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Deviating from the fundamental skills of Shaolin Chi Kung: 10 Qs to the Grandmaster

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  • #31
    Question 2

    Dear Family,
    Here is another answer from Sifu on this very useful and enlightening thread

    Question 2

    Especially for those of us that don't live near a Wahnam community, is there any type of self-assessment we can perform from time to time to determine if we have deviated from correct practice?


    There are four sets of self-assessment one can perform to check whether he has deviated from correct practice. To put it the other way round, which is more appropriate, there are three sets of self-assessment he can make to ensure he is practicing correctly.

    These four sets of self-assessment are:

    1. Following the fundamentals of the practice.
    2. Accessing whether he has obtained the benefits the practice is meant to give.
    3. Accessing whether he has accomplish the aims and objectives of his practice.
    4. Following the three golden rules of practice, which are don’t worry, don’t intellectualize and enjoy the practice.

    In our school, the fundamentals of practice ars the same for both chi kung and kungfu. There are just two fundamentals:

    1. To be relaxed.
    2. To be focused.

    These two fundamentals can be achieved by entering into a chi kung state of mind in chi kung practice, or entering Zen or entering Tao in kungfu practice. These are also the two fundamentals mentioned by generations of chi kung and kungfu masters.

    However, in some kungfu schools today, students tense their muscles, They also stress their mind. From our perspective, as well as from the advice by generations of masters, tensing their muscles and stressing their mind will result in deviation to the practitioners.

    Students must guard against knowing the theory but doing the reverse in practice. This is actually what some students unwittingly do. They know that they have to be relaxed and focused, but in their practice, they unwittingly tense their muscles and worry about their techniques. It is therefore a great help of students have a competent teacher supervising them.

    There are three main benefits of chi kung practice, namely good health, vitality and longevity. Young students may have to wait for many years before they can tell whether they obtain the benefit of longevity, but usually after a few months, they can tell whether they have good health and vitality.

    If they don’t have these two benefits of good health and vitality, they have deviated from correct practice. Usually they have not followed the fundamentals, which are to be relaxed and to be focused. Or they may have practiced gentle physical exercise instead of genuine chi kung.

    The same Benefits of good health, vitality and longevity apply to kungfu practice, with the addition of combat efficiency. If students do not have these benefits, they would have deviated from correct practice.

    Unfortunately, most kungfu practitioners today, and by extension most martial artists today, do not have these benefits. This is because, though they may not want to admit it, the kungfu or martial arts they practice are not genuine. They only practice external forms of their arts from demonstration, or for generous exchange of blows. Thus, they have deviated right from the start. Instead of practicing genuine kungfu, or a genuine martial art, they have practiced something else.

    Some students may have some special reasons for practicing chi kung or kungfu. They may want to overcome some illness, or to learn some special kungfu sets or develop internal force. Provided that first of all they have learned from competent teachers who can help them to fulfil their needs, if they have accomplished their needs, they have practiced correctly.

    If they have not accomplished their needs, they have deviated. Again if they have deviated, provided that they learn from competent teachers, it is because they have not followed the two fundamental requirements of being relaxed and being focused.

    The three golden rules of practice in our school, which are don’t worry, don’t intellectualize and enjoy the practice, are excellent for preventing deviation, besides ensuring correct practice. Even if they made some mistakes due to carelessness or forgetfulness, the chi flow as a result of their practice is more than sufficient to erase the harm their mistakes may have caused.

    Sifu Mark Appleford



    • #32
      Charles David Chalmers
      Brunei Darussalam


      • #33
        In our school, the fundamentals of practice ars the same for both chi kung and kungfu. There are just two fundamentals:

        1. To be relaxed.
        2. To be focused.
        It's so good to be reminded of how the more simple something is, the more high level it is.

        How privileged and blessed we are to practice these arts!

        Thank you, Sifu/Sigung.

