[Edit: After publishing this post in late 2014, I started receiving death threats. I turned it off for a long time to let things settle down.]
This morning, I did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life: I officially resigned as the chief instructor of the U.S. branch of Sifu Wong’s international organization, the Shaolin Wahnam Institute.
For those who don’t know, I’ve been Sifu Wong’s loyal and dedicated disciple since 1997. I have organized seminars for him, hosted him at my house, traveled internationally with him, helped to edit his books, taught in his name, and been a vocal support of his teachings for years.
In spite of my resignation, I have an endless well of gratitude in my heart for everything that he taught me.
I’m also heartbroken.
For two years, I’ve been working behind the scenes on a serious issue. A scandal has been brewing within the Shaolin Wahnam international organization. This scandal gets to the heart of my core values.
After two years of investigating, arguing, suffering, meditating, and digesting, I finally decided that, in order to be true to my own core values, I had no choice but to resign.
At present, I am the 8th of Sifu Wong’s certified instructors to resign over this issue. Of those, 3 of them were the chief instructors of their respective countries.
In the name of transparency, I would like to publicly discuss the details of the issue that led to my resignation, and explain how I came to this important, life-changing decision.
The Issue in a Nutshell
Why did I resign?
In a nutshell, I resigned because of Sifu Wong’s unethical and unacceptable response to a sexual abuse scandal within his school, perpetrated by one of his certified instructors.
I have seen with my own eyes how the victims were blamed, how the perpetrator was protected, how evidence was ignored and buried, and how critics (like me and the other instructors who resigned) were silenced.
Furthermore, I believe that Sifu Wong’s actions have cleared the path for the continuation of sexual abuse down the road.
It has become painfully and heartbreakingly clear to me that Sifu Wong and I differ – significantly – in some of our core values.
Thus, I cannot stand with Sifu Wong, and have resigned as his chief instructor in the United States.
My Open Apology
This post will be long because I want to give you all of the details that I have. This way, you can form your own opinions on the matter.
Before I go into the details, I would like to make an apology.
I see now that I should have gone public sooner. I should have created transparency a long time ago.
Having helped friends, family, and students through issues of sexual abuse, I should have known better. I should have trusted my gut.
I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry for not acting sooner. I’m sorry for keeping quiet. I’m sorry for taking so long to summon up the courage to act.
- I want to apologize to all of the victims of sexual abuse out there, not just the ones in this case – but to the many silent voices that are out there.
- I want you to know that not all people in authority positions embrace the standard narrative of sexual abuse.
- I want you to know that there are people who are on your side, people who take this kind of transgression very seriously.
- I want you to know that there are a lot of us – more than you might think – and that our numbers are constantly growing.
- I want you to know that we are willing to stand strong with you, to summon up the courage necessary to face the criticism and misunderstanding.
- I want you to know that, even in silence, you have a voice that is heard.
To the victims of this terrible scandal, I want you to know that I’m here to help, should you ever decide that you need me. I have already helped several of the victims to start the healing process, and I would be honored to help you as well. Please know that I will keep all communication in the strictest confidence. You can even contact me anonymously if you prefer.
Regaining Your Trust
There is a lot of trust involved in the teacher-student relationship. If my students trust me (and I hope that they do), then it’s because I’ve earned it.
That trust gets projected, by proxy, onto Sifu Wong. If you trust me, then by extension it’s natural to trust him, especially if you’ve met him.
Similarly, that trust then gets projected, again by proxy, onto Sifu Wong’s disciples and certified instructors.
I want to apologize for the trust that has been broken through my association with Sifu Wong.
I sincerely hope that I can earn it back some day. I will work hard to do so – starting with this post.
In honor of rebuilding trust, I’ve written this post to shed light on the issue that led to my resignation – including my own mistakes in the matter.
The 1st Resignation
Note: All of the names have been changed in order to protect the identities of the victims. I have also chosen to leave out the specific dates lest they might endanger the victims in some way.
The scandal began roughly 2 years ago when a junior Shaolin Wahnam instructor, we’ll call him Fred, made serious allegations against his own sifu, a senior instructor who we’ll call Gary.
Evidence that several Shaolin Wahnam students had been sexually abused by Gary was presented to Sifu Wong. Fred presented all of his evidence to Sifu Wong — except for one thing. Fred refused to provide the names of the victims.
Sifu Wong repeatedly asked for the names of the victims. He said that he could not act without more substantial evidence.
