SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
JANUARY 2011 PART 2
Will it be harmful if students practice more than one force-training method?
— Sifu Roland Mastel, Switzerland
It depends on numerous factors.
If the students are unskilled and uninformed, it is usually harmful.
The harm can come from three areas:
- They practice wrongly.
- The different methods contradict one another.
- They over-train.
If they practice wrongly, even practicing just one force-training method is harmful. Of course, if they practice more methods wrongly, the harm is more.
Some training methods are contradictory. For example, in Iron Palm training students strike their palms on sandbags to condition their palms. Their palms are often big and rough. In Cosmos Palm training, students channel vigorous chi flow to their palms. Their palms are often smooth and gentle, but their strikes can be very powerful. When chi channeled to the palms is locked up, it becomes harmful. The more chi is channeled and locked up, the more the harm will become.
Even if the students train correctly, because they practice many methods, they may develop more force than they can cope. This can become harmful.
On the other hand, if the students are skillful and informed, it is not harmful. In the case of our Shaolin Wahnam students, it is beneficial.
This is because of the following reasons.
- They practice correctly.
- Different methods may contradict one another when practiced incorrectly, but may contribute to one another when practice complementarily.
- They know when to stop or slow-down their training.
Correct practice is not merely performing the techniques according to instructions. Factors that are not easily noticeable, like being relaxed and progressing gradually, are more important.
When practiced incorrectly, chi channeled to the palms during Cosmos Palm training, may be locked during Iron Palm training. However, when practiced correctly the channeled chi will enhance the conditioning of the palms. On the other hand, when their palms are conditioned but not tensed, their palms provide a solid base for them to channel vigorous chi flow to be converted into internal force for striking.
Skillful and informed students space out their training when practicing more than one method so that they do not over-train. Even if they over-train, they know remedial exercises to overcome the problem.
Presuming that practicing different force training methods is not harmful, will a practitioner get more benefit by focusing on just one method, or by spending his time over two or more methods?
This is a very interesting question that highlights a fantastic development in our teaching methodology that may even be unprecedented in kungfu history!
Traditionally, masters advised their students to focus on just one or at most two force-training methods at any one time. A main reason was that practitioners in the past did not have many methods to choose from. A second reason was that some methods, even if they were not harmful when practice together, would negate the good effects of one another. The most important reason was that focusing on just one method would produce better result than spreading the time over a few methods.
Focusing on just one force-training method at any one time was also the advice all my teachers advised me. With Uncle Righteousness the focus was on wooden man, with Sifu Chee Kim Tong it was practicing San Chan, with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam it was One-Finger Shooting Zen, and with Sifu Choe Hoong Choe it was Siu Lin Tou (although its internal dimension was taught only to inner-chamber disciples).
I learned many force-training methods from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, such as Thirty Punches, Punching with Stone-Locks, Iron Palm, Golden Bridge, Taming Tiger, Tiger Claw, Small Universe and Cosmos Palm. But the main focus was One-Finger Shooting Zen.
However, my teaching methodology has improved so remarkably that now we in Shaolin Wahnam can get more benefit by practicing many force-training methods at the same time than focusing on only one! As far as I know, this development in force-training is unprecedented.
How is this possible? Let me explain by using an example of practicing two diametrically opposite force-training methods, namely Grasping Sparrow's Tail in Taijiquan and Iron-Wire in Hoong Ka Kungfu.
Suppose by spending all his time practicing Grasping Sparrow's Tail, the practitioner gets 1000 units of force. Presuming all other things being equal, if he spends all his time practicing Iron-Wire, he will also get 1000 units of force.
Now, if he spends half his time practicing Grasping Sparrow's Tail, and the other half practicing Iron-Wire, will he get 500 units of Taijiquan force and 500 units of Hoong Ka force? No, he may get only 400 units each.
Why? Because the force-training in Grasping Sparrow's Tail and the force-training in Iron-Wire cancel some of each other's force.
How this happens is as follows. In Grasping Sparrow's Tail, the practitioner first generates his chi flow. Then he makes his chi flow more and more vigorous. When there is a lot of chi flow, he consolidates it into internal force, and explodes it out like a cannon ball in his strikes. His approach is form-flow-force.
In Iron-Wire, the practitioner also first generates a chi flow. Then he consolidates it into internal force, and explode it like a cannon ball in his strike in a vigorous flow. His approach is form-force-flow.
If he practices only Grasping Sparrow's Tail or only Iron-Wire, he will have 1000 units of Taijiquan force or 1000 units of Hoong Ka force. But if he practices both methods, he won't have 500 units of force each, he only has 400 units because some of the Taijiquan force and some of the Hoong Ka force cancel each other at the middle stage.
