Golden Bell

An old picture showing Grandmaster Wong demonstrating Golden Bell

Question 1

I remember reading somewhere that you said Golden Bell was a higher art than Iron Shirt, was more refined. What would the difference be between these two arts?

— Yasmine, New Zealand


Golden Bell is internal, whereas Iron Shirt is relatively external.

The training of Golden Bell is from inside out, whereas that of Iron Shirt is from outside in.

The internal force derived from training Golden Bell enables a practitioner to have better results no matter what he does. This is fantastic, isn't it? No mater what he does, he can do better! For example, when he eats his breakfast, it tastes better, and can be digested better. When he plans a project, he thinks more clearly and fruitfully.

The training of Iron Shirt does not give these benefits. It is mainly useful for the task it is meant, i.e. taking punches and kicks, and sometimes weapon attacks, without sustaining injury.

Question 2

Is it true that when the practitioner gets old, and our chi weakens and depletes, that the Golden Bell is no longer effective -- even after a lifetime of training and maintaining it?


This is not true.

It is not true even for Iron Shirt. If an Iorn Shirt practitioner continues to train, his chi will become stronger and plentiful, instead of weakened and deplete, and his Iron Shirt will become better when he gets old, though there may be a limit to what his physical body can take. Golden Bell training, being internal, is even better.

My childhood friend, Sifu Chow Kok Chee, told me an interesting story about his god-father, Sifu Chan Koon Poh.

Sifu Chan Koon Poh was a patriarch of Ngok Ka Kungfu, the family kungfu style of the famous Song general, Ngok Fei, pronounced as Yue Fei in Mandarin Chinese, who also founded Xingyi Kungfu and Eagle Claw Kungfu.

Sifu Chan Koon Poh's nickname was Loong Poh, which means Poh the Deaf. This was because in his youth when he was training Ngok Ka Kungfu, he made a mistake and his sifu gave him a slap so hard that he became partially deaf for life.

Even when he was over 70 of age, Sifu Chan Koon Poh trained his Iron Shirt every day. In Nyok Ka Kungfu it was called Sap Sam Tai Poh, or the Art of Thriteen Grand Guards. He hit himself not with bundles of canes but with solid iron bars.

One day a Taekwondo master challenged Sifu Chan Koon Poh. The Taekwondo master executed a double flying kick. Sifu Chan Koon Poh just walked into the kick, bounced the Taekwondo master many feet backward with his (the Taekwondo master's) both legs broken.

Golden Bell

With his Golden Bell Sifu Wong Chun Nga did not sustain any injury when a person struck him with a chopper

Question 3

Also is your Golden Bell art from Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam or Uncle Righteousness? Is there a difference between Southern Shaolin Golden Bell and Northern Shaolin Golden bell?


My Golden Bell was taught to me by Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. There is no difference between Northern Shaolin Golden Bell and Southern Shaolin Golden Bell.

Question 4

Also can you share some life stories or experiences you had when you learnt the Golden Bell, like how it felt, some 'a-ha' breakthrough moments, and so on?


My Golden Bell training made me feel fresh and energetic all the time. There were no special aha or breath-through moments during training, but these occurred unexpectedly during its application.

One method my sifu taught me was very special. It was not found in orthodox Golden Bell training methods. In fact it was not commonly known.

It was called "Tit Pan Kiew", or "Iron-Plank Bridge". I had to lie on two supports, with my head on one and my feet on another, and empty space between them. It was a tough exercise. Student should not attempt it without the supervision of a competent teacher.

My sifu told me that during his time he had to perform this "Iron-Plank Bridge", and his sifu, i.e. my sigung, would stand on him with nothing below his body to give speeches.

As a good student I just practiced what my sifu asked me to, without thinking much about it until one day when I placed my arm on my wife's arm, she complained that my arm was very heavy. This was a aha moment. It suddenly dawned on me that my training of the Iron-Plank Bridge had given me a lot of internal force.

On one occasion I was sparring with a Wing Choon practitioner. He thrust his palm into my solar plexus. I did not feel anything but his fingers were almost broken.

The most unforgettable experience was years later when a group of chi kung students, who were senior managers and senior engineers from an international corporation in Penang, Malaysia, requested me to give a demonstration. I handed a sharp chopper -- the type that butchers used to chop bones -- to a tall student.

He must be out of his mind then. Without exaggeration, he swung his body fully backward. I was then talking with some other students, but saw his movement from a corner of my eye. I thought he was joking by exaggerating his movement. The next moment the chopper was swung with full force at me! It hit me at my stomach and was bounced away about twenty feet. Luckily it did not hit anybody in its re-bounce or else it would have killed him even if hit on the blunt edge.

This happened about 25 years ago but I can still remember the shock and wide eye and open mouth of this silly fellow. Everyone else was shocked and totally silent. My shirt was cut, and there was a mark on the skin of my stomach, but due to my Golden Bell I was unhurt. I have no doubt that had the chopper hit an untrained person, it would have cut deep into his stomach or even cut him into two pieces.

Iron Shirt

An old photograph showing Wong Yin Tat demonstrating his Iron Shirt

Question 5

Am I correct to understand that Cosmos Palm is not a particular style, but a description of a level of attainment in chi kung? (Or is it kungfu?) What does Cosmos Palm do, and what would it feel like to attain it?


Yes, you are right. Cosmos Palm is found in a few advanced kungfu styles. It is a special art or skill, like Golden Bell, Iron Shirt and Iron Palm. It is both chi kung and kungfu.

It is a very high-level art taught only to special disciples. If you attain Cosmos Palm, you feel great, confident, full of vitality and mental freshness.