Note: Please allow me to interject something into the narrative. In cases of alleged sexual abuse, evidence is notoriously difficult to acquire. Even when it is gathered, it is often rejected. In many cases, no amount of evidence, not even video footage, is deemed to be “enough”. This is the inherent conundrum with sexual abuse in our culture, and a common theme. Victims rarely speak up, because when they do, they aren’t heard, or worse, they are blamed.
Fred called Sifu Wong on the phone to plead with him about the importance of taking action. Much later, Fred told me something shocking about that phone conversation. Apparently, Sifu Wong told Fred that that this kind of behavior (referring to Gary’s behavior) was acceptable in the West.
Fred, a Westerner, argued with Sifu Wong, saying that it was absolutely not acceptable. After weeks of going back and forth, Fred finally resigned when he realized that no action would be taken by Sifu Wong.
Fred felt that he had presented considerable evidence, even without the names of the victims. He simply could not, in good conscience, accept Sifu Wong’s lack of response.
At the very least, Fred expected an investigation to be launched. When he saw that there would be nothing of the sort, he resigned.
The “Just For Fun” Post, Part 1
A few months after Fred’s resignation, Sifu Wong posed a strange hypothetical question to his certified instructors (not to the public).
Sifu Wong wrote:
Suppose you heard that your sifu, or your student, had sex with some women (or men), including some married ones, what would you do? Chose your answer from one of the following.
- Denounce your sifu, or student, and declare that you are not going to have anything to do with him (or her).
- Tell more people about this allegations so that other people can take precaution against your sifu, or student.
- Ignore the allegations, thinking that your sifu, or student, would never do this.
- Protect your sifu, or student, irrespective of whether the allegations were true or not, though you would not condone his (or her) actions if they were true.
- Punch the one who told you the allegations on his (or her) face.
Later I shall describe what I would like our Shaolin Wahnam members should do, in line with values cherished in kungfu tradition.
I was relatively uninvolved up until this point. I had seen Fred’s resignation, but wasn’t yet sure what to make of it.
Then I saw this “Just For Fun” post from Sifu Wong, and I was thoroughly confused. What happened next was like a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Quite unexpectedly, one of the victims, we’ll call her Trish, approached me. She told me that the idea to come talk to me had happened during a deep state of meditative prayer. She asked me for a private meeting, which I of course granted.
During that meeting, she confided in me, breaking down in tears as she told me the details about how she was verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused by her sifu.
Her sifu, of course, was Gary, the same person Fred had made allegations against.
After this meeting, I went directly to Sifu Wong. I knew that he wanted more evidence, and now I had it.
Sifu Wong asked me if this woman would be willing to speak with him directly. He told me, like he had told Fred, that he wanted more evidence before acting.
At the time, I trusted Sifu Wong to protect Trish. So I went back to her and asked if she would been willing to speak with him.
The “Just For Fun” Post, Part 2
Trish was terrified at this suggestion. If you’ve ever met Sifu Wong, you know that he has a big personality, and that he can be very intimidating. On top of this, the “Just For Fun” post had just recently been made public. Trish had seen it.
“I’m supposed to protect my sifu, even if he abused me, right?” she asked me in tears.
It was all I could do to not break down in tears myself.
“If he abused you, then he doesn’t deserve the title of Sifu,” I replied. “You don’t need to protect him, not now, and not ever.”
Trish summoned up her courage and agreed to meet with Sifu Wong face to face. I was, and still am, proud of her courage.
Protecting the Granddaughters?
I arranged the meeting. Before doing so, I specifically asked Sifu Wong to create a safe space for her to speak.
“We must protect the granddaughters,” I said to him just before leaving. I was referring to the female students of his students. I was attempting to communicate to him using the concept of the family that pervades traditional Kung Fu culture.
“Yes, we must protect the granddaughters,” Sifu Wong replied.
I returned to Trish, confident that I could provide a safe and empathetic space for her to talk about her abuse.
When the time was right, we made the trip to see Sifu Wong, together.
A Victim Speaks to Sifu Wong
I was present for the entire conversation between Trish, one of the victims, and Sifu Wong. I heard, with my own ears, everything that was said:
- I heard her tell Sifu Wong that she was sexually abused by her sifu, Gary.
- I heard her tell him how Gary had touched her, under the guise of clearing Qi blockages, and how he then took advantage of her when she was vulnerable and alone.
- I heard her say that she didn’t want it to happen.
- I heard her tell Sifu Wong that there was never any kissing or intimacy – none whatsoever (a sign of abuse).
