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Penang in April 2008. The course acted as a key that opened the developments you already had from your previous training but were not manifested yet.
For example, the internal force you felt during the course was not developed at the course itself, but from your many years of previous training. This internal force, however, was locked in your tendons and muscles. At the course, I helped you to enter Zen, where you could be totally relaxed and attained a one-pointed mind. In this state of Zen, or chi kung state of mind, you let your internal force flow and manifest.
As another example, when you perform your own kungfu sets you learned before, you will find that now your performance is faster, smoother and more forceful. You will also have better insight into the patterns of the kungfu sets. You may also understand the combat functions of some of the patterns which previously you thought were only decorative.
With this new skills you learned at the course, you not only can manifest the developments you already had, but also speed up as well as expand whatever you learn in your kungfu training. For example, if you wish to learn a new kungfu set, you can do so in shorter time yet with better results. This is speeding up the ability you already had. Previously, you would feel tired after performing some kungfu movements, but now you would feel more fresh and energized. This is expanding your benefits which you did not have before.
Until this course, I only had slight awareness of my dan tian, but during the course I was aware of it often and even was able to feel chi moving down the front of my body and settling in my dan tian! How amazing it was!
This is another example of the course enhancing the result you already had. The dan tian is present in everybody, but most people are unaware of it. Kungfu practitioners are aware of it intellectually because it is often mentioned in kungfu context, but they seldom experience it because most of the time they are tensed physically and mentally.
But once awhile when their practice unconsciously brings them into a state of Zen, in which case they may experience their dan tian. But at the course you learned how to enter Zen at will. Hence, you were aware of your dan tian and other chi sensations.
Entering Zen is a very important aspect of Shaolin training. It enables you to derive fantastic benefits like internal force, mental clarity and spiritual joys. Most Shaolin practitioners, however, miss this important aspect of Shaolin training. To them, Shaolin Kungfu is just hard and external.
While practicing One-Finger Shooting Zen today, I noticed that when I placed my awareness on my breathing, especially during the Shh and Haa sounds, it felt as if my breath was pushing and pulling my hand away from and toward my body. My hand felt very charged with internal force, and it seemed as though my breath and internal force (and not my arm muscles) are causing my hands to move. It felt very nice.
Congratulations. This shows you had good results. Your chi, regulated by your breathing, was directing your hand movements, and you mind being focused on your breath, was directing your chi.
You attained what is described in kungfu classics as “mind directs chi, and chi directs forms”. This is high level attainment, usually achieved only by masters. It is incredible that many of our students achieved it. Those outside Shaolin Wahnam find it hard to believe that we can achieve such feats, and call us liars. That is their problem, not ours.
With further development of this skill, you can have many wonderful benefits. You can, for example, move at the speed of thought. If an opponent attacks you, you may just think that you would dodge and kick his side-ribs, and the action will be implemented so fast that even you yourself may be surprised. You would, however, still have to practice the technique before you can use it.
In other words, during your training you imagine an opponent attacking you. You move to one side and counter with a side-kick to his ribs. At first you practice this movement slowly and smoothly, paying attention to picture-perfect form and flowing force. Next, you increase you speed — without sacrificing your form and force. Then you just think about this counter and you will move spontaneously and quickly. When a real opponent attacks you, you just think of this counter and it will unfold itself effectively.
This skill can be beneficially used in our daily life — in both our work and play. If you wish to run up a flight of stairs, for example, just think and your mind will direct your chi, which will direct your feet to run up the stairs. You can reach many storeys above without feeling tired. In fact, participants at some Shaolin Kungfu courses at Swiss Inn in Sungai Petani did that. We started our practice in the morning beside the swimming pool. But when it got hotter, we ran up the stairs to a bigger hall to continue our practice. We ran up many flights of stairs but we were not tired.
When you play football or any games, you can be an exceptional player if you use this skill. You still need to practice the necessary techniques first. But when the situation arises, you just use your mind to direct your chi to direct your physical movements. Your opponents will be amazed.
However, during the course you did not mention placing your mind on the breathing and letting the breath move the hand. I do not want to practice incorrectly. Should I keep my awareness on my breath and internal force that seems to cause the movement, or try to not focus on it?
I cannot remember exactly what I said at the course you attended. Although the content may be the same, every course is different because I teach according to the progress of the course participants.
Yes, you can keep your awareness on your breath and internal force. This has given you very good results, and as you develop further you have use this skills for many benefits.
On the other hand, in other situations you may not keep your awareness on your breath. You may just enjoy your breathing and your movements without any specific focus. This may lead you to No Mind, which may give you tremendous spiritual joys.
As I have often mentioned, there are no hard and fast rules —- though there may be over-riding general principles. One over-riding principle, or you may call it a “Golden Rule of Three for Practice” is “Don't Worry, Don't Intellectualize, Enjoy your Practice”.
It seems as though you have learned from many masters. I was curious why you chose to learn from more than one master. At what point with each master did you feel like it was time to learn from someone else? Did you ever have two masters at the same time?
I learned from many masters. My four “official” masters, in the order of my learning from them, were
- Sifu Lai Chin Wah who was more popularly known as Uncle Righteousness
- Sifu Chee Kim Thong who was regarded by the Chinese government as a national treasure
- Sifu Ho Fatt Nam who was the third generation successor from the southern Shaolin Temple
- Sifu Choe Hoong Choy who was the Patriarch of Choe Family Wing Choon.
I am forever grateful to my four masters who had so generously and kindly passed on their arts to me. I learned from one master at a time, never two or more at the same time.
I chose to learn from these four masters because I wanted to learn from the best, and while their arts are complete by themselves, each of these masters had something very special to teach me. The circumstances and reasons for my learning from each of them were different.
