Ask Sifu Anthony – March 2014

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sifu-anthony-dragon-shirt-smilingWelcome to my new “Ask Sifu Anthony” series.   This is a bit of an experiment. I’ve done this for years on Facebook and vial email, so I’m pretty sure that y’all are going to enjoy it.   If you do enjoy it, then please let me know in the comments, or by liking it on Facebook and Twitter.

There’s a lot of research that suggests that asking questions is an essential part of learning.  My experience says that this is true.  I always take time for Q&As in my classes and workshops because I feel that it’s an essential part of bringing Qigong, Tai Chi, and Meditation into the 21st century.

Here’s how the “Ask Sifu Anthony” series will work.

  • If you have a question for me, then post it in the comments section below. 
  • I’ll answer your question in NEXT month’s “Ask Sifu Anthony”. 
  • Comment below if you have follow-up questions to one of my answers, even if the original question wasn’t your own.
  • Comment, like, or share this blog post if you’d like to see more of the same in the future.

For this edition, I’m using previous questions that were asked on Facebook, or via email.   These are real questions asked by real people — some of them students, and some of them strangers.

Now let’s get to it!

Question #1

Sifu, how does drinking alcohol affect qi flow?

Answer #1

If you’re asking how alcohol affects your Qi while practicing Qigong and Tai Chi — well just go drink a beer and find out for yourself!  Since you’ve been practicing for a long time, you’ll probably find that there are both negatives and positives to this.  You’ll probably be more relaxed, but your mind will also be dulled.  Since the mind aspect is so important, this poses a problem.  In other words, don’t drink and Qigong.

But if you’re asking how alcohol in general affects your health and your Qi over time — there are a lot of theories out there. There’s no question that it taxes the Liver Meridian, and can also cause chronic dehydration (which would in turn tax the Kidney Meridian). There’s also evidence that suggests that alcohol, especially wine, can be a health tonic.

The question is — how much does is too much?

drinking-wineIn Chinese medicine, the answer depends on the individual person, their age, their overall health, and their lifestyle.  There’s no strict rule because every person is different.  If you drink too much for YOU, and you do that on a regular basis, then yes, you’re going to create problems with your Qi.

Full disclosure: I drink glass or two of wine with dinner.  Is it too much for me?  I don’t think so.  Could it be too much for someone else?  Definitely.  Might it be too much for me if I didn’t practice Qigong and Tai Chi daily?  Yep.

Question #2

How can a Qigong practitioner get the best benefits of external exercise and regular Qigong practice ? Is internal and external development between the two mutually exclusive, or can they be complimentary ?

Answer #2

The concept of “integrating internal and external” is one of the Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan (according to Zhang San Feng). So no, I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. But they must be integrated and balanced. Too much internal training, and you’ll get fat and weak; too much external training, and you’ll get bulky and blocked.

IMG_2593That’s why I love Tai Chi Chuan — we need strength, flexibility, balance, agility, and of course, internal power. If you practice it right, then you’ll have it all!

For external training, I enjoy body-weight exercises, as well as methods like CrossFit that focus on functional, holistic strength. I also really enjoy challenging my balance and jumping abilities.

Running, biking, swimming — these are fine if you enjoy them.  (If you don’t enjoy them, then stop torturing yourself and find something enjoyable.)

The key to external training is to use a holistic approach, like past Kung Fu masters.  Don’t over-train, don’t push, don’t rush.  Be sensitive to how you feel after training, and adjust accordingly.

Full disclosure:  I personally enjoy doing Power Lifting (mainly dead lifts, back squats, and military presses) as well as body weight exercises (push ups and chin ups) as a complement to my Qigong and Tai Chi.  I also like to practice jumping and balance exercises.

Question #3

I see you have been trying out different diets. Could you comment on the effect that different ways of eating has had on your health, energy, and mind?

Answer #3

I wouldn’t say that my wife and I have been trying out different “diets”, but rather tweaking our general way of eating. We’ve been doing this for years. Our approach is to take the principles of Chinese medicine and then match them to modern theories about nutrition.

To answer your question — nutrition matters. Even if you practice Qigong, what you eat has a big impact on your energy and your health. Quite simply, the better I eat, the better my Qigong practice, and the better I feel.

And it’s not only what you eat, but how you eat.  If you eat in a relaxed manner, chew well, and enjoy your food, then you’ll get more nutrition out of the mean than someone who hurriedly scarfs down a quick bite in a few gulps.

Question #4

Hi Sifu Anthony!  My question is this:  Is a Qigong state of mind the same as being mindful / mindfulness?

Answer #4

Good question.  First of all, I prefer to call it a Zen state of mind rather than a Qigong state of mind. Calling it a Qigong state of mind is confusing because we use the same state of mind (i.e. Zen) during Qigong, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and sitting meditation. It’s not limited to Qigong.

Secondly, there are similarities between a Zen state of mind and what is often called “mindfulness” in the meditation community. But I wouldn’t say that they are exactly the same.  If you want to read more about my thoughts on mindfulness, then read my article entitled:   What You Should Know About The Mindfulness Craze

Question #5

Are there specific Qigong exercises one can do for a specific health problem or does Qigong work in all areas?

Answer #5

Yes, and yes. Certain Qigong exercises help with certain issues.  And certain Qigong exercises will help with everything.

lifting-the-sky-costa-rica-3Although I teach all 5 Categories of Qigong, I emphasize Medical Qigong as the base. Not all teachers know all 5 Categories, nor do they necessarily use Medical Qigong as a base. (Martial Qigong teachers, for example.)  And that’s fine.  But it’s not my approach.

