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Thread: Over-Training and Over-Cleansing

  1. #1
    Leo Shaolin's Avatar
    Leo Shaolin is offline Sifu Leonard Lackinger - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Austria
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    Nov 2010
    Vienna, Austria

    Over-Training and Over-Cleansing

    Dear family,

    Over-training is a term frequently used in our school, but often too little taken care of.

    I am starting this thread to share stories and experiences about it and hope those who have experienced it Ė I am sure there are plenty Ė will join in.

    Our training in Shaolin Wahnam is very powerful which is often under-estimated.

    Itís also hard to imagine that something that brings so wonderful results can be overdone. If you have ever eaten too much of your favourite candy once, you should know that there is a limit to everything, even good things.

    Yes, a lot of things in our school initially sound too fabulous too be true. It takes some time to realize that what we say is real.

    Sifu often tells us:
    The statement that a typical Shaolin Wahnam student gets in one month what a master, including me in the past, gets in one year is true, but many people, including our instructors and students, may find it hard to believe.

    I speak from direct experience. My proverbial example of practicing San Zhan of Wuzuquan for two years and had no internal force, whereas those who attended my Special Wuzuquan Course in Penang could generate tremendous internal force in a few days, is a shining example. Those who attended the Wuzuquan course had prior kungfu experience, but I also had 15 years of kungfu experience behind me before I learned Wuzuquan, and I was an exemplary practitioner.
    If you think that one cannot have too much energy/internal force, then you should understand that over-training is a special kind of Yin Yang disharmony, something our training should normally get rid of.

    In this case Yin represents our capacity to store energy. Yang represents fresh internal force that is built by our training. So, during our practice we increase Yang. Our Yin will then follow to balance out.

    But Yin only adapts slowly. If we continue increasing Yang more and more, our Yin gets left behind and the disharmony increases with every session. Fatigue and increased sleep demand are common uncomfortable results. Why is this so? Your body tries to tell you to take a rest. Sleep is one natural mean to harmonize Yin and Yang therefore you get tired and you might suddenly need some 10 or more hours of sleep.

    After prolonged over-training, eventually over-cleansing might manifest as a result. This is where it can get really nasty. Pain, sickness, mental confusion and intense emotions are only a few examples of the symptoms of over-cleansing. Yes, it is good to be cleansed, but it is not comfortable to cleanse too much in a short time. Itís not only uncomfortable, but can also be harmful! Remember, it is a kind of Yin Yang disharmony, the source of all pain and illness!

    I use to set the limit for cleansing where people can still follow their usual everyday life and are able to enjoy it. Why should you risk your job and donít enjoy your spare-time just to build up even more force, which should give you health and vitality and should improve, not hinder, everything you do?

    Other people in special situations might set their personal limit otherwise. In some cases, heavy cleansing periods might even be necessary, but most people will approve that generally we should be able to enjoy our life. Especially when we have not been sick at all initially! Why should we torture ourselves unnecessarily? Our practice can launch really big changes, but why hurry? Just enjoy your practice! We are still developing much faster than other practitioners and especially than most people who donít care about cultivation at all.

    Types of over-training:
    Quantitative over-training appears if you spend too much time on your training. Without intention to belittle others, especially those students entering Wahnam with prior experience in low-level schools are pre-destined to over-train, if they do not cut down their practice time, which can often be something between a half and a full hour, sometimes more.

    Qualitative over-training often creeps in unwittingly. During our practice we are slowly, but steadily increasing our skills. We might notice that we are very forceful after a session and enjoy the feeling and sensations. This can be a good time to adjust our schedule.

    After attending a course with Sifu over-training does not creep in, it smashes in with a sledge-hammer. Personally I cut down my training time substantially after taking a course. After the Dragon Strength course I hardly trained anything else than a short Chi Kung session in the morning and the set once in the evening for quite some time.

    Our dedicated students who practice one or more of our martial arts are most likely to over-train at some points of their training.

    How can you guard yourself from over-training?

    First of all, follow the instructions! If your Sifu tells you to train only one section of the Iron Wire Set for a few weeks and only then add a second section, then only train one section and add a second one after a few weeks. It can really be that simple.

