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Thread: Legacy of Zhang San Feng: 10 Questions to the Grandmaster

  1. #31
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    Luo Lang is offline Sifu Roland Mastel - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland
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    Thank you Barry also from me for keeping the flow upright!
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  2. #32
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    barrys is offline Sifu Barry Smale - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
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    Question and Answer - 2

    Hi,

    Thanks for the feedback. Here is Sifu's answer to question 2 .

    Question and Answer - 2

    Question 2

    Internal force from Wudang Taijiquan flows at the deepest level at the bone marrow.

How is the force that is generated and manifested from flowing at the bone marrow level different from the other classic flowing types of force (like Dragon Strength)?



    Stephen


    Answer:

    It is not only internal force from Wudang Taijiquan flows at the level of bone marrow; all internal force from any art when developed deep enough flows at the bone marrow. Hence, any type of internal force, even that from Iron Wire which is usually consolidated and at the muscle level, flows at the bone marrow level if developed deeply enough.

    However, if all other things were equal, it is relatively faster though by itself it takes a long time, to develop flowing force like Wudang Taijiquan than consolidated force like Iron Wire to flow at the bone marrow level.

    In my opinion and as a rough guide, the descending order from the relatively fastest to the slowest in developing internal force to flow at the bone marrow level of some classical internal force practiced in our school is as follows:

    Dragon Strength - Wudang Taijiquan - Chen Style Taijiquan - Flower Set - Yang Style Taijiquan - Triple Stretch - Iron Wire

    Of the different types of force above, that of Yang Style Taijiquan is the “softest” and most flowing. Why is it, then, that it is not the fastest in its development to flow at the bone marrow level? It is because some form of consolidation is helpful in “sinking” the force deeper at the next level of chi flow.

    Take note of the word “relatively”. When we compare a flowing force and a consolidated force in developing chi to flow at the bone marrow lever, using flowing force is faster. But it also takes a long time, in a matter of years if a practitioner is lucky to perform the method correctly.

    Ours is an exception. Our students using a flowing force can let chi flow at the bone marrow level in a matter of months. It is because we are very cost-effective.

    It is also worthy of note that flowing force is faster than consolidated force in letting chi flow at the bone marrow level, but it is not necessarily always better. In some situation, like developing force to break a brick or someone’s bones, it is more effective in attaining the objective using consolidated force at the muscle level.

    Nevertheless, in daily life flowing force usually is relatively safer and more beneficial than consolidated force, though training consolidated force under a competent teacher is very safe and beneficial.
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  3. #33
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    barrys is offline Sifu Barry Smale - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
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    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 1

    When teaching we regularly suggest our students use the forum. We are often surprised that many don't take advantage of the incredible amount of information available here. Please enjoy the next instalment .

    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 1

    Question 3

    Could you please elaborate why and how the Cloud Hands practice is so amazingly beneficial and effective in terms of restoring good health, developing incredible amounts of internal force and mental clarity, improving the combat efficiency and setting the spirit free for spiritual cultivation?

    Sifu Roland Mastel


    It is reputed that Taijiquan originated from “Cloud Hands”. I believed that after practicing the Shaolin Kungfu he had earlier learned at the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan, Zhang San Feng stood still in the Wuji Stance, like what we do in standing meditation after each practice session.

    Soon his body started to sway, which was described as “extreme stillness generates motion”. Zhang San Feng just was spontaneous, which in this case was following the swaying movements, and this was the principle of “wu-wei”.

    The swaying gradually became more vigoros, which may be described in the Taiji principle of “growing yang”. Following the principle of “wu-wei”, Zhang San Feng moved about from his spot and also moved his arms about as the flowing chi gathered momentum. This was poetically described as “flowing water floating clouds” or “liu shui xing yun” in Chinese.

    The vigorous movement operated by chi flow gradually slowed down, which can be described by the Taiji principle of “extreme yang generates yin”.

    Eventually Zhang San Feng came to a graceful stop, brought his feet together like when he started his practice, and stood upright at the Wuji Stance, also like what we now do in our training session.

    In his practice over many years on the Wudang Mountain, Zhang San Feng had glimpses of the Tao, or Cosmic Reality. Such beautiful spiritual experiences were known as spiritual awakening, awakening to cosmic wisdom with such understanding like we are actually spirit and not body, and as spirit we never die until we return to our Source, called variously as Tao, Zen, Bodhi, Original Face or God. It is heartening that many of our students and instructors have such beautiful and spiritual experiences in advanced courses like Cosmic Breathing, Merging with the Cosmos, Intensive Chi Kung Course, Intensive Taijiquan Course, Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, and Small and Big Universe.

