SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DECEMBER 2019 PART 1
What terms are commonly used in Chinese that had their origin in chi kung?
— Javier, Spain
The terms commonly used in Chinese are “kai xin” which means “happy”, “hou yun qi” which means “good luck”, “fa bei qi” which means “being temperamental”, and “da tan” which means “being brave”.
Actually, word or word, “kai xin” is “open heart”, “hou yun qi” is "good circulation of energy”, “fa bei qi” is “manifest spleen energy”, and “da tan” is “big gall bladder”. But when you ask a Chinese what “kai xin” is, he will tell you that it means “happy”, and so on.
Chi kung (spelt as “qigong” in Chinese) masters discovered long ago that when a person’s heart was open, he would be in a mental or emotional stage of being happy. When a person had good circulation of chi, he would have good luck. If he manifested his spleen energy, i.e. chi in his spleen, he would be temperamental, like pulling his hair or stamping his feet. When there was a lot of chi in his gall bladder, he would be brave. Because of its long history, most Chinese today may not know the origin of these terms.
Can you explain why the Small Universe takes a longer time to attain than the Big Universe?
— Douglas, Spain
The Small Universe, sometimes called the Micro-Obit in some schools, refers to a continuous flow of energy, or chi, round the ren and du meridians, or the conceptual and the governing meridians. The Big Universe, sometimes called the Macro-Obit in some schools, refers to chi continuously flowing along the heart meridian, the pericardium meridian, the lung meridian, the spleen meridian, the kidney meridian, the liver meridian, the small intestine meridian, the triple-warmer meridian, the colon meridian, the stomach meridian, the urinary bladder meridian, and the gall bladder meridian.
Why it takes a longer time to attain the Small Universe than the Big Universe? In other words, why it takes a longer time to let chi flow along two meridians than along twelve meridians?
The ren meridian is called the sea of yin meridians, i.e. from the ren meridian chi flows to all other meridians of the body. The du meridian is called the sea of yang meridians, i.e. chi flows from all other meridians to the du meridians.
When a practitioner has the Small Universe, chi continuously flows along this ren and du meridians. It will then overflow to all other meridians. Hence, it takes a longer time to attain the Small Universe, which concerns two meridians, than to attain the Big Universe, which concerns twelve meridians. It takes more time to fill up the two meridians, than to overflow to other meridians.
The Small Universe will give us a lot of good health, vitality, longevity, peak performance and spiritual joys. The Big Universe will enable us to realize that our spirits never die. We change our physical bodies, but our spirits or souls live on forever in the phenomenal realm until eventually our personal spirits merge with the Cosmic Spirit, called variously in different religion as God the Holy Spirit, the Spiritual Body of the Buddha, or the Way.
Not many people, understandably, have a chance to learn the Small Universe. Indeed, the great majority of people in the world do not understand this philosophy.
Have you ever considered making a Tai Chi Spear form? If so, where would you go for inspiration?
I have been looking at various Taijiquan style spear forms and I have seen people simply train spear techniques in a repetitive fashion.
The spear is the "King of Weapons" and therefore I feel my training is lacking somewhat if I don't have a systematic way to train the spear.
— Robin Gamble, England
The Taiji spear, named Taiji Traveling Dragon Spear, is now ready. I am enclosing its video for you.
For inspiration I would examine the principles of weapons, especially the spear, and various sources of the spear.
In composing this set, I have considered principles of kungfu weapons, and have viewed many sources on the Taiji spear. I also have to make the set relatively short so that it is easier to practice. If a practitioner wants to practice more, he can repeat the set many times. Hence, I have to condense many important points into a relatively short set, but giving sufficient practice for the main points.
A spear, especially a Taiji spear, is a long, light weapon; in contrast to a long, heavy weapon like a Guan Dao; a short, light weapon like a Chinese sword, and a short, heavy weapon like a round hammer. A practitioner must make full advantages of its length and lightness.
For a long, light weapon it is advantageous to slice the emperor's hand to the minister's hand. In kungfu terminology, the emperor's hand is the controlling hand, and the minister's hand the supportive hand. As most people are right-handed, the controlling hand or the emperor's hand is the right hand.
I once asked my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, whether a dedicated practitioner should practice both sides, i.e. the left side and the right side, as at that time I was learning "Four Gates" which was mainly right handed. In his typical Zen manner, my sifu asked me in return whether I would practicing writing with my left hand and my right hand. Then he continued saying that for a left-hander, practicing "Four Gates" would enable his right hand, which was his supportive hand, be as good as his left or main hand.
Shaolin Kungfu has a very extensive range of techniques, but Taijiquan may not have this luxury. Hence, you may recall that in the 108-pattern Yang Style Taijiquan, which originally had "Grasping Sparrow's Tail" on the left side, I modified the set so that "Grasping Sparrow's Tail", which constitutes the core of Taijiquan, were practiced on both sides.
From viewing many sources, I noticed that I missed five important points which I did not initially include in my draft set. These five important points were thrusting, piercing to the head and to the leg, pressing, whirlwind sweep, and circling. Though they were not the main points, they were still important. Hence I included them in the set.
