SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
OCTOBER 2019 PART 1
What is genuine chi kung and what is gentle physical exercise? Don’t you think many other people will be angry at what you say?
— Carlos, Spain
Today most chi kung practitioners practice gentle physical exercise using chi kung techniques but not genuine chi kung, and they are not aware of the fact. As an analogy, most Taijiquan practitioner today practice the external form of Taijiquan, which we call Taiji dance. Taijiquan is a wonderful internal martial art, but there is nothing internal, and nothing martial in what most people practice.
It is understandable if many of them are not happy to hear this, and some of them may be angry. But I am just telling the truth. That is the reason why many practitioners are still weak and sickly despite having practiced for many years. The onus is that although they have the right techniques, they do not have the skills to practice the techniques as chi kung. Hence they only perform the external form, which is gentle physical exercise.
To practice genuine chi kung, a practitioner must enter into a chi kung state of mind. There are various levels of mind, but the most important is to be relaxed and focused at the same time. In other words, if a practitioner is relaxed and focused at the same time, he practices chi kung. If he is not relaxed or not focused, he merely performs gentle physical exercise although he uses chi kung forms.
Chi kung state of mind, or “qigong zhuang tai” in Chinese (Mandarin) is a modern term, first coined by the great chi kung master of China, Sifu Yan Xin. In the past it was called entering silence. In Western culture it is entering into a heightened level of consciousness. If a practitioner has not entered into a chi kung state of mind, or has not entered silence, he may use chi kung techniques but he is only performing gentle physical exercise.
Your thoughts on training beyond 100 days in iron palm iron body external training not necessarily to break real bricks? What chi kong?
— Michael, USA
The usual English spelling is "chi kung", not "chi kong". In Romanized Chinese, which is in Mandarin pronunciation, it is "qigong", but is pronounced as "chi kung" and not as "ki gong".
Both "Iron Palm" and "Iron Shirt" is chi kung. In other words, one should practice Iron Palm or Iron Short as chi kung, and not as gentle physical exercise. In hitting a sand-bag when training Iron Palm, for example, a practitioner should relax his arm and be focused on what he is doing. If he is tensed or if he is distracted, he will not attain Iron Palm.
There are many different types of chi kung, as well as different levels of teachers in teaching efficiency. When training Iron Palm or Iron Shirt, it is beneficial to practice a type of chi kung called Self-Manifested Chi Movement. The chi flow in Self-Manifested Chi Movement will clear away any injury sustained in the training. If there is no injury, the chi flow will enhance the training.
Many people who train Iron Arm and Iron Short may not know Self-Manifested Chi Movement or other suitable types of chi kung. They should use Chinese medicated wine, or "tit-ta-jow" in Chinese (Cantonese). If a practitioner does not use "tit-ta-jow" or Self-Manifest Chi Movement, or an appropriate type of chi kung, the injury sustained in the training will be left unattended too, and will insidiously affect his health, vitality and longevity.
Also do you yourself still do external iron palm and body at your age now?
I am now more than 70 years old (in 2018). I practiced Iron Palm more than 50 years ago, at about 20 years of age around 1966. I was modest in my training. Instead of 100 days from a modern classic called "Iron Palm in 100 Days" by Sifu Li Ying Yarng of Hong Kong, I took 200 days. But I still could not break a brick, though I believe I had the internal force.
However when I learned "One-Finger Shooting Zen" from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I could break a brick after a few months. Later, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam taught me Cosmos Palm, which tapped energy from the Cosmos and which is more advanced than Iron Palm. In some schools, Cosmos Palm is called "Red Sand Palm".
Many instructors and senior students of our school can break a brick without training Iron Palm or Cosmos Palm. You can see them breaking bricks at Brick-Breaking Galore. In 2016 I taught Golden Bell in Finland. You can see a video here.
