AHA EXPERIENCES OF LIFTING THE SKY
Sifu, would you kindly share with us which one is, from the 18 Lohan Hands, your favorite one? why? Did you have any "Aha" Experiences while in your own practice and/or teaching them? If so, would you kindly share the one/s that you might consider more relevant?
Without doubt “Lifting the Sky” is my favorite not only from the 18 Lohan Hands but from all chi kung exercises. This is the chi kung exercise that I practice the most by a big margin from the second.
When someone asks me which chi kung exercise I have practiced the most, I have no hesitation to answer that it is “Lifting the sky”. If he asks me which exercise I have practiced the second most, I would have to think hard for an answer. Actually I still haven’t thought out the answer.
Why is “Lifting the Sky” the one I have practiced the most?
Historically it was the first chi kung exercise I learned from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. Rather this was the first exercise I recognized then as chi kung, and performed it correctly.
On hindsight the first chi kung exercises I learned were the various stances from Uncle Righteousness in Penang taught to me by a siheng, but at that time I practiced them as enduring physical exercise.
I also learned chi kung exercises from Wuzuquan in Sifu Chee Kim Thong’s school in Dungun, taught to me by his eldest son, Sifu Chee Boon Leong. The whole San Zhan set was chi kung, but I did not derive any chi kung benefit from it, not because of my teacher’s teaching but because of my own ignorance.
I also learned Abdominal Breathing from my Wuzuquan sihengs, who had much internal force, but I only performed the technique, lacking the skills to develop internal force. I knew then that Abdominal Breathing was chi kung, but I did not succeed in practicing it as chi kung. Without realizing it myself, I practiced it as gentle physical exercise.
“Lifting the Sky” was the first chi kung exercise that I performed correctly as chi kung. If I remember correctly, it was the first exercise Sifu Ho Fatt Nam taught me, even before teaching me stances. And he taught it to me himself, not delegating it to one of my seniors.
My sifu did not tell me it was chi kung, neither did I regard it as chi kung. As a good student, I just learned and practiced it dutifully. Indeed my sifu did not tell me anything special about “Lifting the Sky”. All that about “Lifting the Sky” I am going to explain below came later from my own experience, my students’ experiences and my research into chi kung classics.
I practiced “Lifting the Sky” everyday at the start of my kungfu training, as taught to me by my sifu. This is good confirmation of my advice to students that by following faithfully what the teacher teaches, and not by trying to be smarter than him to add practice material on their own, the students will get the best benefits.
I did not generate external chi flow movements with “Lifting the Sky” like what we do in Shaolin Wahnam. But there must be internal chi flow, though I was not aware of it at that time, because I obtained a lot of chi kung benefits.
My migraine and hemorrhoids disappeared without my conscious knowing. I might not be conscious of it then, but “Lifting the Sky” improved my posture, mental clarity and kungfu performance.
Because of the many benefits that I myself have obtained from it, if I have to teach someone a chi kung exercise, I would inevitably choose “Lifting the Sky”. It was later on hindsight that I listed out why “Lifting the Sky” was my favorite. The reasons are as follows.
- It is relatively easy to learn and to practice.
- The benefits are many and varied.
- The benefits range from the basic to masters’ levels.
- At the basic level, it generates an energy flow.
- At the most advanced level, it can enable practitioners to attain the highest spiritual fulfillment.
- The benefits come relatively quickly.
- Even when it is performed wrongly, out of carelessness or forgetfulness, the adverse effects are not serious.
- Even when it is performed as gentle physical exercise, the benefits are good, like relaxation, good posture and loosening joints and muscles.
I did not learn the complete set of 18 Lohan Hands from my sifu. He only taught me "Lifting the Sky", "Separating Water" and "Big Windmill", and each exercise was taught to meet the need at the time.
"Lifting the Sky" was taught to start my kungfu training. I remember my sifu saying, "There is no need for warming up in kungfu. But Lifting the Sky acts like an excellent warming up exercise."
"Separating Water" was taught to increase my internal force. "Big Windmill" was taught as part of my Cosmos Palm training.
I once asked my sifu politely whether I could learn the whole set of 18 Lohan Hands. He explained kindly, "18 Lohan Hands were meant to make the Shaolin monks healthy so that they could practice kungfu. You are already very healthy. Focus on your kungfu." I am grateful for his advice, otherwise I might not have the kungfu attainment I now have.
I was sentimental over the 18 Lohan Hands because they were the exercises taught by our first patriarch, the great Bodhidharma. So years later after leaving Kuala Trengganu where I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I researched extensively and deeply into the 18 Lohan Hands.
I gathered the 18 exercises I considered the best and formulated them into a set, starting with the widely known set of eight Taoist chi kung exercises known as the Eight Pieces of Brocade.
Interestingly, the health exercises I practiced as a boy scout, and which were listed in the book, Scouting for Boys, were similar to the eight chi kung exercises in Eight Pieces of Brocade.
I remember I was smiling to myself when I formulated the 18 Lohan Hands, thinking that future critics would point to our 18 Lohan Hands and say, “Hey! Look, these so-called Shaolin chi kung exercises were taken from Taoist chi kung.”
Imagine my surprise when later I found in a classic that the same 18 Lohan Hands were recorded in the same order I listed them in our set! I could only attribute this wonderful co-incidence (or was it a co-incidence?) to my tapping into the past during meditation, or more poetically to divine guidance.
I had a few “Aha” experiences with “Lifting the Sky” and other of the 18 Lohan Hands.
Aha, I discovered that not only I could generate an energy flow with "Lifting the Sky", which was the original and usually the main purpose of my practice with this exercise, but also I could build internal force, not only at my arms but all over my body and focus the force at my dan tian.
Aha, I discovered that I could use "Lifting the Sky" to generate a cosmic shower. Before this, the method I used was Taoist meditation, opening the rush meridian and let energy blossomed out from "baihui" like a fountain, and come down as cosmic shower. This method was called "Opening of Five Petals" and would take years to accomplish. Now, using "Lifting the Sky" or "Carrying the Moon", I could transmit the skill to students and let them have a cosmic shower in just a one-day course. It was ridiculous but true.
Aha, in fact I could use “Lifting the Sky” or any chi kung exercise, though “Lifting the Sky” is usually more cost-effective than the others, to accomplish any chi kung skills! Not only the highest kungfu, but also the highest chi kung, is the mind.
Besides “Lifting the Sky”, I also had a “Aha” experience with the prosaic-looking “Big Windmill”. The “Big Windmill” my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, taught me was the forceful “Big Windmill”, not the gentle “Big Windmill” we normally practice in our school.
This “Aha” experience happened years ago. After performing the forceful “Big Windmill” a few times I felt my arms and palms very powerful. I thought I could try breaking a brick. It broke, and I was very surprised because earlier I spent more than 2 years training Iron Palm from a book but I could not break a brick.
I thought it could be accidental. I tried a second time, and the brick broke. I tried a third time, and the brick still broke.
Another “Aha” experience was with “Three Levels to Ground”. At first I did not think highly of this exercise, though in my younger days I practiced it everyday for two years in the Art of Flexibility, and taught it often to people with knee or leg problems to help them recover. I sometimes wondered why I considered it one of the best 18 exercises to be included in the 18 Lohan Hands. It must be divine guidance.
It was during the UK Summer Camp in 2007 that I broke some tendons at my right knee during a kick. The injury was so bad that I could hardly walk up some stairs. I did “Three Levels to Ground” and “Bear Walk”. In two days, my right knee recovered! Suddenly it occurred to me that Bodhidharm is great.
The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread 18 Lohan Hands: 10 Questions to Grandmaster Wong in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.