When he practices Grasping Sparrow's Tail, he makes his flow more and more vigorous so that eventually he can have 500 units of chi flow to be consolidated into internal force like a cannon ball. But when he has only 200 units of chi flow, he turns to practice Iron-Wire.
When he practices Iron-Wire, he consolidates his chi into internal force. Earlier he generated 200 units of chi in his Grasping Sparrow's Tail practice. So now he converts this 200 units of chi into 200 units of internal force. Then he turns to practice Grasping Sparrow's Tail.
The objective of Grasping Sparrow's Tail at the middle stage is to increase the volume of chi flow. So the 200 units of internal force is now re-converted into 200 units of chi flow. But if he is unsuccessful in converting the small ball of internal force into flowing chi, it may act as a blockage, which may result in harmful side-effects. If he is successful, this duplication of transforming flow into force, and force into flow again retards the development of sufficient force to be shot out as a cannon ball. Hence, the practitioner may have only 400 units of Taijiquan force and 400 units of Hoong Ka force.
When he applies his internal force in combat or in everyday non-combat application, he can only use 400 units of Taijiquan force or 400 units of Hoong Ka force. He cannot use 400 units of Taijiquan force and 400 units of Hoong Ka force at the same time. In other words, he can use only 400 units of force, and not 800 units of force. As an analogy, he may have 400 euros and US$400 in his pocket. But in a country where only euros are accepted, he has a purchasing power of only 400 euros. In a different situation where only US$ are accepted, he has a purchasing power of only US$400.
If he has spent his time focusing on only Grasping Sparrow's Tail or only Iron-Wire, he can have 1000 units of Taijiquan force or 1000 units of Hoong Ka force. When he applies his internal force in combat or in everyday non-combat application, he can use 1000 units of Taijiquan force or 1000 units of Hoong Ka force depending on whether he has focused on Grasping Sparrow's Tail or Iron-Wire. He may sometimes apply his Taijiquan force in a Hoong Ka situation, or vice versa. His force so applied will be less than 1000 but usually more than 400 units. It is mainly for this reason that masters advise their students to focus only on one force-training method.
However, the situation is different with a Shaolin Wahnam practitioner! If he focuses on only Grasping Sparrow's Tail or only on Iron-Wire, he will attain 1000 units of Taijiquan force or 1000 units of Hoong Ka force. But if he spends half the time on Grasping Sparrow's Tail, and the other half on Iron-Wire, he will attain not 500 units, not 400 units, but 600 units.
Why is this so? It is because in our case, the two training methods contribute to each other.
Why is it that in other people, the two methods distract from each other, whereas in our case the two methods contribute to each other?
The secret is in chi flow, which enables us to train Grasping Sparrow's Tail and Iron-Wire not as Taijiquan and Hoong Ka force respectively, but as internal force in general. We can also convert one kind of force to another, like from soft force to hard force, from flowing force to massive force, or from protective force to striking force. We can also convert the peng or ward-off force to lu or roll-back force in Taijiquan, and from pressing force to straight force in Iron-Wire.
Other practitioners have to practice Grasping Sparrow's Tail or Iron-Wire for some time before they can generate some chi flow. Our students are already able to generate some chi flow before they start practicing Grasping Sparrow's Tail or Iron-Wire. This head start gives us a tremendous advantage, and enables us to have more benefit by practicing the two force-training methods at the same time. Because of our skill in chi flow, we can transform flowing chi into massive internal force, or vice versa, at will, whereas other practitioners have to take some time to let the transformation work out mechanically.
When we practice Grasping Sparrow's Tail, because we already can generate a chi flow, we can immediately set out to make the flow vigorous. Hence we can attain 200 units of flowing chi faster than other practitioners. When we turn to practice Iron-Wire, we transform this 200 units of flowing chi to 200 units of massive internal force. When we turn to practice Grasping Sparrow's Tail again, we don't have to spend time re-converting the internal force to flowing chi, we can transform it immediately at will.
In other words, because of our skills in energy management, we can make our energy flow vigorously or we can slow down the flow to let it consolidate into internal force. We do this at the mind level, and it happens instantly, whereas other practitioners work at the physical level, using physical movement to make the energy flow vigorous or let it consolidate into internal force, and their operation takes more time.
