JULY 1999 PART 3

Sifu Yip Man

A rare photograph taken in 1950 showing Sifu Yip Man (seated) and his early-stage students. Immediately on his left is his most senior disciple, Sifu Leong Seong

Question 1

How do you recommend handling a student that goes into the “Five Animal Play” scenario as you describe in you book. We have reached the point in our training where I believe this could occur so I want to be sure I know how to handle it.

— Tom, USA


It is not advisable to teach “Five Animal Play” if you yourself are not properly trained in it, and do not know to handle difficult situations that may sometimes occur. A master who understands the complex energy system of the body can overcome the difficult situations by redirecting the deviated energy flow or stopping the deviated flow by pressing on appropriate energy points. He must also know how to reopen the pressed points later on.

Question 2

In your book you mentioned that Percy went on for about 20 minutes in his self-manifested chi movement. However, there is no mention about anything you did or would do in this setting


I let Percy continue because, although his movements looked odd and might scare an inexperienced instructor, I fully knew that his movements, which were generated by his appropriate chi kung exercise earlier, were safe and benefical. Had an inexperienced instructor stop Percy then, not only Percy would be denied the benefits, but much worse the sudden stopping could have distorted the energy currently flowing vigorously but beneficially, which in return would cause serious side-effects.

Let us suppose Percy's movements were harmful. How did I know whether the chi movements were beneficial or harmful? I knew from various factors, such as the expression on Percy and the way as well as the speed he moved. Then I would modify, change, or stop his chi movements or do whatever was appropriate for that particular situation. But I would not describe what I did in the book because the remedial actions were for that particular situation only.

In a different situation — which might look the same to the uninitiated — an inexperienced instructor doing exactly what I did might bring adverse effects instead of benefit. Even if the situation was exactly the same, using the same remedial techniques might not bring good result, because it was the skill rather than the techniques that was crucial. For example, an inexperienced instructor might press on the same energy points, but if he pressed too hard he might stop the energy flow instead of stimulating it.

Question 3

Should one need to calm the student?


Yes, the first thing a master does should a student gets out of control in “Five Animal Play” or any other self-manifested chi movements, is to calm the student. Then he instills — not just tells — confidence in the student assuring him that the situation is under control. Calming a student in trouble and instilling confidence, demands much skill, although such “first aid” looks simple to onlookers, and is actually carried out quite naturally by the master.

The master can provide the “first aid” easily and naturally because he is a master — because, among other things, he himself as a student had gone through similar experiences before, and because as a teacher he had handled many similar occurances. An inexperienced instructor, without the master's background, would be confussed, nervous and hesitant although he might attempt to do exactly what a master would do in a similar situation.

Question 4

I am just amazed that as simple as your exercises are, one can attain such profound overall wellness with basically an emphasis on training our “monkey brains” and doing the exercises you describe in your books.


The Shaolin arts, of which these chi kung exercises form a part, are simple and at the same time profound. It is not the brain that we work at, or with — but the mind. There is a lot of difference between the brain and the mind.

For example, the brain is located in the head, but the mind can be anywhere. The brain has substance, but the mind is transcendental. The brain dies, but the mind never.

In my oppinion, it is the failure to understand this difference that Western conventional medicine is now faced with an insurmountable problem of so-called incurable diseases, and when these diseases are overcome by practising eastern arts like chi kung and meditation where mind training is crucial, conventional scientists have no conceptual tools to understand what has happened.

Question 5

I have been fascinated by kung fu for many years and have now started to practice kung fu by a distance (video) learning course as there are no kung fu schools nearby. From your articles and answers to others' questions, I know that this will merely teach me the external form but even if I were to travel to the nearest school (which is several hours away) I do not believe that I will be able to learn the internal aspects correctly — the classes I feel are not run as a true master would run them (this based on information from your Internet site).

I have also bought your book “The Art of Shaolin Kung-Fu” and am currently working through the information contained in it. The book is a source of inspiration and really helps me to understand the reasons for each of the forms and patterns I learn.

