SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
MARCH 2014 PART 3
I am continuing to review the fundamental kung fu program videos to correct my positioning, etc. There seems that many subtle moves become evident as I go back and periodically review the videos. I have come to appreciate them so much, especially when it comes to correcting my form.
— Sifu Gordon Pfeffer, Canada
This is a mark of a great art. Beginners and masters can learn the same material, yet both derive a lot of benefits. Many people may be surprised how this can happen, but this is a common occurrence in our school.
Take my "Generating Energy Flow" course for example. Although the skills students learn in this course are regarded by other people as very high level, this is our most basic chi kung course. Yet many instructors in our school take this course again and again. Why? Because they get a lot of benefits from retaking the course.
Other people may think that the instructors already know very well the techniques taught in the course. In fact the instructors are teaching the same techniques to their own students. How do they benefit by attending the same course?
It is precisely because the instructors already know the techniques very well that they gain a lot of benefit retaking the course. Other people may not understand why. Their concept of attending a repeated course is to learn skills.
For us who appreciate the difference between skills and techniques know the reason clearly. Precisely because instructors already know the techniques well, they can focus on deepening skills. Hence they get more benefits than beginners who have to struggle with learning techniques.
Whether in chi kung or kungfu, it is skills rather than techniques that make the difference whether a practitioner is a beginner or a master. As an analogy, a beginner salesman and a master salesman use the same sales techniques. But the beginner salesman would have to struggle to make $2000 a month, whereas the master salesman could make $20,000.
There are other reasons why masters get more benefit than students in a same course taught by me. One other reason is that I am constantly improving both my teaching methodology and the instructional material. Another important reason is that having learnt the material before, you are able to perceive the material taught in greater depth and with better understanding.
Another way to view this interesting aspect of multiple-level teaching or learning, besides the fact that masters derive more benefits than students in the same course, is that the more you repeat the same course the more benefit you get.
Let us take the case of the fundamental Shaolin Kungfu programme you mentioned. When you first learned the four basic combat sequences as a student, you were probably impressed that your picture-perfect form made a big difference to the combat situation even when the same techniques were applied.
If your stance was faulty as you responded with a Single Tiger to your opponent's Black Tiger, for example, you would find yourself in a disadvantageous position. But when you corrected your form, you reversed the advantage. Now it was your opponent who was in a disadvantageous position even when the same techniques were used.
Later you would find that spacing and timing were important. You might have discovered that at earlier stages when you applied the same response to the same attack, you moved too fast and too far away. Now as you had improved your skills, your right timing and right spacing not only gave you certain advantages but also enabled you to be emotionally and mentally ready when your opponent was still uncertain – an advantage that would be very useful later in high level sparring, but would not be possible in practice earlier even if you were told the advantage in theory.
As you progressed, you would find that by making some subtle modifications, you would have more advantages and more fun in a same combat situation. For example, by moving your arm in a certain way as your responded with Single Tiger against an opponent's Black Tiger, you could use minimum force against an opponent's maximum strength. No matter how powerful your opponent's punch was, you could ward it off quite effortlessly. This would be very useful for seemingly fragile ladies against gigantic brutes. You might suddenly have a flash of inspiration, realizing what I meant by the defence was in the legs. Such benefits and fun would not be possible when you first learned the techniques.
This is just one example of how you can learn a lot by revising what you already knew, i.e. responding to a Black Tiger with a Single Tiger. Imagine the tremendous possibilities of benefits and fun when you consider the full range of the kungfu programme.
I have a question about the basic hand forms. Why was "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus" included, but a low rear hand or reverse strike such as a spear hand strike to the groin or hip fold not included in the basic hand techniques or the first few sets.
"Precious Duck Swims through Lotus" is included because it is a basic pattern. A low rear hand strike with the back of a palm or fist, and a reverse strike with a spear hand are not included because they are variations.
We want to keep the patterns to a minimum. If we include variations, there will be too many patterns, and the learning will not be cost-effective.
We choose just one basic pattern for one basic technique. The technique here is a low hand strike. We can use different patterns to execute the low hand strike. For example, we can use a Bow-Arrow Stance and strike an opponent's dan tian or groin with a phoenix-eye fist. In Shaolin Kungfu this pattern is called "Yellow Oriole Drinks Water". Or we can use a False-Leg Stance or T-Step and grip an opponent’s groin with our fingers. This pattern is called "Monkey Steals Peach".
But in this case, we have chosen "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus" as a representative pattern for the low hand strike, not "Yellow Oriole Drinks Water" or "Monkey Steals Peach". Hence, "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus" is the basic pattern, and "Yellow Oriole Drinks Water" and "Monkey Steals Peach" are variations.
First we learn the basic pattern. When we are familiar with the basic pattern, we can progress to variations. The progress must be systematic, gradual and meaningful.
