SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
APRIL 2014 PART 3
How do we know whether we are practicing correctly?
— Chew, Australia
This is a very important question. Not only it enables us to avoid wasting time, but also increases our cost-effectiveness.
We know we are practicing an exercise correctly when we have the effects practicing that exercise will give. At a longer scale, we know we are practicing an art correctly when we have the results practicing that art is meant to give.
For example, we know we practiced “Lifting the Sky” correctly just now because our objective in that practice session was to generate a chi flow, and we had a chi flow.
In our case because we practice high-level chi kung and we are cost-effective, we have the expected effects immediately. Other practitioners will need a few months before they know whether they have the desired effects.
We know we practice chi kung correctly because we enjoy the benefits that practicing chi kung is meant to give. Practicing chi kung is meant to give good health and vitality. We have good health and vitality after a few months of our chi kung practice. Other practitioners who practice a lower level of chi kung or are less cost-effective will need a few years.
But a lot of chi kung practitioners still remain sick and weak despite practicing chi kung for many years. They did not ask the question you did, or else they would know, if they were courageous enough to admit to themselves, they had not been practicing genuine chi kung. They would not have wasted many years.
Alternatively, the art they practice may be genuine but they are not practicing correctly, or else they would have obtained the results the art is meant to give. Had they asked the question, they would have been more cost-effective in their practice.
How do I prepare my internal force training to hit a marble slab from an inch away with internal force?
Iron Wire is my primary internal force training method.
What internal force training regimen would Sifu recommend to accomplish this feat, and in what time frame?
— Sifu Lee Wei Joo, Malaysia
Your questions will be of interest to many people. The answers, revealing some important kungfu truths, may be surprising to them, and may open many vantage points.
You don't have to prepare any special internal force method to train to be able to break a marble slab with a strike from about an inch away. All you have to do is to do it. You already have sufficient internal force to do so.
Initially you may have some difficulty breaking a marble slab. This is not because you don't have sufficient internal force, but because you don't have the particular techniques. The best is to have someone demonstrate the feat to you, and tell you the crucial points.
The crucial points are that you must be in a chi kung state of mind and channel your internal force from your dan tian to your palm to break the marble slab. These crucial points will be meaningless to those who cannot enter into a chi kung state of mind and do not have internal force, even when they understand the dictionary meaning of all the words.
But for someone like you who can enter into a chi kung state of mind and have sufficient internal force, you can accomplish the feat after a few trials, provided you have confidence in my judgment and in your ability to accomplish the feat.
As internal force is quite rare nowadays and thus most people do not have any exposure to it, they think that one needs a specific technique to develop specific internal force to accomplish a particular feat. For example, they think, mistakenly, that the force-development method to break a marble slab from an inch away is different from the force-development method to break the bottom of two bricks.
No, such a concept is incorrect. Once you have the required internal force, you can use it to break a marble slab from close quarters as well as the bottom of two bricks, though the exact technique for the particular feat may be different.
An analogy will make this clear. Must the job you do to enable you to earn enough money to buy a computer be different from the job you do to enable you to go for a holiday? No, you can do the same job. In fact, you can do any job that enables you to earn the required amount of money.
But the particular technique or procedure of buying a computer is different from that of going for a holiday. If you are totally new to buying a computer or going for a holiday, you have to learn the procedure.
It is best if you have an experienced person to show you, provided that you trust his judgment and your ability to buy a computer or go for a holiday. It is interesting to note that if you lack this trust in the person or yourself, you will still end up without the computer or the holiday even when you have the money.
Iron Wire is a very powerful force-development method. If one practices it correctly he can develop a lot of internal force within a relatively short time. If he practices it wrongly, he can develop drastic adverse effects also within a relatively short time, and it is easy to practice Iron Wire wrongly. It is, therefore, very important to learn Iron Wire not just from any teacher, but from a competent teacher.
If you practice Iron Wire perfectly, you would develop sufficient internal force in three months to break a marble slab from about an inch. If your practice is not perfect but correct, you would be able to accomplish the feat in six months. If you are a slow learner, you would need about a year.
Not many people have a chance to learn Iron Wire correctly. In fact, not many people have a chance to learn Iron Wire at all, regardless of whether the teaching or the learning is correct.
But many people have a chance to learn the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three-Circle Stance. An average student practicing the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three-Circle Stance correctly, but not necessarily perfectly, would develop sufficient internal force within a year to break a marble slab from about an inch.
But the fact is that, except in our school, most people who have learnt the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three-Circle Stance do not practice it correctly, or if they practice correctly they do not do so for a year. This is one reason why internal force is so rare nowadays.
Hence, many of the kungfu students in our school who have practiced the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three-Circle Stance for a year would be able to break a marble slab or the bottom of two bricks. They are actually many of them. But most of them may not know they have this ability. Now, having read the answer here, they may like to confirm it.
