April 2009 (Part 2)


Grasping Sparrow's Tail

“Grasping Sparrow's Tail” is an excellent way to develop flowing force in Taijiquan. Here Grandmaster Wong performs a pattern called “Double Dragons Plays with Pearl” in the “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” series.

Question 1

Is it possible to train flowing force to the same degree in Shaolin Kung Fu as in Tai Chi Chuan?

— Warren, South Africa


Yes, it is possible.

If all other things were equal, a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner would be more powerful in flowing force than a Shaolin practitioner if they use the same training method and are at the same level of skill. It is because Tai Chi Chuan movements are more conducive to flowing force development than Shaolin movements.

In other words, although they derive the same amount of flowing force from the same training method, the Tai Chi Chuan movements the Taijiquan practitioner practice at other times contribute more in further developing the flowing force than the Shaolin practitioner does in his Shaolin movements.

Nevertheless, other things are almost never equal. If the Shaolin practitioner is more skillful or if his method is superior, he will have more flowing force than the Tai Chi Chuan practitioer even when Tai Chi Chuan movements are generally more condusive for flowing force development.

As an analogy, if they drive the same car and have the same driving skills, a taxi driver will be more efficient in driving than a sales executive, because the activities of the taxi driver are more conducive to driving. But if the sales executive has a better car or if he is more skillful in driving, he will be more efficient in driving than the taxi driver.

Question 2

And if this is possible, which methods would I need to emphasize in my practice?


In our school, any exercise can develop flowing force! In other words, you do not need any special methods to develop flowing force in our training, so long as you train you will have flowing force.

This may be puzzling to other people, and some may think us boastful, but it is the truth. In fact, this was the case with all Tai Chi Chuan practitioners in the past — when Tai Chi Chuan was practiced as Tai Chi Chuan, i.e. an internal martial art, and not as a dance.

In the past, Tai Chi Chuan practitioners did not need any special exercises to develop flowing force or any form of internal force. So long as they practiced genuine Tai Chi Chuan for some time, they would have flowing force, and depending on how it was used it might be described differently as “da jin”, “fang jin”, “ting jin”, “peng jin”, “”lu jin”, etc, which is “strike force”, “release force”, “sensing force”, “ward-off force”, “draw-back force” and so on.

This was not the same in Shaolin Kungfu. Because flowing force or any form of internal force was normally taught only at an advanced level in Shaolin Kungfu, most Shaolin students did not have flowing force.

Why was it that Tai Chi Chuan students could have flowing force even when they did not have special training methods whereas Shaolin students couldn't? It was because the ordinary movements the Tai Chi Chuan students practiced could develop flowing force, whereas the ordinary movements the Shaolin students practiced did not develop flowing force but developed muscular strength.

Then why do most Tai Chi Chuan practitioners today do not have flowing force although they practice the same Tai Chi Chuan forms the past practitioners did? The answer is actually straight-forward, although many modern Tai Chi Chuan practitioners may not understand it even when they honestly want to, and although they know the dictionary meaning of the answer. The answer is that although the forms are the same, past practitioners practiced the forms as a wonderful internal martial art whereas modern practitioners practice the same forms as an external dance.

Some modern Tai Chi Chuan practitioners may be offended by this statement, though it is sincerely given to help them. If they are happy with performing Tai Chi Chuan as a dance, that is fine. But if they wish to get more out of their practice, my statement above will help them to save a lot of time — often in terms of years.

Practicing Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art will give them, besides other benefits, flowing force, which in turn will contribute to their good health, vitality, longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan as an external dance will not give them these wonderful benefits, though it will still give them pleasure, relaxation and socialization with their classmates.

Notwithstanding this, there are some special methods in Tai Chi Chuan to develop flowing force. Two outstanding methods are “Lifting Water” and “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”. They are so important that they are found in virtually every Tai Chi Chuan set.

But if you want to use these methods to develop flowing force, you don't perform them just once or twice as in a normal performance of a Tai Chi Chuan set, you perform each one 20 to 30 times. At an advanced level, you may perform them hundreds of times.

But it is not just the number of times that is crucial. The crucial factor is performing them as chi kung or energy exercise, and not as physical exercise. For this, one has to learn personally from a competent teacher.

There are also many methods in Shaolin Kungfu to develop flowing force. “Pushing Mountain” and “One-Finger Shooting Zen” are excellent examples. Again, the crucial factor is not just the forms but how they are performed.

To answer your question more specifically, you can choose any one of these methods for training if you wish to emphasize your development in flowing force.