For example, in "Precious Duck" we may change the level fist to a vertical palm strike. But using a vertical palm to strike an opponent's dan tian is not meaningful, a level fist is a better choice. However, if we wish to jab into his hip-fold, a palm strike is better.
But using a sideway Horse-Riding Stance to strike an opponent's hip-fold with a vertical palm jab may expose your head to your opponent's counter attack. So you make a variation. You move forward to a T-Step to jab into your opponent’s hip-fold using your other hand as a guard hand.
It is even better if you start with a "Precious Duck", and when your opponent responds with "False Leg Hand Sweep", you circle your attacking hand round his sweep, move forward to a T-Step and jab into his hip-fold with a reverse palm strike. This pattern is called "Spiritual Sword Pierces Rock". Alternatively, you can swing the back of your fist into his groin in a pattern called "Reverse Striking of Copper Gong".
I realize that the basic hand forms are meant to introduce many different ideas and to provide a practical defense against the 4 basic kinds of attack.
Although many other ideas or principles are introduced, the main idea is to enable students to learn four modes of hand strikes and their defence.
The four modes are top, middle, bottom and sides, and they cover all forms of hand attacks. In other words, there may be countless ways to strike with the hands, but all these countless ways can be generalized into top hand strikes, middle hand strikes, bottom hand strikes and side hand strikes.
Instead of learning these countless top, middle, bottom and side band strikes, and how to defend against them, we choose one pattern for each of the four modes of hand strikes as a representative, and use a typical defence against it.
The representative for top hand strike is "Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom" and its defence is "Golden Dragon Plays with Water".
The representative for middle hand strike is "Black Tiger Steals Heart" and its defence is "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave".
The representative for bottom hand strike is "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus" and its defence is "False Leg Hand Sweep".
The representative for side hand strike is "Hang a Golden Star" and its defence is "Immortal Emerges from Cave".
When we have learnt the basic attacks and defences, we progress to their variations. As a result, we are able to not only defend against any hand strikes but also use a variety of hand strikes in our attack.
It seem that a low reverse strike would be a practical technique when compared to trying to counter with precious duck for a beginning student, because it does seem take some time to learn to use Precious Duck effectively?
At the bieginning stage "Precious Duck" is used not as a counter but as an attack.
It is more systematic for a beginner to learn how to attack, followed by how to defend, and only then how to counter, instead of immediately learning how to counter.
Although "Precious Duck" is a simple low hand strike, it is relatively more difficult than "Black Tiger Steals Heart", which is a middle hand strike, and "Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom", which is a top hand strike.
So, a beginner first learns how to attack with "Black Tiger Steals Heart". Then he learns how to defend against it with "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave". Later, after defending he learns to counter with "Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom".
When he is more skillful, he may initiate with "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus". Or if an opponent attacks him, he defends accordingly, then counters with "Precious Duck". If an opponent attacks him with "Precious Duck", he responds with "False Leg Hand Sweep", which can be a defence or a counter.
If he wards off the low attack with his arm, it is a defence. If he chops at the attacking arm, it is a counter. He also learns that this tactic is called "no-defence-direct-counter".
A low reverse strike with the back of a palm or fist like in the pattern "Reverse Striking of Copper Gong" is a more advanced technique than "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus". It is not normally used as an initial attack, as this will be disadvantageous to the attacker.
If you just move in with a low reverse strike, you will expose yourself, and your opponent waiting for you to move in, can readily ward off or avoid your attack and simultaneously strike you before you can even settle down safely. If you use it as a follow-up after a feint move, it can be very effective, but this demands skills that beginners are not ready yet.
Could you please advise me on how to overcome a problem I have?
It's simply this: I've never really liked myself. And even though I normally feel better during, and, for a short while, after my kung fu practice, I can't seem to heal.
It's like all of the positive feelings I get through training are as shallow as every other happy moment I've ever had. What I mean is that beneath all of the layers of me, there's a sadness that won't go away.
It's with me wherever I walk in the world, and it flares up whenever I see things that remind me of everything that's wrong with me. (So it flares up a lot.) It's probably also why rejections and disappointments have always felt to me like confirmation of how worthless I am.
This is, without question, the hardest thing I've ever had to admit, but I can't hide from it anymore. I think I'm just tired of this feeling that my heart is sick. I'm tired of living without hope, certain that I'm always going to fail. And most of all, I'm tired of wishing that I was somebody else.
I don't know how to get past this, Sifu, but, more than anything, I want to.
— Warren, South Africa
Overcoming your problem is simple, but it does not mean easy. All you have to do is to do what I am going to describe.
I shall be direct and precise so that it is easy for you to follow my instructions.
Whenever you feel yourself worthless, and this may be often, tell yourself that this is not true. You are certainly more worthy than many other people.
Practice your chi kung or Shaolin Kungfu everyday and enjoy the practice. At the completion of your practice session, remind yourself how lucky you are to have the rare opportunity to practice these genuine arts.
