SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
AUGUST 1998 PART 1
Are Grandmasters Lai Chin Wah and Ho Fatt Nam around these days and what are they doing?
— Michael, Malaysia
My master, Sifu Lai Chin Wah, passed away about thirty years ago. He was respectfully called Uncle Righteousness by the martial art circles.
My other master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, is still around, and is very healthy and fit. He has long retired from teaching kungfu, but still carries on his Chinese medical practice. Last year he won an international award for trumatology, a unique branch of Chinese medicine that specially deals with injuries, as distinct from illness. He is often invited by medical organizations in China to lecture on trumatology.
Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam are two of the best teachers I have ever met. My school, Shaolin Wahnam, is named after them, as a small token of my appreciation for their kindness and generosity in teaching me.
I hope you will not find this question impertinent. Please ignore it if you find it unsuitable. Did your Sifus charge you a lot for your training? Why do you charge such a large sum for training (US$ 1,000 for 3 days)?
The question is not impertinent. In fact I like your question as it provides me an opportunity to explain my fees although I do not need to give any justification.
My sifus did not charge me a lot for my training. Uncle Righteousness taught me free of charge; Sifu Ho Fatt Nam charged me only a nominal fee.
If I have to pay, I would never have paid enough. This is not an exaggeration. They taught me not just the best Shaolin kungfu, chi kung and Zen, but how to lead a rewarding life for myself, my family and other people, according to the highest ideals in the Shaolin philosophy. To put in a nutshell, I have learnt and practiced righteousness from Uncle Righteousness, and impeccable morality from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.
Then, why do I charge others US$1000 for 3 days of intensive training? My fees, depending on how you look at them, can be very expensive or very cheap. Compared to some instructors who charge US$10 for as long as you want to practice, or even the more expensive ones who charge US$50 for three months, charging 1000 for three days is certainly very expensive.
If you have been looking for genuine kungfu or chi kung, and have expressed that you would give anything to learn it, and you learn it in three days what others (five days for those who attend my Instensive Shaolin Kungfu Course), if they are lucky to have the opportunity to learn genuine kungfu or chi kung, take twenty years to acquire, paying US$1000 is very cheap.
For someone who has been suffering from asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, cancer or any other chronic degenerative diseases, which he knows conventional treatment gives him little chance of recovery, and medical tests merely confirm the illness is present, paying US$1000 to learn an art in just three days, an art which according to statictics gives him at least 60% chance of recovery if he continues to practice it for a few months, is very cheap.
I just received a fax from Douglas, my most senior student in Europe. The following quotation may cause you to think that my fees are very cheap! This is just one of my many successful cases.
I got a call yesterday from M.A., the young mother from Alicante whose baby suffered from narrow arteries from the heart to the lungs as well as leaky ventricles in her heart. She was thrilled at the progress that the baby has made. The doctor couldn't believe how good the baby looked. Her next checkup is August 21. She asked me if you would be kind enough to send energy to the baby again to ensure that no surgery will be necessary.”
Intending students would have the following three legitimate questions:
- How do I know the kungfu or chi kung I learn is genuine? After all every one who teaches, believes or says his art is genuine, if not the best.
- How can I be sure that I can recover from my illness?
- Can I learn it in three days? I thought kungfu or chi kung takes years to master.
The answers are as follows.
- Find out from reliable, established sources what genuine kungfu or chi kung is, and compare what I teach with what you have found out. Also find out from those who have learned from me before, whether they are satisfied with my teaching, and whether they get the results promised.
- No one, including I or the best doctor, can gauranteee that his patients will recover, because recovery depends on other factors besides treatment. But I can say that at least 60% (actually closer to 80%) of those who suffered from so-called incurable diseases, regain good health after learning and practicing chi kung from me. I would not provide names because I respect the privacy of my students, but those genuinely concerned should have no difficulty finding out for themselves if they take some trouble to ask around.
- Yes, you can learn the necessary skills and techniques in three days. Some of the skills are quite fantastic, such as tapping cosmic energy, and channelling the energy down your body to clear energy blockage! Students do not have to pay me any fees if they are not satisfied that the course objectives, which are clearly set out, have been fulfilled. If someone thinks that he should have a longer time learning, he should know that I charge for efficiency and benefits acquired, not time spent. If I take three weeks to give him the same benefits which I can do in three days, I deserve a lower, not a higher, fee.
The intensive course is not meant to make you a master. Its purpose is to equip you with fundamental skills and techniques so that you can competently practice on your own after the course. You need to practice for at least a few months before you can have lasting good results. For example, after the course you will know how to generate your internal energy flow, but you have to practice this for a few months before your internal energy flow can effectively clear your energy blockage and restore your good health.