Why didn’t we highlight this ability to our students? After all, breaking a marble slab from an inch away or the bottom of two bricks is very impressive to watch. The reason is that the purpose we develop internal force is not to impress spectators but to have good health, vitality, longevity and combat efficiency when needed.
However, I believe the reason you ask me this question is not to please spectators but to participate in the “Tribute to Sifu” project. This is a worthy project, and as a bonus may also enable our students to realize that they are more capable than what they think they are.
A lady student who has been learning Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan from me for about a month, wrote to me about various health issues/worsening of her health conditions while practicing Chi Kung.
- occurrences of feeling sick, dizzy and getting a headache during practice,
- back pain followed by stomach pain for a few days
- a worsening of her digestive problems.
She also writes that she feels something has been blocked and that when she started, she felt much more "power" from her Qigong practice than now.
As a person she tends to be anxious and lacks self confidence. There might be some things to correct in her practice (open mouth, sequence of practice). I will check with her tonight how she practices. As she practices daily there is probably also some clearing. But I believe the main issue here is that she is worrying during and after practice.
How can I help her to overcome/let go of her worries, Sigung? Generally I found it is enough to instil confidence in students during class, but while she is doing fine in class, she seems to fall back into it afterwards.
— Sifu Andrea Zilio, Switzerland
From your description, there are three possibilities for her problem as follows:
She practices wrongly at home though she may have learned and practiced correctly in class.
She worries unnecessarily though her practice is correct.
- She is undergoing a process of cleansing.
Irrespective of what the actual cause of her problem is, doing the following should solve it.
- Check her practice and tell her to practice the way you have taught her and the way she has shown you to confirm that she has learned correctly. Tell her that if she forgets some parts of the exercise, it is fine. Even if she attains only half of what she does in class, it is more than sufficient to overcome her problem.
- But warn her firmly not to try to be starter than you or me, her Sitaigung, by adding what we do not teach her but what she thinks will enhance her practice. Many students do this, though they don't mean to be disrespectful.
Tell her that the first golden rule of practice in our school is not to worry -- even when students make some mistakes. The chi flow which is an integral part of the exercises they practice will be more than sufficient to overcome any adverse effects their mistakes may have caused. But if they worry, probably because they want to get the best from their exercises, not only they will not get better results, but also they will get adverse effects.
- Tell her that her Sitaigung did not make the rules for fun. The rules are made to help students, and students are to follow them. Not worrying is the most important. It is the first golden rule. In our school, performing the exercises perfectly or getting the optimum benefits each time they practice, is not important. I repeat: not important. Tell her again to follow instructions and not try to be smarter than me.
Tell her that her present discomfort could be due to over-cleansing, and ask her not to worry. As she has learned for only a month, she is unlikely to understand the philosophy behind.
- But teach her at a more physical level. In their zest to give the best to students, many of our instructors, especially new ones, often make the mistake of teaching at too high a level. They teach at their own high level, not at the level of their students. Teaching more than what students can receive is not giving the students the best.
Below is what happened tonight. I would very much appreciate your comment and advice on the way I handled it, as a chance to learn and improve.
She came to class tonight, looked miserable and was sobbing during a large part of the conversation. My intention had been to review with her, her practice before the class in private. We had agreed that she would come early, but she came just when the class was about to start.
I invited her to join the class -- at least for the initial "Lifting Sky" session, so that I could check her practice, but she said she felt she was blocked and could not join in. So I took some time to talk to her, explaining again how to practice, and that it was very important not to worry and just practice exactly as she had been told. She was not listening.
I asked her then how and what she had been practicing. She said twice a day, three exercises and amongst them exercises such as Plucking Stars and Pushing Mountains, plus stances and moving in stances.
I explained about clearing and that sometimes it could be quite strong. Then I advised her to just do 10 times Lifting Sky per session followed by Chi Flow for now. She said she felt Lifting Sky was not doing her any good and she preferred Pushing Mountain.
So I told her that if she knew better than me what to practice, there was no point she stayed. And that if she liked to stop I would pay her back the fees.
Honestly I hoped this would bring a change. But it did not. She was shocked and said it was rude. And that she had practiced energy arts before and could sense what was doing her good. Without going into all the details, it's obvious she thinks she is smarter. The sad part is that she does not see her own paradox -- she is asking for help yet is not willing to take the advice.
In the end I told her that she had to make a choice, either listen to me and practice as I told her or stop practicing Chi Kung for her own good. I also invited her again to join the Qigong part of the class, but she kept saying she could not and that she was blocked and left.
I was thinking of just summarizing my advice to her and the choice she needed to make in an email tomorrow. It saddens me, but I probably cannot do much more. She needs to make the decision.
(Another letter followed quickly)
I realize I made things complicated yesterday by asking for more advice while things were clear.
I gave her your advice, yet she was not ready to listen. I wish her well and I will focus on those students who are deserving and ready to learn and practice our Arts.
