SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
APRIL 2015 PART 1
After releasing some blockages recently, it has become clearer that I sense chi in a very similar way to sensing my own thoughts. Instead of feeling a physical sensation such as tingling, I "sense" the chi working on different parts of my body in the same way that you "know" something. It is a thought essentially.
Recently this sense has become stronger, and I can sense the energy fields of other people, animals, and plants in the same way I sense chi moving within me. It enters my mind as a kind of thought.
Ever since I began practicing chi kung, this sense has caused some problems in my practice. Because the sense was so similar to any other thought, I mistook it as my mind uncontrollably directing chi without my conscious intent. For example, if I sensed chi in my head I worried that I should not be sending chi to my head and would try to push the thought from my mind.
Even though in reality I wasn't consciously directing chi to my head, just sensing chi that was already there. Similarly, I have always been able to sense chi "exchanging" between my legs and the ground. And again, this caused me to worry that my mind was inadvertently directing chi from the ground into my legs.
I always did my best to let these thoughts go, but the worries persisted as I did not fully understand what the sense was. It made me feel a bit crazy sometimes, as if I was not fully in control of my mind. However, now that this sense has become more powerful (and perhaps also because I have let go of some deep blockages tied to my tendency to worry about things) it is clear to me that there was never anything to worry about. I was just sensing chi in a unique way that I was unfamiliar with. Now when I sense chi in this way, I simply let it go without a care.
Can you tell me if I am on the right track in my understanding and practice? Do you have any suggestions for managing "extra" senses like this? I have a feeling they will only continue to grow
— Ryan, USA
Congratulations for you remarkable attainment. Your case shows an interesting difference between Western and Chinese culture. In Western culture your case is considered a problem, but in Chinese culture it is considered a miraculous attainment, available only to high-level practitioners.
As you have rightly said, it isn't a problem. A good way to differentiate whether it is your thought or your sense is to reflect whether you have thought about the happening. As you did not think about sending chi to your head or leg, but felt the chi there, it was clearly your extra-perceptional sense.
With this privilege there is a responsibility. When you sense chi flowing in someone's body, you should not attempt to interfere with it. However, if the person asks you, like to help him to clear a blockage or overcome an injury, you have the privilege to accept or reject his request. What you need to do is to gently use your mind to direct the chi to do the appropriate work. This is, as I have said earlier, a miraculous ability not to be used lightly.
In what way is Bone Marrow Cleansing related to Zen?
— Sifu Barry Smale, UK
Both arts were initiated by the great Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Temple.
Bone Marrow Cleansing is a set of chi kung skills, whereas Zen is an art of spiritual cultivation where meditation, or the training of mind or spirit, is the main method.
Our Bone Marrow Cleansing is simple, direct and effective, which are hallmarks of Zen. The techniques we use to achieve bone marrow cleansing are simple, without frills and preliminary preparation. We perform a suitable exercise, like Turning Head, and directly channel our energy to cleanse our bone marrow, without round-about steps. We derive the benefits immediately, like feeling energized, upright and fresh.
Similarly our Zen meditation, like standing upright to train our mind, is simple direct and effective. After our energy flow, we just think of our dan tian, stand upright and be relaxed. The method is simple, without complicated movements. Then we directly train our mind by not thinking of anything. We derive the effect immediately, felling fresh and focused.
I have practiced chi kung before for many years from other schools but have never experienced chi flow. Even the first ten minutes in your course was mind blowing.
— Louis, France
Yours is a common experience from people who have practiced chi kung elsewhere before. As I mentioned in class, we do not mean to glamorize ourselves or belittle others, but more than 80% of chi kung practitioners today only practice gentle physical exercise and not chi kung, and they themselves may not realize it.
They do not realize the difference because the outward form is the same. It is how the techniques are performed that makes a vast difference. In gentle physical exercise there is no chi flow, whereas in chi kung chi flow is the essence.
It is like Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan). More than 80% of Taiji practitioners today perform Taiji dance and not Taijiquan, though many of them may not realize it. The outward form is the same, but Taiji dance is a graceful physical exercise whereas Taijiquan is an internal martial art.
The outward form of Taiji dance and Taijiquan is the same, but how the techniques are performed makes a vast difference. In Taiji dance there is no internal force and no combat application, whereas in Taijiquan internal force and combat application are essential.
Why is chi flow not taught in other schools?
There were a few reasons.
