I've been diagnosed with Lyme disease (Tick bite fever) and have been constantly vomiting and experiencing sever muscle pains (especially the back), headaches and fever. I've been taking antibiotics for 3 months, it seems to be helping me, but at the same time it's damaging my body. Can you recommend anything that can help me? I have lost faith in Western medicine and am looking at acupuncture, Chinese herbs and chi kung for a cure.
Yes, I would recommend that you practice high-level chi kung from a competent teacher. Please note that it is insufficient just to practice chi kung from any teacher.
Some people think that there is just one form of chi kung. This is far from the truth. There are many, many types of chi kung with a wide range of levels. Low-level chi kung will not be strong enough to overcome your problem.
Even if you practice high-level chi kung, you must practice from a competent teacher. If you learn it from a mediocre teacher, you may not get good results. If you learn it from a bad teacher, you may have harmful effects instead.
Logically, one would ask how he can differentiate high-level chi kung from low-level chi kung, and differentiate a competent teacher from an incompetent one. High-level chi kung gives good results in a short time, whereas low-level chi kung gives little result and it takes a long time. A competent teacher enables you to obtain the results practicing the art is purported to give, whereas an incompetent teacher does not.
For those who are already practicing chi kung, these statements can be very helpful -- if they take some time to think about them and act accordingly.
Thousands of people practice chi kung, and most of them know that practicing chi kung brings good health and vitality. If they notice an improvement of their health and vitality after a short preiod of practice, say a few months, then they practice high-level chi kung. If their improvement is little and it takes them a few years, then their chi kung is low-level.
But many of them still remain unhealthy and weak despite having practiced for many years. This means they are not practicing genuine chi kung, or their teachers are not competent, or they are not practicing the way they are taught by competent teachers to practice.
But for those who have not practiced chi kung, the statements are just academic. Academically, they know high-level chi kung produces good results in a short time and a competent teacher delivers results. But they have to start practicing before they can know whether they have good or poor results, and whether the results take a short or a long time to come, or whether the teacher delivers results. This defeats the purpose of asking the question. They want to know before they start to practice whether the chi kung or the teacher they have chosen is high-level or competent.
Happily, there is an effective way to get around this. Observe the results of the teacher's students. This will give you a good idea whether the chi kung he teaches is high-level, and whether he is a competent teacher.
Some people may complain that they have no time or no money, or that high-level teachers are not found in the neigbourhood where they live. This is a problem they have to solve themselves if they want to learn from high-level teachers. These teachers are unlikely to move to their neighbourhood and teach them free.
The short answer is that qigong will enhance your life.
I have had friends and colleagues who ask me (half in jest) if after learning qigong, I can levitate, fly or kill someone with just a look.
While I find these questions amusing, I sometimes cannot help but feel a tinge of sympathy for anyone who harbour such misconceptions about the benefits of qigong.
Many Catholic and Christian commentators lament that people like to look for the miracles of God, rather than the God of miracles. In the same way, I have always wondered why people like to look for the flashy special effects instead of the simple joys in life.
Because I can fall sleep easily after my qigong practice, I have almost forgotten what insomnia is. It was not until I had several lunch and dinner conversations with my colleagues that I found out that just about all of them could not sleep at night. The immense pressures and stress they undergo early in the day until (often) late into the night and the wee hours of the morning don’t go away even after they finally have a chance to hit the sack. The lingering effects of all that stress keep them awake hours after they lie in bed. It was like an epiphany for me. Being able to sleep seconds after I want to was, I realised, a rare quality among professionals and executives. My friends were green with envy when I told them, somewhat surprised, that I don’t seem to have this problem of insomnia.
Good health is something we take for granted, sometimes even after we have lost it. I practice qigong because it restores (restored) and maintains my good health. This is not to say I never fall sick (although some of my fellow practitioners never seem to), but when compared with my previous condition before I began practicing qigong, the frequency and intensity of any illness is much reduced and my recovery is much faster. In other words, I get well fast after the occasional mild flu.
To have an idea of the benefits of qigong, it is necessary to understand how the human body functions from the perspective of Chinese medicine. The passages below are from my teacher’s (Grandmaster Wong) article “Good health is our birth-right”):
According to Chinese medical philosophy, there is no such a thing as an incurable disease, although a patient may be incurable if his illness, even a simple one, has done damage beyond a certain threshold. Every disease can be cured because we are by nature healthy.
