SPECIAL SHAOLIN KUNGFU COURSE -- EXPERIENCES
The following discussion is reproduced from the thread Special Intensive Course -- Experiences started in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum on 5th October 2005.
Assistant Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Scotland
5th Oct 2005
It is now one week since the Special Intensive Course. I think all participants will agree that it was a very important time for us, and different from the previous Intensive Course.
The last course exposed me to the wealth of treasure contained within the Shaolin Arts. It broadened my horizons, and many other factors became equally important as combat efficiency. Personal Development and Spiritual Cultivation now stood next to Mastery of Combat Application as long term aims.
The recent course gave me an incredible insight into the material we already knew. Sigung demonstrated variations and subtleties of patterns and movements. He showed what incredible things were possible using what material we knew so far. He simply showed how to sharpen the tools we already have rather than gather new ones. However, whenever Sigung did give us completely new material, it seemed to fall into place effortlessly. He would discuss similarities between new patterns and previously taught ones. The learning of brand new material was a very natural process.
This opened up my mind to personalizing my own practice. It gave insight into where I needed to focus and what areas I enjoyed. It motivated me to assess my practice and create a more systematic routine. The course also confirmed for me that skill was much more important than technique. Without sufficient skill, no technique can be executed to its full potential.
It also highlighted the true importance of form. Correct form is not for the benefits of appearance but combat application. If I use “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” as a poise but my hand form is an open palm, the essence is lost. The Tiger Claw hand form has a particular chi flow, mind state and effect on my opponent/partner. That is why form needs to be correct. The Bow Arrow stance is not designed to please spectators. If the form is correct, your groin is guarded, your stance 'screwed' into the ground, you're aware of your dan tian and the chi flows in a beneficial direction.
I will add more experiences from the course soon.
Sigung, thank you very much for sharing these incredible treasures with us. I am eternally grateful.Jamie
Sifu Markus Kahila
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Finland
9th Oct 2005
Hello, brothers and sisters.
Thank you for starting this thread, Jamie. This was -- again -- truly an incredible course, and I'm personally anxious to hear more about different thoughts and experiences of all involved. Here I'd like to share some specific experiences from the course that were highlights for me (warning: a very long post ahead ).
On the first day, I realized how much I tried to "be at my best" to get the best benefits from the course, that it ended up making me tense and anxious. So following the principles of Shaolin chi kung, I just let go and decided that first and foremost I want to enjoy being at the course and the privilege of learning from Sifu. As a result the next day of the course -- and each day succeeding -- was fun, relaxing, and most importantly, exceedingly rewarding.
We all had the great privilege of learning the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff Set, along with the underlying principles and application. I myself had never before handled a staff, and (because of time restraints) I hadn't had the time to familiarize myself with the set, so I was very surprised to find out how natural it felt for me. Learning the movements in the set was like coming home, it was as if I had just practiced it yesterday!
I was even more surprised when as a closure for set practice Sifu told us to go to chi flow while still holding the staff. Spontaneously my chi flow directed me into kungfu movements using the staff that followed one another in a continuous flow. While the spontaneous patterns felt correct and natural, they were also completely effortless. Handling the staff felt like I was handling a toothpick! Alongside with the Dragon form, the Ho Family Staff set is now my absolute favourite.
I think for everyone that participated, the methodology and uses of set practice was taken to a whole new level. As Jamie mentioned, one of the greatest strenghts of the course was deepening the skills we already knew. Concerning set practice and combat sequences, there's now a vast selection of approaches we can take; starting from training form and regulating breathing to training the essence, energy, mind and spirit.
Concerning combat sequences the greatest lesson for me was when Sifu instructed us to "keep in the sequence" while sparring with a partner. Soon I found how my haphazard kicks and punches began evolving into continuous techniques with a purpose, and as a result gained a small glimpse of insight of how the sparring of past masters must have been like.
Just like in the November 2004 Intensive course, the greatest rewards for me came at the end of the course. On the last day, alongside reviewing what we had learned Sifu focused into force and mind training. We had a very relaxed and deep session of stance training that ended in chi flow and meditation.During meditation, I felt my mind gently expanding to touch the walls and corners of the hall in which we were practicing.
