DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TECHNIQUES AND SKILLS
Formally the title of this article is called "Abdomianl Breathing, Dan Tian Breathing and Cosmic Breathing", which is another artilce of the same name.
Sigung, you told us that you first learned Abdominal Breathing when practicing Wuzuquan. Is Abdominal Breathing the same as Cosmic Breathing? Can you tell us your experience in practicing Abdominal Breathing or Cosmic Breathing?
— Dave, Spain
Abdominal Breathing is not the same as Cosmic Breathing, yet Abdominal Breathing can be Cosmic Breathing. This odd statement will become clear as I describe my interesting experience in learning these two arts.
Though I had heard about it earlier, my first introduction to Abdominal Breathing was through my learning Wuzuquan in the late 1960s in Dungun, a small lovely town by the side of the South China Sea in Trengganu, Malaysia.
Although I already had powerful arms from my earlier Hoong Ka training where I hit a wooden man every night, I found that I was nowhere in force when compared with my Wuzuquan classmates in sparring, and my classmates did not use strength!
This greatly puzzled me. "How could you be so strong when you do not use strength?" I asked my classmates.
"Use internal force," they replied honestly.
"How do you develop internal force?"
"Practice your San Zhan," they kindly advised.
"I do, but I still have no internal force," I protested.
"Perhaps you did not practice correctly."
"I do. Siheng checks my practice every time. And he has a lot of internal force."
"Siheng" here refers to my senior classmate, Sifu Chee Boon Leong, the eldest son of my Wuzuquan teacher, Sifu Chee Kim Thong, and who taught us on behalf of his father.
My classmates thought for a while, then one of them said, "Perhaps you have not learnt Abdominal Breathing yet."
"Aha, Abdominal Breathing! Can you please teach me?"
"Teach you Abdominal Bereathing? You must be joking. Sifu will skin me!"
Abdominal Breathing is an advanced art, taught only to selected senior students after they have proven themselves to be deserving.
But my classmates were very kind to me. After much persuasion and after making me promise that I would not tell Sifu, they eventually taught me Abdominal Breathing. Actually they did not teach me, they showed me the techniques.
I learned the techniques of Abdominal Breathing in less than five minutes. But even after a year, I could not have the skill of Abdominal Breathing, and therefore also not the benefits. I kept reverting back to chest breathing when I tried to practice Abdominal Breathing.
It was years later that I acquired the skills of Abdominal Breathing from my third sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, as part of his teaching me the Small Universe. This was, of course, done in secret, apart from and unknown to his other students.
At that time, including the time I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I did not know the difference between skills and techniques. As a good student I just diligently practiced what my teacher taught me.
It was much later that I differentiated between skills and techniques, which makes us very cost-effective and bring us a lot of benefits. I also improved the techniques of Abdominal Breathing. It is incredible that now Shaolin Wahnam students can develop the skills not just of Abdominal Breathing, but of Cosmic Breathing which is of a higher level, in a four-hour course!
When my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, taught me the Small Universe, he taught me, at different stages of my progress, two main modes of breathing, which he called Abdominal Breathing and Reverse Breathing.
I started with Abdominal Breathing, which build a ball of energy at my dan tian. Later when I had to bring my chi up my spine, I used Reserved Breathing. Eventually I used Abdominal Breathing again to complete the Small Universal Flow.
I attained the Small Universe in about two years of daily practice, which was a remarkable achievement, reminding me that I was not called a kungfu genius for no reason. Past masters, I heard, took about ten years.
Small Universe was one of my favourites. I practiced it quite a lot. If you have wondered why I have so much internal force, or so much vitality despite my age, you can guess at the reason here.
I discovered that initially my chi flowed from my nose to my dan tian and then from my dan tian out through my mouth. The chi flow was up and down. Next, the chi flowed round my body in a circuit, the Small Universal Flow. Then the chi flowed in and out of my body at my dan tian. I literally pulsated with the Cosmos. The effects were different, but the technique was the same.
This progression was reflected in the courses I taught, except that our students had the results much faster than I did. At first I taught Abdominal Breathing as an advanced course. The chi flow was up and down the body. Eventually those who kept practicing Abdominal Breathing found that they pulsated with the Cosmos.
So I updated the course and called it Dan Tian Breathing, to differentiate from Abdominal Breathing. Students in Dan Tian Breathing went straight to pulsating with the Cosmos, without first having their chi flow up and down. At first the two terms, Abdominal Breathing and Dan Tian Breathing, were used interchangeably. But gradually a difference was noted between the two terms.
Our courses are constantly being improved, and with the improvement we have to use new terms. Now instead of Dan Tian Breathing we call it Cosmic Breathing, because that is exactly what we do, our energy pulsates with cosmic energy. We keep the original meaning of Abdominal Breathing, whereby energy goes from the nose to the dan tian and from the dan tian out of the mouth
Dan Tian Breathing refers to the technique, whereby the abdominal dan tian rises as energy flows in, and falls when energy flows out. The reverse, whereby the dan tian falls when energy flows in, and rises when energy flows out, is referred to as Reverse Breathing.
Dan Tian Breathing and Reverse Breathing are terms referring to techniques, whereas Abdominal Breathing, Small Universe and Cosmic Breathing are terms referring to skills. We may use the technique of Dan Tain Breathing to operate the skills of Abdominal Breathing, Small Universe or Cosmic Breathing, or we may use the technique of Reverse Breathing to operate the same skills.
The above is taken from Question 1 of September 2012 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
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