Even a few minutes of reflection will reveal that this premise is true. Think of the millions of deadly germs that are around and inside you; think of the wear and tear that is constantly going on in your body; and think of the continual stress that affects your psyche. Yet you are not normally sick -- if your natural systems are working the way they should.
The Chinese figuratively describe this natural working of your bodily and mental systems as harmonious chi flow. In western terms it means that the chi or energy
that provides the necessary information to all parts of your body (and mind)
that produces just the right types of chemicals of the right amounts and at the right places
that provides the right defence and immunity when needed
that repairs all your worn out or damaged parts
that disposes off toxic waste, negative emotions and whatever is harmful to you
and that carries out countless other activities that keep you healthy and alive
is functioning the way it is supposed to.
The Chinese also symbolize this healthy interaction between the body's natural systems and all disease-causing factors as yin-yang harmony, yin representing the body's functions and yang the pathogenetic agents.
Sickness is unnatural; it occurs, as it sometimes does, when certain parts of the body fail in their natural functions. For example
if your energy flow fails to meet and overcome invading germs
if it fails to repair cell or issue damage satisfactorily
if it fails to flush out negative emotions adequately
you would be respectively infectiously, degeneratively or psychologically sick. The Chinese describe this sick condition, which is unnatural and temporary, as yin-yang disharmony.
There are countless immediate causes for this yin-yang disharmony, but the root cause may be generalized into two main categories, namely
insufficient energy to work the systems
energy blockage hindering energy to flow to where it is needed.
If you do not have sufficient antibodies to fight invading germs, for example, or if your mental impulses commanding repair work are disrupted, or if your negative emotions are trapped inside your body -- all of which manifest disharmonious energy flow -- you would be sick.
Health can be regained if you restore your yin-yang harmony. There are many different approaches, such as employing herbs, acupuncture, massage therapy, external medicine and chi kung, but the two fundamental tasks are
to remove energy blockage
to increase energy level.
The forte of chi kung is to clear energy blockage and to increase energy level. Chi kung, spelt as "qigong" in Romanized Chinese, is the art of developing energy, particularly for attaining health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and inner peace.
The most important use of qi, (energy or a person’s life force) is to maintain life -- a fact many people forget or may not even know.
After ensuring that you continue to live -- which means all your systems, organs, glands, etc are working properly -- the next most important use of energy is to enhance your quality of life. In practical terms it means you can now enjoy good food without worrying about heart problems or diabetes, you won't get angry when caught in a traffic jam, and you can enjoy your work and play without easily feeling tired.
Clearing your blockage is an indication that the energy is doing some of these important jobs for you.
The answer may surprise many, and in fact, when I first heard the explanation from my Sifu, I was initially most resistant. Surely, jogging must be good for health. It was probably the one concept I had the most problems with, but once i opened my mind to consider a differing point of view, it all made sense to me. Read on to see what my Sifu has explained to various people. Whether you agree or not, you will probably agree that his explanations fascinating (and not a little controversial).
If you use external training, like hitting sandbags and lifting weights, your energy is "locked" at the site of training. Hence, your hands may always remain powerful, but you may not enjoy a better quality of life. If you use internal training, like practicing the chi kung exercises in my book, your energy is "alive" and will flow to wherever it is needed most. You may not have powerful hands always, but you may have a better quality of life.
Chi kung training gives us the best weight and shape, but the point of reference is life performance and not cultural taste. A rounded belly, which functions excellently as an energy bank, enables you to perform life activities effectively. Gradually your arms and legs will also be smooth and rounded, instead of muscular. Muscular arms and legs are actually detrimental to work efficiency because much energy which could be used for doing work is locked up in the muscles, and the muscular mass slows down speed. Rounded arms and legs promotes energy flow, which enhances both internal force and speed.