    Eventually Zhang San Feng left his physical body and merged with the Tao, the highest attainment any being can aspire to. For us who have spiritual awakenings, we return to our phenomenal world where we work and live by thinking of our dan tian.

    It is also said that Yang Lu Chan practiced “Grasping Sparrow’s Tail” thousands of times everyday. What Yang Lu Chan practiced was Cloud Hands, as the term “Grasping Sparrow’s Tail” was not known then, and the movements of the sequence which is now called “Grasping Sparrow’s Tail” were only stylized by his grandson, Yang Deng Fu, later. Like Zhang San Feng many centuries before him, Yang Lu Chan’s Cloud Hands movements were spontaneous, not stylized into a routine sequence as Grasping Sparrow’s Tail as performed today.

    There were no records whether Yang Lu Chan eventually merged with the Tao, or even had any spiritual awakening. Personally I do not believe so. Yang Lu Zhan’s dedicated practice of Cloud Hands was for combat, whereas Zhang San Feng’s practice was for spiritual cultivation. Yang Lu Chan could use his Cloud Hand not only to handle any attack, but also he defeated all challengers earning an enviable nickname “Yang the Invincible”.

    Subsequent Taijiquan practitioners were not as capable as Zhang San Feng or Yang Lu Chan in spiritual cultivation or in combat. The free movements of Cloud Hands were styled into routine patterns as Grasping Sparrow’s Tail by Yang Deng Fu. Today in Yang Style Taijiquan and in the 24-Pattern Simplified Taijiquan, there is a pattern called “Cloud Hands” where a practitioner moves his arms in circles in front of his body. Zhang San Feng’s and Yang Lu Chan’s Cloud Hands, which is a shortened term of “Flowing Water and floating Cloud Hands”, were free movements moved by chi flow.
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  4. #34
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    barrys is offline Sifu Barry Smale - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
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    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 2

    We have been exploring the wonders of Cloud Hands used in different ways in the London class. Maybe someone will start a thread to share what they have been learning/experiencing .

    I can also confirm from direct experience that the skills developed in the practice of Cloud Hands are very effective at avoiding/countering being taken down.


    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 2

    Question 3 (Original question)

    Could you please elaborate why and how the Cloud Hands practice is so amazingly beneficial and effective in terms of restoring good health, developing incredible amounts of internal force and mental clarity, improving the combat efficiency and setting the spirit free for spiritual cultivation?

    Sifu Roland Mastel

    Answer (Contd)

    ... Cloud Hands as spontaneous movements is generated by chi flow. When chi flow clears blockage, it overcomes pain, injury and illness. When chi flow is harmonious, it maintains good health. When chi flow is vigorous, it contributes to vitality. When chi flow is abundant, the excess chi is stored at the dan tian and the eight marvelous meridians contributing to longevity.

    Cloud Hands as a routine form can generate chi flow if practiced in a chi kung state of mind, and therefore will derive all the benefits described above. However, most Taijiquan practitioners except in our school perform Cloud Hands as physical exercise and therefore will not get the benefits of chi flow. At the risk of being long-winged to those who have read my statement many times, whether these other Taijiquan practitioners believe in what I have said is their business, not ours. But if they believe in the statement and are humble enough to learn from us, we shall be generous to help them obtain these benefits.

    Cloud Hands, irrespective of whether it is spontaneous free movements or a routine form provided it is performed as chi kung, can develop incredible amount of internal force, especially for practitioners who can consolidate flowing force, like those who attended my Dragon Strength course. For those who do not know how to convert flowing force to consolidated force, the flowing force of Cloud Hands can still be very powerful, but if all other things were equal, it is not as powerful as consolidated force like in Iron Wire. However, in terms of health, vitality and longevity, as well as for peak performance in daily life, if all other things were equal, flowing force is relatively more effective.

    Cloud Hands is also amazingly beneficial and effective in developing mental clarity. This is because a practitioner must be in a chi kung state of mind to generate a chi flow, and one of an essential condition to enter a chi kung state of mind is to clear the mind of all thoughts. When the mind is clear of all thoughts, the practitioner has mental clarity. When he has mental clarity, he will have better result in whatever activity, mental or physical, he does.

    In this aspect of mental clarity, Cloud Hands in spontaneous movements is more effective than Cloud Hands as a stylized pattern. In spontaneous movements the practitioner must maintain his mental clarity. If irrelevant thoughts disturb him, his chi flow and subsequently his Cloud Hands will cease. As a styled pattern, the practitioner may still continue with his physical Cloud Hands movements even when irrelevant thoughts enter his mind.