One-Finger Shooting Zen

An excellent exercise in Shaolin Kungfu to develop flowing force is "One-Finger Shooting Zen", demonstrated here in the snow-covered Arches in USA

Question 3

In your book, “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan”, page 113 the second paragraph says that “your partner can overcome your attack by moving the back leg forward...”. Is this an error? Figures 8.9f and g look like “your partner” has to step over my right leg with his front leg.


No, it is not an error. “Your partner” moves his back right leg diagonally forward, then steps over your right leg with his left front leg. He turns leftward into a left Bow-Arrow Stance and strikes you with his left elbow.

Question 4

Tonight, I had quite a big experience while practising Chi Kung that has left me quite unsettled. I am writing this email to you having finished my training only 30 minutes ago. I apologize in advance, therefore, if I seem unclear.

I stepped outside tonight and began practising “Separating Water”. After ten repetitions, I felt the chi moving throughout my body quite strongly, and lowered my arms after the tenth repetition.

Upon moving into chi flow, I swayed quite vigorously and began jumping up and down on the spot as though I was performing some sort of strange tap dance. I also felt the chi moving through the middle of my chest which made me shout out loudly and sporadically. I felt as though I could have yelled much louder and for longer but so as not to disturb the peace, I kept it relatively under control.

The next thing I remember, I was rubbing the middle of my third eye with the bottom of the palm of my left hand. As I was doing this, I began speaking in what sounded like gibberish to me. The words were long but totally incoherent.

As I kept speaking this, the sound of the words I was spouting began to change into what sounded to me like some sort of Chinese dialect. Not being able to speak any Chinese though, I am unsure as to exactly what it was. The words were random, slightly forceful, and sporadic.

I felt irritated and frustrated, though I have no idea where this feeling came from, and as the words became more forceful, I began to convulse quite vigorously to the point that it was scaring me. I was making strange noises from my throat and I drew up a lot of waste from it and promptly spat it out into the garden in front of me.

I was then lying on the ground, on my back, with my arms spread out to my sides and my knees hitched. At this point, I was still quite scared and thought of Guan Yin and tried to pray to her for help but couldn't. All I could do was simply think of her.

As I was lying on the ground, my chest shot outwards like a patient who has just been shocked with electronic paddles after going into cardiac arrest and I remained motionless in this position for a few seconds before collapsing on the ground, writhing around from my back to my side, and eventually slowing down.

As I slowed down, I sat up with my head in between my legs, breathing naturally. I then stood up while thinking of my dan tian, and performed standing meditation. I finished by giving thanks to the Universe as I usually do when I train, completed with the palm and point massage, and came inside.

Since coming inside, I feel very tired and quite light-headed. I also have slightly sore upper shoulders and an ever-so-slight pain throughout my head. Emotionally, I feel exhausted and a little sad.

— Craig, Australia


Yours was indeed a strange and powerful experience, but don't worry, you are fine. Though strange, your experience was not uncommon amongst those who practiced powerful chi kung at a high level.

You underwent some deep and powerful karmic cleansing. Some strong but negative emotions or mental imprints from the past, probably in one of your past lives, have been driven deep into your consciousness, or soul. These negative emotions or imprints, which are probably related to grief, have been affecting you all your life at the subconscious or non-conscious level without your knowing.

The powerful exercise you did generated powerful chi flow to flush out these emotions or imprints. In some literature, this is referred to as cleansing away your bad karma. The strange language was an expression of these imprints.

It was good that you thought of Guan Yin when you felt scared. It was certain that She did come and protect you. It was also good that you gave thanks to the Universe. Feeling gratitude is always very assuring.

I am quite sure that after this experience, you feel very different. In the past you might occasionally feel sad or guilty for no apparent reasons. You knew you should be happier but you did not know why. The reason, which operated in your sub-consciousness, was due to these negative karmic factors. Now you are free from them. This is what many people call “liberation”. Congratulations.


In our school every movement in our Taijiquan or Shaolin Kungfu can develop flowing energy! The sparring practice in a regional Taijiquan course on the Blue Mountain shown here, for example, can generate an energy flow.

Question 5

Since 2005 I have had to live with the presence of internal hemorrhoids as well as being impotent. Other then those two health ailments I am good looking, healthy, in very good shape and I eat well. I don't know what caused the onset of either issue but because they reside in approximately the same area I figure they might be related.

— Tom, USA


Your two problems may or may not be related. But the good news is that, irrespective of whether they are related, they can be readily overcome if you conscientiously practice high-level chi kung. The two crucial factors are “conscientiously practice” and “high-level chi kung”.