There are two good reasons, among others, why I charge a high fee. It is a practical way to ensure that a great art is taught to deserving students, and it ensures that they value the art and will practice it. In the past I used to teach some very good kungfu and chi kung to students for free. Because they did not pay for the training, they did not value it and stopped half-way. They each saved a thousand dollars but lost an invaluable art, and some lost the opportunity to recover from their so-called incurable disease.
A person with serious kidney problems went on a local newspaper to appeal for public donation to buy a dialysis machine. I offered to teach him free, and a reporter who knew of my good records in helping kidney patients recover, spoke to him. He replied that it was too troublesome to practice chi kung.
Some time ago there was frequent public comment on the high cost of maintaining dialysis treatment for kidney patients (which actually does not overcome the kidney problem, but prevents the patients from dying). I wrote to the secretasry of a kidney patients' association and offered my free service to any of his members interested. He did not even acknowledge my letter, but a few months later he said they were not interested.
Many people claim that they would sacrifice anything to learn a great art. But when it rains, they would not turn up for training. This doesn't happen when students pay a high fee. On the other hand, some people even think they are doing their teachers a service when they pay a small fee to learn. But if the fee is high, they value the art and subsequently derive good benefits from their practice. It is not just that they want to get back their money's worth; rather it is often the other way round, i.e. they already value the art in the first place, as evident from their readiness to pay a high fee to learn.
The tenth Shaolin Law dictates that the Shaolin arts are to be taught only to deserving students. In the past a student stayed with and served the master for a few years, during which time the master observed and tested the student to see if he was deserving. Such a method of screening students is not feasible in today's world. Willingness to make sacrifice to an equivalent value of US$1000 is a modern, albeit poor, alternative.
Of course there are many other factors contributing to make a student deserving. Hence, it does not mean that anyone willing to pay US$1000 will be taught. But as a working guideline, I would consider that anyone who thinks my art is worth less than US$1000 to learn, does not deserve the teaching.
US$1000 is a comparatively small sum to pay for the benefits one gets in my intensive courses. Ask kungfu students in general how many of them have internal force and can effectively use their kungfu techniques for self-defence, or ask chi kung students how many of them can tap cosmic energy and generate internal energy flow. Less than 20% will answer positively, and they probably have taken many years to acquire these skills. Yet, my students learn the skills in three days, and through daily practice for six months will attain a level these lucky 20% attain in 10 years.
But my best kungfu and chi kung are still taught to advanced students free. And deserving, beginning students who cannot afford to pay get free teaching from me.
In your pictures of fighting sequences, combatants typically keep their passive hand cocked at the waist. Does this not expose the passive side to an attack to the head?
You probably referred to poise patterns where the combatants are outside the immediate sphere of combat, or patterns like “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” and “False Leg Hand Sweep”.
In combat sequences, combatants typically keep their passive hands in front as a second line of defence, not at their waist. You can view some of these combat sequences in my webpages on Shaolin Defence Tactics and Shaolin Attack tactics.
Yes, if the passive hand is cocked at the waist, not only the head but also other parts of the body are more easily exposed. But sometimes there are good reasons why the passive hand is placed there.
For example, in “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” and “False Leg Hand Sweep” — you can find pictures of these patterns in my webpages — bringing the passive hand from the previous guard position back to the waist as you move out the other hand, facilitates movement and chi flow. Sometimes a skillful exponent purposely leaves an opening to trap his opponent; leaving the hand at the waist serves this purpose.
Have you noticed that Shaolin students usually have good posture? Cocking both fists at the waist, as is frequent in Shaolin Kungfu when performing movements not immediately involved in combat, contribute to this benefit.
You have mentioned that Wahnam Shaolin does not emphasise Golden Bell techniques. If an attacker gets pass all your hand and leg defences, and strikes your body, how would you respond?
I would do any one of the following
- move back a step to avoid the strike
- rotate my waist to deflect the attack
- curve in the body to “swallow” the attack
- move my body forward to press against his striking hand, thereby preventing the implementing of the strike and simultaneously strike him with my head
- lean back sideway and strike him with a side kick — the leaning back enables me to avoid his attack
- pull back one elbow to deflect the strike and simultaneously strike him from a side or from behind with my forearm or hand
- jump up and strike him with my knee — the jumping itself enables me to avoid his strike
- move aside and strike his ribs with my shin
- lean back frontally as if being hit (but not actually) and tap his groin with the insep of my foot, using a pattern called “Lie on Sea and Observe the Sky”
- Turn around, lean forward and tap his groin with the sole of my foot, using a pattern called “Dragonfly Dots Water”.