    Let me share something with you that Sifu once sent to me:
    Over-training is now a major problem amongst our students in our school, and it usually happens amongst dedicated students. Even when they follow our advice of not over-training, and they normally do as they are good students, they do not do so sufficiently. In other words, even when they do not train as much as they like, they still over-train.
    Regularly validate the effects of your training! If you experience any deviations from the normal benefits, reconsider your training with the types of over-training in mind. Your Sifu will be happy to help you in this process, so consult your Sifu! If you are training on your own, then adjust your training using the following list.

    What can you do, if you experience over-training or over-cleansing?

    First of all understand that the inconvenient symptoms are not an illness itself, but a manifestation of the self-made Yin Yang disharmony. The following approaches will help you to recover your balance.

    Like I mentioned in the ďtypes of over-trainingĒ, we can adjust our schedule quantitatively or qualitatively.

    The first means spending less time on training and more on other wholesome activities. Every task you do, be it working, reading, playing football or having wholesome sex will spend some energy. You donít need to worry about losing your energy, especially when you are in the situation of over-training. Just enjoy whatever you do!

    Only some days ago one of my students told me that he felt better after skipping one of his two daily sessions for a few days. From prior experience he noticed the symptoms of over-training correctly and adjusted accordingly. This is a great example of responsible training and instantaneous change.

    The latter means reducing the level of practice. This can be done by doing the reverse of the usual instructions, i.e. thinking, singing a song in your mind or tensing your muscles. In my personal experience I initially found it hard to reduce the level as it became natural to do it correctly. So I normally used to cut down the training time and enjoyed the forceful training, although shorter. But what works well for me now is to focus my mind on correcting my form in every movement. This is a win-win situation as attaining picture-perfect form is a by-product of this approach.

    Sifu has elegantly put it in a nutshell:
    When cleansing is comfortable and manageable, a practitioner should continue as he has been doing. When over-cleansing occurs, i.e. when cleansing has become uncomfortable, the practitioner should slow down Ė in time or in intensity of practice. When adverse effects occur, he should stop training until the adverse effects subside. Then he resumes training gradually.
    To substantiate the underlying philosophy and our warning not to under-estimate the power of our arts, I will share another recent experience of one of my students.

    He has been training diligently for about half a year. He started with Chi Kung and Shaolin Kung Fu and added Tai Chi Chuan two months ago.

    During a Chi Kung session he did not experience much outward movement during chi flow, but a strong vibration in his whole body. He became unconscious and only woke up when he hit the floor. His body continued to shake vigorously. He managed to climb up his bed and noticed that his head was bleeding. He had hit his head on a singing bowl during his fall. He took care of the wound. Luckily he was not in pain and nothing worse happened.

    The chi flow generated by his practice was so powerful that it overwhelmed him completely. This is also a symptom of too much in a too short time, i.e. over-training.

    He is a good student. So he consulted me, we adjusted his training and he is completely fine now and enjoying his reduced training.

    I donít share this case to scare you, but to validate how powerful our practice can be, even after just a few months of practice.

    What can we learn from this event?

    • Train in a safe environment!
    • Donít underestimate the power of our training!
    • Donít overdo it!
    • Notice the signs of over-training and adjust your training accordingly.
    • And last, but not least: If anything strange happens, donít hesitate to consult your Sifu!

    So, donít take over-training lightly! The warnings are not just shallow words. Over-training is real and even common among our dedicated students.

    When you started practicing you might have had initial doubts about the existence of chi at all, due to the lack of previous exposure to it. Soon later you realized that chi is real.

    I hope this thread kicks off your realization that over-training is real too and that you should heed the advice and warning signs.

    Enjoy your training, but not too much!

    Best wishes,

    Sifu Leonard Lackinger

    Shaolin Wahnam Wien

    Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung
    Southern Shaolin Kung Fu
    Wahnam Tai Chi Chuan
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  2. #2
    Leo Shaolin's Avatar
    Leo Shaolin is offline Sifu Leonard Lackinger - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Austria
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Vienna, Austria
    So, what are your experiences with over-training and over-cleansing?