There is a difference between "piercing" and "thrusting". In piercing, as in the most deadly technique of the spear, a practitioner moves his main hand to his supportive hand, as in the pattern, "Green Dragon Shoots Pearl". In the Taiji spear, the main hand is the right hand holding the head of the spear shaft (in kungfu terminology) or the end of the shaft (in normal English).
In "thrusting", as in the pattern, "Yellow Dragon Emerges from Cave", the main hand and the supportive hand, i.e. the left hand in front and the right hand at the back, remain at their respective positions. The spear is thrust forward. There are a few thrusting patterns in the Taiji spear. Thrusting is the main technique in the staff set, "Flowing Water Staff". The staff and the spear have different properties.
While piercing to the head or to the leg are important, and in some combat situations they may be necessary, the main technique of the spear is to the body, known as "middle spear" in kungfu terminology.
"Pressing" is mainly used to press again an opponent, like pressing him against a wall so that he cannot use his weapon. Many people think that "pressing" is merely to block an opponent's weapon.
"Whirlwind sweep" is important when fighting against multiple opponents. If you use "middle spear" against an opponent, other opponents may come in to attack you. When you use "whirlwind sweep", like in the pattern, "Whirlwind Sweeps Leaves", you cause your multiple opponents to move away so that you can apply the tactic of "killing a cockerel to scare away monkeys", or "breaking through the weakest".
"Big circling" is effective when you move your opponent's weapon out of target. It is specially effective when your opponent uses a long, light weapon or a long, heavy weapon, like another spear or a big knife. It is also effective against a short, bladed weapon, like a sabre. If you use "small circling" you may be faster, but your opponent, if he is skillful, may strike you with his weapon. "Safety first" is the first principle in any combat.
Bodhidharma’s approach to the Way can be classified into two methods. In one of his famed teachings in China, he spoke of these two kinds of entry to the Way. They are
- Entering the Way through Insight – The Instantaneous Entrance to the Way
- Entering the Way through Practice – The Gradual Entrance to the Way
- Accepting Suffering
- Adapting to Conditions
- Seeking Nothing
- To Unite with the Way
— Sifu Tim Franklin, Shaolin Wahnam UK
Bodhidharma is regarded as the founder of Zen. Zen originated in India. The Buddha, i.e. Siddharta Guatama, born 563 BCE although some sources regarded his birth at 480 BCE, was the first Patriarch of Zen in India, and through 28 successors it was passed on to Bodhidharma, who brought it to China.
In China Zen was transmitted from one successor to another until the 6th Patriarch in Hui Neng. Hui Neng did not transmit Zen to just one successor like what was done previously. He had hundreds of successors and he asked them to transmit Zen. Of the 6 Zen Patriarchs, four of them stayed at the Shaolin Monastery. The 6th Patriarch Hui Neng and his teacher, the 5th Patriarch Hong Ren often returned to the Shaolin Monastery.
Hence, there were two main ways to attain Enlightenment, the one taught by the Buddha, called the Buddha’s method meant for ordinary followers, and the one taught by Bodhidharma, called the Patriarch’s method meant for special followers.
The Buddha’s method is the gradual method. Principally it consists of focusing the mind on one thought, and asking relevant questions until Enlightenment is attained. The Patriarch’s method is the sudden method. Principally it clears the mind of all thoughts. When the mind has no thoughts, Enlightenment, often called the Buddha’s Nature, is attained.
The four practices mentioned by you refer to the Buddha’s method, or the gradual method.
These four practices as taught by Bodhidharma, or the Patriarch’s method, are
- Accepting Suffering
- Adapting to Conditions
- Seeking Nothing
- To Unite with the Way.
Because of insufficient understanding, some people think that Buddhism is fatalistic or nihilistic. This is wrong. Joy is a very important aspect in Buddhism. No one could be more joyful than the Buddha when he was a prince in his father’s place. In fact the aim of Buddhism is to find everlasting joy in Enlightenment. But to live in the phenomenal world is suffering when compared to the everlasting joy in Enlightenment.
Adapting to Conditions refers to the Eight-Fold Path as taught by the Buddha. The Eight-Fold Path is a way of cultivation to attain Enlightenment, and consists of right understanding, right intend, right speech, right effort, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Seeking Nothing reminds us of Buddha’s Nature. Everyone has Buddha’s Nature. In Western terms, Buddha’s Nature refers to God the Holy Spirit. It is everything there is. In spiritual terms, there is nothing except God. In scientific terms, it is the universal spread of energy. This spread of energy appears to us as differentiated entities because of our senses. Actually it is nothing, or just the universal spread of energy.
To Unite with the Way is to attain Enlightenment, i.e. to be experientially enlightened that there is nothing or just a spread of universal energy without any differentiation. In religions terms it is unity with God, or to attain Tao, or to be liberated.
