SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
MAY 1999 PART 2
In your book, you mentioned that in the end it is force and not technique which would weigh more. I myself am not physically endowed, at 5'11, I weigh around 124 lbs. You could probably imagine how slim I am. Force-wise, so far, I do not have much. I was under the impression that Kung Fu techniques would outweigh force, that force without direction was vulnerable to good techniques.
— Jimmy, USA
There is a kungfu saying as followss;
- li bu sheng quan
- quan bu sheng gong
- gong bu sheng guai
- guai bu sheng jiao
Literally translated it is as follows:
- strength is no match for technique
- technique is no match for force
- force is not match for speed
- speed is no match for the marvelous
It means that in combat someone who has only brutal strength is no match for someone who applies kungfu techniques. For example, a physically stronger person may attack you with his “buffalo's strength”, but if you use techniques effectively, such as stepping aside and then striking his ribs, you can defeat him. This is the first level of kungfu, and is the level you refer to in your question.
At the next level, you may use beautiful techniques and may actually strike your opponent many times, but unless the strikes are at vital spots like his eyes or genitals, if he is enormously forceful a single strike by him may be enough to fell you.
An interesting example is when a child holding the rank of black belt spars with a forceful adult. Protected by safety rules and basing on points, the child would defeat the adult in a no-contact sparring competition, but in a real fight he will be no match for the adult. Actually “force” here is a poor translation for the Chinese term “gong” (pronounced as “kung”). “Gong” includes not only force but also the ability to apply techniques skilfully.
The third level, the level after techniques and force, is speed. You must be fast enough to reach your opponent. It is worthy of note that while speed is the crucial factor at this level, you must have some basic techniques and force. If you are only fast, but have no techniques and no force, you may not be effective.
This serves as good advice to those practising taijiquan and other “soft” arts like judo and aikido who mistakenly think that force is not needed in their arts, and what they need to defeat their opponents are good techniques and speed. Force is needed in all martial arts; what is needed in these “soft” arts is “soft” force, and not “hard” force as in karate and taekwondo.
Take note that in the famous kungfu saying “four tahils (ounzes) of force to defeat one thousand katis (pounds) of force”, the exponent still needs at least four tahils of force. If he has only three tahils of force, it would be insufficient.
At the highest level, the decisive factor for victory is what is known as the marvelous, which is usually attained only by masters. It suggests that the master is so good that what he does is just right, and the opponent is simply overwhelmed.
For example just when the opponent thinks he has used a fantastic technique to defeat the master, he suddernly finds his technique being neutralized. When he thinks he is forceful. he finds that seemingly without much effort the master overcomes him. When he thinks he is fast, he finds he could not even know where the master's moves are coming from.
I have been training for almost 6 months now and so far my Sifu's emphasis is technique and that force training will be later which I understand. My concern is if force indeed is the determining factor then I will really have to do something like weight lifting, which I've tried before and really not my cup of tea. Am I concerned about something trivial?
Force training is essential in kungfu training, but it does not normally involve weight training in the Western concept. In fact, such weight training is detrimental in traditional kungfu training. Please refer to my past answers to find out why this is so.
Perhaps what your sifu meant was specialized force training like Iron Palm or Iron Shirt. These arts of specialized force training should come after you are well versed in fundamental kungfu techniques.
I was curious to know if you knew what are all the animal styles of kung fu, like horse, ox, elephant, scorpion, snow leapord, tiger, eagle, bear, etc.
— Michael, USA
First we need to differentiate a kungfu style named after an animal, from a kungfu set or a kungfu pattern named after an animal. In Shaolin Kungfu, for example, there are many patterns named after animals, the most well known of which are the five animals of dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane.
Patterns like “Hungry Tiger Catches Goat” and “Golden Leopard Watches Fire” are found in Hoong Ka Kungfu and Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu. There are also kungfu sets named after animals, like the famous Tiger-Crane of Hoong Ka, and the Five-Animal Set of Choy-Li-Fatt.