— Andrew, Switzerland


The following suggestion may be helpful for your situation:

  1. Be clear about the objectives in your kungfu training.
  2. Practise as best as you can the external kungfu forms from your video course with reference to your objectives. Should your objective be performing some kungfu forms to please spectators, you can realize your objective quite easily. If your objective is to have some form of exercise for recreation and maintaining health, you should not have much problem. But if your objective is for combat efficiency or for spiritual cultivaton, you are most unlikely to achieve your objective via the video course alone. You would therefore have to supplement with other resources, such as those mentioned below.
  3. Read some good books on kungfu and apply the masters' advice from these books into your kungfu practice. For example, if a master advises that you should spend some time on an exercise before learning a new one, you should resist learning one exercise after another without sufficient practice on previously learnt exercises.
  4. Spend at least one third of your training time on force training or skill development. Basically this involves repeating the same techniqure thousands of times.
  5. Look out for masters or competent instructors willing to teach you.
Lifting the Sky

Practicing "Lifting the Sky" is an excellent way to quit smoking or alcoholism

Question 6

From a Western medical point of view, I am healthy and reasonably fit. My problem is my weakness for smoking. I would like to stop but lack the self-control. Could you possibly suggest how I can improve my self-control and concentration to help me stop this terrible habit.


Practise “Lifting the Sky” about 25 times a session, two sessions a day for at least six months. Read up from any of my books on how to perform this exercise correctly.

After three months of regular practice, just stop smoking. You may have withdraswal symptons, but only for a few days, after which you will be normal. If the urge to smoke occurs to you during these few crucial days, just refuse to smoke.

The three months of daily chi kung practice will have prepared your body sufficiently, as well as given you will power and self control to overcome smoking.

Question 7

People have suggested some chemical methods (nicotine replacements etc.) but I really do not want to replace one dangerous chemical with another. Ideally, I would like to learn a short and simple “exercise” which I could perform each time I feel the urge to smoke. I would be very grateful for any help you could offer me.


You are wise in not replacing one dangerous chemical with another. “Lifting the Sky” is the ideal exercise for you. You should practise it not merely when you feel the urge to smoke, but two sessions a day, eveyday for at least six months.

You need not have to take any supplementary exercise or diet. And your rewards are more than overcoming smoking.

Question 8

The only schools that teach any kind of martial art in my area teach non-traditional “Systems of Self Defense” built off of several unrelated arts. This is not to say they are not skilled at what they do, it's just not something I'm interested in.

— Valin, USA


You are right in your opinion. Even if this non-traditional system of self defence is effective, it is only the product of someone over a few years. Even if this person were a genius, his product would not be better than the crystalization of literally hundreds of masters over many centuries, which is the case with great kungfu styles like Shaolin and Taijiquan.

It is unlikely that this someone was a genius, or else he would not be so unwise as to imagine his invention superior to a legacy. It was more likely that he did not have an opportunity to be exposed to great kungfu, with the result that he attempted combining fighting techniques from different styles to make a style of his own.

Throughout the long history of kungfu, there has not been a single case where an invention by a single person has stood the test of time. All the numerous styles of kungfu extant today were evolved, not invented. In the English language, we may have heard of expressions like “Chen Harng invented Choy-Li-Futt Kungfu”, or “Yim Wing Chun invented Wing Chun Kungfu”. Strictly speaking the expressions are incorrect.

Chen Harng integrated the three related styles of kungfu he had learnt into one style, and Yim Wing Chun modified what she had learnt to suit her personal needs. What Chen Harng and Yim Wing Chun passed down to us were not their personal inventions but what these two great masters had themselves learned from their teachers, who in turn learned from their teachers. Hence, in the Chinese language, they are refered to as first patriarchs of their arts, and not as inventors or founders.

The nearest success story of a personal invention was Bruce Lee's Jeet Kwon Do. Although this style is effective for fighting, it too has not succeeded as an established style; not many people today practise it. Moreover, personally I do not consider it as a traditional kungfu style; it is, in my opinion, much closer to Taekwondo than to Wing Chun Kungfu.

Question 9

The closest school that teaches anything at all near traditional Chinese arts is 100 miles away.


If you are refering to genuine traditional Chinese martial arts, you would be lucky to find a school just 100 miles away. By genuine traditional Chinese martial arts, I mean that you would learn, among other things, respect for the master and kungfu philosophy as well as internal force and combat application.

Question 10

I have a strong interest in Shaolin Kung Fu, and want to ask someone who would know. Do you think, in my situation, it is a good idea to learn solely from books?


No; you would probably transform kungfu into gymnastics or dance. You would get more benefits in learning demonstrative wushu from an ordinary instructor, or even from books or videos. You will also get more benefits in learning a non-traditional system of self defence, which would give you a better chance of effective defence than kungfu dance or gymnastics would.

If you imagine you can be proficient in kungfu by learning solely from books, you certainly do not know what kungfu is. If you really want to learn traditional kungfu, spend some time and effort to seek a master. If you consider this too troublesome, yours is definitely not strong interest, but just a passing fancy.

Question 11

Also, I have been a Buddhist for some time, and am in the process of becoming a monk. I would like to be able to continue any martial training in the monastery.