    What have you done to stop it? (Have you done it yet?)


    Sifu Leonard Lackinger

    Shaolin Wahnam Wien

    Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung
    Southern Shaolin Kung Fu
    Wahnam Tai Chi Chuan
    Shaolin Wahnam Wien on facebook
    Shaolin Wahnam Wien on google+

  3. #3
    Andrew's Avatar
    Andrew is offline Sifu Andrew Barnett - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland
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    Feb 2003
    Klosters, Switzerland
    A wonderful article, Leo.

    Sifu has often said "it is far better to undertrain than to overtrain". Yet so many of us (yes, myself included ) have gone through periods where we have not followed this advice well enough. Some I have experienced have gone as far as to ignore the advice or, worse, decided they know better. Being "smarter than the Master" is a sure recipe for disaster. And, sadly, I have seen this happen to more than one person of the years.

    Often, when the person receives a friendly nudge, they listen. The really "smart" ones think they still know better and continue to harm themselves. This is not smart, it is plain stupid! But everyone has to decide for themselves, I guess.

    In my own case, overtraining has mostly resulted in tiredness and pain that have actually stopped me from being able to practice in any intensity. So my body has been self-regulating. What is important, as you note, is to listen to your own body and mind. If in doubt, seek your Sifu's advice.
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  4. #4
    Nessa is offline Sifu Nessa Kahila - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Finland
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    Apr 2003
    Espoo, Finland
    So, what are your experiences with over-training and over-cleansing?

    What have you done to stop it?

    I'm sure most of us that have practiced for a long time have some experience of over-training and over-cleansing.
    But, some are better at listening to the telltale signs of overpractice and in correcting their practice than others.

    I personnally have a tendency to practice too much, which has resulted to over-cleansing. Luckily with children and work, there is less time to practice.

    My experience of serious over-cleansing happened after I had my second daughter. After being without training (during pragnancy) for nine months, I was so happy to be practicing again, that, even though I tried to gradually increase my practice from chi kung to my regular kungfu practice, I went a little overboard. With lack of sleep and my body still recovering from pregnancy and giving birth, after two to three months of practice I experienced very strong chi flows, during which I lost all sense of being me. The energy was like a pulsing wave going through me, up and down, and I was no longer able to stop it. Once it got so strong that I felt I was lost in this great surging energy and I got frightened as I could not slow it down until I collapsed to the ground. After the chi flow I looked in the mirrow and noticed I had bruises in both my eyelids. The energy flow had been so strong.
    After this I experienced over-cleansing: pain, emotional cleansing, anxiety and fear. My energy was 'all over the place', flowing too strongly even without practice.
    Luckily I wrote to Sifu asking his advice. I slowed my practice down to simply chi kung and gentle chi flow. I felt a lot better. But it took over half a year to return to my normal practice and over a year to completely recover back to normal.

    Even though this period was in many ways very unpleasant, I am still very happy I went through it. I came through stronger, healthier and happier, and can now sense a lot better when I'm about to over-train.

    After the Dragon Strength course there has been some over-cleansing, but with slowing down the practice and practicing less, it returns to normal.

    Our Shaolin Arts are indeed very powerful and sometimes without conciously meaning to, we over-practice. It's good to know what the signs are for over-practice or over-cleansing and how to remedy the situation.

    Best wishes,

    Nessa Kahila
    Shaolin Nordic Finland

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew View Post
    Being "smarter than the Master" is a sure recipe for disaster. And, sadly, I have seen this happen to more than one person of the years.
    Often, when the person receives a friendly nudge, they listen. The really "smart" ones think they still know better and continue to harm themselves. This is not smart, it is plain stupid! But everyone has to decide for themselves, I guess.
    Same experience over the years. Agree 100% with Andrew Siheng.