In the past chi kung, often known as nei kung, was an elite art, taught only to selected disciples. In the late 20th century chi kung became popular in China. The Chinese government at that time encouraged it and countless chi kung classes mushroomed all over the country, with instructors hastily trained. Their focus was on practicing form. The concept of chi flow, which was already freely explained even in the past, was lost in this way.
Even when chi kung occurred in the past, it was not obvious and vigorous like what we experience in our school. Usually the flow is inside practitioners' body and the practitioners themselves as well as onlookers may not be aware of it. When I was learning from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I had experiences of chi flow, but it was not manifested outwardly. My sifu did not encourage it.
There were some schools that specialized on chi flow, like the classical Five-Animal Play and the modern Soaring Crane Chi Kung. Nevertheless, over time even these schools focus only on external form.
In Chinese chi kung culture, the onus was on practice. Philosophy was not usually discussed. Most students knew nothing about chi kung philsosophy. Even masters might not know the underlying philosophy of their practice although they were high-level performers. Hence, the concept of chi flow was little known, and this affected its lack in practice.
Our school is an outstanding exception. While we focus on practical benefits, we also pay much attention to philosophy. We clearly realize that philosophy is a very useful map that shows both the routes and the goals, and makes our practice very cost-effective.
In the West, chi kung masters themselves, or more correctly, what the ignorant public regard as masters, do not realize the importance of chi flow. They also do not realize that they teach gentle physical exercise and not genuine chi kung. What is shocking is that they do not realize, or do not accept the fact, that despite dedicating many years to the practice of what they think is chi kung, they and their students do not derive its benefits.
We discussed Tiger as a combat ending technique. The flow of energy is stopped by the Tiger. I feel I am at a disadvantage when I think of energy as blood. I think qi follows the meridians which look like blood paths, but I still don't think I am right. When we say "stop the energy," that isn't as simple as blood is it?
— Danny, UK
Tiger techniques can be used for both attack and defence. "Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain", for example, can be used to defend or to attack.
Besides stopping energy flow, tiger techniques can also perform many other functions. They may tear off an opponent's tendons, dislocate his joints, or just deflect his attacks.
Qi, or energy is different from blood. Meridians, or pathways of energy flow, do not look at all like blood vessels. Qi usually flows along meridians, but it can also flow outside meridians, and outside a person's body.
"Stop the energy" is certainly different from stopping blood flow
Crane was also discussed. It is used as a taming hand. So I do not break anything using the Crane method?
There are many other functions of crane techniques besides using them as taming hand. You may, for example, used a crane technique to peck off your opponent's testicles, though we would not advise you to do it. You may also use it to hook an opponent's kick.
You can break something using crane techniques if you wish. Pulling out an opponent's eye-ball with a crane beak is breaking it from his eye, but again we would not advise you to do it.
The Eagle was mentioned as using a grab and a finish strike, though the eagle looks like if it gripped real hard around the throat or main artery of some sort it could do more than immobilized. I was hoping you could further elaborate.
What you said is correct.
Generally eagle claw techniques in Eagle Claw Kungfu are meant to immobilize an opponent while you execute a finishing strike. By itself an eagle claw is not combat ending. Unless you strike an opponent decisively while immobilizing him with your eagle claw, when you release your eagle claw grip he can continue fighting.
It is unlike a tiger-claw which is combat-ending by itself. When you grip an opponent with a tiger-claw, without striking him, you can release your tiger-claw grip and your opponent cannot continue fighting. This is because your tiger-claw by itself has destroyed his combat ability by separating his tendons, dislocating his joints or stopping his energy flow by gripping his energy points.
However, if you use an eagle claw to grip an opponent's throat, a main artery, or his testicles, your eagle claw grip can be combat ending. But these applications are not the usual ways eagle claws are used.
Mantis was not part of the last discussion. I was hoping to ask what was the difference in use between Hook Hand and Mantis Hand.
In a hook hand, the tips of all the five fingers meet together. In a mantis hand, they don't meet, but the thumb is placed at the first joint of the index finger.
A hook hand is used to hook an opponent's limb, especially his kicking leg. A mantis hand is used to dot an opponent's energy point. It can also be used to gently hold an opponent in check.
Editorial Note: Danny's questions will be continued at April 2014 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
- Is Chi Real or Just an Illusion?
- Why Shaolin Kungfu is the Greatest Martial Art
- Exhibiting Courage and Carefulness in Performance and Daily Life
- Performing a Set with Force and Speed, and Without Panting
- The Grand Canyon