An old Chinese proverb says that ‘The reflection on a pool of water never shows its depth’. In order to prove this, it is necessary for you to get into the water and swim down to the bottom of the pool, for you can never really know anything just by looking or watching. You must go in and see for yourself, or, in the modern idiom, you’ve got to have a go.
So it is with the Chinese martial arts. One punch might look like any other, but it is what is behind it that really counts. In our style of Feng Shou kung fu, the driving force and the hidden power is Ch’i (internal energy) and this is the most important aspect of our particular art. Its force is dynamic, its utilization fantastic, its benefit to the health of the individual is beyond normal comprehension, and it can be used to heal others.
However, if it is beyond normal comprehension, how do we go about explaining it? It is like trying to teach someone to ride a bicycle. You can tell them how to get on, how to steer, and show them where the brakes are and how to use them. But you cannot explain the very basic fundamental principle: how to maintain the balance so that they can stay on it. Neither can you explain the split-second reaction of when to apply the brakes to stop. Both things can only be learnt through experience, and experience can only come through getting on that bike and having a go.
Certainly you will fall off a few times until you get the feel of control: you will squeeze the brake too hard and nearly disappear over the handlebars, or put on the brake a fraction of a second too late and hit something. But one thing is sure: you will learn through your own practical experience. Some will give up because they find it more difficult than they realized, others will stick at it until they have conquered the principles.
This also applies to the development of inner power. We can explain to you what it is — we know where it comes from, how to control it, how to cultivate it to make it stronger, we know what it can do, and we know how to use it. But to put it all down in simple terminology, in such a way that you fully grasp the depths of its true meaning, is no easy task.
However, we will do our best, although we can only convey to you the principles by which it works, and give you an impression of its dynamic power. If you wish to go into it more thoroughly, and to acquire the feel of it, and learn to control it, then you must join one of our clubs and practise. In other words, like the cyclist you have to get on the bike and ride it yourself, to get the full understanding and appreciation of its meaning.
Inner Power (Neichung Ch’i) is also known technically as ‘intrinsic energy’ (T’ien Jan Neng Li), although most people who practise our Taoist arts call it the ‘vitality power’ (Sheng Ch’i). It is an intangible force which is invisible to the eye: it cannot be heard, it has no aroma, and it consists of an immaterial substance. It can be sensed, however, if your sensory perception is strong enough, or has been trained to receive it, which does take a little time.
It is akin to the ether that supports the planets of the universe; it is materialistic yet immaterial, it is substantial as well as being insubstantial. It is as old as the universe that we live in, yet it is as young as a new-born child.
It can be unresisting, yet, at the same time, pliability itself; it weighs nothing yet it cannot be lifted. It is as soft and gentle as a morning breeze, yet it is also a tornado. It is a dew drop, yet it is a tidal wave.
It is life, and the centre of life, for all humanity was born around it. It came into being while you were still in your mother’s womb, and it will only leave you when you take in your last breath. Have you ever had a small baby grip your finger? And did you ever wonder about how strong that hold felt to you? You may even have commented on it at the time, but did you ever consider it beyond that? A new-born baby has had no opportunity to build or develop its muscles, so that tight grip can not be attributed to physical strength. Then what explains this simple phenomenon? The answer is Inner Power. Another example of this occurred not long ago when a woman started to reverse her car (a Mini) out of her garage. Suddenly she heard a frightful scream. She stopped, leapt out of the car, and almost at once, she saw with horror that her baby was trapped under the rear wheel of her car.
In that split second, probably due to shock, she did an unusual thing. Instead of getting back into the car and driving it forward, or even letting off the handbrake and pushing it forward, she just grabbed the rear bumper and in sheer desperation not only lifted the car off the baby, but also moved the vehicle some nine or ten inches (22 to 24cm) sideways. She then gently lifted her child into the car and drove straight to the nearest hospital, where fortunately it was found that her little boy was not hurt, apart from a few lacerations and some bruising. A few days later, after recovering from the shock, she tried to prove to her husband how she had performed that Herculean act — but she could hardly move the body of the car, let alone lift the wheels off the ground. She was a woman of ordinary strength, yet in a few seconds she had found fantastic and unbelievable muscular-force. Her natural Inner Power had come to her aid when she really needed it. There are many more examples of this kind and perhaps in your own lifetime you may have seen or heard of feats being enacted, which, at the time, did not seem possible. Now you know such things are feasible. For instance, consider the enormous strength and energy displayed by someone out of control, such as a drunken man or a mentally ill person. Inner Power is developed within such a short space of time that even six men might find it difficult to hold somebody during one of these sessions.
Over the years, one wonderful experience has always stood out in my memory. It is a particular demonstration given sometimes by my master, Chan Kam Lee. A lighted candle would be placed on a tall object — such as a table — and this would be positioned a few inches away from a brick wall. My master would then go to the other side of the wall, opposite the candle, and throw a punch at the wall, stopping his fist a short distance from the brickwork. The tremendous force of Inner Power that he generated flowed through his body and down his arm, came out from the front of his fist, penetrated through the wall, and snuffed out the flame of that candle.