Eastern and Western societies have different cultural taste. Rounded belly is considered healthy and beautiful for both men and women in the East (but young Eastern men trained in Western culture may think otherwise), whereas Western societies prefer flat belly, especially for women. As a person's vital energy is stored in his abdominal dan tian, a person with a flat belly is considered lacking in vitality. If you observe kungfu masters, you will notice that they have rounded bellies. In traditional Eastern societies, when a mother chose a wife for his son, she would not want her future daughter-in-law with a flat belly, for it would signify that she lacked not only vitality but also "later-life prosperity".
From the chi kung perspective, sit-ups and push-ups when performed as physical exercise are detrimental to relaxation because they build up tough muscles, and therefore detrimental to speed and application of internal force. Nevertheless, the adverse effects can be neutralized if they are performed as chi kung exercises. For example, in Shaolin Kungfu the leg stretching exercise called "Immortal Takes Off Shoes" is similar to sit-ups, and the arm-strengthening exercise called "Taming Tigers" is similar to push-ups.
They are performed as chi kung exercises as follows. In "Immortal Takes Off Shoes", breathe out through the mouth as you bend forward to touch your toes, and breathe in through the nose as you sit upright. In "Taming Tigers", breathe in through your nose as you bend your arms to lower your body to the ground, and breathe out through your mouth as you straighten your arms to raise you body. Both exercises must be performed in a relaxed manner, without the use of muscular strength.
From the chi kung perspective, jogging is bad for health! It overworks internal organs, bounces them about inside the body, and the constant jabbing of the feet onto the ground sends shock waves to the internal organs
The traditional Chinese martial art way is first strengthen yourself, including all your internal organs and life-function systems. Then, as the result of strengthening you can perform any exercise better, including push-ups, jogging and sit-ups. The Chinese martial art way pays great importance to gradual progress; it is utmost important not to over-train yourself.
The western approach is reversed. You do the exercise first, and hope that by doing the exercise you strengthen yourself. Chinese masters call this "confusing branch and root", or confusing effect and cause. In western terms, it is putting the card before the horse. Strengthening yourself is the cause; being able to do exercise well is the effect. The western approach has reversed cause and effect. Consequently the western approach gives only an apparence of fitness.
Those who lift weights or jog, for example, appear to be fit, but actually they are not because they have not strengthened their organs or improved their systems to do extra work. Instead they force their organs and systems to work hard; they do not feel the strain because they have conditioned themselves to endure.
This is extremely unhealthy. You may now better understand why so many former world champions have become physical and mental wrecks at middle age. At their prime period when their vital organs and life-sustaining systems were still able to endure the strain, they were paragons of the western concept of health and fitness. But later their organs and systems gave way to persistent over-straining. Not many people, however, know about their suffering at middle age. It is indeed sad to see them in such miserable conditions.
The problem is that many people, including kungfu "masters", have not really appreciated that there is much difference between a sport and a martial art. I am really concerned that if this trend continues there may be no more traditional kungfu within the next two generations.
More seriously, although it is not obvious, not many people realize that practicing a sport may make them fit but not necessarily healthy! Many top class gymnasts, for example, have serious arthritis problems even at the young age of 20, and many top class golfers suffer from back pain.
While western health experts promote taking up sports for health, from the traditional kungfu and chi kung perspective, this is putting the cart before the horse. The ability to participate in sports competently is the effect, not the cause, of health. A sportman, for example, has an apparent increase of health due to prolonged forced conditioning of his vital organs, particularly his heart and lungs, to overwork. In other words, his vital organs have not actually become structurally or functionally healthier or fitter, but because of prolonged conditioning, the sportman is able to endure more when his organs overwork.
This of course is both unnatural and dangerous, and it partially explains why the health of many sportsmen collapses soon after they have passed their prime. A 5-time world cycling champion was so unhealthy and painful that he is now literally a wretch, although he is a millionaire. No conventional medical experts could help him; they could not find anything wrong with this sick man, despite his constant back pain. From the chi kung perspective, his problem is simple; it is due to severe energy blockage. He was supposed to consult me a few says ago, and I am confident that chi kung can help him overcome his problem, but unfortunately he missed the opportunity as he did not turn up for the appointment.
The chi kung approach to health is different from that of the west. Bascially it involves improving the functional and subsequently the structural capabilities of the whole person. Methods include improving his breathing habit so that with the same breath he can now take in more fresh air and dispose off toxic waste, promoting more efficient energy flow so that, among other benefits, his vital ortgans become stronger, and training his mind so that he become better focussed and relaxed. Then, as a result of his mental and bodily functions having become stronger, he will be able to perform better than before in sports.