On the other hand, there are also kungfu styles called Dragon Style Kungfu, Snake Style Kungfu, Black Tiger Kungfu, and White Crane Kungfu. All these kungfu styles named after animals are derived styles from Shaolin Kungfu. I have not heard of a Leopard Style Kungfu, although there are many leopards patterns in various kungfu styles.
I do not know all the animal styles of kungfu. Throughout the long history of kungfu, many animal styles might have been invented and then disappeared, and there have been no authoritative records of all these styles. In recent times, there have been styles like Dog Style Kungfu and Duck Style Kungfu. These styles, however, were unknown in the past, nor are they popular today.
Perhaps the most famous of kungfu styles named after animals is Monkey Style Kungfu. Actually there are a few different styles of Monkey Kungfu, some of which may not have the term “Monkey” in their names. Dongbiquan (Through-Arm Kungfu) and Yanqingquan (Yan Qing Kungfu) are two examples. Other very famous styles are Praying Mantis Kungfu and Eagle Claw Kungfu. There are various sub-styles of Praying Mantis, and of Eagle Claw.
I do not know of any kungfu styles named after the horse, ox, scorpion, snow leopard and bear, although there are patterns named after them, with the exception of the snow leopard. There is a style of kungfu called Elephant Style but it is not popularly practiced. In this style, the hand is used like an elephant's trunk.
I know of the 5 animal system but I haven't seen anything on the 10 animal system or 12 animals.
The five-animal system you mentioned refers to kungfu sets or kungfu patterns named after the five animals of dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane found in Shaolin Kungfu and its derivative styles like Hoong Ka and Choy-Li-Fatt.
There is a style of chi kung called the Five-Animal Play. The five animals are the bird, the deer, the monkey, the tiger and the bear. This Five-Animal Play was invented by Hua Tou, a great physician who lived in the 2nd and 3rd century.
The ten-animal system refers to a kungfu set in Hoong Ka Kungfu, invented by Guan Tuck Heng who acted in movies for Wong Fei Hoong, who was a famous southern Shaolin master. Guan Tuck Meng himself was a well-known White Crane master. Besides the five fundamental animals mentioned above, the supplementary five are lion, elephant, horse, monkey and jaguar.
The twelve animals refer to a kungfu set in Xingyiquan (Hsing Yi Kungfu). The twelve animals are the dragon, the tiger, the monkey, the horse, the tortoise, the cockerel, the hawk, the swallow, the snake, the kite, the eagle and the bear. There are different versions of this Xingyiquan set.
Would you know how to get any information on the ones I mentioned before, the rare ones, because I can't find them.
Yes, I would know how to get information on the ones you have mentioned, including the rare ones, although you could not find them, and although while I am confident to get some answers, I cannot guarantee to get all the answers.
But I would prefer to spend my time doing other things, such as practising kungfu or listening to music, because finding their answers is merely an academic issue, which often involves subjective judgement, but do not bring any practical benefits. For example, does it really matter whether Tortoise Kungfu was invented by master A in the B century, and not by master X in the Y century?
You would spend your time more profitably by practising, for example, some useful breathing exercises, instead of digging for rare information to prove that these exercises were actually called turtle breathing and not tortoise breathing.
I run three times a week and lift weights three times a week.
— Jean, USA
You may be interested to read about my explanation that from the Chinese medical perspective, vigorous exercise like running and weight lifting is detrimental to health. I cannot remember in which issues this topic has appeared. You would have to make some search if you wish to find out.
I currently practice a qigong exercise called Crane Bird Breathing and another called Embracing the Tree that I have learned from a local teacher. I have a few concerns and questions. First, I would like to know if you have ever heard of the qigong exercises that I currently practice. Even though I am excited by the promise of qigong, I remain skeptical and want to make sure I am not wasting my time.
I do not know about Crane Bird Breathing. I wonder whether you were referring to Soaring Crane Qigong, which is a very popular type of qigong practised today.
Embracing the Tree is a powerful form of zhang zhuang, which has to be practised under the supervision of a competent instructor. If you practise wrongly, you would have serious deviations.