I was very aware of the physical dimensions of the room, but also of my own body of energy at the same time. Just like in the November course, I felt very close to touching the cosmos (I cannot explain it better), but was taken aback when realizing -- in a very specific and clear manner -- all the things in the phenomenal world I was clinging on to that prevent me from becoming one with the cosmos. Sifu gently told us to focus our minds to our dan tian, and I came back energized, relaxed, peaceful and very grateful for the experience I'd had.
For some reason, it is not uncommon for me to go through kungfu movements during chi flows. Sometimes, when practicing at home, I've spontaneously done force training, gone through different kungfu animal patterns I'm not familiar with and even spoken in strange languages during chi flow. Before I didn't pay much attention to it, but on the last day of the course I went into an uncommonly vigorous chi flow during which I performed a large array of kungfu techniques unknown to me, all spontaneously. I even executed some techniques, such as fast and continuous rolls on the ground, which I never would be able to perform normally.
During the flow I felt the presence of powers or beings that were unknown to me, and infinitely more powerful than myself. So in the end of the long flow I prostrated and thanked the beings present, the past masters, Boddhisattvas and Amitabha Buddha for this wonderful lesson.
Fortunately for me my chi flow was videotaped, so following Sifu's encouragement I'm going to study it and compose combat sequences from it to the best of my ability, even making a set out of it if I'm able.
After less than two weeks from the Special Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, it has totally caught me by surprise just how much I progressed in the short time of one week's intensive course. During the course Sifu laid strong emphasis on the essence of our chosen sets -- mine was Dragon Form -- and now I find everything in my daily practice has changed towards a softer, rounder, more circular -- and essentially -- more powerful approach -- as is fitting for a dragon. The profundity of the change is truly amazing, and personally I cannot find better explanation for it than direct heart-to-heart transmission from Master to student.
During my time with Sifu Wong, I've always been extremely grateful for being able to learn directly from a great Master of a genuine, high-level art, but during this course it truly dawned to me just how beneficial learning directly from a great Master can really be.
A Master is someone who not only makes it easy for you to understand, but also makes it possible for you to expand both mentally and spiritually.
Such a teaching comes often through a simple word, gesture or encouragement, executed at just the right time and in the right way for the student to reap the benefits. During the course I experienced this many times, for example when Sifu pushed me towards understanding the essence of the Dragon. Then and there I understood immediately what Sifu was teaching me and made great progress, not because of my own ability, but because of Sifu's great ability as a teacher.
It is also perfectly normal for a Master understands you completely from a slightest hint. More often than not, a Master will answer even before you have formulated the question yourself. During many of the discussions at the course I was often waiting for the right time to ask a question, or formulating a question in my mind, but found out that Sifu was answering my question before I had actually spoken it out loud.
Needless to say, it is a sign of a great Master to be able to make complex and often bewildering concepts not only simple and easy to comprehend, but also useful and extremely effective in practice. I think Sifu has achieved even more than this by enabling us to implement kungfu, chi kung and Zen principles very efficiently also in our everyday life. This is something that makes me very grateful for each day of practice.
Wow, that really was a long post! However, there are still much, much more memories and experiences from that time I now treasure in my heart, such as the friendship and support of my Shaolin brothers (and sister), the tireless efforts of Wei Foong to make us feel at home, and above all, the generosity and care we received from Sifu that enabled us to transcend our limitations.
So a big Thank You to everyone involved! Can't wait to meet you all soon!
Sifu Tim Franklin
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
9th Oct 2005
It is without question that there was much to be learnt from this course. By the end of day one we seemed to have covered the entire previous intensive course and more. It is amazing what can be taught within eight hours. Sincere thanks to Sifu and all those involved in bringing Shaolin Kung Fu alive again.
Despite all the wonderful techniques and skills we learned one aspect of our training still stood out to be the most important, which sadly is often the most neglected part of students training. Stances. Without stance training we do not have solid stances. Without our stances we cannot use force (force here meaning internal strength, skill and timing, not effort) to its full effect. Even if we have developed excellent skill and wonderful form they are next to useless if we don't have our stances.