    Cloud Hands is also very effective for combat, though most Taijiquan practtitioners outside our school who practice Taijiquan as Taiji dance have no idea at all about the combat functions of Cloud Hands. They also have no idea about the combat functions of other Taijqian techniques, though they sing praises of Yang Lu Chan as in invincible fighter. Most of the Taiji dancers are actually very nice people, but that is not the issue. The issue here is that they debase a wonderful art into a decorative dance, often with injury to their knees.

    Past masters have made things simple for us by classifying all attacks into four categories. Cloud Hands alone, whether as free movements or a styled pattern, can counter all attacks of these four catogroies, except when a Cloud Hands practitioner is being pinned down. But to pin him down, an attack has first to take him down. Cloud Hands is very effective in countering any take-downs.

    In a real fight, for which Taijiquan is meant, if an attacker can take down a Taijiquan practitioner, there is no need to pin the practitioner down, as in a sports like Wrestling. The attack can break the practitioner’s leg or strike his groin. ...
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  5. #35
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    barrys is offline Sifu Barry Smale - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
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    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 3

    Question and Answer - 3 - Part 3

    Question 3 (Original question)

    Could you please elaborate why and how the Cloud Hands practice is so amazingly beneficial and effective in terms of restoring good health, developing incredible amounts of internal force and mental clarity, improving the combat efficiency and setting the spirit free for spiritual cultivation?

    Sifu Roland Mastel

    Answer (Contd)

    ... What would you do if an attacker attacks you with a strike? Simple: just brush of his strike with one hand of your Cloud Hands, rotating your body to avoid his full force, and counter-strike him with your other hand.

    What would you do if an attacker attacks you with a kick? Simple: move back a small step to avoid his kick and simultaneously brushing it away, immediately move in to counter-strike him with your other hand.

    What would you do if an attacker attempts to fell you? Simple: move a step to neutralize leverage advantage of his throw, and simultaneously brush off his hands and counter-strike him with your other hand.

    What would you do if an attack grips your arm? Simple: make a circular movement of your gripped arm to release the grip, rotating your waist for better effect if needed, cover the attacker adequately and counter-strike him.

    These are examples to show how Cloud Hands can be used to counter any of the four categories of attack. Of course there are more sophisticated counters for more sophisticated attacks.

    Cloud Hands, in both the free movement mode and the styled pattern mode, can be used to set the spirit free for spiritual cultivation, ranging from the basic level to the highest level. There are two main approaches. We may use Cloud Hands as a primary method or as a supplementary method to attain relaxation, which is the most basic level of spiritual cultivation, or to return to Tao, which is the highest level, and to achieve any spiritual attainment in between!

    As a primary approach, once we can perform Cloud Hands in spontaneous chi flow movements, we are already relaxed. If we use Cloud Hands as a stylized form, we have to be relaxed before we can perform it as chi kung.

    As a supplementary approach, after performing Cloud Hands whether in spontaneous movements or as a stylized pattern, we go into Wuji Stance and be relaxed.

    Advanced practitioners can progress further and deeper. As they perform Cloud Hands whether in spontaneous movements or as a stylized pattern but in a chi kung state of mind, they may have a glimpse of Cosmic Reality, and if they leave their physical body they will merge with the Tao. For us in Shaolin Wahnam, as we are not yet ready to merge with the Tao, we think of our dan tian and return to our phenomenal world.

    This is a theoretical explanation. It needs great skills to attain practical result. For those who are not ready or do not want to merge with the Tao yet, like us in Shaolin Wahnam, we gently think of our dan tian to return to our physical body. Unless one is a master himself, he should practice such an exercise, even when he is advanced and ready, under the supervision of a master to ensure that he returns to our world.

    The same process operates when we use Cloud Hands as a supplementary approach. After performing Cloud Hands in spontaneous movements or as a stylized pattern, we go into the Wuji Stance and let our spirit expand beyond our physical body to have a glimpse of Cosmic Reality. Then we think of our dan tian to return to our phenomenal world. Like in the primary method approach, this practice must be supervised by a master. Other spiritual cultivators who are ready and have reached this very high spiritual developmental stage, like Taoist masters, may leave their physical body to merge with the Tao.

    There are countless stages between these two extremes. We may, for example, use Cloud Hands, whether as spontaneous movements or a stylized pattern, as a primary approach or as a supplementary approach, to be peaceful and happy, or to be free, to develop a lot of mental clarity or tremendous internal force. We shall have some opportunities to practice these skills, or to receive these skills from my heart-to-heart transmission, at the Legacy of Zhang San Feng course.

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  6. #36
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    Amazing answers from Sigung! Thank you.