You might think that perhaps a trick was involved, but I can personally guarantee that it was absolutely authentic: on a number of occasions I held that lighted candle in my hands myself when this demonstration was given.
What may amaze you even more is the fact that Inner Power is within you, even now as you read this. It is something that is very personal to everyone, because it is an integral part of the body. You were born with it, and it will remain with you until you die. However, when you were about five or six years old, you started to use your physical strength (muscular force) more and more, and your Inner Power less and less, so eventually it became lazy from lack of use, and its potential slowly declined.
Because it has been inactive for so long, when you join any section of the Chinese arts within our Association, our first objective is to help you revive it. Initially there are a few obstacles that have to be overcome, and these are all within yourself, so only you can conquer them and open up the restrictions that have taken effect over the past years. Then, when your Inner Power starts to flow again, you can spend your time learning to cultivate it so that it becomes stronger and stronger as you progress.
In our Association we practise many of the Taoist martial and cultural arts, and we have the largest contingent of practitioners under controlled instruction outside of China. It is amazing to see young women throwing four and six men simultaneously in the Breath Art (Ch’i Shu); small and weak people punching with the power of ten men in the boxing art (Feng Shou kung fu) within two years of training; and people who suffer from all sorts of ill health and sickness, from migraine to arthritis and cancer, becoming healthier and happier in the health arts (Ch’ang Ming). All this and much more is possible through the activation and control of your own Inner Power.
No doubt you are still wondering how it works, and how you can activate it within yourself. The very first principle of gaining Inner Power is to relax (sung) in mind, body and in spirit. This does not mean that you should flop into the nearest armchair and sprawl all over the place, because that type of relaxing means that you are completely giving up all your energy, and in the Chinese arts we call this dying. We use this period of relaxation to store up energy so that we have that power available whenever we need to use it. However, there are no specific periods when you should relax, for relaxation is something that is innermost within yourself. It is something that you will learn to do whether you are at work or at play, walking, running or sitting down.
Compare yourself to a storage heater: when it is working it is pumping heat into the room, but when it is not doing so — say, for instance, during an off-peak period — then it stores heat within itself to be used at a later time.
This is exactly the same principle by which Inner Power works. We give ourselves time to relax, and we use that period to conserve and store further energy, and as all energy is heat you will readily understand the relationship.
However, because relaxing is slow and arduous, especially in the fast-moving times of modern life, we need something to speed up the process of storing our energy and power, and we require an additional aid to build up the means of generating more heat for our own internal storage heater.
During the first stage in our Chinese arts, relaxation is the hardest objective for the beginner, but while you might feel during the first few months that you are making no progress whatsoever, you should persevere because it takes about nine to twelve months for the average Westerner to feel his Inner Power starting to flow.
Imagine a plastic water pipe. If you squeeze it with your hands or put a kink into it, you will either restrict the flow or stop the water altogether. This is what you do to your own body and mind when you apply stresses and strains upon them.
The first step, therefore, is to throw your whole physical and mental make-up wide open, so that there is not the slightest obstruction anywhere within your system. We know that this is easier said than done, for sometimes you either work too hard or too long, or enjoy the mundane pleasures of life, or you may go to the other extreme by fretting, worrying, or losing your temper. All these daily stresses and strains pound the structure of your physical and mental elements, and cause restrictions and obstructions.
So, the first thing to do to help you relax is collapse your chest and allow your breath (Ch’i) to sink into the abdomen (Tan T’ien). If that sounds complicated then try it another way. Breathe out, and as you do so let your chest and shoulders depress slightly inward and downward as much as you can, but ensure that you keep your back upright.
As you do this you should feel a sensation of the internal weight of the body moving downward and at the same time your abdomen will extend a little. It is best to do this when you are sitting down, either on the floor or on a chair, and then you can feel the sensation of your internal weight moving downward into the lower reaches of the pelvic bone.
Then, as you progress, you will be able to practise the same motions whether you are standing up or even when you are walking. An additional way of speeding up the process of relaxing during your working periods is to take a deep in breath through the nose, and then breathe out through the mouth trying to emulate the above action, anytime during the course of the day. You will rapidly find a marked improvement within yourself, and your health will certainly benefit from it. Better still, make a point of going on to the Taoist Long Life health diet (Ch’ang Ming) and your speed of advancement will surprise you.
In all Association clubs who practise our art of Feng Shou many specialized breathing exercises are included in the training programme, generally at the beginning, middle and the end of the session, which helps every practitioner to get over the first stage.
The second stage along the pathway of developing your Inner Power is known as the propelled movement period, when the trainee learns to direct and control his Inner Power from his lower abdomen to any part of his own body.
If you turn on a valve, you know that you can make the water flow along the pipe, without having to activate the pipe. You can switch on an electrical connection and know that the electricity will flow along the wires, without having to move the wires in the process. Now you can emulate the pipe and the electric wire, for your tissues can carry your inner power to any part of your body without any physical movement whatsoever. In other words, you do not need a single ounce of physical or muscular energy or strength to help the flow of your Inner Power. As a matter of fact, big or tense muscles generally have a tendency to restrict the flow rather than aid it.
