SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DECEMBER 1999 PART 3
I have been studying Shaolin Kung Fu since 1992. My hope is that I am practicing correctly the training methods you show in your books. I have mainly concentrated on the Lifting the Sky exercise but I don't think I feel any major difference within myself, such as tingling.
— Gary, UK
“Lifting the Sky” is one of the best exercises in all chi kung; that is why it is found in many chi kung styles. It can be performed at different levels, bringing different benefits to beginners and to masters. One of the noticeable effects at the earlier stages, if you have practised it correctly, is some tingling sensations at the finger tips.
At a higher level, you can use this exercise to generate an internal energy flow. Then you can tap energy from the cosmos and cleanse your body. These effects may sound fantastic to those who do not have the opportunity to experience high level chi kung, but virtually all students who have taken an intensive chi kung course from me, have acquired those skills and experienced the effects — generating an internal energy flow, tapping cosmic energy, cleansing the body with energy — during the three-day intensive course itself.
It is likely that you have practised “Lifting the Sky” as a gentle, physical exercise, and not as an energy exercise — which is usually the case when learning the exercise from books or videos. Even as a physical exercise, “Lifting the Sky” offers many benefits, such as loosening muscles and joints, attaining relaxation, and promoting better blood circulation.
But these physical benefits are minimal when compared to the benefits derived from performing “Lifting the Sky” as a chi kung, or energy management, exercise, which include overcoming illness, enhancing vitality, expanding the mind, and attaining spiritual joy. To get these chi kung benefits, you have to learn the exercise from a master.
I am 31 years old and have just finished learning the Dragon form and have started learning the Tiger form, both of which I am getting a great deal of pleasure out of learning & performing. I have recently started meditation on a daily basis.
Different masters have different approaches to practising kungfu. The approach I use is that after learning form, such as a kungfu set, you should spend more time practising its combat application, instead of learning more kungfu sets. Combat application has to be learnt and, more importantly, practised systematically. Free sparring comes at the end, not the beginning, of this training process.
Meditation, which is mind training and not necessarily in the cross-legged sitting position, is practised at all times, right from the very beginning of kungfu training. Lotus-position meditation, which aims at the highest spiritual attainment, is attempted much later. A crucial component of my approach, which you seem to have missed, is force training. Like meditation, force training has to be practised at all times, starting at the very beginning.
There are many methods of meditation and force training — which are mind training and energy training. In my school, the very first things a student learns and practises are “Lifting the Sky” and the Horse-Riding Stance, which are excellent methods for mind and energy training. In “Lifting the Sky”, among other benefits, the mind is trained to be one-pointed, and is then used to generate an internal energy flow or to tap cosmic energy.
In the Horse-Riding Stance, a student focuses his mind at his dan tian (or abdominal energy field), where he builds a ball of energy as the source of his internal force which he can use later. The visible forms of “Lifting the Sky” and the Horse-Riding Stance can be learnt from a book, but the invisible skills of mind and energy training have to be acquired from a master.
What is you opinion of Reiki? I have been attuned to Reiki level 1 and am planning to be attuned to level 2 at the end of this month. I expect that Reiki and Chi Kung are very similar in that they both deal with the movement of energy through the body.
My concern is how can an attunement using symbols all of a sudden give the ability to pass energy from the cosmos through someone's body, when as I know what you teach in your Chi Kung book it can take months if not years to achieve? I have my doubts as to how genuine an attunement can be.
First, I wish to clarify that here I am giving my opinions as a chi kung master. You will have to consult reiki masters to have their opinions. It is a great mistake to say that reiki and chi kung are very similar; in fact they are worlds apart.
It is also a great mistake, albeit commonly made by bogus chi kung instructors, to associate chi kung with New Age arts. Chi kung is very ancient, with a continuous history of many thousand years and a evolution contributed by millions of masters. New Age arts have a very recent history, some being less than 30 years old, and they are generally invented by only one person. Here I am talking about genuine chi kung. Modern chi kung dance, however, is very similar to many New Age arts.
In reiki you can pay a sum of money to a reiki master to be attuned, and immediately become a qualified master yourself, usually with a master's certificate. You have to pass through some levels before you can qualify to the master's attunement, but you can do this in a very short time, often within a month. As a master you can heal others, or attune others to become masters.
In chi kung you may want to pay a lot of money to a chi kung master, but he cannot make you a chi kung master in a short time. He can teach you wonderful techniques but you yourself have to practise, practise and practise to get the benefits. If you do not practise, you cannot even become a chi kung practitioner.