This is all you have to do to overcome your problem. Just do it.
I am a Xing Yi and Yi Quan student. I am very interested in Chi Kung, and that is why I am contacting you. Two months ago I had an accident, and my arm was broken in the wrist. It's a difficult fracture, and after all this time of wearing a cast, it's not well healed yet.
I have read the Art of Chi Kung, and I was wondering if you could help me heal faster so as I can go on with my job and my Kung Fu training. I am not sure how, maybe you can tell me some healer in Barcelona I can trust, or maybe using distant healing or giving me special exercises. The Western doctors that have been treating me are not very optimistic about how good my hand is going to heal.
— Laia, Spain
I am sorry to hear of your wrist situation. But you can recover fully by practicing high-level chi kung. The chi flow in high-level chi kung internally restores the damage at your wrist.
We have an instructor who had a similar situation. His doctor told him that he would not be able to use his wrist again. He would not be able to ride a motor-cycle which he loved. But within six months he recovered fully and enjoyed riding his motor-cycle. He continued to practice our chi kung and eventually became an instructor.
Sifu Adalia is our instructor in Barcelona. Her contact particulars are as follows:
You can also check out our chi kung healers at List of Chi Kung Healers.
Your wrist problem may be a blessing in disguise. You will have a lot of benefits, besides overcoming your wrist problems, if you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Please see my website for details, and apply to my secretary for registration.
I spoke to Sifu Anthony and he reminded me to follow the golden rules. Now I try my best not to worry when these sensations happen, as Sifu said they would come and go.
— Ausar, USA
The three golden rules of practice are very helpful, and are as follows:
- Don't Worry.
- Don't Intellectualize.
- Enjoy Your Practice
Other people may be surprised at the rules. They probably expect rules like ensuring forms are correct, practicing at specific times of the day or facing certain directions. All these restrictions or specifications are swept away with the first golden rules of "Don't worry"! It is almost a joke.
The three golden rules are not thought out from imagination. They are crystallized from my observations of students' facing problems and helping them overcome the problems over many years.
The main reason why the majority of our students faced problems was that they worried unnecessarily. When checked, I found that their techniques were correct. But their unnecessary worry, like what exercise was best for their purpose or how they could get the best benefit, resulted in them having negative result which negated the positive result of their correct practice.
Another major reason was they intellectualized, like wondering why chi flowed in a certain way or whether it was cosmic chi or their own chi that was working in them. Again their techniques were correct, but their intellectualization negated any benefit they could have.
In high-level chi kung like ours, the mind is most important. Worrying and intellectualization stress the mind, resulting in negative effects even when the techniques are correct.
There are three components in chi kung, namely form, energy flow and mind, or "jing", "qi" and "shen" in Chinese. In high level-chi kung, the proportion of effect, both good and bad, are respectively 1, 3 and 6. So even when a practitioner performs perfect form and perfect breathing, but he worries and intellectualizes, he ends up with minus 2 every time he practices. He gains 1 unit of benefit from form, 3 units of benefit from energy flow, but loses 6 units of benefit from mind, resulting in an adverse effect of 2 units.
Suppose he does not worry and does not intellectualize, but does badly in form and energy flow, he still gains some benefit. He gets 0 for form, 0 for energy flow, but depending on how well he maintains his chi kung state of mind, he still gains 1 or 2 or 3 units of benefit.
Another reason why some students do not get benefit form our chi kung was that they did not practice, or merely practiced mechanically. Hence, the third golden rule is to enjoy your practice. Of course, you have to practice to enjoy it.
But I've been experiencing these expanding experiences almost ever other day right before going to sleep. An experience like this just happened again a few minutes ago.
I feel completely filled with chi and then I think I’m rising up out of my bed. At this point I really try and tell myself not to worry, that I'm actually not levitating. But my body that is expanding does the weirdest things, like slow flips in the air, moving haphazardly about the room.
During the experience I'm not even sure "where" I actually am. I don't know why but I "opened my eyes" and for a second I actually thought I saw "myself" (the body that has expanded). Does this make sense? I hope I'm not talking crazy, but these things are actually happening quite often Just two days ago, I felt I was falling and sinking deep into a huge abyss.
This is a highly spiritual experience. Congratulations.
You have out-of-body experience, which is considered very high-level in chi kung training. Follow the three golden rules – don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and enjoy your out-of-body experience.
Don't worry, for example, whether your spirit will go back to your body. You, i.e. your spirit, certainly will. Don't intellectualize why this happens to you. Just enjoy your experience. But don't cling on to it. It it comes, fine. It it doesn’t happen, fine too.
To most people your experience is crazy. They may think you are going mad. But it makes perfect sense to us in Shaolin Wahnam. Though your experience is not common, it is not uncommon. Many of our students have such spiritual experiences, which are life-changing, and they enjoy and value them. The experiences confirm the teaching of great masters that we are spirit, and we never die.
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