Yon need not become a monk to be a good Buddhist. Also, you need not practise martial art to be a good monk. From your e-mail, it is quite evident you have not fully understood the purpose and responsibility of monkhood.

One should have more respect for monkhood to imagine that it is a refuge to have some novel experience. The sole purpose of becoming a monk is to fully devote your time for attaining the highest spiritual fulfilment. You should only assume this tremendously heavy responsibility — one that even prime ministers and army generals may not measure to — only when you are completely ready to give up everything — literally everything — for this sole purpose.

Do you know that as a Buddhist monk you cannot possess even a pen, a book or a friend? The legitimate belongings of a Buddhist monk are three pieces of clothing, a begging bowl and a razor for shaving.

Valin's prompt reponse

Thank you for your reply, as I agree totally with what you have said here. ...

I am in the process of becoming a student at a good school about 250 miles away from my home. It is something I know I am serious about, not just a passing idea. ...

Monkhood is a sacrifice I am making for many many reasons, and it is something I've been researching and preparing for for about 3 years. Again, not a passing fancy, but a life time commitment I am more than willing to make. ...

I hope this clears some things up, as I would not want someone as important to the community of Martial Arts (in spiritual as well as physical aspects) to think that my reasons for being part of that community were nothing but passing ideas and empty wants.

Taijiquan, Tai Chi Chuna

Any pattern in Taijiquan can be used to developed internal force!

Question 12

Does your style of Wing Chun have anything to do with a book called “Phoenix Eye Fist: a Shaolin Fighting Art of South China” by Cheong Cheng Leong and Don F Draeger? Is this style Wing Chun or Southern Praying Mantis, also known as Chuka Shaolin.

— Robert, USA


Sifu Cheong Cheng Leong is my personal friend. I met the well known martial art master and writer, the late Master Don Draeger in my younger days. We almost had a sparring, both unarmed and armed, but somehow it did not take place.

Their book “Phoenix Eye Fist”, written by Master Don Draeger on Sifu Cheong's kungfu, has nothing to do with Wing Chun or Praying Mantis. It is about Chu Ka Kungfu, or Kungfu of the Chu Family, which is famous for its phoenix-eye fist.

Sifu Cheong is the distinguished successor of the Patriarch of Chu Ka Kungfu, the late Sifu Li Hung Piau. Sifu Li could easily make a hole in a tin can with a single strike of his phoenix-eye fist. Sifu Cheong, a wealthy businessman who teaches kungfu for the love of it, and whom I still meet once a while to catch up with old times, is about 60 but healthy and fit like a young man of 30.

Question 13

Do you know anythng about two old northern Shaolin forms I found on the internet? They are called Shaolin Bao Cuan Quan (Shaolin Running Panther Boxing) and Shaolin Bao Zi Chui (Panther Strike)?


Yes, but I know only very little, and the very little is that many sets or forms from different styles may have these same names. Secondly, “Boxing” is an inaccurate translation of the Chinese term “Quan”. A better translation is “kungfu set”.

Question 15

I was wondering when a chi kung master gives some of his life energy to heal a patient, is it the same as channeling chi through his hands? Does this mean every time a master transmits chi, he gives some of his life energy up? If so, what are the effects of giving your life energy up to people again and again over time? Can the life energy be regained somehow if this is true?

— Joshua, USA


When a chi kung master transmits energy to others, he is giving away some of his energy. If this is repeated again and again over time, the master will diminish his own energy. Hence, the master has to replenish his energy by practising chi kung, such as tapping energy from the cosmos.

Question 15

On page 101 in your book, “The Art of Chi Kung”, you show “Grasping the Sparrows Tail”. I am almost positive that there are more chi kung forms. If so could I obtain them in any way? Other questions include more advanced techniqes like the Dragon Technique. You didn't go into a lot of detail, but what I got from what you said was using your body as a whole to collect energy flowing all around you. I hope one day you can tell me more about advanced techniques.


In chi kung, the external forms are just a means to generate internal energy flow. If you only know the forms but do not know how to use them to generate energy flow, you would only perform chi kung dance or gymnastics. You should learn about the other forms from a master or a competent instructor. The forms illustrate in my book are meant to give you an idea of the exercise.

“Grasping Sparrow's Tail” is the most important pattern in Yang Style Taijiquan. In fact, the essence of Yang Style Taijiquan can be found in this single pattern. You can use it to develop internal force, and you also can use it for combat.

Advanced techniques like the Dragon Strength have to be learnt from a master. Learning from a book or a video often leads to incorrect training resulting in harmful effects. That is one main reason why I did not go into details in the book.



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