- I heard her explain how confused she had been afterward, as if in a daze (a common experience with abuse victims).
- I heard her say that it was like she was watching the experience from outside of her body. (This is a common experience among trauma survivors and a telltale sign of abuse.)
- I heard her talk about how Gary had done the same thing with several other women.
- I heard hear talk about how she had been traumatized by the event, how she still had nightmares, how she felt ashamed and confused.
- I heard her talk about how other victims felt the same way – too ashamed to talk about it publicly.
- I heard her tell Sifu Wong that she never wanted to see Gary again.
Until this point, Sifu Wong seemed to be listening intently. I was feeling optimistic.
Suddenly, after Trish mentioned that she never wanted to see Gary again, Sifu Wong cut in to suggest that she could simply stand on the other side of the room if she and Gary happened to be attending the same course.
Sifu Wong smiled, as if this were an excellent solution to the problem. I literally choked on the tea that I was drinking. Sifu Wong’s comment was so detached, so disconnected from the conversation that I was in shock.
Before I could interject, Trish started crying.
Sensing that his solution was not good enough, Sifu Wong then suggested that Trish could attend completely different courses from Gary.
I remember Trish looking at me, tears in her eyes, in utter disbelief.
In short, the conversation was a complete disaster.
A Not-So-Safe Space
Immediately after the meeting, I apologized profusely to Trish. She was still in tears. I felt terrible because I had promised her a safe space, but I had failed.
Later that day, I went back to meet privately with Sifu Wong. I wanted to talk to him about what had happened.
Sifu Wong thanked me for arranging the meeting with Trish, and told me that he thought it went well.
I was absolutely stunned.
I quickly learned that his experience of the conversation was completely different than my own.
Overcome with frustration, I told him in no uncertain terms that the meeting had been a disaster, that Trish was in tears, and that he had not fulfilled his promise to create a safe space.
He dismissed my concerns, saying again that the meeting had been a success. He then told me that Trish was simply crying tears of relief, and that she was now on the path to healing.
The 2nd and 3rd Resignations
Not long after this, two more Shaolin Wahnam instructors resigned. Let’s call them Pete and Dan.
Pete, a senior Shaolin Wahnam instructor, had been gathering his own evidence. This evidence corroborated what Fred had already presented.
This evidence was absolutely mind-blowing, alleging that Gary had abused as many as a dozen women.
I was present when Pete presented some of his evidence to Sifu Wong. To be clear, this happened AFTER the meeting with Trish.
I watched in dismay as Sifu Wong argued with Pete, saying that Gary had contributed so much to Shaolin Wahnam over the years.
[Edit: Someone asked me to mention that Gary organized a lot of big seminars for Sifu Wong, with a lot of attendees. Financially, these seminars were hugely successful for both Gary and Sifu Wong. I know this to be true because Sifu Wong often said so (privately, to his certified instructors), holding Gary up as an example for the other instructors to aspire to.]
“There have never been any other complaints about Gary all these years!” Sifu Wong said to both of us.
Pete and I were speechless for a good minute. This statement boggled the mind.
The truth is that there had been complaints about Gary for nearly 10 years. Until Fred presented his original evidence, these complaints were not about sexual abuse, but rather pointed to serious issues in Gary’s character.
In short, the complaints pointed to Gary being a man of low moral fiber who was unfit to be a Shaolin Wahnam instructor.
Sifu Wong had been ignoring these complaints for years, not just from Pete, but from others as well. That’s why Pete and I were so shocked at Sifu Wong’s comment.
Seeing that Sifu Wong was not going to take appropriate action, even after Trish’s testimony, Pete and Dan quietly resigned.
Sifu Wong’s Public Statement
[Edit: This section was added after this post was originally published because it was brought to my attention. I didn’t know this information when I made my original post.]
A few weeks after hearing testimony from Trish, Sifu Wong made a public statement on sexual abuse. In it, he said the following (emphasis is mine):
It is unfortunate that some masters of kungfu and other martial arts abuse their power and influence to have sex with their students. It has become so common that some people, especially in Western societies, even think this is normal.
We in Shaolin Wahnam are fortunate that this is not an issue in our school.
Not an issue? Why would he post this statement shortly after receiving testimony directly from Trish?
I don’t know.
A Crime Worse Than Sexual Abuse
As I mentioned, Pete was a senior disciple, like myself. At the time, he had been with Sifu Wong for roughly 14 years. (In contrast, Dan was a more junior disciple.)
Sifu Wong chose to view Pete’s resignation as a deep and bitter betrayal.