Cosmos Palm can kill, and it also can heal. A Cosmos Palm master could kill an opponent by gently striking him without leaving any mark. I am proud to say that I have never used it in combat, including real fighting. On the other hand, I have often used it to heal others, including saving lives.

Once I demonstrated Cosmos Palm on my senior disciple, Wong Yin Tat, who has Iron Shirt. I intended to transmit energy from one of his shoulder to the other, without causing him any harm. I asked him to be totally relaxed. But he tensed as the energy was passing through.

Two days later, Wong Yen Tat, who had never been sick since learning Shaolin Kungfu from me, was feverish and felt cold. His voice became feeble and his eyes turned yellowish. He came to consult me.

My son, Wong Chun Nga, who could see energy in a person's body, saw a lump of dark energy around Wong Yen Tat's heart. I opened some of his energy points, asked him to perform Lifting the Sky and then enter a chi flow. After a day he was fine.

Question 6

I think, somewhere in your teachings I could read that some teachers cultivate the abdominal dan tian, then the middle dan tian (heart-space) and then the upper dan tian (head-space), but those who want to achieve the Absolute, cultivate only the abdominal dan tian. Please, could you elaborate on that? Do the higher centers open automatically?

— Professor Ullrich, Austria


It is true that most, though not all, who wish to attend the Absolute, or perfect Enlightenment, cultivate the abdominal dan tian. The abdominal dan tian is the mid-point in a person's body -- considering the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. It is not only the physical centre but also the energy and spiritual centre.

When a cultivator expands into the Cosmos from his abdominal dan tian, the question of his other dan tians opening become irrelevant because he (or she) experiences the Cosmos transcendentally. There is no more dan tians, no more cultivator, just transcendental Cosmic Reality.

We practice this in some of our courses, not to attain the Absolute but to have a glimpse of Cosmic Reality. Students at my Intensive Chi Kung Course often had this beautiful, life-changing experience.

Editorial Note : Professor Ullrich's earlier questions are found at April 2013 Part 1 issue of the Question-answer Series.

Expanding into the Cosmos

Sifu Anthony Spinicchia experienced tremendous joy and freedom as his spirit expanded into the Cosmos

Question 7

In the Complete Book of Zen you teach that it is a great mistake to suppress thoughts. On the other hand you write on page 242: "Every time a thought arises, throw it away."

Currently I try to practice Dzogchen meditation, which allows being aware of everything (sensations, feelings, thoughts) in a detached manner, being aware of Awareness itself. Please could you elaborate on that? I have to mention that for 7 years I was plagued by the noise of a television set of a neighbour -- how to deal with that?


If you practice Dzogchen meditation with a competent teacher, that is fine, otherwise seek a competent teacher.

Suppressing thought is different from throwing away thought when it arises.

Thought was already present when you attempt to suppress it. Thought was not present before it arise for you to throw it away.

When you suppress thought, you apply force and thought may still remain in your mind. When you throw away thought, you do so gently and you maintain non-thought.

If you are still plagued by the noise of a neighbour's television set, it is an indication that you have not practiced meditation correctly.

Indeed, it may be an adverse effect of your wrong meditation practice. Ordinary people are not disturbed by the noise of a neighbour's television set. But you have sharpened your perception to the extent that some slight noise becomes a plague to you.

To overcome your problem, seek a competent teacher to practice meditation or qigong correctly. When you have become proficient in meditation or qigong, you can cut of the noise or any disturbing factors easily.

An analogy will make this clearer to you. Suppose you learn a martial art, and sustain punches and kicks regularly. How are you going to deal with this issue?

Sustaining punches and kicks is an indication of your wrong martial art practice. Ordinary people do not sustain punches and kicks regularly. But despite practicing a martial art, which is supposed to be an art of self-defence, you suffer regularly from being punched and kicked.

What should you do. Learn martial art from a competent teacher. When you have become proficient in the martial art, you will be able to effectively defend yourself from punches and kicks.

Question 8

For about a year I practiced qigong from a master. You surely know him because he is also from Malaysia. This school teaches that visualization and cultivating energy strengthens karmic patterns, which are the cause of disease. Please, respected Master, what is your argument against that?


We disagree with the philosophy as well as practice of the qigong taught by this master. If you are his student, we would not want you to learn from us.

Please ignore my earlier advice for you to learn from one of our certified instructors or attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. This advice was given before I read that you learned from this master.

I do not know what this school means by karmic patterns, so I cannot comment on it. Even if I knew, it is not our policy to comment on what other schools teach and believe in.

As you have asked me, I shall give my own views on the relationship of visualization, energy cultivation and karmic patterns as I interpret it.

I would interpret karmic patterns as the trend of thought, speech and action in the future as a result of thought, speech and action in the present and the past.

For example, if in the past you thought that your eye problem could not be overcome, and in the present you are told that you will be blind, following this trend it is unlikely you will be able to see normally again.

Whether visualization and energy cultivation will strengthen or weaken this trend, or totally change it, depends on what and how you visualize and cultivate.

For example, if you visualize that in future you have to grope about, and you cultivate wrongly, it is likely that your visualization and energy cultivation will strength the trend, i.e. your eye problem will get worse. However, if you visualize that in future you can see normally, and you cultivate correctly, you may change the trend, i.e. you may overcome your eye problem.

While it is true that a person's illness is due to his karma, we view the cause of illness in a more pragmatic manner. According to traditional Chinese medical paradigm, all illness, including your eye problem, is caused by energy blockage. If you succeed in clearing the energy blockage, you will overcome the illness.

While visualization helps, by itself it is not strong enough for you to regain your eye-sight. You have to cultivate high-level energy art correctly. Even when you do so, whether you will recover your eye-sight will depend on the relationship between the strength of your energy cultivation and the damage your eye problem has caused.



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