To be a good practitioner you have to practise regularly for at least a few months. But you cannot teach others yet. If you wish to be a competent chi kung instructor you need to be trained by a master, because you will be dealing with your students' energy and mind. If you wish to be a master, you have to practise for many years.
Do you have any advice about light contact sparing? Whilst I have entered one Kung Fu competition (in which I won my first fight and lost my second), I find it difficult to spare confidently.
I am confident in my ability to perform the Kung Fu moves I have learnt over the years but fear the counter attack when light sparing. The competition was different because we wore all the protective padding and basically “got stuck in”! I am almost 5 feet 8 ins tall, so many opponents are some what taller.
Sparring is essential in kungfu training, but it has to be learnt and practised methodically. In my opinion, any instructor or even master who asks his students to put on boxing gloves or to attempt free sparring (including light contact sparring) without any systematic preparation, does not know combat application of kungfu.
The instructor or the master may be able to fight well, but it is unlikely he can fight using genuine kungfu techniques. Had he been trained in kungfu combat the way kungfu exponents were trained in the past, he would not have used boxing gloves or attempted free sparring immediately.
This does not mean that a traditional kungfu exponent cannot fight well if he wears boxing gloves and protective gears. Some masters say that once you put on boxing gloves you cannot use kungfu techniques. This is not quite true.
While many kungfu techniques like the eagle-claw and the hook-hand will be greatly hampered by the gloves, there still remains in kungfu a far greater range of techniques a combatant with gloves can use, than in any other martial arts. The truth is with or without gloves you will be unable to fight if you have never been trained to.
If you have been performing just kungfu forms, even beautifully, and then suddenly are pushed into a sparring ring, you will either become a sitting duck or resort to instinctive fighting, which is close to boxing or children's fighting. No matter how much you practise free sparring this way, you will still not be able to use your kungfu techniques, although you may gain fighting experience and become a better fighter using boxing or instinctive methods.
You lack confidence in sparring although you can perform your solo kungfu form well because you do not have the techniques and more importantly the skills for combat. There is a kungfu saying as follows: “yi kao ren tan da” (“ngai kou yen tam tai” in Cantonese), which means “when your skills are of a high level, you become confident”.
If you have practised thousands of times various attacks an opponent is likely to use, and have developed sufficient force and skills to back your combative techniques, you will just be happily waiting for your opponent or sparring partner to attack so that you can try out your techniques and skills. And if you are well trained, you will also exploit your opponent's height or weight to your advantage.
I am looking to increase my physical strength in the healthiest manner available to me. I am unable to travel outside of the USA (due to my recent immigration here), thus not able to attend your training program in Malaysia.
— Joshua, USA
You can learn from a genuine chi kung master in the USA. If you wish to learn from me, you can get a small group of at least 4 persons and invite me to the USA to teach you. I have been to New York City a few times to teach chi kung. My fee is US1000 per person, and the group has to look after my travelling, food and lodging.
Outside of “true” chi kung, what would be the healthiest way of effectively increasing physical strength?
I really don't know what other healthiest ways to increase physical strength. Weight-training will increase physical strength but the way it is usually done it is detrimental to health. If you increase your weight very gently and gradually, it may help.
How does isometric exercise differ from weight resistance exercise in terms of organ stress and the build-up of toxic waste? Are isometric exercise sets such as the Hung-style “No Lick Kuen” less harmful than lifting weights? How?
I don't know enough of how isometric exercise works to comment on it competently. Genuine Hung Gar force training, like the Iron Wire Set, may look like isometric exercise but it isn't. In Hung Gar force training, mind and intrinsic energy are involved, whereas in isometric exercise it is mainly physical.
It is the failure to realize the great difference between mind and energy training on one hand, and physical training on the other that many people think they can learn Hung Gar force training like the Iron Wire Set from a book or video and then having learnt the external form teach it to others.
In Hung Gar force training, if it is done correctly, you strengthen your organs and disposes off toxic waste, whereas in physical exercise like weight-lifting you stress your organs and produce toxic waste. But if you perform the force training incorrectly, you harm yourself more than in weight-lifting.
I do not know “No Lick Kuen”. Perhaps it has been transcribed from Chinese into English spelling differently, or perhaps it is a new set invented by a master.
