MAY 1998 PART 2

Shaolin Kungfu

Shaolin Kungfu

Question 1

Students, epecially those who are extremely Westernized, always want to win and beat an opponent by trying to do what their opponent is doing to them.

— Ron, USA


I told the real story of my teacher, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, who let free more than 30 attackers whose intention was to burn his house and kill him and his family. This incident was a great inspiration to me. It confirmed for me in a very real sense that not only Shaolin Kungfu is an effective martial art, but more importantly that true Shaolin masters are very compassionate.

Your students would benefit by reading this true story. They would also be interested to know, as suggested in my webpage, Is Shaolin Kungfu too Flowery for Combat, that while Shaolin techniques can be very deadly although they are beautiful to watch, Shaolin masters generally choose not to hurt their opponents. Striking back is not difficult, but subduing opponents without hurting them demands not only great skills but a big heart.

Perhaps you can help your students much by telling them that if they sincerely believe kungfu training is a programme of personal development, they will be doing themselves more (psychic and spiritual) harm than they do to their partners or real opponents if their intention is to hit back maliciously.

Question 2

Kung fu has saved my life in numerous occasions especially growing up in one of the most dangerous cities in America. Thanks to my old Sifu and to teachers like yourself I fought like a kung fu practitioner. I've used crane, tiger, monkey, dragon (my favorite), leopard and snake purely. I didn't know what Western boxing, wrestling, etc. were. I just knew the forms and their basic applications and combinations.


I am proud of you. It is now hard to find kungfu teachers and practitioners who can apply kungfu for self defence. Keep it up and help to revive the glory of kungfu as a martial art. Kungfu today is in real danger of becoming a dance.

Question 3

Oh, another question Sifu, is advanced qin-na (the healing aspect of it) a part of qi-gong?


Yes, qigong plays a very important part in qin-na, especially in its combat application. Without internal force, which is usually developed through qigong, it is difficult to implement the “na” technique properly, such as in gripping an opponent's vital points.

Qigong also plays an important part in healing injuries caused by qin-na. When we have caused an energy blockage in the tissues, joints or vital points of an opponent, we can remedy the injuries much faster if we employ qigong therapy.

Nevertheless, traumatology or die-da (pronounced as t'iet t'a, or tit ta in Cantonese) is probably more important in qin-na and other aspects of kungfu healing, so much so that traumatology can be called kungfu medicine. In the past, every kungfu master was also a die-da expert.

Die-da, or tit-ta in Cantonese, literally means “fall-hit”; it refers to that specialized branch of Chinese medicine that treats injury (rather than illness), especially injury due to falling or being hit. Tit-ta is often mis-pronounced as "thiet ta" or being hit by iron.

Sifu Ho Fatt Nam

Sifu Wong drinking to the health of his teacher, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam

Question 4

My internal training is doing my animal battle forms slowly and not thinking about the applications. I just close my eyes to shut everything out except for my body movements, heartbeat, etc. Is that ok?


This is good training. It could even be better if you incorporate induced qi flow (please see my qigong books) into your training. Gradually, and if you do it correctly, your induced qi flow will generate internal force. You will be surprised how powerful this energy flow can be although you remain very gentle.

Question 5

I've read this article early this morning in today's newspape. Two men came into the bus as normal passengers. The two men were armed (guns, .38 caliber). Fifteen minutes later they announced robbery. They remained in the bus for one and a half hour. They made all kinds of violence and psycological pressure against the passengers and the bus driver.

The robbers forced all the women in the bus to make oral sex with a gun pointed at their heads. Unsatisfied, they raped by force two women in front of everyone in the bus. I don't know, I just wanted to share this with you. If I were in the bus, I really didn't know what I could have done. Problaly nothing. But I just don't know.

They were only two. They were armed, ok, but within one and a half hour something should have been done. I just couldn't stand watching that scene. I apologize for taking your time with my personal problems. After I've read your book, "The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu", you became a very important person in my training and thinking and one I can think of as a suitable person to say something about putting someone's skills in action.

— Rebelo, Brazil


The 4th Shaolin law states that a Shaolin disciple would to the best of his (or her) ability champion righteousness, and in doing so be both wise and courageous. In this case, to champion righteousness means to stop what these beastly rapists were doing and to bring them to justice.

To be wise means not to rush in rashly and be shot, but to wait for the right moment to act decisively. If that right moment does not occur, it is too bad but he should not act. To be courageous means that if the right moment occurs, he would act swiftly and decisively. If he makes a wrong judgement, he is courageous enough to accept the consequence, including death.

A Shaolin disciple is not afraid of death, which he knows is just a transformation to another life. A Shaolin disciple loves life, his own as well as others', but if it is worthy and necessary to die, or take someone's life such as the life of the beastly rapists, he would do so without fear or fuss. Even if he has to kill them, he would do as swiftly and causing as little pain as possible; he would not, for example, torture them in the way they had tortured others.

The right attitude to adopt is not fear nor anger but pity, pity for the victims as well as for the rapists who are terribly sick and who because of their bad karma did not have the blessing to live a wholesome life like we do. A true Shaolin disciple is always compassionate; hence as far as possible he would not kill them or even maim them unnecessarily, but his action must be decisive, which means giving no chance for the rapists to reiterate.

Gripping with them or punching and kicking them is not decisive; it would only result in himself being shot. One example of a decisive action, if he is skillful and agile enough, is to disarm them at the same time or almost at the same time, throw or kick away the guns to a safe distance, and dislocate their wrists or fracture their arms so that they would be unable to fight back. Another example is to disarm one rapist and using him as a shield, push him against the other to disarm the second.