I seldom practice Iron Palm and Iron Shirt now. Nevertheless, the internal force one has developed, remains with him if he only trains occasionally, not necessary in the particular training of Iron Palm and Iron Short but general chi kung training. This is one of the wonderful benefits of practicing genuine, high-level chi kung. I believe that I can still break a brick easily and if my defence fails, I can stand punches and kicks without sustaining injury.
Is kungfu mainly for destroying?
How does a practitioner know if his or her kungfu destroys life?
What about wushu? As it does not train combat efficiency can it even be called fourth-class Kungfu?
What are examples of the various classes?
What kinds of skills are there in the various classes?
Can first-class kungfu destroy life or is it impossible?
Are there no benefits of training third-class kungfu?
Are all iron trainings (iron palm, iron leg, iron shirt etc.) third-class kungfu?
Is training with a wooden dummy third-class kungfu?
As we have chi flow in our school does it make our kungfu to first-class kungfu or are there other important things to consider?
We learn to attack and defend ourselves. Is attacking third-class kungfu?
— Bernhard, Austria
Bernhard’s questions, which appeared in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum, are very interesting and there are many interesting answers in the Forum.
Here are my answers.
Whether kungfu is mainly for destroying depends on the practitioner. For us in Shaolin Wahnam, the main purpose of practicing kungfu is to enrich our lives and the lives of other people. I am glad that our Shaolin Wahnam kungfu practitioners are healthy, full of vitality, have longevity, have mental clarity and spiritual joys.
A practitioner knows whether his or her kungfu destroys life when it destroys life. In other words, he knows from direct experience, just as he (or she) knows he is happy when he is happy, or he knows he sits on a chair when he sits on a chair.
"Wushu" as most Westerners know it today is a magnificent demonstrative art. There is no combat training, no internal force training and no spiritual cultivation. But “wushu” in Chinese means “martial art”, or what is understood in the West as “kungfu”.
As there is no training for combat efficiency in wushu, I would not even call it fourth-class kungfu. Nevertheless, what many kungfu practitioners practice today also does not involve combat efficiency. They only practice kungfu forms, and if they have to spar, they would borrow techniques from other martial arts.
Traditionally, kungfu is classified into three classes. Third class kungfu deals with combat. Second class kungfu deals with combat and health. First class kungfu deals with combat, health and spiritual cultivation.
I hesitate to give examples of various classes as it may be sensitive. It depends much on the teacher and the practitioner. A poor teacher and a poor practitioner who focus only on the combat of any style of kungfu would make it third class. An excellent teacher and an excellent practitioner can make the same style of kungfu first class when they also focus on health and spiritual cultivation besides combat.
I am proud that any style of kungfu practiced in our school, Shaolin Wahnam, is first class. It is not just a wild claim; it can be easily verified from experience. Our kungfu students are combat efficient, healthy, and peaceful and happy.
Kungfu if practiced correctly is at least second class. It provides combat efficiency and good health. Unfortunately, many kungfu practitioners today do not even know how to apply their kungfu for combat.
The kind of skills are related to the class of kungfu. For third class kungfu, students should learn combat skills like timing and spacing, and force training. For second class kungfu, students should learn to be relaxed and be focused, so that they can have good health. For first class kungfu, students should learn to be peaceful and happy.
First class kungfu can destroy life, as the development is progressive. In other words, first class kungfu includes attainments of second class and third class kungfu.
There are benefits of training third class kungfu. It may, for example, save your breakfast from being snatched away.
Whether all iron training like Iron Palm, Iron Leg and Iron Shirt is third class, second class or first class kungfu depends on how it is being trained. If it is just used for combat, often at the expense of health, it is third class kungfu. If the training contributes to health, it is second class kungfu. If it contributes to spiritual cultivation, it is first class kungfu.
It is the same as training with a wooden dummy. However, it may need much thought and ingenuity to train a wooden dummy for health and spiritual cultivation. Generally, it is third class kungfu if the training can be used for combat. It is not even third class kungfu if it can’t contribute to combat efficiency.
