October 2008 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Before the universe was discovered using telescopes, how were past kung fu masters able to discover its existence? Did they just sense it using their chi, or project the ethereal body outwards during meditation?
— William, USA
A lot about the universe was discovered by past masters using thier mind in deep meditation. Such abilities were available only to the greatest of chi kung and meditation masters as well as kungfu masters whose training included chi kung and meditation, and who understandably were in the minority. Most kungfu masters in the past, just as it is today, practiced kungfu mainly at a physical level. These past kungfu masters might be great fighters, but would not have visions or even intellectual understanding of the universe.
Some of these great masters might travel outside their physical body in their astral body and discovered some aspects of the universe not known to ordinary people. But most of them (their number was small compared to the total number of people who practiced kungfu, chi kung and meditation) discovered many interesting aspects of the universe while in deep meditation. In other words, they did not project themselves out of their physical body, but their mind or spirit expanded beyond their physical body to cover limitless or almost limitless time and space.
Many of their discoveries were later confirmed by modern science, and still many are not understood or acknowledged by scientists yet. For example, a great chi kung master, Zhang Dai, discovered that the universe is actually a ball of energy, and that energy and matter are inter-changing all the time — long before Western science was born. Lao Tzu, the Patriarch of Taoism, talked about the transformation of the phenomenal world from the Great Void, as well as what modern scientists would describe as electrons, protons and neutrons. Taoist and Buddhist masters discovered living beings like natural spirits, faries and gods in other realms of existence.
The knowledge of the universe shared by the Buddha in sutras (Buddhist scriptures) is simply mind-blowing. It ranges from the infinnitestimal sub-atomic particles to the infinite galaxies, as well as non-physical entitites like mind and energy. Modern science has only re-discovered a very small portion of this vast knowledge, like the compositon of the atom and the operation of the subconscious mind.
I suspect that many principles that were discovered in the ancient past by past masters could not have been done without the use of very powerful chi or very powerful techniques of some kind.
Yes, the discoveries were made through the cultivation of energy and mind. They were not made by means of any scientific instruments or experiments. But how the discoveries happened was not what you probably think. These great discoveries were the by-products rather than the main goals of their cultivation! This is an interesting fact many Western educated people may find surprising.
In other words, except for some ad-hoc cases, these great masters did not set out to discover the universe. They set out to attain good health, vitality, longevity, combat efficiency, peak performance, mental clarity and spiritual development. But in the process of their cultivation to attain these goals, they discovered many interesting aspects of the universe.
Let me give you an example. A Buddhist monk goes into sitting meditation to investigate into reality. His goal is not to discover the universe, but to attain Nirvana. First he goes into sammadha meditation, which is often translated as concentration, but may be misleading to the uninitated. Here his mind is one-pointed. Then he proceeds to vispasanna meditation, which is often translated as comtemplation, but again may be misleading to many people. Here he investigates into reality by asking appropriate questions, like what is dharma.
At first, dharma is matter to the Buddhist monk, the physical substance that makes up the world or the universe. Then he discovers that dharma is sub-atomic particles. At a higher level he discovers that dharma is not sub-atomic particles but energy. In the process he may discover many interesting facts about the universe, some that modern science has now confirmed, like how moons travel round their planet, and some modern science has not known yet, like how karma, or cause and effect, determines the transition of one life to another.
These discoveries were made not through intellectualization, or through scientific experiments, but through direct personal experience. In other words, the monk sees dharma in his mind's eye as matter, next as sub-atomic particles and then as energy. At the highest level, he sees dharma as nothing or everything. He experiences in his momentless moment and in tremendous peace and joy that there is no differentiation between him and anything else.
We in Shaolin Wahnam use the same approach and practice. Please have a look at the videos on Brick Breaking Galore. We did not purposely train ourselves to break bricks. Except for those who trained in other schools before, none did any hard-conditioning like hitting sandbags or striking poles. We just train our chi kung not for breaking bricks but for good health, vitality, longevity, combat efficiency, peak performance, mental clarity and spiritual development. The ability to break bricks — or an opponent's skull if we have no choice though we hope we would never have to do it — is a by-product.
Similarly it is not a goal of our training to see heavenly beings and celestial realms, but some of our students have developed this ability as a by-product. Our students have discovered some aspects of the universe that modern science has not acknowledged yet, but it gives our students tremendous peace and joy, and makes them more devoted in their own religion as it confirms what their religion has taught.
I've been diagnosed with Lyme disease (Tick bite fever) and have been constantly vomiting and experiencing sever muscle pains (especially the back), headaches and fever. I've been taking antibiotics for 3 months. It seems to be helping me, but at the same time it's damaging my body. Can you recommend anything that can help me? I have lost faith in Western medicine and am looking at acupuncture, Chinese herbs and chikung for a cure.