Both Soaring Crane Qigong and Embracing the Tree are effective and produce the benefits they promise if they are practised correctly.
My days are very busy. I am very interested in the benefits of qigong practice and am searching for a simple, brief yet effective form of qigong practice that I can incorporate into my busy daily schedule. Can you recommend a form of qigong that I can practice daily and if so can you also recommend a teacher, seminar, books and instructional videos?
The kind of qigong I teach, Shaolin Cosmos Qigong, meets your needs perfectly. It is simple, direct and effective — as all genunine Shaolin arts are. Just 15 minutes of practice will make you fresh and energetic the whole day.
I do not produce any instructional videos because, unless you are already familiar with qigong, learning from videos will most probably turn my qigong into a dance. You may refer to my books, “The Art of Chi Kung” and “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”. So far I also have not authorized any person to teach my qigong. But if you wish to learn from me, please refer to Intensive Chi Kung Course.
Finally, I have read and been taught that qigong must be practiced daily in order to enjoy its benefits. Therefore I am sometimes frustrated when I miss a day due to unexpected events during the day or pressing responsibilities that interfere with my practice. Can I still enjoy the benefits of qigong if I practice frequently but not every single day?
Yes, it is alright if you miss a day or two so long as your practice on the whole is regular. Even masters, for legitimate reasons, miss their practice once a while.
I enjoy your web page and find it very informative and inspiring. I would like to be added to your emailing and regular mailing list.
I am naturally very thin and weak. Is the Three-Circle Stance more suitable for me than the Golden Bridge? In The Art of Chi Kung you say that they are counterparts of a sort. Could you possibly elaborate upon the different benefits of each? I have seen many masters standing in very low stances — is this more effective, assuming one is able to perform such stances?
— Alexis, Canada
Both the Three-Circle Stance and the Golden Bridge are suitable for thin and weak persons. While they are counterparts of a sort, they have some differences. If your emphasis is puting on some weight, and at the same time becoming stronger, the Three-Circle Stance is preferable. If you are not concerned about weight but wish to be powerful, the Golden Bridge is a better choice.
The Three-Circle Stance is relatively easier to practise; the Golden Bridge demands much endurance. While both stances (which are zhan zhuang exercises) are not recommendable for those who have much energy blockage or have severe illness, the Golden Bridge is likely to aggrevate the adverse situation more if practised improperly.
Yes, standing (or “sitting”) low at the stances is more effective in attaining the desired effects the stances are meant to give. Most students are too high in their stances.
I practiced zhan zhuang every day for six months a few years ago. I relaxed each time and felt good, but also grew weaker and thinner. Is this inevitable and/or bad? If I do pushups, etc, I keep my strength up, but I am also concerned with true health and vitality rather than mere externals. I want to develop inner power, but I cannot afford to get any thinner and weaker. Any advice would be very welcome!
You might have practised zhan zhuang improperly, or you might have over-trained yourself in your practice. When practised correctly any kind of zhan zhuang will make you not only feel good but stronger and more solid. The Three-Circle Stance, as it enables you to have better chi circulation thereby improving your appetite and hormonal balance, would also add some weight to your body.
You are right in saying that doing pushups keeps your strength up but it is only an external exercise. If you are fit and strong, doing pushups will increase your strength, but if you are weak or ill, doing pushups is actually detrimental to health, as it overworks the already weak or ill body. The ideal choice for your situation is to do self-manifested-chi-movement chi kung, later followed by dynamic patterns chi kung, both of which will increase your weight, strength and vitality.
It is advisable that you learn chi kung from a master, or at least from a competent instructor. It is certain that you will have difficulty finding one. It is a fact, although many people refuse to acknowledge it, that real chi kung masters and even competent chi kung instructors are rare. On the other hand, it is easy to find instructors teaching chi kung external forms, which are merely gentle physical exercise. And the general public usually cannot tell the difference between an instructor teaching genuine chi kung from another teaching gentle physical exercise.