In Shaolin Wahnam we accept this four-step approach, but we may not give it our top priority. Ours is a kungfu and chi kung school, not a religious or spiritual center. As we still live in our phenomenal world, we use kungfu and chi kung to enrich our phenomenal life. We have good health, vitality, longevity, peak performance and spiritual joys. When we are ready, i.e. when we want to merge with Cosmic Reality, called variously as God, the Buddha, or Tao, this four-step approach, or by whatever name we call our religious or spiritual cultivation, is excellent.
You said the Shaolin kung fu is actually better because the “zen" is bigger and deeper than the "chi". Before getting interested in tai chi, I went to some Shaolin kung fu schools here. I don't know if it is "true Shaolin kung fu", but I get frustrated with it. I didn't liked the system of the coloured stripes. Imagine one day I get the black stripe, the master one. Where do I go from there? Finished. So I get annoyed with that idea.
I get sympathy for Tai Chi because it doesn’t need the special clothes and there is no numeric or colored degree. What is your opinion about the stripes of kung fu and what is the main difference between tai chi and kung fu?
— Ciro, Brazil
I didn't say that Shaolin Kungfu was better because its "Zen is bigger and deeper than chi."
I don't know whether the school you refer to practice "true Shaolin Kungfu". In my opinion, most schools do not practice genuine kungfu. For kungfu to be genuine, practitioners must be able to use their kungfu techniques for combat. Most kungfu practitioners today merely practice external kungfu forms and cannot apply their techniques for fighting.
In genuine kungfu, there is no belt system.
Taijiquan is kungfu, which is Chinese martial art now practiced all over the world. The word "quan" at the end of "Taijiquan" indicates that it is a martial art. Shaolin Kungfu in Chinese is called "Shaolinquan".
There are many types of kungfu, such as Shaolin Kungfu, Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Wing Choon Kungfu and Eagle Claw Kungfu.
Most people practice just the external form of Taijiquan, which is usually shortened to Taiji, or Tai Chi in English. They have no internal force and cannot use Taijiquan techniques for fighting.
Please explain how one might escape from these take-down techniques. Please also give the kungfu names. (Please see Photos 1, 2 and 3 above.)
— Charlie, USA
There are 3 points of respond in time in kungfu, namely at the initial stage before the take-down, during the process of the take-down, and at the completion of the take down. Not only there are counters in Shaolin Kungfu, but also there are patterns for take-downs, except that in Shaolin Kungfu an exponent is not exposed as there are no safety rules as in Judo or Wrestling.
From the perspective of Shaolin Kungfu, the take-down which is usually initiated by the shoot, is suicidal as it dangerously exposes the opponent. It is protected in Judo and Wrestling by safety rules. If not for the safety rules, the opponent would be killed or seriously injured.
As an opponent is at the start of the take-down, when his hands are about to grasp the legs of the exponent, the exponent moves any one leg back at a suitable stance, like the sideway Horse-Riding Stance, and slaps his palm at the opponent's head or spine, killing or maiming the opponent. The exponent may, for example, tear at the throat or poke at the eyes.
If he is more compassionate, as Shaolin disciples are, he can squat on the ground to strike the opponent with his elbow using a pattern called in Shaolin Kungfu as "Fierce Tiger Crouches on Ground", or strike the opponent's face using a pattern called "Wu Song Strikes Tiger".
During the process of the take-down when an opponent has grasped the legs of the exponent, the exponent can lock the opponent's hands with his Unicorn Stance, and strike the head and spine of the opponent with the exponent's tiger-claws in the pattern "Heaven Dragon Descends on Ground". This pattern is found in Shaolin Kungfu, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. Alternatively the exponent may fall down onto his back, and kick at the opponent's groin using the Shaolin pattern "Naughty Monkey Kicks at Leaves".
There are many patterns when the take-down has been established. In fact, there is one principle that can overcome any take-down, but since it is a close secret which means only students who attend relevant courses will be explained this principle, I would not reveal it here. Instead I shall mention some counters that kungfu students may employ, such as Gold Coin on Ground and Crab Turns Body.
Photo 1 is a mount sometimes seen in bjj but it is considered modern. It looks a bit like a Choy Li Fut pattern I have practiced and I wondered about it.
In photo 1, the Shaolin pattern is called "Lazy Man Smokes a Pipe". A suitable counter is "Crab Turns Body".
Photos 2 and 3 are examples of a rare submission that in wrestling is banned and is called the guillotine. In bjj it is called the twister.
In photo 2 it is not clear whether the exponent is in the air, or both combatants are on the ground. If the exponent is in the air, he can roll down and strike the opponent as he rolls. If both combatants are on the ground, the exponent can use the heel of his leg to strike the opponent's leg or groin, then roll away.
In photo 3, the Shaolin pattern is called "Riding a Dragon to Pull its Tendon". The exponent can jab with his leopard punch at the ribs of the opponent in a pattern called "Angry Leopard Charges at Fire".
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at stating your name, country and e-mail address.
- What is Zen
- The Beauty and Wonders of Chi
- Bodhidharma's Original Intention and the Development of the Shaolin Arts
- Shaolin Counters against Wrestling Shoots
- Across the River