        Shaolin salute,

        Emiko Hsuen

        Taught by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
        4th generation successor of the Southern Shaolin Monastery
        Small and Big Universe Course: Nov 21 to 25
        Becoming a Shaolin Wahnam Kungfu Practitioner: Nov 26 to Dec 2
        Cultivating Spirit Nourishing Energy: Dec 2 to Dec 8
        Intensive Chi Kung Course: Dec 9 to Dec 13
        To apply, send email to:


        • #34
          Question 3

          More Answers Folks, I know that you will enjoy them



          Question 3

          You have mentioned in your article "Developmental Stages In Training to Become a Master" that "The great majority, which constitutes more than 95%, will be unsuccessful".

          I must say that this number impressed me a lot. I never realised that it was so high. I believe that you speak in general terms, which also include practitioners from other schools.

          How about Shaolin Wahnam? How many of us do you estimate that will be successful in achieving the masters level? Having such an excellent Grandmaster and Sifus in our school and an incredibly extensive philosophy resources behind, it seems very hard to deviate from the noble purpose of achieving the masters level. Why does then many might not achieve it? What will our challenges be?


          When I mentioned in my article <a href=’’> Developmental Stages In Training to Become a Master</a> that the great majority, which constituted more than 95%, would be unsuccessful in becoming a master, I was speaking generally.

          I also explained in the article that “This is especially so today when learning a genuine art from a real master is so very rare.”

          The main test of genuine kungfu is combat efficiency -- of course using kungfu. If a practitioner cannot apply his kungfu for combat, irrespective of whether he wins or loses, his art cannot be said to be genuine kungfu.

          The essence of chi kung is energy flow. If there is no energy flow in a practitioner, his art cannot be said to be genuine chi kung. We need to be aware that energy flow in our school is noticeable and often vigorous. In many schools, the energy flow may not be obvious, but so long as there is energy flow, the art is genuine chi kung.

          More than 90% of those who practice kungfu today cannot apply their kungfu for combat. They only perform kungfu gymnastics for demonstration, or use other martial arts for free sparring. Of the remaining 10% who practice genuine kungfu, which means 10 persons out of a 100, only 5% become masters, which means less than 1 person in a 100 will be a master.

          More than 80% of those who practice chi kung today do not experience an energy flow. Of the 20 practitioners out of a 100 who experience an energy flow, 15 of them may not realize it, and only 5 persons may know it happens. But we still consider these 20 persons practicing genuine chi kung. Of these 20 practitioners, 5% will become a master, which means there will be 1 master out of 100 practitioners.

          With this understanding, you may not be so surprised now that there are very few real masters, though “masters” by name, including those we call masters out of respect, are plentiful.

          My estimate that 5% of those who practice genuine kungfu and genuine chi kung will become masters, is reasonable. To have mastered kungfu, one only he can use kungfu for combat, but also has some internal force, though he may not realize it, and knows some basic kungfu philosophy. To have mastered chi kung, not only he can generate an energy flow, even though he may not be conscious of it, but also he exhibits good health and vitality.

          We would not reasonably call a kungfu practitioner a master, regardless of how long he may have trained, if he does not know combat application of most of the patterns in his kungfu sets. We would not reasonably call a chi kung practitioner a master, regardless of how long he may have trained, if he is routinely weak and depressed.

          Our school, Shaolin Wahnam Institutue, is elite. More than 70% of those who practice kungfu in our school, and more than 80% of those who practice chi kung will have reached a master’s level, though we may not normally call them masters.

          What criteria would you use to call a practitioner a kungfu master? Many people may use time of training as the sole criterion. Irrespective of whether the practitioner can apply his kungfu for combat, and sometimes even irrespective of how bad his kungfu form may be, if he has trained kungfu for more than 20 years, he would be called a master.

          My criteria are different. A kungfu practitioner would have reached a master’s level if he can apply his kungfu to beat many martial artists, his kungfu form is correct, he knows some kungfu philosophy, has some internal force, and is healthy and cheerful, I believe more than 70$ of the kungfu practitioners in our school have reached this level.

          What criteria would you use to call a practitioner a chi kung master? Again, many people may use time of training as the criterion. Even when he is sick and weak, if he has trained for more than 20 years, they would call him a master.

          Again my criteria are different. A chi kung practitioners would have reached a master’s level if he knows some chi kung techniques, skills and philosophy, and is healthy, full of vitality, peaceful and happy. I believe more than 80% of chi kung practitioners in our school have accomplished these criteria.