— Ryan, South Africa
Yes, I would recommend that you practice high-level chi kung from a competent teacher. Please note that it is insuffienct just to practice chi kung from any teacher.
Some people think that there is just one form of chi kung. This is far from the truth. There are many, many types of chi kung with a wide range of levels. Low-level chi kung will not be strong enough to overcome your problem.
Even if you practice high-level chi kung, you must practice from a competent teacher. If you learn it from a mediocre teacher, you may not get good results. If you learn it from a bad teacher, you may have harmful effects instead.
Logically, one would ask how he can differentiate high-level chi kung from low-level chi kung, and differentiate a competent teacher from an incompetent one. High-level chi kung gives good results in a short time, whereas low-level chi kung gives little result and it takes a long time. A competent teacher enables you to obtain the results practicing the art is purported to give, whereas an incompetent teacher does not.
For those who are already practicing chi kung, these statements can be very helpful — if they take some time to think about them and act accordingly.
Thousands of people practice chi kung, and most of them know that practicing chi kung brings good health and vitality. If they notice an improvement of their health and vitality after a short preiod of practice, say a few months, then they practice high-level chi kung. If their improvement is little and it takes them a few years, then their chi kung is low-level.
But many of them still remain unhealthy and weak despite having practiced for many years. This means they are not practicing genuine chi kung, or their teachers are not competent, or they are not practicing the way they are taught by competent teachers to practice.
But for those who have not practiced chi kung, the statements are just academic. Academically, they know high-level chi kung produces good results in a short time and a competent teacher delivers results. But they have to start practicing before they can know whether they have good or poor results, and whether the results take a short or a long time to come, or whether the teacher delivers results. This defeats the purpose of asking the question. They want to know before they start to practice whether the chi kung or the teacher they have chosen is high-level or competent.
Happily, there is an effective way to get around this. Observe the results of the teacher's students. This will give you a good idea whether the chi kung he teaches is high-level, and whether he is a competent teacher.
Some people may complain that they have no time or no money, or that high-level teachers are not found in the neigbourhood where they live. This is a problem they have to solve themselves if they want to learn from high-level teachers. These teachers are unlikely to move to their neighbourhood and teach them free.
I have been practicing Kung Fu with two of your books: “Introduction to Kung Fu” and “The Complete book of Kung Fu”. Thank you for writing such amazing books. They are very practical and my progress seems to be improving. Unfortunately I'm experiencing some problems.
I find that I cannot perform my forms correctly because I'm always out of breath and my legs became weak very quickly. I'm not sure if this is caused by the weakness in my body because of the tick byte fever or I'm doing something wrong?
Thank you for your kind comments. Without false modesty, my books are very good. That is the feed-back I have received from many readers. But while a good book may be better than a bad teacher, it is usually not as good as a competent teacher. Your problem here provides an example.
Even beginners attending my regional Shaolin Kungfu course can spar for more than an hour without panting. This means their legs are strong and they are not out of breaths. The instructions I provide in my books are actually more detailed than what I give in my courses. Then, why were your legs weak and you out of breaths whereas those who learn from me directly do not have these problems? There are three possibilities as follows.
- You did not follow my instructions though you actually wanted to and honestly think you did.
- You were not ready for the training — this could be due to the weakness of your body or other factors.
- You did something wrong.
Without seeing you in person and how you trained, I cannot tell which of the above reasons apply. You would have to work that out yourself.
But a competent teacher would be able not only to identify the cause but also help you to overcome your problem.
It is inspiring to relate an actual situaion here. In the Taijiuqnan course at the 2006 UK Summer Camp, Heather came to the course in crutches. She had registerd for the course long ago but fell down and injured her legs just two weeks before the course started. Her specialist doctor put her in crutches for three months to let the injury heal. But she did not want to miss the course, and asked me permission if she could just come and watch. I examined her injury, gave her a chi flow, told her to throw away the crutches and take the course instead of just watching!
Of course, everyone was surprised, if not shocked, at my mad suggestion. But Heather had full trust in me. She did what I said, at first cautiously. But by the end of the day she was participanting fully like any other participants. She even forgot her crutches when she left. Sifu Michael, who helped to do the video recording, called her back to remove the crutches from the training hall to be thrown away somewhere else.
If you go to Free Sparring in Taijiquan you can see videos showing Heather free sparring on the fourth day of the course. No one could imagine she came in crutches on the first day. I believe your leg condition could not be worse than Heather's at the start of the course.
I've watched your videos and am amazed that you can perform the forms with such strength and fluidity and you are not out of breath. What must I do to attain this level of strength and stability?
What is more amazing is that this ability is the norm not only of the masters in our school but also of our ordinary Shaolin and Taijiquan students! In other words, an average Shaolin or Taijiquan student in Shaolin Wahnam can perform kungfu forms with strength and fluidity and are not out of breath. Please have a look at our many videos showing our students performing in solo or in sparring. Do you find them panting or their legs weak?