Chi flow will contribute to good health, vitality and longevity. It will at least make our kungfu second class if we also know combat. However, if we just have chi flow but do not know combat, like our chi kung students, we cannot even call it third class kungfu.
If our chi flow contributes to our spiritual cultivation, like making us happy and peaceful, our kungfu becomes first class.
It is necessary to consider other important things besides knowing chi flow. We need, for example, to know the philosophy besides having the techniques and skills of breaking blockage resulting in overcoming illness, having harmonious chi flow resulting in good health, making the chi flow vigorous resulting in vitality, having a lot of chi to flow for a long time resulting in longevity, clearing and nourishing the intellect resulting in mental freshness, and nourishing the spirit resulting in being peaceful and happy.
Learning to attack and defend is combat training, which makes our kungfu third class. It is the most basic of kungfu. If one cannot attack or defend, he cannot call his art kungfu. But we do not just attack or defend, we also have health and spiritual cultivation, which make our kungfu first class.
What would be the sequence of the "moving" and the "still" exercises?
(Editorial Note: In a "moving" exercise, students normally move about. In a "still" exercise, students normally remain at a same place.)
— Sifu Pavel Macek , Czech Republic
Editorial Note: Sifu Pavel Macek’s questions can be found at September 2019 Part 3 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
You can start with a "moving" exercise and conclude with a "still" exercise, or you can start with a "still" exercise and conclude with a "moving" exercise. In other words, there is no hard and fast rule regarding "moving" and "still" exercises. You can try "moving" and "still" exercises for variety, or it depends on the need of the class.
Would you do the "moving" and "still" exercises (a) one after each other, ( b) with a break in-between, or (c) on alternate days? In all three different options, how would you incorporate "Flowing Breeze" and "Standing Zen"? Do you suggest to do it both after the "moving" and "still" exercises, or only after one of them, e.g. at the end of the whole session?
Similarly there is no hard and fast rule about practicing "moving" and "still" exercises one after another, with a break in between or on alternate days. Generally, if a class is short, like 5 minutes, it is better to perform either a "moving" exercise or a "still" exercise; if the class is long, like an hour, you can have a mixture. The important thing is that students enjoy the class and benefit from it.
Flowing Breeze and Standing Zen are usually practiced at the end of the whole session.
My current training regime is daily "Iron Wire Set" training for the last 1.5 years. I have enjoyed it very much and can feel the huge transformation.
Relatively recently, I have included sitting mediation in my own practice, and I have to say it improved my "Iron Wire" (as well as everything else) tremendously.
For you at a master's level, it is easy to perform the whole set of Iron Wire, but your students must progress gradually taking care not to over-train.
It is also necessary to perform Iron Wire as chi kung, and not as an isometric exercise. When I first started, I did Iron Wire as an isometric exercise, but luckily I discovered the mistake and made the necessary change.
A noticeable hallmark of an isometric exercise is to develop big muscles, and that of chi kung is vitality and feeling of being peaceful and happy.
I have absolutely no doubts your Sifu was right: "If you want to soar to the heights and reach the depths of Kung Fu, you must practice Chi Kung; if you want to soar to the heights and reach the depths of Chi Kung, you must practice meditation.”
Although I may practice different qigong sets or different techniques, the principles, skills, and the overall system of qigong exercises I have learnt from you is the best I have ever seen. Hence I would recommend your courses to anybody who practices any form of qigong, regardless of style or lineage. Thank you again.
My sifu's advice, "if you want to soar to the heights and reach the depths of kungfu, you must practice chi kung; if you want to soar to the heights and reach the depths of chi kung, you must practice meditation", greatly contributed to my combat efficiency, internal arts and spiritual cultivation.
Thank you for your kind comments. It is much appreciated.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at stating your name, country and e-mail address.
- Good Health is our Birth-Right
- The Various Eighteen-Lohan Arts
- Kungfu Forms for Fighting?
- Kungfu is Superior to Other Martial Arts in Combat
- Across the Apalachain