          However, we do not normally call these 70% of our kungfu practitioners, and 80% of our chi kung practitioners, masters, out of convention as well as respect for other masters, so-called or genuine.

          I can reasonably call 30% of our kungfu practitioners and 50% of our chi kung practitioners masters, though some of them are not certified instructors in our school, which means that their status is still “students”. Most of them have practiced our arts for more than 10 years.

          I would call only 30” of our kungfu practitioners as master, although 70% of them have attained a master’s level because the remaining 40% cannot comfortably defeat a black-belt holder of Karate, Taekwondo or other martial arts. A main reason for this inadequaqncy is because although they practice kungfu, combat efficiency is not top on their priorities. They are also not ready to put in time and effort to train the “ever-victorious strategy” I have told them to do.

          Nevertheless, 30% of kungfu practitioners and 50% of chi kung practitioners can be called masters, is very high compared to only 5% I would estimate in other schools even if we regard that all the other students practice genuine kungfu and genuine chi kung.

          The very reason why we in our school can have this very high percentage of students becoming masters is because of an excellent grandmaster and instructors with an incredibly extensive philosophy. Not only our arts are genuine, i.e. our kungfu practitioners can apply kungfu for combat, and our chi kung practitioners have energy flow, our methodology is also very cost effective. People in other schools may not be happy to hear it, but our students can accomplish in one month what others may need one year if they ever accomplish it. So, in our school only a minority deviate from achieving the master’s level. Their challenges, irrespective of whether they attain the master’s level, are to put in time and effort.

          Those who fail to attain the master’s level are those who fail to put in time and effort. They only attain courses as novelty, and they do not practice consistently at home. But even if they fail to become masters, they are genuine practitioners, being able to apply their kungfu for combat, particularly when they spar with their classmates, and they overcome their illness and are healthy, full of vitality, peaceful and happy.
          Last edited by Mark A; 10th May 2016, 04:09 PM.
          Sifu Mark Appleford



          • #35
            Thank you :-)

            Dear Shaolin Wahnam Family,

            I would like to thank Sifu for answering not only this question but all my questions in these fantastic threads that the Fully Alive Team has started.

            Thank you Sifu for always being an example of what I would like to become. It is really a privilege to be your student and I am very grateful for that.

            Thank you to the Fully Alive Team for always putting so much dedication in spreading these wonderful arts. :-)

            Thank you to everyone formulating the questions so we can all learn together.

            With Love, Care and Shaolin Salute,



            • #36
              Wow, we are so fortunate and blessed in our school to have such an amazing Grandmaster.

              Thank You Siging for giving us such comprehensive and clear understanding of our schools mastery.

              A great question as always with a great answer.



              • #37
                More :

                Question 6

                So, I am left conflicted, trying to find a balance between two seemingly opposing paradigms. I love both of them, and have experienced the pro's and con's of life with only one and not the other. Without a doubt, my life is better with genuine Chi Kung and Kungfu. But I would also say that my life is better with physical exercise/Water Buffalo training.

                Is my conflict coming from a blockage? Am I experiencing a deviation from incorrect practice? Is it just a matter of me trying to be smarter than the master? Or is it perfectly OK to live fully, doing the things that excite me and bring me enjoyment, and I simply need to stop worrying about it?


                Let us fun, which also brings benefit, with some algebra, which is a language using symbols to represent difficult ideas.

                Let A and B represent two seemingly opposing paradigms, both of which you love. Here A represents practicing genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu. B represents practicing physical exercise or water-buffalo training.

                You have experienced the pros and cons of A.
                You have not experienced the pros and cons of B.

                Your life is better with C and D, which represent genuine chi kung and kungfu respectively.

                You would say, but are not sure, that your life will also be better with E, which represents physical exercise or water-buffalo training.

                Now the problems.

                Is your conflict coming from a blockage? The conflict is trying to find a balance between A and B.

                Are you experiencing a deviation from incorrect practice?

                Are you trying to be smarter than the master?