    Maxime Citerne, Chinese Medicine, Qigong Healing & Internal Arts

    Frankfurt - Paris - Alsace



  6. #6
    Zhang Wuji is offline Sifu Zhang Wuji - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Singapore
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    Feb 2004
    Somewhere in Asia
    My sympathies are entirely with those who over-train which is a condition that afflicts most of us. But as a client (COO of a listed company) once told me: "i only got two problems. Too much money and too little money. This [his current problem of too much revenue and being unable to allocate the capital efficiently] is good problem" (he wasn't very educated hence his English was not exactly Queen's.)

    I am reminded of that sentiment here. When you have students who can't be bothered to practice or train, it is a good problem when there are students whom you have to slow down.

    I went through a phase when i was unwittingly over - training and yet i was consciously obeying Sifu's instructions to slow down. The cleansing was so powerful that i was warded in hospital for a day
    It came to a point when Sifu had to tell me :"just 5 minutes or even 1 minute".

    When a student already does his best to obey Sifu's instructions and can still over-train, the damage done by one who thinks he is smarter than Sifu is incalculable.
    Persevere in correct practice

  7. #7
    Mark Blohm's Avatar
    Mark Blohm is offline Sifu Mark Blohm - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Taiwan
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Great Article

    Dear Leo,

    You've given some great advice. Your clear explanation will be very helpful to many people.

    Train in a safe environment!
    Donít underestimate the power of our training!
    Donít overdo it!
    Notice the signs of over-training and adjust your training accordingly.
    And last, but not least: If anything strange happens, donít hesitate to consult your Sifu!

    少林華南台灣 Shaolin Wahnam Taiwan


    "Then how could chi kung overcome diseases where the cause is unknown or when there is no cure? The question is actually incorrect. The expressions "the cause is unknown" and "there is no cure" are applicable only in the Western medical paradigm. The expressions no longer hold true in the chi kung paradigm. In the chi kung paradigm the cause is known, and there is a cure."

    -Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Northern Ireland
    Regarding overtraining, and being smarter than the master, I have one old, and one recent experience I'd like to share.

    I was told to build up stance training gradually, not take it as an endurance test etc, and I did this in the beginning - but then I went to one course or other, can't remember which one, and noticed loads of people with a similar or lesser amount of time spent training than me, had way more force. I asked how much stance training they were doing and they were all doing loads, half an hour in some cases. I decided, subconsciously I believe, that I needed to do the same, and I rationalised that while maybe they were doing too much, Sifu made us do quite a bit, even on beginners courses, so I was fine to push harder.

    I ended up pushing myself so that in a short space of time I made it to either 25 or 30 mins (can't remember which) but I still had not much force! And didn't have as many benefits as before. I was doing it, subconsciously, as an endurance exercise, trying to compete with my classmates, and I believe it took me a very long time to recover from the ill effects!

    Some of those I was competing with have now left the school and I wonder were they making the same mistake, and leaving it unrectified.

    The recent experience is I was on a course with Sifu and couldn't seem to make one of the moves work, so I had kind of modified it, and he told me directly "Don't try to be smarter than the master!" or again I wouldn't have realised. It is more dangerous in personal practice I feel as Sifu is not there to give us this short, sharp, shock treatment.

    There are even things where I think "I don't see how this or that can work", I know from experience that I may work it out later but it is hard to tell myself at the time when my brain is saying otherwise. The only coping strategy I know of is to allow myself to think like this if I am just thinking normally during the day, or if I am practising a different kind of art - but to make sure that when I practise our art, I do it as I have been told, even if I cannot see the reason yet. Or to put it another way "Don't intellectualise" or at least don't intellectualise during the actual training.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Hamphire, UK

    Great article and thread, thank you!

    Dear Leo Siheng,

    Thanks for starting this thread, I'm sure it will be fascinating and beneficial to share in each others' experiences.

    I consider myself a dedicated student and this has led to periods of over-cleansing due to over-training, though the over-training wasn't intentional, nor did I immediately realise it.

    Scenarios leading to my experience of over-cleansing through inadvertent over-training

    My over-cleansing symptoms have almost always occurred following a significant breakthrough in my training - created by correct, diligent practice, or more often from attending a course or practicing new more advanced methods of training in a diligent manner - or possibly a combination of these factors.