We have ways of proving the flow and the degree of its power from any of our students. Proving tests are held at regular intervals so that we can estimate the rate of their progression. There can be no time limits for this stage as it is entirely up to each individual, but on a broad basis it could be anything from one to fifty years, and, in some cases, perhaps never. One trainee who has been practising one of our Taoist arts for many years, yet has still not yet mastered the first stage because of his attitude, mental tension, and his constant use of physical strength. Unless he learns to conquer himself, starts to relax inwardly, and really makes a conscious effort, he will never accomplish the first stage of gaining mastery of his Inner Power and, most of all, he will never become a master of himself.
The third stage is the level of occlusion, which is the most advanced period of all, and is within reach of everyone provided you are willing to give yourself sufficient time. If you have the mental aptitude you could easily attain the beginnings of this stage within five to six years, but you must be patient and dedicated.
We have mentioned that Inner Power is a kind of heat, and that you can propel it to any part of the body at will. Your abdomen, like the storage heater, has only a limited space or capacity, and sooner or later it will overflow. Other specialized Taoist breathing exercises will help to speed up this overflowing action, and in doing so your abdomen creates more heat.
This overflow will initially fall into the lower extremities of the pelvic bone and the lowest part of the spinal vertebrae. Then, slowly, as the overflowing action continues, Inner Power will gradually seep, of its own accord, through the muscles, tendons and sinews of the body, giving them added strength and still more flexibility and pliability.
Since the bones of the body are sealed units, this makes penetration of Inner Power a little harder and slower, but it can and does penetrate to the innermost parts of the bones, and it does this by a process which is known as osmosis.
Without becoming too technical we will try to explain this to you. As the muscles, tendons and sinews become heated, that heat is passed on to the surface of the bone, and as these are all close to one another, that heat is eventually passed to the bone itself. Then the bone is slowly heated all the way through, and it, in turn, transmits the heat to the marrow which is on the inside of the bone, so that it becomes tempered in the process by a sweating action that takes place. This tempering will make the bone and the marrow as tough as steel, yet within themselves they are more supple than ever before. Once this unification has taken place, you will have reached the ultimate level of mastery and control of your Inner Power, and thus you will have reached the stage of rejuvenation, when you are able to ward off disease and prolong your life.
To sum up, there is an old Chinese proverb which conveys everything in one simple sentence: ‘Old age is inevitable but there is no excuse for senility’. This applies to all of us, whether we be young or old, male or female. Many of the old sages of China proved that by eating and drinking sensibly the Ch’ang Ming way, and developing their Inner Power to a very high level, they were able to live from 150 to 200 years of age.
Now all this may sound fantastic, and you may find it difficult to believe. You may have trouble believing the feats performed by Feng Shou kung fu students and teachers. Anyone who doubts their credibility need only visit any one of the many clubs that are affiliated to our Association to see these feats being performed.
About the Author
By Chee Soo, Kung Fu and Tai Chi Master and Author of The Taoist Art of Feng Shou
Chee Soo was born of a Chinese father and an English mother, and as they died when he was only a very young child, he was brought up in a Barnardo’s home, which was and still is a charitable orphanage. He started his first job as a page boy in a nursing home in Earls Court, West London, and in his spare time he used to go to Hyde Park to enjoy the fresh air, watch the horse riders exercising their animals, and to play with his ball.
However, something happened that was to alter the whole course of his future life. One Sunday afternoon, he went to the park to play with his ball, when suddenly it bounced rather erratically, and accidentally hit the back of an elderly gentleman who was sitting on a park bench. Having recovered his ball, he went up to the gentleman to offer his apologies, only to see that the man was also Chinese. As it was a very rare thing to see another Chinese in London in those days, they began to talk together, and even arranged to meet again. So the two began to meet fairly regularly – whenever the opportunity and the weather permitted, and a very strong friendship developed between Chee Soo and the gentleman, who was Chan Kam Lee.
In the summer of 1934, Chee Soo was invited to Chan Lee’s class and that was the beginning of the training that he has maintained ever since, and it was surely the ordained way of the Tao that enabled Chee Soo to start his learning of the vast range of the Taoist martial, philosophical, healing and cultural arts in this way. It gave great happiness to Chan Lee for he had no family of his own, and as he earnestly desired to keep the Taoist arts alive, he adopted Chee Soo as his nephew, and taught him the arts whenever his work and time permitted. For Chee Soo it meant that he had someone on whom he could rely, and to advise him, and to teach him the fundamentals of the Taoist philosophical attitude to life and all that it meant.
Chee Soo passed away in 1994. The Taoist Cultural Arts Association was established to preserve the essence of the Lee style Taoist Arts in it’s purest form as a traditional style without any additions of Western philosophy, materialism, or extraneous material from other sources. It is the only Association in the world today still teaching the authentic and complete range of the Lee style Taoist Arts and following exactly the same syllabus and standards as handed down in person by Professor Chee Soo from the generations of Taoist masters before him.