                Is it perfectly OK to live life fully, doing the things that excite you and bring you enjoyment?

                Is it perfectly OK that you simply need to stop worrying about it?

                You did not specify what “it” is, but it can be reasoned from your description that it may refers to living life fully, or being smarter than the master, or experiencing a deviation, or finding a balance between practicing genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu on one hand, and physical exercise or water-buffalo training on the other. In other words, it refers to your current situation with all your problems.

                When you have translated your verbal description into algebraic form, although it needs some effort, you can see your problems more clearly and are in a better position to overcome them. In truly Shaolin Wahnam spirit, you can make your problems as opportunities for improvement.

                As it is often the case, the answers depend on a few variables. The relevant variables are mentioned below for your attention.

                Now the answers, or solutions, to your problems.

                Yes, your conflict is coming from a blockage, a mental blockage. An effective way to clear the blockage is to practice genuine chi kung.

                You did not specifically ask whether you should choose A or B, or do both, probably with different emphasis, but nevertheless I shall still give you my opinion.

                If you have experienced the pros and cons of A, unless the cons overwhelm the pros, you should continue A, especially you prefer to be a the safe side.

                If you are adventurous, and ready to face some unpleasant results, you can try B. You don’t have to totally abandon A, but try B to compare results. Then you can decide what is best to do. You may, for example, just do A, or just do B, or do both with varying emphasis.

                No, you are not experiencing a deviation in this situation.

                But if you have practiced chi kung or kungfu wrongly, then it is a deviation, and it is a different issue. The solution here is to correct your wrong practice, not to change into another practice.

                Yes, you are trying to be smarter than the master. In this case you are trying to be smarter than the grandmaster and other sifus. They have found from their own experience that genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu are far better, and have discarded physical exercise or water-buffalo training, yet you are saying, and indirectly telling them, though not intentionally, what fools they are for not realizing the benefits of physical exercise or water-buffalo training.

                It is not OK to live life fully, doing the things that excite you and bring you enjoyment, if what you do bring harm to you or other people. In this case, if you perform physical exercise or water-buffalo training the ways they are normally done, you will bring harm to yourself.

                Yes, it is OK that you simply need to stop worrying about your problems. Not worrying does not mean nor caring. You need to care about these problems, and more importantly to take actions to overcome them.

                I have given you my answers, based on my experience and wisdom. Whether you choose to follow my suggestions is your choice and your right. As I have mentioned a few times, if someone chooses to be smarter than the master and does water-buffalo training instead of genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu, or worries over these problems and becomes stressful, it is his business, and not my responsibility nor the responsibility of our school.

                Sifu Mark Appleford



                • #38
                  Dear Sigung and Fully Alive team,

                  If it's still fine to ask a question:

                  Do the dangers of overtraining apply to training jing and mind, as they apply to energy cultivation? How may deviations of jing and mind manifest? As clumsiness and errant thoughts?

                  With sincere respect,


                  • #39
                    Question 7

                    Question 7

                    Most, if not all, practitioners hit plateaus in their progress at some points. I remember several occasions over the years where I had no tangible effect from practice for some time (days, weeks). This led me to ask myself what I was doing wrong, was I deviating, was what I had experienced until that point real or fantasy, why was nothing happening any more, etc. In short, I started to question everything about my practice.

                    My question, then, is: how does one recognize the difference between a natural plateau and a deviation and how should one ideally react in each case?


                    It may depend on how we define a “plateau” or how we look at our training, but I believe that plateaus, though not uncommon, do not generally happen.

                    I follow the three golden rules of practice, which are don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, and enjoy the practice – now as well as when I was a student, though these three golden rules were formulated from direct experience after I had started teaching chi kung to the public for some time.

                    In my attitude towards training, the idea of immediate benefits from my training session did not occur. Please take note that the idea did not occur, but the actual benefits did exist, though I might not be consciously aware of them at the time.

                    Hence, “plateaus” did not happen because as I was not thinking of the benefits, the concept of plateaus where there were no obvious benefits for some time, became irrelevant. The same situation applied to my classmates who trained with me at different times from different sifus. As far as I can remember, not a single one of my classmates ever complained of, or even mention, a plateau during their training.