I have been practicing Tai Chi and Chi Kung exercises for some time. I have recently started a bone nei kung routine to try and increase jing “projection” for Tai Chi martial applications.
— Bill, USA
I do not know about the “bone nei kung” you mentioned and its related jing projection, but I am quite sure it is not part of the Tai Chi Chuan repertoire. Tai Chi Chuan is a complete system itself. In other words, you need not include anything from outside to increase the efficiency of your Tai Chi martial application.In fact, my personal opinion is that even if this jing projection increases your striking power, it will decrease your Tai Chi Chuan combat efficiency, instead of increasing it. Jing projection works on a different principle from the energy flow principle of Tai Chi Chuan internal force, which has served all the great Tai Chi Chuan masters very well in their combat.
It is my understanding that essence jing (hormones/semen) must be released from the sexual organs and absorbed through the bones. This allows the skeleton more chi to vibrate at a higher frequency (jing).
While you can absorb jing or “essence” from the sexual organs into the bone, this is only one of many methods to increase internal force at the bones, and it is not a method usually preferred because not only it can cause many complications if not done properly (and it is not easy to do this properly without a master supervising you, including watching your sexual organs intimately during practice), there are other effective methods to achieve similar results.
The Shaolin monks tie heavy weights or rocks to their sexual organs in order to release more essence/jing into their iron bodies and thus generate martial (fa) jing. The released jing would then be beat into the bones with various striking devices.
From the many records that I know, Shaolin monks in the past did not tie heavy weights or rocks to their sexual organs. This method, known as “diao gong”, was practised by some debased Taoist priests. Their main purpose was not to increase their internal force — if this were their purpose, they would have many better methods from their Taoist Chi Kung — but to enhance their sexual performance. The best known method used by Shaolin kungfu monks in the past to develop internal force was Yi Jin Jing, or the Art of Sinew Metamorphosis.
I do not know whether “diao gong” is taught in today's Shaolin Monastery; personally I do not think so. It may be taught by “diao gong” masters in many of the wushu schools around the monastery, and as these masters may wear monk's robes they may be mistaken as Shaolin monks. If your intention is “fa jing”, or release force to strike an opponent or send him flying away, “diao gong” in my opinion is a poor choice.
You may be interested to know, although it may be disturbing to you and many other people, that combat efficiency is not the forte of modern day wushu masters anywhere in the world. Many modern day wushu masters will have great difficulty defending themselves against karate or taekwondo blackbelts. It would also not be fair to expect them to fight well, because wushu today, despite its name which actually in Chinese means martial arts, is explicitly taught as a demonstrative sport.
Do you advocate or approve of this training? Is this training method too yang for Tai Chi? Also, are there exercises besides bone breathing that can help the bones to vibrate more for martial Tai Chi applications?
Personally I disapprove of this training. If one wishes to transform his penis into an iron rod, “diao gong” is a very good method. But apart from a few men whose penis may have become exceedingly soft, in which case “diao gong” is an excellent answer, its practical benefits are little. There are many other methods in chi kung to improve sexual performance and enjoyment. It is also worthwhile to remember that merely having an iron rod does not guarantee sexual fulfilment.
Yes, this method is too “yang”, which in this case means too extreme. It is not suitable for Tai Chi Chuan, which has many effective methods of its own for “fa jing”. In fact, Tai Chi Chuan is famous for “fa jing”, but “bone breathing” and “bone vibrating” are not necessary. Basically the Tai Chi Chuan masters tap energy from the cosmos and stores it at the abdominal dan tian (or energy field), and not at the sexual organs. When needed, they direct the energy to flow to the palms and be released out explosively on their opponents.
The normal Tai Chi Chuan set training, if practised with focus on energy and mind, will provide the internal force and skill for “fa jing”, but masters often suppliment this normal set training with Abdominal Breathing and Silent Sitting. Of course you have to learn such methods from a master; if you learn from a book (even though it may describe the methods correctly) or from a Tai Chi dance instructor, you will only perform the outward forms.