Please note that some of the responses can be implemented even if I were pressed against a wall.
It is a fallacy to think that in a situation you described, a person would not be hurt if he has Golden Bell. A master with internal force, such as Cosmos Palm, may penetrate the Golden Bell. Even if the opponent has no internal force or the internal force is not powerful enough to break the Bell, he still can hurt the Golden Bell exponent by driving a leopard-punch into his throat, thrusting two fingers into his eyes, or smashing a knee onto his groin. Someone skillful enough to get past your hands and legs, is likely to know such Bell-breaking techniques.
Your chances of escaping unhurt from such a situation are more if you are well versed in some of the techniques I have described above. The time to master these techniques as well the relevant skills is probably less than the time to master Golden Bell.
This of course does not mean Golden Bell is useless. Personally speaking, I like Golden Bell; it is far more artistic and sophisticated than Iron Shirt.
Some styles, like Tai Chi and Dachengchuan, are rumoured to be able to generate “empty force” ie. to strike/bounce-off an opponent without actually physically striking him/her. What do you think of this ability?
It may be incrediable, but such force is true. It is found in many other styles of kungfu besides Taijiquan and Dachengquan, and is known by various names. In Shaolin Kungfu it is called pi-kong-zhang, or “Striking-across-Space Palm”.
In classical times kungfu masters recognized “the three ultimate arts in the martial world”, known in Chinese as “wu lin san jue”. They were “yi-zhi-chan”, “pi-kong-zhang” and “shao-lin-shen-quan”, or One-finger Zen, Striking-across-Space Palm and Shaolin Marvelous Fist. All the three are Shaolin arts.
The master of Dachenguan, Wang Xiang Chai, ridiculed the art of “dim mark”, saying that in a real fighting situation with a skilled opponent, it was hard enough to strike him/her, let alone strike a small point accurately on the body. What do you think of this?
Sifu Wang Xiang Chai had a right to his oppinion, and he was also right to say that it was difficult to strike a small point, but my view is different from his.
It is difficult for most people but not for a master specially trained for that purpose. A dim mark master not only could strike or dot with a finger or pheonix-eye fist on a vital point accurately, he could also create situations favourable for him to do so, otherwise he would not be a dim mark master.
A master in dim mark, or any other fields, is a specialist. This means he is already good at general fighting, but he chooses to specialize in dim mark or dotting on vital points. If the combat situations are not favorable for dim mark, he uses general fighting; when the right opportunities occur, he uses dim mark. The opportunities may be provided by his opponents, or more usually he creates the opportunities through effective use of strategies.
We must bear in mind that my above comment answers the question about dim mark in isolation, and it is unfair to quote Sifu Wang Xiang Zhai out of context. It is also naive to think that Sifu Wang Xiang Zhai was unaware of the points I mentioned above.
Sifu Wang Xiang Zhai, who was a contemporary of the Taijiquan patriarch Yang Deng Fu and who passed away in 1963 at 78, was a great master. Like Sifu Yang, he was among the last true kungfu masters of China just before kungfu degenerated into demonstrative forms.
Refering to Taijiquan, Sifu Wang Xiang Zhai said, “Such practice is only good for wasting tme. Practicing such and such a punch or palm, stepping here and there is truly laughable. If you attempt to use Tai Ji Quan against a trained fighter, well, there is no use talking about it. Unless the partner stands passively without resisting, the famous Tai Ji Quan practitioners are not able to apply their techniques. The art of Tai Ji Quan only works on paper.” (Quoted from Journal of Chinese Martial Arts, July-August 1998.) Sifu Wang also critized other kungfu styles of his time.
Read out of context, it is easy for many people to mis-understand this great kungfu master, thinking that he discredited Taijiquan. But if we understand the situation of so-called kungfu he was refering to, and realize that he himself was a real kungfu master who had defeated all challengers even during his advanced age, we may perhaps gauge the courage, sincerity and directness this great kungfu master had in trying to tell so-called Taijiquan and other kungfu practitioners about half a century ago, not to debase their great arts into gymnastics and dance.
Some years back, I believe you co-authored a book on Silat. What do you think of Silat and its effectiveness? How does it compare to Shaolin?
My Silat book, “Silat Melayu: the Malay Art of Attack and Defence”, was co-authored with Ku Ahmad twenty years ago. (Ku is a short form for Tengku, meaning Prince, a honourable title denoting that he was descended from royal blood. Hence, it is inapropriate to call him Master Ku Ahmad or Mr Ku Ahmad.)