                    I did not ask my classmates whether they enjoyed their training. I presumed they did, otherwise they would have left their training. Our training was a hobby, not a need.

                    Does this attitude of not craving for benefits in our training, contradict the attitude of accessing our training with reference to our set aims and objectives? No, it does not contradict. We access our training after a few months, the time it takes the benefits to manifest. If an illness takes 6 months to be overcome with chi kung training, we access our training after 6 months, or 9 months to give some allowance. We may access the training after 3 months to see if we have made progress, but if the illness is not overcome yet, we are not concerned.

                    On the other hand, if you access your benefits everyday, you will not find any benefits, and think you may experience a plateau. It is like a child growing. Those who haven’t seen the child for some time, would notice how much the child has grown, but his parents may not see any growth everyday.

                    Incidentally, this shows the great difference between having different attitudes in our training. If you practice because you enjoy it, you don’t see any plateaus. If you crave for benefits in the same training, you see plateaus everyday.

                    It is worthy of note that this enjoying our practice does not come from me, although I formulated the three golden rules of practice for our school of not worrying, not intellectualizing and enjoying the practice. Enjoying our practice came from great masters in the past, though they did not explicitly say it but implied it. Because of the linguistic difference between English and Chinese, “enjoying your practice” is easily worded in English, and is even poetic, but it is not easily worded in Chinese.

                    The past master advocated that “When you practice, you don’t think of the benefits. The benefits will come.” They also advocated that “a minute of practice brings a minute of result”.

                    Hence, it is understandable that you may not have any tangible effects from your practice for days or even weeks. But the effects are taking shape, though you may not consciously be aware of them. You have to wait for months for the effects to become obvious. Others, if they ever have the results, may have to wait for years.

                    Those who attended my intensive courses, or even regional courses, might have tangible effects in hours. But I explained that they should spread out their practice for many months, or a few years. If they practiced the way they learned at the courses, they would surely over-train.

                    You were also not doing anything wrong in your practice. Deviation hardly happens in our school. Had you done anything wrong, you would have adverse effects, instead of thinking you had a plateau. In fact, your thinking you had a plateau indicated that your practice was correct, otherwise you would be over-training.

                    You were also not fantasizing. Your chi flow, for example, was real. You did not fantasize that you had one. Your felling your opponent to the floor, if you practiced kungfu, was real. It was not a fantasy.

                    A lot of things are happening to you in your practice. You were becoming healthier and full of vitality. You were enhancing your longevity. You became more peaceful and happy. You attained peak performance in your daily work.

                    If you look at a mirror, you may not see these benefits happening to you. But your friends who have not seen you for a long time, can see the difference clearly. Instead of questioning everything about your practice, you should kiss the feet of your sifu, not necessarily literally, for these wonderful benefits. If you do not want to kiss his feet, even figuratively, at lease be grateful.

                    Recognizing the difference between a plateau and a deviation is easy. If you can’t do this, you don’t deserve to be in our school, unless you ask this question for others. Both the nature and symptoms of a deviation and a plateau are clearly different

                    A deviation is when you have practiced an art wrongly, especially when you were not relaxed and when you intellectualized during practice. The symptoms are adverse effects. The more you have deviated, the more serious are the adverse effects. Even if you have not heard of the term “deviation”, you can’t fail to know you are in a deviated situation because of the adverse effects.

                    A plateau is when you do not have any adverse effects but are aware that you don’t have any benefits. If you examine yourself to find plateaus everyday, you may find them everyday. If you examine yourself to find plateaus in six months, if you are fortunate to be in our school, not only you do not find any plateaus you may be surprised that you have made remarkable progress.

                    If you have deviation, which very rarely occurs in our school, you correct your practice, preferably with your sifu.

                    Do not confuse deviation with over-training. If you have over-trained, reduce the time or intensity, or both, of your training.

                    If you experience a plateau, a real one, not imaginary, you don’t have to do anything extra except really enjoy your practice. The thoughts that your benefits are building up waiting to be manifested, and that you are not over-training, can contribute to your enjoying your practice
                    Sifu Mark Appleford