The forte of Grasping Sparrow's Tail is energy flow, whereas the forte of Iron-Wire is consolidating energy into internal force. Hence in our school a Grasping Sparrow's Tail student who also practices Iron-Wire will be more effective than one who only practices Grasping Sparrow's Tail when he consolidates energy into internal force in his Grasping Sparrow's Tail training. Similarly an Iron-Wire student who also practices Grasping Sparrow's Tail will be more effective than one who only practices Iron-Wire when he transforms internal force into flowing energy in his Iron-Wire training. Thus, a Shaolin Wahnam student who spends half his time practicing Grasping Sparrow's Tail and the other half practicing Iron-Wire will attain 600 units of force from each method, making 1200 units of force in all.
Please take note that here it is not 600 units of Taijiquan force and 600 units of Hoong Ka force, but 1200 units of force which can be applied in Taijiquan, Hoong Ka or any style as well as in daily life. If he applies the force in Taijiquan, he has 1200 units, not 600 units. If he applies it in Hoong Ka or in any style or in daily life, he also has 1200 units.
As an analogy he has 1200 units of cash, which he can convert into euros, US$ or any currency. In a country where only euros are accepted, he has a purchasing power of 1200 euros. In a situation where only US$ are accepted, he has a purchasing power of US$1200. He has a purchasing power of this equivalent in any country using any currency.
Maxim is a good example of what I have been explaining here. His training is Shaolin, and he has not practiced any Taijiquan except two days of review courses a few years ago. Yet when he performed Grasping Sparrow's Tail during the regional kungfu course at Frankfurt, his internal force was tremendous. He told us over dinner that his student, who was a Boxing champion, reported that he felt the whole roof shake when Maxim demonstrated internal force about five metres from him. Maxim developed his tremendous internal force from Siu Lin Tou. He did not even learn it from me personally; he learned it from the videos on my website!
Editorial Note : Sifu Roland Mastel's other questions can be found at January 2011 Part 1 .
Is there any way I can learn qigong from you on a regular basis, and not the one where I have to attend intensive courses and pay 1,000 Euro for it?
— Heng Cheong, Malaysia
I am now not teaching on a regular basis.
If you wish to learn from me, you can take my advice as a chi kung grandmaster who has brought a lot of wonderful benefits to many students that the best arrangement for you, in terms of time and money spent as well as benefits received, is to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course and then continue to practice on your own.
I do not mean to refer to you in particular, but it is interesting to note that students often think they know better than a master concerning how and what to learn. For example, if a master asks them to practice just one technique everyday for three months, they practice many techniques once a week for a month. In this aspect I am luckier than most other masters. When I tell aspiring students that they will get the best benefits by attending my Intensive Chi Kung Course, many follow my advice and get a lot of benefits.
But a few, like you, still try to persuade me to teach them on a regular basis. It is especially for these few, including you, that I shall explain why attending my Intensive Chi Kung Course is the best choice for them.
My Intensive Chi Kung Course is a rare golden opportunity. In just three days and paying only 1000 euros, even without prior chi kung experience, students are able to do the following:
- Enter into a chi kung state of mind.
- Generate an energy flow.
- Direct chi to whether they like in their body.
- Tap energy from the Cosmos.
- Enjoy a cosmic shower.
- Develop internal force.
- Run round a football field without being tired or panting.
- Solve problems more efficiently.
- Become stronger physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
- Experience joy, inner peace and a tremednous sense of freedom.
Please note that the students are able to have these amazing results at the course itself, not a few months after practicing at home.
How do they know that they have achieved these results. In principle it is like asking how do they know they are sitting on a chair or eating an apple. They know from direct experience.
In other words, they know they are eating an apple by eating an apple, they know they are sitting on a chair by sitting on a chair. In the same way, they know they can generate an energy flow, tap energy from the Cosmos, and running round the training hall about ten times (which is about the distance round a football field) without being tired or panting.
Considering that many young people today cannot run half a football field without being tired, and many chi kung and kungfu masters do not believe in chi or internal force, if a student can achieve just some of the results above by staying with and learning from a master in three years, he should be very happy.
Let us take an example of a student from Europe. If his training fee is 100 euros per month, he would have paid 3600 euros in three years. If he pays just 500 euros a month for food and lodging, which is very cheap, he would have paid 18,000 euros in three years. Hence, if he can achieve these results in three years training with a master, he would have spent 21,000 euros, not considering the income from his job or business he has to forgo while training with the master. But the important question is whether he can find a master able or willing to teach him these skills in three years.
Now he can have these results in three days for 1000 euros -- if he is accepted to my Intensive Chi Kung Course.
Will the students really get these results? There is a satisfaction-guarantee. If any student is not satisfied, irrespective of whether he obtains the results, he will get a full refund of the money paid without question if he asks for it just before or soon after the course ends. But actually, if a student does not believe in what the master says, or does not believe in himself being able to achieve the results, he should not apply for the course in the first place.