How about practicing kicks vs running. I feel similarly exhausted after kick practice and running. I assume that I am practicing the kicks incorrectly. I understood that kung fu exercises were to leave one refreshed afterwards.
Irrespective of whether kicking or running, if you perform them as mere physical exercise you stress your muscles and produce toxic waste. If you incorporate chi kung into your kicking or running, you will not only have a better supply of energy for the task, you will also be more effective in toxic waste disposal. Hence, in my kungfu school, after kicking my students will go into a spontaneous energy flow exercise.
Is there a manner to reduce the harmful effects of Western training, outside of your personally-guided training? Stretching, breathing, improper practice of your chi kung (outlined in your books)?
A good piece of advice passed down to us by past masters is as follows. Practise regularly and progress gradually. As far as possible be natural and gentle in your training. Even if you do not know chi kung, if you follow the above advice while performing Western training methods, you can minimize much health hazard and possible serious injury, and in the end probably get better results.
Many people used to Western concepts of strength and fitness may find the above advice, especially the second part, odd. How, they ask, can you be powerful when you are gentle? Consequently they put stress on their body which is not ready for the extra burden, and in their haste to get quick result they stretch themselves to their limits. The cerebrated Bruce Lee made this serious mistake, and he paid heavily for it, dying relatively young.
I have been learning T'ai Chi, and Chi Kung for the past two years. I initially started because I wanted to learn more about healing and energy, but I also have chronic back and neck pain and have not yet succeeded in unblocking the troubled spots. My teacher recommends that I go for acupuncture, but I had nine months of it five years ago when I first injured my back, without any relief at all.
I believe that Chi kung would help, but maybe instead of practicing the eight that I do, if I could just do one or two that would work on my back and neck. When I put my hands over my head it makes my neck worse, so I suppose it limits what I can practice. Is it safe to practice Pushing Mountain without a master's guidance?
I would also like to ask you about Chi kung for healing psychiatric disorders. I am a psychiatric nurse and hate the side-effects psychiatric drugs have on patients. Is it possible to train somewhere the Chi Kung movements to help all these people. So many of them come back time after time to hospital, and just receive treatment without getting to the root cause of the problem.
I have read the comments from the people that you have helped and I don't know why, but I felt like crying. It is so hard to get a “cure” for so many things. You really care about people and that can be lacking in so many people today. I have tried so many therapies conventional and alternative without success, they just keep you coming back time after time and when they don't work they say that the injury was there too long.
— Joan, Ireland
If you have been practising what you think is chi kung for about 2 years and yet have not overcome your problem, what you have practised is only some form of gentle exercise, and not genuine chi kung.
If you have practised genuine chi kung correctly, you would have overcome your problem by now. Back and neck pain can be overcome easily by practising genuine chi kung.
I am now in Spain. A Spanish student, Manuel, had terrible back pain as most of his vertebrae had been fused together. Specialist doctors said that there was no cure for his backbone problem. Yet, after practising chi kung for about nine months, he was completely cured.
His personal doctor, who was amazed, came to my seminar to find out what chi kung was, enrolled for the class and was very pleased with what she learned. Your problem, by comparison, is child's play.
It is very common today that gentle exercise is mistaken by honest people as chi kung. Your wanting to teach your patients to overcome their psychiatric problems is a good example how chi kung today has degraded into some form of gentle exercise. Many people have done just that.
They learned some gentle exercises from a weekend seminar, but the gentle exercises were advertised as chi kung, and then they started to teach others. Soon their students also became masters and taught others too. Anyone who starts teaching others after having learned the art for only a few months, do not know what chi kung really is.
There is no doubt about your sincerity and good nature in wanting to help people, but you must realize and accept the fact that by merely wishing to be a master, no matter how sincere or good natured your intention is, you cannot become a master. First you have to be a good student and heal yourself first. If you do not even know how to practise chi kung correctly, how can you think of teaching others?
To be a good student, you must learn from a master. If you just wish to acquire good chi kung by merely reading from books, but are not prepared to seek a master and pay his fees to learn from him, then you cannot be called a good student.
Now you have a wonderful opportunity to learn good chi kung from me, but you must be prepared to pay the price. If you wish to invite me to your place to teach, you have to get a small group of people. But merely learning from me cannot make you into a master; you are not even a good practitioner yet. You have to practise and practise on your own after my intensive course.
I believe that if you practise daily for a few months, not only your back and neck pain will have disappeared, you will have health and vitality which you may not even think possible before. Only after practising for many years should you start thinking of teaching others.