Because of my ignorance and bad examples of the art I saw, which was more of Malay karate although it was called Silat, I had a poor opinion of the art. That was before I saw some genuine Silat demonstration by students of Ku Ahmad, a much respected master of the art who taught the Malaysian commandos.
I was much fascinated by genuine Silat, which is as beautiful to watch as it is effective for fighting. It uses graceful movements, ideal for the small sized against bigger, stronger opponents.
Its agile footwork reminds me of Baguaquan, or Pakua Kungfu, whereby an expert can get to your back before you realize it. Unlike many brutal, external arts, in Silat you can be perfectly relaxed and gentle, yet deadly combat effective.
While I have much respect for Silat, I still prefer Shaolin, which I sincerely believe is the greatest martial art in the world. This is natural, or else I would have dropped Shaolin and taken up Silat or any other art which I think is better.
I am writing to inquire about the relationship between the practice of qigong and the treatment of parkinson's disease. What are the benefits and how does the practice complement the western allopathic course of treatment with dopamine and agonists?
— Phyllis, USA
I am not familiar enough with the western allopathic course to comment on it, so I shall answer your question from the chi kung perspective. Practicing chi kung is effective in overcoming Parkinson's disease. There is no need to supplement chi kung practice with any other medication.
From the chi kung perspective, Parkinson's disease is due to interrupted energy flow along the nerves. In more familiar Western terms, it means that the mental impulses a Parkinson's disease patient sends (unconsciously) to certain parts of his body for certain purposes (such as to hold a pencil) cannot effectively reach those parts. Hence the function of his bodily parts are impaired.
The forte of chi kung is to clear energy blockage and promote harmoniously energy flow. The great advantage is that one does not even need to know where the blockage is; it is the nature of chi to flow to where it is needed most. When blockage is cleared and energy flow enhanced, the illness will disappear as a matter of course.
But you need to practice genuine chi kuug, not some gymnastics or dance that claim to be chi kung.
Does sexual activity which leads to release of sperm depletes the internal energy of the body and is it harmful to mix sex and chi kung together?
— Eric, Malaysia
Yes, sexual activity reduces the internal energy of the body. After practicing chi kung for some time, you may find your chi accumulated at your abdominal dan tian (or energy field), and it may manifest as a little drum on your abdomen. If you engage in excessive sex, you can actually see the drum becoming smaller or disappear altogether.
Hence, in the past many masters advised abstinence from sex, at least for the first hundred days of chi kung training. However, values have changed through times, and our demand on as well as standard of chi kung aimed at are not as high as those in the past. Personally, I feel that while chi kung is wonderful, wholesome sex, especially when one is married, is also important.
If a person totally abstains from sex, his chi kung attainment would be better, but this is not necessary because he can still get wonderful results at a lower chi kung attainment level. Thus, I would advise my students to enjoy wholesome sex, but do not indudge in it.
The above explanation is particularly valid for men. As women do not discharge sperm in the sex act, I am not sure whether sex would reduce their internal force. On the other hand, I am quite sure that wholesome sex is benefical to women — biologically as well as emotionally.
On a positive note, chi kung practice certainly enhances one's sexual performance and enjoyment — for both men and women. But we must maintain a good balance. While sex is pleasurable, there are other things in life more important than sex. We should take the benefits from chi kung that relate to sex as a bonus. If one practices chi kung just for sexual indulgence, then he or she is abusing a great art.
Is there any test or physical examination of the body which can be carried out personally to check whether I have developed internal energy in my body.
Yes, there are many ways to determine whether you have developed internal force, but these ways are not like what you would expect in a scientific laboratory or a medical examination.
Actually everyone has internal energy or internal force; the energy that changes the food you have taken into blood and flesh, and the immune system that overcomes billions of germs which are attacking you all the time, are just two examples. Hence, when we speak of developing internal force, we are speaking relatively.
If you had colds and fevers frequently, but after practicing chi kung these colds and fevers have disappeared, then this is a clear sign you have developed internal energy in your body. If you had any chronic, degenerative diseases such as rheumatism, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders or cancer, but now after chi kung training you are fit and healthy, you have developed internal force to the extent whereby you restore your natural birth-right of good health. If you were easily tired or irritable and nervous, but now you are cheerful and full of zest for work and play, you have certainly developed your internal force to the extent that your internal energy flows harmoniously and is able to flush out negative emotions effectively.
There are also more impressive, but not necessarily more beneficial, ways of testing your internal force. Try breaking a brick with your bare hand, or let a brick break when it is smashed onto your head. If you are successful in such feats — although I would advise you not to try them unless you have been properly trained — you would have developed internal force.