I read your FAQ on intensive courses and learned that you were disappointed by people who didn't treasure your free service and so you now charge fees only to deserving students. I understand you very well.
It is not like what you think you understand. Being disappointed with ungrateful people is just a part of the reason why I charge the fees I now charge. Some of my best arts are still taught free to deserving students. On the other hand, paying the fees is not sufficient to show that they are deserving.
People don't treasure things when they come free, but they will treasure some rubbish if they realize they have paid a fortune for it, even though deep in their mind they know it is rubbish.
You are mistaken.
Many things we treasure -- like freedom, joy, love and kindness -- are free.
On a more mundane level, many people treasure my lessons given to them free. A woman, for example, who could walk normally again due to my free teaching never failed to thank me every year.
On the other hand, people throw away rubbish when they realize it is rubbish even if they paid a fortune for it. For example, people paid a lot of money for their cars, but when they know their cars have become rubbish, they don't treasure them any more.
I believe whether a person is diligent depends on whether he is desperate enough. If he is not desperate enough, he will not appreciate whatever treasure you give him.
This is your intellectualization, which may be true in real life sometimes. But sometimes it may not be true.
I know many sick people, especially those suffering from so-called incurable diseases, are desperate to be healthy, yet they are not diligent enough to practice chi kung though they know that it may help them recover. They are desperate but they do not appreciate the treasure we give them.
On the other hand, there are many Shaolin Wahnam students who are healthy and joyful, and are not desperate for anything, yet they wake up at 5 every morning to practice our arts diligently. They are not desperate but they value our treasure dearly.
I read from a book by Dr.Yang Jwing-Ming saying that the best times for training qigong are dusk, sunset, midnight and noon for yin-yang balancing. I wonder if these same times can be used for zhan zhuang training?
Dr Yang Jwing Ming is a great master who has made invaluable contribution to Chinese martial arts and chi kung.
In our school we also believe that the best times for training are at dawn, sunset and midnight, but we avoid training at noon as noon energy is too strong for our body cells.
Zhan zhuang is powerful qigong. Hence the best times and the time to avoid training are the same as those for other types of qigong.
There are these exercise-expansions from Yi Jin Jing that are called Fist Set and Palm Set, and they are recommended to be done only after Yi Jin Jing training. May I know what the possible health implications of doing the Fist Set and Palm Set independent of Yi Jin Jing are?
I do not know about the Fist Set and the Palm Set you mentioned.
Our Yi Jin Jing training is very powerful by itself. We do not need to perform other exercises to supplement it. Indeed, we often advise our students not to practice other force training exercises after Yi Jin Jing to prevent the possibility of over-training.
Practicing Yi Jin Jing without the need of supplementary exercises is the norm. There was no mention of supplementary exercises to Yin Jin Jing in established kungfu and qigong classics.
Doing the Fist Set, Palm Set or any other exercise independent of Yi Jin Jing will have the results, including health benefits or side-effects, these exercises by themselves will bring. My answer may seem odd, but it is straight-forward. Some elaboration will make the answer clearer.
Suppose, for the sake of quantification, your present level of combat efficiency is 100 units and your energy level is 5000 units. Practicing the Fist Set by itself will improve your combat efficiency by 20 units, but you need to spend 300 units of energy to practice it. So, by practicing the Fist Set independent of Yi Jin Jing, your combat efficency is now at 120 units and your energy level at 4700 units. You are more combat efficient but have less energy.
Your Yi Jin Jing training can increase your energy level by 500 units. If all other things were equal, by practicing the Fist Set after Yi Jin Jing training, your new combat efficency level is at 120 units and your energy level at 5200 units. But other things are not equal. With more energy and better mental clarity as a result of your Yi Jin Jing training, your improvement of combat efficiency due to the Fist Set training will be more than 20 units, say 25 units. So, by practicing the Fist Set after Yi Jin Jing, you are both more combat efficiency and have more energy, with the increase of energy from Yi Jin Jing more than compensate for the loss of energy in the Fist Set training.
Yi Jin Jing or any qigong exercise will enhance anything you do. For example, if you can perform a kungfu set well independent of Yi Jin Jing, after practicing Yi Jing Jing (when your energy and mind are futher enhanced) your performance of the set is even better.
The same applies to all other activities, physical and mental. If you wish to practice yoga, play football, read a novel, write a report, eat some cake, drink coffee, or go for a date, you will be able to do better.
This is only natural. Practicing Yi Jin Jing or any qigong increases your energy and mental clarity. Hence, it does not make sense when some people say that if you practice qigong, you cannot take sugar or have sex!
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