The limited space of a bus, which would normally be a disadvantage to ordinary people, could be used advantageously by the skillful Shaolin disciple. One point is of utmost importance: at all times he must never be in the direction of any one of the guns' barrels. A wise Shaolin disciple would leave the scene as soon as he has accomplished his duty. Staying back to be interviewed and photographed by reporters would make him known to the rapists' fellow hooligans.

Question 6

Could I practice Kungfu because my age is 24?

— Yana, Sweden


Kungfu can be practised by anyone at any age. My youngest students started when they were about 5, and my oldest at 87. Robert, my oldest student, is still practising Shaolin Kungfu. He started Shaolin Chi Kung at 85 to correct a heart problem.

Two years later he travelled half the globe alone to spend his holidays with me in Malaysia. When he complained that he was not as strong or fit as I was, and asked what I had done to be so healthy, I showed him the answer and taught him Shaolin Kungfu.

Robert is an inspiration to all of us. When people less than half his age are listless and tired, he lives so fully that he has no time to write his autobiography which a publisher has commissioned him to do. You can see his photo below and his smiling face and sparkling eyes in July 99 Part 1.

24 is a good age to practise kungfu, or to start learning it if you have not done so. Shaolin Kungfu is comprehensive and extensive. There is something useful and enjoyable in it for any age, although what is suitable for a 5-year old may not be suitable for one at 87, and vice versa. But at 24 you sample both extremes.

Question 7

Could I practice kungfu from your book?


A good book at its best is a poor substitute for a master. And it is not easy to get a good book, although many mediocre books abound. A good master is much, much more difficult to get. You can have an idea of what a good master is, if you visit my webpage Qualities of a Good Master.

Many people kindly consider my book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”, as a good book. But even if you have my book, unless you are already accomplished in kungfu, you are likely to learn only the external kungfu form, missing the inner essence which is the most beneficial.

The best is to learn from me personally; you can e-mail me for details if you are interested. Alternatively, seek a good master in your area. You will have to seek hard but it is worth your time and trouble. For various reasons the kind of kungfu popularly taught in most kungfu schools today is different from the kind of kungfu I describe in my book.

My concept of kungfu, any kungfu, is that it is by itself capable of being used for self defence, without having to borrow techniques and methods from other martial arts. My concept of good kungfu is that it is not just a training of physical form but more importantly a training of energy and mind. My concept of the best kungfu is that its training is itself a process of spiritual cultivation.

The important point is that these concepts are not merely discussed intellectually but actually put into daily practice in training sessions. Nevertheless, and in my opinion, even debased kungfu or demonstrative wushu are better than many other martial arts that emphasize hard conditioning and aggressive fighting in their training. Although these arts provide self defence ability, whereas debased kungfu and demonstrative wushu do not, they frequently result in physical injury and psychic damage that are routinely left untreated.

Oldest Student

At 87 Robert Trout started learning Shaolin Kungfu from Sifu Wong

Question 8

Could I practice Kungfu alone without a coach?


The answer is yes and no, depending on numerous varibles like the ability of the student, the nature of instruction, the quality of the art aimed at, and the availablity of support material.

For example, a beginner learning from a book but without a coach or instructor will be unable to achieve such results as internal force or combat efficiency which good kungfu is known for; but he can achieve reasonable performance in dancelike kungfu form.

On the other hand, and this may be a surprise to many kungfu students, after he has learnt the fundamental skills and techniques from his teacher, mastery in kungfu is attained by the practitioner mainly by training, training and training on his own — without a coach and without a sparring partner.

Question 9

I have read in your book, “The Art of Chi Kung”, that practicing Chi Kung can be very helpful for people with mental illness. However, I have also read in other articles that Chi Kung is not for the seriously mentally ill. Can you explain how chi kung helps?

— Kathy, British Columba


Chi kung, being an art dealing with the training of energy and mind, is effective for overcoming psychiatric disorders. Chi kung, nevertheless, is an umbrella term for numerous arts of energy training. There are hundreds of types of chi kung with varying level of attainment.

Some types of chi kung operate at a lower, physical level, which is not much more than some form of gentle physical exercise. Others lead to mind expansion and spiritual fulfilment, irrespective of religion. Hence, those who practise and teach chi kung at the physical level will think that it is unsuitable for the mentally ill.

Unlike conventional western psychiatric treatment which generally deals with the symptoms of the illness, chi kung deals with the cause. Many psychiatrists and psychologists even deny the esistence of the mind, regarding it as a function of the mechanical brain. Chi kung masters, on the other hand, consider the mind and body as one integrated whole, and for convenience of study consider a person to be made up of three fundamental elements, namely mind, energy and form, which are actually inter-related.

If a person's form is weak, for example, it will also affect his energy and mind. In everyday terms, if you suffer from a physical illness, you would have less zest for work and play, and your intellectual as well as intuitive abilities will weaken. Chi kung training nourishes all the three elements. In other words, chi kung practitioners are not only physically healthy but also full of vitality and mental freshness.

Mind training plays an essental role in chi kung. A chi kung practitioner learns to relax, focuses his mind and then lets his mind expand. Just as when the form is strong and the energy is full, physical illness and organic malfunction will be overcome when the mind is made wholesome through chi kung practice, and mental disease — by whatever labels its many symptoms may be called — disappears as a matter of course.

This is so because good health — physical, enegetic and mental — is our natural birth-right. In other words, if our body (and mind), which for convenience is classified into form, energy and mind, but are in reality an integrated whole, is working the way it should by nature work, no illness will occur. The forte of chi kung is to maintain and promote this natural working of the body and mind.



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