What you practice must be chi kung, and not merely gentle physical exercise. Today, for various reasons, a great majority of people practice gentle physical exercise but they mistakenly and unknowingly think it is chi kung. The crucial difference between chi kung and gentle physical exercise is that the former works on energy whereas the latter only works on the physical body. If one does not know what working on energy is, it is likely that he is merely practicing gentle physical exercise.

Many people mistakenly think that there is only one kind of chi kung. There are hundreds of different kinds of chi kung and they are of greatly different levels. In your case, even when you practice genuine chi kung, it must be of a high-level. If it is low-level chi kung, it would not be strong enough to overcome your two problems. As a working definition, low-level chi kung takes a long time to generate just some energy flow, whereas high-level chi kung generate powerful energy flow in a short time.

If what you practice is chi kung (and not just gentle physical exercise), and you feel some chi flow only after many months, then yours is low-level chi kung. If after just a few days your chi flow is so powerful that it can move your body, then it is high-level chi kung. On the other hand, if you do not know what chi flow is, then you probably practice gentle physical exercise.

Even when you practice high-level chi kung, you must practice conscienciously, i.e. you practice everyday for at least many months. If you practice once awhile for a few years, or practice everyday for one or two weeks, you are not likely to overcome your problems. Consistent, regular practice is necessary.

Question 6

Both of these ailments have been devastating to my ego, self-esteem, relationships, friendships and other things I do. I really, really need some kind of change.

This might be too much to ask or a shot in the dark but I was wondering if I could set up a date with you to do a fairly quick (15-30minute) distance healing session. I can give you a wire transfer of money, anything that I can do I will because I have lived with both of these too long. I really don't want to get surgery because it is very expensive, requires a long recovery period, and it seems really unnatural to me.


Even if you are ready to offer a lot of money, it is unlikely that your two problems can be healed by just a quick 15-30 minute distant healing session.

But you have a very good chance of recovering from these problems and enjoy good health if you undergo long-term healing by a competent healer, or better still practice high-level chi kung.

As you have suffered so long and so much, you should make a real effort to get yourself healed by acting on, not merely listening to, my advice.

Question 7

I believe that I can be healed by other methods but I'm not sure what route to take. If my request is too much to ask I would very much appreciate it if at least you could advice me on a type of meditation or fairly effective exercise for either problem I am facing.


Of course you can he healed. Many, many people with similar problems have recovered completely. A good method is to consult a good acupuncturist or a Chinese herbal doctor. A better method is to seek the service of a high-level chi kung healer.

But the best method is to practice high-level chi kung yourself. I would recommend that you learn form one of our Certified Chi Kung Instructors or attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course.

Shaolin Sparring

Students at an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in December 2008 in Penang used kungfu forms effectively in their free sparring. This photo was taken after they had sparred for more than an hour, yet there were not tired nor panting. One main reason was that they used flowing energy instead of muscular strength in their sparring.

Question 8

I wish to learn from you please. As you stated, would you practice an inferior art when you know a better one is available? Yes, I have to practice an authentic art. My joy will be to take your Kung-Fu style to a very great and proud level. Please can you accept me as your long distance student? I am currently living in Nigeria, but hopefully next year I will be staying in Canada.

— Joakim, Nigeria


Most of my students are long-distant; they live far from me. But they learn from me personally at my regional courses in many parts of the world, or at my intensive courses in Malaysia.

Kungfu training is a process of developing skills rather than learning techniques. You may learn techniques from books or videos, but you need to learn skills personally from competent teachers. My students attend my courses, then return home to practice on their own. In this way they learn quickly and benefit very much.

Many people unexposed to our arts may find it hard to believe or think that we are being boastful or egoistic, but it is true that our students have benefited more in one year than many other practitioners in ten. This claim can be readily verified.

For example, how many kungfu practitioners you know who have internal force and apply their kungfu in free sparring after practicing for ten years? All our Shaolin and Taijiquan students, without an exception, have internal force and can free spar using their Shaolin or Taijiquan techniques within one year of training.

But the most important benefits our students have are not in combat, though we pay much importance to combat efficiency. More importantly, our students are healthy, mentally fresh and full of jest for living.

If you are really interested in authentic Shaolin Kungfu, I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. But you need to have some prior kungfu experience, which you may learn from other kungfu instructors in your area or from my books. Alternatively you can learn personally form any of our certified Shaolin Kungfu instructors. We do not have any certified instructors in Nigeria at present, but we have many in Canada.



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