In my opinion, it is often an unwise use of time to train internal force for such feats. If you need to break a brick, use a hammer or drop it onto hard ground. Should you really need to harm your assailant, and if you are justified in doing so, such as you have to save yourself or your loved ones, drive your fingers into his throat or thrust your knee into his groin. If a hard object like a brick or a club is coming onto your head, step aside to avoid it instead of meeting it head on to break the object. The time to acquire these effective defensive skills is usually far less than that to develop a brick-breaking hand or head.
I used to know a “newage”/westernized version of qi gong/tai chi, but have not really practiced in nearly 3 years. I now would like to learn kung fu, both the self defence and spiritual aspects.
— Andrew, USA
Personally I believe that anyone who thinks he or she can change a great art like kungfu or chi kung into something new-age or Westernized, does not even understand the art sufficiently, let alone be proficient in it. My belief has been confirmed time and again by actual cases.
Some “masters” thought that kungfu movements were too complicated, so they modernized or simplified it and called their styles “so-and-so-dao”, or “do”, after karate-do. What they taught was inevitably some sort of corrupted karate. Not only they failed to appreciate the depth of kungfu, they did not even know the combat applications of typical kungfu movements or else they would not have done any simplification.
Some chi kung teachers, like some healers offering a whole range of new-age therapies, teach a dozen different types of chi kung. Some, perhaps drawing inspiration from modern scientific classication, classify over a hundred chi kung exercises into various levels, and their students have to learn all the exercises in one level before progressing to the next level — often in a matter of months. Others provide music during chi kung practice, and their criterion of how well the students perform is often how graceful their movements are.
These modern or Westernized teachers (although some of them may be Chinese) simply do not understand what chi kung actually is. Fundamentally chi kung, any schools or styles of chi kung, is an art of energy management. For any art to be effective, consistent practice is necessary; involving in a dozen styles or performing a hundred different exercise is simply not condusive to developing the art. While graceful movements help energy flow, an overwhelming and often ignorant emphasis on them usually debase energy management into physical dance.
If you want to learn kungfu, including its defence and spiritual aspects, obviously you have to seek a master who teaches combat application as well as spiritual cultivation in kungfu. Do not feel discouraged if you have difficulty finding one, for such masters are very rare. You have to do some background reading on kungfu, and a lot of searching for the master. If you just register in the first kungfu school you meet, more likely than not you will end up learning kungfu form or kickboxing done in kungfu attire.
I was wondering if there is any international licensing or certification organizations that guaruntee “traditional” or “real” kung fu.
If you are thinking of international controlling bodies, there were none in the past, and there are at present no international licensing or certification organizations that can guarantee traditional or real kungfu, and due to the nature of kungfu, it is also unlikely there will be any in future. No organizations, even when they are formed by national or international degree and consisted of genunine kungfu masters, can determine what is and what is not real kungfu.
There may be particular national or international organizations which can determine within the confines of their own organizations what they consider as traditional or real kungfu, but they would have no juridiction outside their organization.
The real situation in the world is that those who run organizations, including kungfu organizations, are usually bureaucrats, not kungfu masters, and bureaucrats know little about what real kungfu is. Hence, say, a hypothetical International Purple Tiger Kungfu Federation, whose president may be an influential politician or a rich industrialist who knows little kungfu, may give certificates to its students all over the world that they have learnt traditional, real Purple Tiger Kungfu, but others may dispute whether the certification is valid.
The sad thing about kungfu today is that an overwhelming majority of those who think they practice kungfu, do not even realize what kungfu is. Since majority voice counts in organizations, you can imagine the great difficulty in any attempt to certify what real kungfu is.
But that does not mean we cannot tell what is traditional kungfu or real kungfu. A reasonable approach is to base our conclusion on what established masters and established classics have said and exhibited what kungfu is. Virtually all masters and classics have said and shown in their practice that kungfu is a martial art, and that good kungfu involves internal force. Many masters and classics also have said that the greatest kungfu leads to spiritual fulfilment, although not many actually achieve this highest attainment. We can therefore conclude as follows
- For any thing to be called kungfu it must be capable of being used for combat.
- To qualify to be good kungfu, it must involve internal force.
- To be counted amongst the greatest kungfu it should lead to spiritual fulfilmemt.
This is my subjective judgement. Others may disagree. Those concerned with price fighting would said, “Bull shit; the greatest kungfu is one that gets your opponent down or out in five seconds, or less.” Those dedicated to organizing wushu championships would said, “Time has changed; we practice kungfu for health. The greatest kungfu? Come to my championship, and you will be entertained to a demonstration of the greatest kungfu by visiting athletes from China.”