With my approach, students start with general exercises, like Lifting The Sky, that are holistic and work on everything. In fact, I discourage fresh beginners from trying to target specific problems. It’s more important to let the body’s natural healing intelligence decide what order to heal things.

This is in line with the principles of Chinese medicine. Although you may THINK your problem is in your knee, for example, the underlying problem may be somewhere else, like your Liver Meridian. An acupuncturist will do a thorough diagnosis to get to the bottom of this.

With Qigong, we let the Qi naturally flow where it needs to go. In other words, rather than try to specifically fix the knee, we do holistic exercises to maximize all of the body’s healing ability.

Later, we can also add targeted exercises, but not before we establish a solid practice of general and holistic exercises.

If you have a question for me, then go ahead and ask in the comments below.  I’ll answer your question in next month’s edition of “Ask Sifu Anthony”

Zenfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I'm Sifu Anthony Korahais and I help people young and old to discover the healing powers of Qigong and Tai Chi. My mission is to bring the secrets of these amazing arts out into the open, giving people the tools to heal themselves without drugs or surgery. I love sharing these amazing arts, especially with people who are fed up with conventional treatments that just aren't working.
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13 Responses to “Ask Sifu Anthony – March 2014”

  1. Melissa March 20, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Love this idea!!!

    Ok, so here is a question I was pondering today after my practice. Which is better…. Practicing regularly everyday but the quality (state of mind) is mediocre, or practicing sporadically, but having very good, high quality practice?

  2. Jill March 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    I am only 2 months into my tai chi practice, and I have lots and lots of questions.

    How should a new student approach frustration when the movements within the form don’t feel right or I can’t seem to land it correctly?

    Also, is it best to work at developing patience within training and assume I will come to understand the movements in time, or should I pursue more one on one training with my instructor? (The main reason for this question is because our schedules are limited.)

    Thank you.

  3. Jacek Kaleta March 21, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Anthony Sipak

    Thank you for opening up the space for questions, great idea!

    What in your opinion are qualities of ‘good student’?

    Many thanks
    Jacek

  4. Fred Chu March 22, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Dear Sifu,

    Every so often when I practice in public, a local practitioner might pop out of the woodwork and in our friendly conversations, inevitably they will request an exchange of skills, a sparring opportunity, or ask me to teach them a lesson. I don’t mind us “exchanging” demonstrations like how I may demonstrate a short sequence or set in exchange for them showing me what they do, but how would you recommend handling the latter two situations? Thus far, I’ve only really sparred with people who I was already friends.

    Sincerely with Shaolin salute,
    -Fred Chu, Champaign, IL, USA.

  5. George Caligure March 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Concerning the dynamic Qigong pattern “Firecracker” that you taught in Flowing Zen 201 this past weekend – What is the position of the hands prior to rising out of the “squat”? Palms facing out, in, opposing? Or does it matter? (I can’t find this pattern in Master Wong’s books.)

  6. Danny March 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi Sifu Korahais! Thanks for allowing this opportunity to ask you questions!

    I’ve done quite a bit of research into the various methods of iron body skills (by which I mean any type of training intended to allow a person to withstand blows without sustaining injury, including weapons). In my studies, I found your advice in this forum:
    http://www.wongkiewkit.com/forum/showthread.php?1321-Taijiquan-and-Golden-Bell/page2&s=4a580e6df758e44dee1d01a521fdff53

    As I am someone who practices taichi, and absolutely -loves- zhan zhuang, I was delighted to hear you explain that practicing internal methods alone can eventually result in the byproduct of iron skills.

    Here’s my confusion though- I’ve rarely read anything else expressing this idea. All iron body/golden bell/iron palm/etc. methods worth anything have always emphasized the importance of qigong, but only in conjunction with striking objects/being struck by objects at some stage in the training.

    So while, in theory, I want wholeheartedly to believe that zhan zhuang alone with develop iron skills, I just don’t see many people advocating that view. For instance, let’s take one of the 72 Shaolin Arts, the Iron Broom. For this method, the student is supposed to first cultivate the ability to stand in a horse stance for a couple of hours. Then he is to begin kicking a post buried in the ground until he can break it in half without injury. Simple enough. But if, as you say, zhan zhuang is enough to develop iron shins over time, then why does the author not simply say, “Cultivate the ability to stand in a horse stance for a couple of hours. Now continue doing this. Eventually you’ll be able to break stuff.”

    Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to be clear. I love zhan zhuang, and I love simplicity. I would rather cultivate the iron arts holistically and from the inside-out, rather than practicing a bunch of separate external methods (i.e., iron palm, iron finger tips, iron forearm, iron abdomen, etc.). Your advice would be most welcome.

    Sincerely,
    Danny

    PS- Do you know of any masters I can read about, historical or current, who have obtained the iron skills through zhan zhuang?

  7. Derrick March 31, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Sifu,

    I have read on your site, when practicing Qigong inside, one should not practice in the restroom, which I can understand. Are there better rooms to practice in than others? Upstairs, in a basement, in a room over the basement?

    Best Regards,

    Derrick

  8. Celestine April 10, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    Hi! Thank you for this opportunity!
    I was wondering if you would recommend an age for starting QiGong? I have two young children (4&6) that for the most part want to do everything I do. I love encouraging their eagerness to try new things but also understand that most martial arts have very logical and reasonable age limits on classes.
    Thank you!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais April 10, 2014 at 7:47 am #

      Great question, Celestine! I’ll answer it in this month’s “Ask Sifu Anthony”.

  9. Kan April 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Dear siheng,

    Since you’re also lifting weights besides your Tai Chi training, I would like to ask you what you think of isometric exercises. Are they harmful compared to other strength exercises like weight lifting and push-ups? Do you also know how to breathe properly during these exercises?

    Best regards,

    Kan

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