My learning from Uncle Righteousness was luck — or was it luck? My father worked in the association where Uncle Righteousness taught kungfu. As a small boy I followed my father every night to watch Uncle Righteousness teach. Touched by my unfailing attendance, one night Uncle Righteousness asked me to be his student.
Many people considered me an accomplished kungfu practitioner after I had learned from Uncle Righteousness. Indeed, kungfu circles at the time considered me to be my master's best disciple. Nevertheless, I was still not satisfied with my own attainment. I wanted to learn more about internal force. Wuzu Kungfu (Kungfu of Five Ancestors) of Sifu Chee Kim Thong was most famous for internal force, and I wouldn't want to miss this opportunity to learn from him.
I was very impressed with the internal force of my Wuzu classmates. When I sparred with my sihengs (senior kungfu brothers), I could not move their arms. I thought I had strong arms. When I trained with Uncle Righteousness, I knocked my arms against a wooden man every night, and applied medicated vinegar to strengthen them. But when I persisted in knocking arms with my Wuzu sihengs in “Seven-Star Knocking”, my arms were swollen and my Siheng Chee Boon Leong, who is Sifu Chee's eldest son, had to apply medical powder on them.
Nevertheless, my understanding of internal force was shallow then. Despite my sihengs sharing with me their training methods, which were basically practicing the fundamental set “San Zhan” and Abdominal Breathing, I did not gain much.
I was also keen in sparring, which was not much encouraged in the Wuzu school. So, I went around looking for Black Belts to spar. I met Yong, who was a Taekwondo exponent being trained by Korean masters to lead the Taekwondo movement in Malaysia when the Korean masters returned home. So, everybody was surprised when he intended to give up Taekwondo for Shaolin Kungfu. Why did he give up Taekwondo, especially when he had reached such a high level, and had such an opportunity for leadership and development?
What he said had great significance for me and our school. He said, “I can now handle any Taekwondo fighters with ease, except the Korean masters.” A second or two later, he continued, “Even the Korean masters. Even if I can't beat them, I won't be far behind.”
This was of great significance coming from someone who had just learnt Shaolin Kungfu for about three months. If he could attain such combat efficiency in just a few months from a Shaolin master, I must learn from this master. The master was Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.
After I had learnt from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I knew at once that I had completed my search for masters. His teaching provided all that I had wanted in Shaolin Kungfu, namely good health, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation. Why, then, I later learned from Sifu Choe Hoong Choy?
Besides Shaolin Kungfu, I also learned traumatology, which is a special branch of Chinese medicine dealing specially with injuries, from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. But my time learning traumatology was short, so when I returned to my hometown in Penang I wanted to continue my traumatology study with a well known traumatology master, Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. Sifu Choe was my father's friend., which made my learning from him easy.
At that time Sifu Choe Hoong Choy was also teaching Wing Choon Kungfu. He knew that I was good at Lion Dance, which I had learnt years ago from Uncle Righteousness, and asked whether I could help him teach Lion Dance to his students. I agreed without a second thought. So I was privy to his exclusive Wing Choon class.
Unlike today when Wing Choon Kungfu is popularly taught to the public, at that time it was taught only to selected students. When I first learned Shaolin Kungfu from Uncle Righteousness, I heard about Wing Choon Kungfu but had no opportunity to see it. Uncle Righteousness, who was famous for his Shaolin staff, once told me that if I had the opportunity, I should also learn the “Six-and-a-Half-Point Staff”, which is an exclusive staff set in Wing Choon Kungfu.
I made good use of my opportunities. I asked Sifu Choe Hoong Choy whether he would teach me some Wing Choon Kungfu. Sifu Choe agreed without second thought. In fact he did more. He allowed me to choose the Wing Choon sets I liked and taught me not in a regular way he taught his students which would take years, but in a highly intensive way in a few days — a rare privilege kungfu masters in the past bestowed on those whom the master had high regards.
I wanted to give you an update on how things have been going for me. Recently I've been blessed with the opportunity to help ease my family's financial burden by giving them a portion of the money I make from work. It's a good way of showing gratitude for all the effort and hardship they endured raising me.
I've also been making efforts to heal myself and my family, and I've sent out the intention to make our home a holy place, filled with positive energy. There are a lot of blockages among us, but I do my utmost to live by action and example.
— Ray, USA
I am glad that you are living the Shaolin arts, and I am very proud of you. Your family members will benefit from your good thoughts as well as good energy radiated from you during your daily practice.
My sister appears to be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and may no longer be fit for work soon. That is a reason why I am preparing myself to assume greater financial responsibility.
It may sound presumptions to some people, but actually carpal tunnel syndrome can be overcome easily by practicing high-level chi kung or undergoing chi kung therapy. If your sister is not keen to practice chi kung, ask her to consult one of our Shaolin Wahnam chi kung healers. There are three in the U.S., namely Sifu Anthony Korahais, Sifu Eugene Sterman, and Sifu Anthony Spinicchia. You can find their contact details in our List of Certified Instructors.
Honestly, I am surprised why carpal tunnel syndrome has become such a big issue in Western society. It is a simple matter in chi kung. Many of our Shaolin Wahnam Family members work in the computer industry and some suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome before. Naturally they recovered after practicing our chi kung.
To be honest Sifu I briefly considered taking her pain away onto myself, but I understand that doing so would not help her in the long run as she needs this pain in order to grow.
While it is noble, it is unwise to take her pain into yourself. A wise way is to help her remove her pain without sacrificing your well-being, and this is by telling her about chi kung.
Viewing pain as a catalyst for personal development is a positive way. Nevertheless, one can also grow without undergoing pain. Indeed, this is our normal growth in Shaolin Wahnam where the concept of “no pain no gain” does not apply. We enjoy our practice, and our practice leads to our growth.
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