5. What is the difference between Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) and Qigong (Chi Kung)?
This is probably the question I get more than any others, which is somewhat surprising to me. I was expecting questions like “how long will it take for me to recover from my illness?”, or “how effective is this qigong?”. I guess this question simply reflects the confusion most people, including Singaporeans, have about qigong and Taijiquan.
There are several Taijiquan and qigong classes available in Singapore, so I think it would be helpful if I also clarified the difference between the two (I actually hesitate to use the word “difference”, as you will see below).
To understand the “difference”, please read the first article about qigong above. Taijiquan is an internal art involves the control or manipulation of qi as its foundation. In other words, if the training and use of qi is not present in a Taijiquan style, that style is not Taijiquan, but an empty shell consisting of Taijiquan-like forms and patterns. As an internal martial art that is excellent for good health and longevity, real Taijiquan must have the element of qi to be effective. For example, every single graceful movement in a Taijiquan form has several practical combat applications but only if they are backed by internal force (or neigong). Otherwise, they are reduced to mere dance movements and are absolutely useless in a real fight.
The most fundamental (that is, the most important) and the first thing that a good Taijiquan teacher teaching traditional genuine Taijiquan will teach you is to generate a qi flow or qi movement, and thereafter build your internal force. However, some good Taijiquan teachers may not teach genuine Taijiquan, not because they cannot or do not want to, but because their students do not want to learn genuine Taijiquan. Many students in Singapore either do not have the time or dedication to learn the complete Taijiquan art, including its basics. More than once, I witnessed hopeful novices asking to learn the most advanced set in the style, not knowing that learning that set without the basic grounding would be like building a 70-storey skyscraper in Raffles Place without the foundations.
The way I was taught Taijiquan was the traditional way (partly because I had actively sought out teachers that would teach me the art from the basics).
I did not begin with the form set (taolu), not even the simplified 24-posture form set. Instead, the first thing I learnt was how to activate my qi flow with a special qigong exercise. Next, I learnt how to build qi and further circulate my qi with slightly more difficult exercises. It was only after a few months of these qi exercises that I began my form training, and even then, the internal qigong element was always emphasised. In addition, I was taught to pause in each posture to train my stances.
This sequence of learning is very different from how many Taijiquan practitioners in Singapore learnt their Taijiquan. Unless they were training the qi (internal force) aspect in secret where I could not observe them, most Taijiquan students begin their study of Tajiquan with the form. As my experience shows, genuine Taijiquan incorporates qigong training from the very beginning and throughout one’s lifetime of practicing the art. This is also the case in our Shaolinquan or Shaolin Kungfu training in Shaolin Wahnam. The internal force or qigong aspects are seamlessly integrated with the so-called physical movements from the start so that even a beginner will be training holistically.
I have appended my Sifu’s views on this question below. As you would see from his answers, many people have asked him the same question.
What is the difference between Chi Kung and Taiji Quan?
This is an interesting question. Although Chi Kung and Taijiquan (Taiji Quan) practitiones may find this question redundant, in my frequent teaching tours in Europe, America and Australia, many people asked me the same question, or a similar question, “Is Chi Kung the same as Taijiquan?” This shows that although the terms “Chi Kung” and “Taijiqian” are widely known nowadays, what they really are, is seldom understood. Moreover, the question can be answered at different levels.
Answering your question at the basic level, which will be adequate for the purpose of most people, Chi Kung is an art of energy whereas Taijqiquan is an internal martial art. Therefore, Chi Kung is not the same as Taijiquan. This is a philosophical answer, which may not be of practical help to many people. They only know the dictionary meaning of “an art of energy” and of “an internal martial art”, but do not really know what they are. Hence, they still will not know what the difference between Chi Kung and Taijiquan is.
An easier answer would be as follows. Chi Kung is practiced for health, whereas Taijiquan is practiced for combat. But this answer is not exactly right because Chi Kung can also be practice for combat, and Taijiquan can also be practice for health.