It is only when Sifu demonstrated the effectiveness of our stances that I once again was reminded of the true importance of this essential part of our training. I am sure we are very fortunate that this aspect of our training has not been lost or replaced.
So it is back to the drawing board for me to work on my stances and develop some more internal force, that way my tigers will become tigers and the rest of my animals will be happy!
Best wishes to you all.
Assistant Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Scotland
11th Oct 2005
Truly Wonderful Course
I would firstly like to echo my Shaolin brothers in saying thank you to everyone who made this such a special course, especially to Sigung.
As Tim Sisook mentioned we covered a huge amount of material and depth in a very short time (no suprises there for anyone who has attended an intensive course!).
A truly wonderful aspect for me was the day we covered our specialized sets. I had chosen Dragon Form and was already in complete awe of the set, but within minutes Sigung was demonstrating subtleties in form, movement, essence and application which I would never have dreamed off.
I was getting first hand experience of how the skills of a Master create so many short cuts in our learning, and together with the generous transmittion give us opportunities for growth in all areas of our training. I was recieving little adjustments which were changing my experiences, understanding and (without wanting to sound over the top) my whole being or essence.
The course forged a deeper level of what I aim for from the art, and further deepend my skills to apply to my personal training.
I was once again amazed at how generous Sigung was in his teaching and more aware of how much is given on the deeper levels of Shaolin Kung Fu, so once again my heartfelt gratitude for such a trully wonderful course.
I had so many great times with my Kung Fu brothers and sister so thank you to all.
Good luck to everyone with their continued practice after the course.
Shaolin Wahnam Scotland
"A Kung Fu knight was a free, happy Kung Fu Expert, always kind to the old and young and sometimes amorous with unattached and willing damsels. He appreciated poetry and good wine, enjoyed comfortable living whenever he could although he was often penniless because he gave away money to the poor, and was always ready to help the oppressed and suffering." (Sigung, The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu)
Assistant Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Scotland
13th Oct 2005
Many, many thanks to Sifu and everyone involved in the course. I think it is only now that I'm home that I lot of what we learnt has started to sink in. As I mentioned in the 'bon voyage' thread, although we learnt many new techniques, it is my understanding of the essense and spirit of Shaolin that has grown the most.
So much depth in the simplest of actions.
Shaolin Wahnam England
13th Oct 2005
Here's some favourite memories
Chris's demonstration of the Monkey Set, with everyone laughing at his antics... then backing off nervously when he got too close.
The chi flow almost lifting me off the ground when I did my Dragon And Tiger set.
Seeing a swirling plume of black energy rising from Josh's hand.
Sigungs eyes blazing when he showed us the spirit of the tiger. The look alone would have knocked you flat.
The deep, timeless peace in the cave temple at Perak.
Learning breakfalls -- on concrete. Ha Ha.
My hand vibrating in the tiger claw motion of One Finger Shooting Zen (update for those I chatted to about it - my left hand vibrates too now).
Lots of lovely foo-ood!
Clashing with zbee (Tim) during sparring (think of banging your shin as hard as you can on a brick wall). BUT -- the chi flow cured it suddenly with a THUD! my leg kicking out spontaneously behind me.
And of course the many wonderful lessons deepening my understanding -- I don't think I've ever used the phrase "Ah -- Right! now I get it" so much in my life.
Thank You Sigung for your wisdom, humour and keen amending eye. Thank you for letting me come on this course.
And thank you to all my fellow students for the laughs, good training and shared experiences.
Shaolin Wahnam England
14th Oct 2005
Hello all I just got home from the trip a couple of days ago and it hasn't really sunk in yet.
Also, one thing that I am really pleased about happened immediately after the course, whilst we were staying on Langkawi. Ever since I can remember I have been afraid of heights, and particularly in travelling on cable cars (all that swinging around over straight drops).
Then Ronnie and I took the cable car trip on Langkawi. It was terrifying all the way up and then I made myself cross the suspension bridge at the top, during which I had a chi flow clearing through me and releasing something out of my throat/mouth. On the way back down I was no longer afraid of the height or the cable car swinging. This all took a matter of minutes to clear something that has troubled me a whole lifetime!
When the course has sunk in I'll add more.
Meanwhile, regards to all my brothers on the course and many thanks to Sifu.