    For example, the following circumstances have led to over-cleansing from inadvertent over-training:

    • attending my first Zen course
    • attending my first Chi Kung Intensive in Malaysia
    • attending my first Small Universe course in Malaysia
    • attending all UK Summer Camps
    • starting regular internal force training
    • starting regular Kung Fu practice
    • having an 'aha!' moment with an aspect of training that increased the quality of my training

    My Symptoms and surrounding Circumstances

    I have now come to recognise my over-cleansing symptoms and at the heart of it they are very simple: I just don't feel good!

    Now, it might sound rather simple, and yet for me it has taken a while to really learn and integrate. My conscious mind has had a habit of reminding me of the circumstances in the environment - almost entirely related to transitions and challenges at work, or overwork - that could be causing me not to feel good and I have ignored my intuition and believed it.

    I now realise with hindsight that, had I paid attention to my intuition and altered/reduced my training, then my ability to take things in my stride, enjoy more abundant energy, maintain a stable emotional state, enjoy the beauty of life and possibly even enjoy the challenges I was experiencing at work would have created a different experience for me.

    So for me the big learning has been to evaluate my state internally, which I am in control of, and take responsibility to do something about it rather than be a victim of the external circumstances and assuming that things outside of me are creating my state.

    Worst Experience

    By far the biggest and most unpleasant over-cleansing experience for me has been following the Small Universe course when I was a relative beginner to Chi Kung (2 years). It was a blow away course and to say I was on a high would have been an understatement. For about a month afterwards I was practicing daily to establish a real breakthrough and I was experiencing levels of energy and what appeared to be minimal requirements for sleep that I'd never experienced before. I honestly felt turbocharged with energy, like the "Duracell bunny" in the adverts.

    At this time of course my energy system needed more cleansing than building, I realise this now, and after about a month of daily practice of Small Universe the crash started to happen and I began feeling anxious, fearful, almost depressed. I wasn't able to control my emotional state and everything was getting on top of me. As I mentioned above, I was also having "challenging" times at work which is what I attributed my mental state to. I then started to feel really tired and lethargic, found it difficult to get up in the morning and did my best to avoid contact with people. I had a strong need to sleep early, lie in and even nap in the afternoon when possible.

    Intuitively I must have thought over-training was a possibility because I did cut my Small Universe practice down, but didn't take a break from 2x per day Chi Kung. I hadn't realised how much my practice in general had been turbocharged by the Small Universe course so I was probably still over-training.

    I did speak to my Sifu and also reached out to Sigung who confirmed that I was over-training. Reducing my practice considerably allowed me to gradually get back to "normal" feelings of positivity, energy and enjoyment of life, though it was a slow process over a period of many months.

    Although I didn't realise it at the time, this episode installed an unconscious belief in me that training Small Universe would lead to over-cleansing, which of course is a nonsense generalisation without context. However, it led to my not training Small Universe at all for about a year-18 months. Reevaluating that belief and realising the real cause, appreciating that my training had progressed since then and that I was ready to recommence training at a safe level, taking care, not overdoing it and checking in with how I was feeling, I have since recommenced my training with no ill effects.

    My second big learning in all this was the realisation of just how powerful these arts are and that as we increase our ability to operate at higher levels even so called "lower level" chi kung exercises can be supremely powerful.

    Now I evaluate and adapt my practice as a whole, staying alert to any "symptoms" of feeling anything less than great and in the flow. If the feeling of less than great and in the flow persists more than a few days, I'll review my practice and reduce it. I'm approaching my practice a little like the story of the "Hare and the Tortoise", and I'm happy to be the tortoise!

    I look forward to reading other accounts.

    Thank you Sigung and the past masters for transmitting these amazing arts.

    Enjoy your practice!
    With love and Shaolin salute /o

    "Your purpose in life is to find your purpose & give your whole heart and soul to it." - Buddha

    Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.

  10. #10
    Andy's Avatar
    Andy is offline Sifu Andy Cusick - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
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    Jan 2006
    Excellent post, Matt.

    Your points parallel my own experience.
    Sifu Andy Cusick

    Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
    Shaolin Qigong

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    "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
    - ancient wisdom

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