I was about to send you the same answer.
You didn't have to argue with her in the first place. She was rude to say that you were rude.
Don’t waste your time on her. Return her her fees, and tell her straight that she is not accepted in your class any more.
It’s difficult writing to you. This, of course, has nothing to do with you. You’re the best person I know -- wiser and kinder than most people could ever imagine. It’s difficult because I keep losing my way when you've done so much to help me.
You’ve said before that masters in the past didn’t waste time on people unsuited to great arts -- which I might well be as the ability to persevere is at once a trait I’ve always lacked and a trait common to deserving students. But even so, would you please respond to three questions whenever it is most convenient for you to do so?
— Leroy, South Africa
You are being unkind to yourself. While it is not advisable to over-rate yourself, it is unwise to under-rate too. You are certainly better than most martial artists.
Most martial artists cannot defend themselves, otherwise they would not be routinely hit in free sparring, and they become more unhealthy the more they train! You can employ kungfu for self-defence, and you have been healthier physically, emotionally and mentally since practicing our Shaolin Kungfu.
You write clearly and coherently, whereas many people cannot express themselves clearly, which indicate their lack of mental clarity.
Does one direct force from the dan tian when performing Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom? I guess I should know this but I just direct chi to the finger tips without consciously involving the dantian. I would very much appreciate clarity.
What you do is not only correct but is also way above what many martial artists can do. Most martial artists, including those at masters' level, have no experience of chi or internal force. You can direct chi to your finger tips when executing a finger thrust.
At the initial stage, one directs chi from the dan tian to the finger tips in Poisonous Shoots Venom. Of course, first of all he must have sufficient chi at his dan tian to do so.
Later when chi can flow smoothly from his dan tian to his finger tips, he does not need to think of his dan tian, he just direct chi to his finger tips without having to focus on from where the chi originates. The chi will still come from his dan tian, but he does not have to think of it.
As an analogy, when you turn on a tap, you need not think of the reservoir from which the water originates. The water will flow out from the tap, though it comes from the reservoir through a long network of pipework.
I’ve practiced more in the last few months than I have in the last few years. (Please let me apologize for this.) In this time I’ve found that when I “radiate” in chi flow I end up in patterns which, I guess, seem similar to Sinew Metamorphosis. After these patterns I find that I’m far more open and I’m clearer about the shower and pyramid you’ve often mentioned. The question is whether I on a decent track?
Yes, you are on a decent track. Indeed, it is a sign of your further development. Your training in the past few months has brought you good results.
The patterns which appear after chi flow may vary. Sometimes they resemble Sinew Metamorphosis, and sometimes they may resemble other patterns. You should not worry about what patterns appear, or intellectualize about them. Just enjoy your training.
I keep slipping in and out of depression. And additionally, I find it extremely difficult to develop the heart of confidence you spoke of or to commit to letting go of resentment. I know you’ve already taught me everything I need to know to achieve these things but it’s just been very hard. If you think any advice here would be appropriate, would you please bless me with some?
The following advice is golden. Irrespective of whether you perform spontaneous patterns after chi flow, slip in and out of depression, develop the heart of confidence, let go of resentment, or do any daily activities, follow the three golden rules of practice:
1. Don't worry.
2. Don't intellectualize.
3. Enjoy your practice.
For example, when you find yourself slipping out of of depression, don't worry why you are slipping out of depression, don't intellectualize why you slip out of depression now and not two hours ago, and enjoy the process of slipping out of depression.
When you practice a Shaolin combat sequence, don't worry whether your performance is as elegant as a friend's performance, don't intellectualize what would have happened if you had not learned this combat sequence, and just enjoy performing this combat sequence.
Similarly, don't worry how you can develop a heart of confidence, don't intellectualize on why you can't let go of resentment, but just enjoy practicing what you have learned from me.
If you stop worrying and intellectualizing on them, and enjoy the practice of our Shaolin Kungfu, you will soon discover that you have no more depression to slip out from, that you have developed confidence, and that you have no more resentment to let go of.
Why is it so? Why is it that if you stop worrying and intellectualizing on these problems, and enjoy your Shaolin Kungfu practice, you will soon overcome these problems as well as develop a heart of confidence.
Don't worry and intellectualize on it.
Yet, I shall give you the answer, though it is not necessary for you to know.
The answer is actually very simple. Practicing a high-level art like our Shaolin Kungfu will overcome depression, build a heart of confidence, and erase resentment. Many of our students have successfully done that.
But if you start worrying or intellectualizing, you won't be practicing high-level Shaolin Kungfu. At best, you only perform kungfu forms. Practicing any high-level art effectively so as to get its desirable results, you need to be in a heightened level of consciousness, which we call entering Zen in our Shaolin training, or a chi kung state of mind in our chi kung training. When you worry or intellectualize, you won't be in a state of Zen.
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