The sure way to attain this level of strength and stability is to do what they do, i.e. learn personally from our certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors. You can view a list of our insturctors here.
After practicing, I'm experiencing pain in the lower back and the sides. I do sit at work the whole day, so is this pain caused by a weak lower back?
Again, I cannot give you a good answer without seeing you in person. What is sure is that the pain is due to an energy blockage. What is not sure is whether the blockage is an old one caused by your sitting at work the whole day, by your weak lower back, or it is a new blockage caused by your wrong training, or by other factors.
But irrespective of whether the blockage is old or new, and irrespective of its cause or causes, the chi flow resulting from your correct practice will clear it. But if you practice wrongly, even when you follow my instructions as best as you can, your practice may aggrevate your blockage and cause more paiin.
Some people may be surprised at how one could practice wrongly if he follows my instructions. They will be further surprised that in fact this is common.
Students may follow my instructions in details — or more exactly, they think they follow my instructions in details — yet they make mistakes. These mistakes are so obvious that even the half-blind can see them, though sometimes people do make such obvious mistakes because they think they are smarter than the master. Frankly, I do not want to waste time on such smart Alexes.
I would spend time on earnest students who follow my instructions yet make mistakes. Their mistakes are usually non-physical, like when I ask them to relax, they tense, or when I ask them not to think of anything, they intellectualize. In high-level chi kung or kungfu where a relaxed, thought-free mind is essential while training, such non-physical mistakes are more serious than physical ones. They are also more easily overlooked by students learning form books or videos, as well as by incompetent teachers.
I'm still a bit confused about the breathing method that we should use when practicing. I try to follow the instructions from your book, but my body seems to do the opposite. When I breathe in, my abdomen contracts and when I breathe out it expands. My Tai Chi teacher taught this method to me and I seem to have grown accustomed to it. Is it correct to use this method?
It looks like you are referring to Abdominal Breathing. In Abdominal Breathing, the abdomen expands when you breathe in, and contracts when you breathe out. It is the opposite of chest breathing which most people naturally do. In ordinary chest breathing, the abdomen contracts when breathing in, and expands when breathing out. If you are used to chest breathing, you will need some time and a lot of correct practice to change to Abdominal Breathing.
There is another type of breathing, called Reversed Breathing, where the abdomen contracts when breathing in, and expands when breathing out, just as in chest breathing. But Reversed Breathing is different from, and more advanced than, chest breathing although the movements of the abdomen look the same. In chest breathing, air goes into the chest. In Reverse Breathing, energy taken in from the Cosmos is exchanged between the chest and the abdomen.
Both chest breathing and Reversed Breathing are commonly used in Taijiquan, though most people, including many of the practitioners, do not realize the difference between the two types of breathing. Generally speaking, almost all Taiji dance practitioners use chest breathing, which is ordinary, everyday breathing. Some advanced Taijiquan practitioners use Reversed Breathing.
Abdominal Breathing and Reversed Breathing require advanced skills. It is not recommended that you learn either one from books. If you practice on your own without the supervision of a teacher, it is recommended that you don't worry about your breathing. Just breath naturally, which is chest breathing.
I find the “Lifting Hands to the Sky” chi kung amazing. It's simple and yields amazing results. Can you recommend any other simple exercises? I have tried other books, but I find that they are very difficult to practice without a teacher and I feel that they are doing more harm and it is dangerous.
In our school, ”Lifting the Sky" is regarded as a wondrous chi kung exercise. As you have rightly said, it is so simple yet the results can be so profound.
All the exercises I have described in my books are excellent. You can choose any of them. You must, of course, leave aside those that I warn not to practice without a teacher's supervision.
You are wise to realize that many exercises described in chi kung books are complicated and probably cause more harm than good when practiced without a teacher. Not many people (outside our school) realize that usually the more advanced the results the more simple are the exercises!
Even less people realize that the more simple the exercise, the more difficult it is to practice it correctly! Actually, the reason is straight-forward. If an exercise is very simple, comprising only of one movement, if you make one mistake, you are 100% wrong. If an exercise is 10 times more complex, comprising of 10 movements, if you make one mistake, you are only 10% wrong.
When are you going to hold a course in South Africa? I've checked the website, but it doesn't seem to work.
I do not have any plans to hold courses in South Africa in the near future. If you wish to learn from me, you have to attend my regional courses in various parts of the world, or better still attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia. You can also enjoy a nice holiday in some paradise land.
- Sifu Wong's Skill, Teaching Method and Personality
- Is there Further Training after an Intensive Course?
- Modernized Wushu is Different from Traditional Kungfu
- Jade Girl is as Beautiful to Watch as it is for Combat
- Some Amazing Techniques and Ground Fighting