    For those who are not ready or do not want to merge with the Tao yet, like us in Shaolin Wahnam, we gently think of our dan tian to return to our physical body. Unless one is a master himself, he should practice such an exercise, even when he is advanced and ready, under the supervision of a master to ensure that he returns to our world.
    Can one physically die if one merges with the Cosmos without returning back to our world?

    Best wishes,
    Stephen

  7. #37
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    barrys is offline Sifu Barry Smale - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
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    Question and Answer - 4 - Part 1

    Yes, the Wudang Shaolin Kungfu that the great Zhang San Feng “invented’, which was called Taijiquan a few centrueis after him, covers all aspects from heatlh to internal force, from marrial skills to spiritual cultivation. It is , in my opinion, the climax of not only Shaolin Kungfu development but the climax of all martial art development.


    - Looking forward to training this with some of you in July


    Question and Answer - 4 - Part 1

    Question 4

    Sifu has noted that Zhang San Feng was probably the greatest martial artist ever. My questions are as follow:

    If Zhang San Feng were alive today, what would Sifu wish to learn from him?

    With the tremendous development in Sifu's teaching methods and the numerous innovations in training and skill development Sifu has made in the past decades, how does Sifu think Zhang San Feng would view the "Legacy of Zhang San Feng" course Sifu will be teaching in terms of content, teaching method and potential achievement for the participants?

    Zhang San Feng is celebrated as the "inventor" of Taijiquan. Probably based on his previous Shaolin training, Zhang San Feng developed this complete system which, I believe, covers all aspects from health to internal force, from martial skills to spiritual cultivation, etc. Can Sifu please share his thoughts as to why others later found it necessary to develop other Taijiquan styles from this already compact, complete and highly efficient system?

    Sifu Andrew Barnett


    Answer

    If Zhang San Feng were alive today and willing to teach me, which will be a great honour for me, I would like to learn from him how to live in this phenomenal world for more than 200 years.

    I was a very good student when learning from my four sifus, Uncle righteousness, Sifu Chee Kim Thong, Sifu Ho Gatt Nam, and Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. But I might not be a good student if Zhang San Feng asked me to abstain from eating delicious food like Portugese grilled prawns, Spanish jarmon and Latin American steak.

    Honesetly I think the great Zhang San Feng would be very surprised. In all probablility we would say, “How could you teach my legacy in five days? I took more than 30 years to attain what you will teach.”

    In terms of content, Zhang San Feng might say, “The patterns you will teach are not the same as those I performed but the principles and practice are close enough. And why do you reveal the secrets of internal force so readily. I didn’t use the terms ‘flowing force’ and ‘consolidated force’, but they describe quite accurately what I did.”

    In terms of teaching methodology, Zhang San Feng might say, “What is this video thing about the Wudang set you name after me? You mean they learn the set before even attending the course? My students would take a few years to learn a kungfu set, with me supervising them everyday. They would also take many years to develop internal force. But you do that in five days? You must take care that your students don’t over-train.”

    In terms of potential achievement for the course participants, the great Taoist patriarch and sage might say, “Overcoing pain and illness? My students didn't have this problem. They were already healthy before they started learning kungfu from me. Being combat efficient? Of course! I don’t want my students to make a mockery of the martial art they practice. But like you, combat efficiency, though important, is not our priority. Our priority is to return to the Tao.”

    “But what are these shoots and pin-downs, and Muay Thai knee jabs? If these attackers fought that way, my students could kill them with palm strikes on their head. But we won’t kill them. We would throw them about like little boys.

    “Applying what they learn to daily life? That is not my concern, nor the concern of my student I and they have done that before we come to the Wudang Mountain to cultivate. But if your students still live in the phenomenal world, that is an excellent achievement for them. But wait. You are the first kungfu master I know who has this aspiration. All other kungfu masters taught their students how to fight well.”

    “And did you say you would teach Taijiquan and call it my legacy? What is this Taijiquan? I haven’t heard its name before. What I teach is Wudang Shaolin Kungfu.”

    “But the most amazing is that you want to teach my legacy in five days! Anyway I wish you all the best.”

    Yes, the Wudang Shaolin Kungfu that the great Zhang San Feng “invented’, which was called Taijiquan a few centrueis after him, covers all aspects from heatlh to internal force, from marrial skills to spiritual cultivation. It is , in my opinion, the climax of not only Shaolin Kungfu development but the climax of all martial art development.

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  8. #38
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    Andrew is offline Sifu Andrew Barnett - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland
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    Big smile when reading Sifu's answer. Fantastic
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  9. #39
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    Claudien S is offline Sifu Claudien Scicluna - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Malta
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    Such an amazing, amazing answer

    Awesome

    Blessings,
    Claude
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    I have to admit I enjoyed reading Sifu's answers very much and it just leaves me wanting to know more

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