A practical answer is to observe people practicing Chi Kung and people practicing Taijiquan. You will then know they are different. When asked to say their difference in words, you may say that their forms are different. Generally, but not always, a person remains at about the same spot when practicing Chi Kung, but moves about widely when practicing Taijiquan.
But if we answer the question at a deeper level, both the philosophical and the practical answers given above, which are adequate for ordinary purposes, are actually not correct – though they are also not wrong! Taijiquan is also an art of energy, and many forms of Chi Kung are also internal martial arts.
You may have a clearer idea if you look at the answer this way. There are many types of Chi Kung, and one of these is Taijiquan. However, this may mislead many people to think that Taijiquan is a part, or sub-set, of Chi Kung. This is not so because there are many aspects in Taijiquan, and one of these aspects is Chi Kung. In other words, there other aspects of Taijiquan that are not Chi Kung, and also there are other types of Chi Kung that are not Taijiquan.
Asking the difference between Chi Kung and Taijiquan, is like asking the difference between poetry and music. We may say that poetry deals with words, whereas music deals with sounds. While this may show the difference between poetry and music, it is not actually correct – though it is also not wrong. Poetry also deals with sounds and music also deals with words. Moreover, an aspect of poetry is music, but this does not mean music is a sub-set of poetry, because, on the other hand, an aspect of music is also poetry.
So, instead of intellectualizing on the difference between poetry and music or between Chi Kung and Taijiquan, practice them to enjoy their benefits.
Since then I have been practicing Tai Chi extensively. I have found an instructor that I think is very competent. After 5 months of practice, my wrist problem was almost completely healed. I was progressing, and enjoying it more and more.
Congratulations for having a good teacher. It is not easy to get good teachers nowadays. Many Tai Chi and chi kung teachers today do not really know what they are teaching is not Tai Chi Chuan or chi kung.
For example, they do not know that Tai Chi Chuan is an internal, martial art, or what chi is. This is evident from the fact that there is nothing internal or martial in the Tai Chi they teach, and they and their students never have any experience of chi.
Once during my public talk in Spain on chi kung, a woman from the audience argued with me saying that Tai Chi Chuan was not a martial art. She said she and hundreds of Tai Chi teachers, including Chinese, had been teaching it as a gentle exercise. On another occasion, a Chinese Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) instructor sent by the Chinese government to teach Taijiquan in Malaysia, insisted that there was no such thing as chi in Taijiquan! He also admitted that he could not use his Taijiquan for self defence.
Tai Chi Chuan and chi kung have degraded to such a ridiculous, or comical, situation today that the very few who still advocate Tai Chi Chuan as an internal, martial art and chi kung as an art of energy capable of overcoming so-called incurable diseases – which were established facts in Tai Chi Chuan and chi kung history – are sometimes accused of being liars or charlatans.
The vast majority of those who practice Tai Chi Chuan and chi kung today, including in contemporary China, practice and promote them as gentle, physical exercise. They also hold key positions in national and international Tai Chi Chuan and chi kung organizations, and sometimes decide on who can or cannot teach these arts. If the general public or government bodies wish to have any official information on Tai Chi Chuan or chi kung, they usually turn to these key personnel for advice.
However, I was still lacking energy for daily life. Although the Tai Chi class includes some Chi Kung, I have decided to focus on Chi Kung to improve my daily life.
Genuine Tai Chi Chuan itself is chi kung. Ideally, if you practice genuine Tai Chi Chuan, there is no need to incorporate other chi kung exercises into it, just as there is no need to incorporate fighting techniques from other styles, such as Taekwondo kicks, or training methods from other martial arts, such as using boxing gloves in sparring, because Tai Chi Chuan is a complete art itself.
As Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art, the level of energy trained in Tai Chi Chuan is generally higher than that in other types of chi kung like Ba Duan Jin and Soaring Crane. The rationale will become clear if you realize that to be a martial artist you need not just to be healthy, but also to have a lot of energy to fight well and to make quick decisions in combat. In other words, if the amount of energy needed to maintain health is x, the amount of energy needed to be a competent martial artist is more than x.
However, situations are seldom ideal. Hence, wherever necessary, incorporating compatible chi kung exercise into your Tai Chi Chuan training is advisable.
Watch this space as this will be the most frequently updated page in this website.