Here is an excerpt of what Sifu Wong said privately to his certified instructors:
“The main issue here is betrayal. In kungfu culture, betrayal is the worst crime, worse than killing, and far worse than sexual abuse. Different people may have different concepts of betrayal.”
In other words, Sifu Wong made it perfectly clear that Pete’s resignation was, to him, worse than sexual abuse.
Remember: the comment above, written by Sifu Wong, came AFTER he had already heard face-to-face testimony from Trish, months after he had originally received evidence from Fred, and nearly ten years into various complaints about Gary’s character.
I should have resigned on the spot.
This idea — that a disciple “betraying” his teacher by taking a stand against sexual abuse is somehow worse than sexual abuse — was and still is anathema to me.
I remember thinking that it didn’t even make any sense. After all, what is sexual abuse if not the ultimate betrayal?!?
It was wrong, and I knew it, but I didn’t resign. And I’m sorry.
Let me back up a bit. Gary actually resigned from the organization shortly before the 2nd and 3rd resignations (i.e. Pete, the senior disciple, and Dan, the more junior disciple).
I should have been happy with Gary’s resignation, right? And Pete should have been happy too, right? Not exactly.
First of all, Gary wasn’t fired; he resigned. It was at Sifu Wong’s request that he resigned.
After Gary resigned, Sifu Wong made several private posts to his certified instructors. In a post entitled “Thanks and Best Wishes to Gary,” he wrote:
“Gary has contributed greatly to build our school…I am glad his students remain with us. I hope that in future situations will change, and we can welcome Gary back to our school.”
Here’s an excerpt from an email exchange between me and Sifu Wong that sums up why Gary’s resignation was not enough:
Gary resigning is a start, but it is not nearly enough, especially since you sent him away with a “Thank You” and a pat on the back. At first, I trusted that this was some sort of a strategy on your part. But after your last message, I can see that it is not.
Once again, you have tacitly condoned Gary’s abusive behavior. Even now that you have conclusive evidence, even now that you know that he did indeed abuse and rape his students, you send Gary away with a “Thanks and Best Wishes”.
This sends the wrong message to the instructors, as well as the public should they ever hear of your stance (which I think they will).
I don’t know what more I can do to help you to see clearly. I have tried everything I know. I literally begged you — with tears in my eyes — to listen. But you did not listen. It appears that you no longer listen to anyone — not even me.
Sifu, you are not acting the way you have taught us to act. This is not righteous action. Sifu, you are making a mockery of the 10 Shaolin Laws, and it is breaking my heart.
It’s not too late. Please listen. I’m begging you.
Your devoted student,
Sifu’s Wong’s response to me included the following:
“What do you or anybody want me to do with Gary? Do you want me to make a public announcement to denounce him? I never forsake a disciple even when others forsake him in droves. It is worse when these others are his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, or children who have earlier benefited much from him.”
No public announcement was made. All of this happened quietly behind the scenes.
After Gary’s Exit
After Gary resigned, he asked Sifu Wong if he could continue with courses that he had already planned to teach.
Sifu Wong told him that, “for goodwill, it was fine” (Sifu Wong’s words).
I later learned that most of Gary’s students didn’t even know that he had resigned, or that he was somehow disassociated with the school. They assumed that Gary was a still certified instructor sanctioned by Sifu Wong.
Many of them still do, to this day.
The “Just For Fun” Post, Part 3
Not long after Gary’s resignation, Sifu Wong posted the following to his instructors (but not to the public):
What do we mean when we say that a person has principles? As in many other things, it is straight-forward, though some people may not realize its meaning.
It means the person follows a set of ethical fundamentals irrespective of who are involved and what the situations may be.
Let us take the choice of actions listed in the post, “Just for Fun”, as an example.
Reproduced below is a list of possible actions.
A. Denounce your sifu, or student, and declare that you are not going to have anything to do with him (or her).
B. Tell more people about these allegations so that other people can take precaution against your sifu, or student.
C. Ignore the allegations, thinking that your sifu, or student, would never do this.
D. Protect your sifu, or student, irrespective of whether the allegations were true or not, though you would not condone his (or her) actions if they were true.
E. Punch the one who told you the allegations on his (or her) face.
It is important to note that the above are possible actions in response to allegations that have not been proven. This does not mean that the allegations may not be true.
It does not matter whom the accused person or what the allegation is. In other words it does not matter whether it is Gary, Tom, Dick, Harry or anyone who is accused as long as he (or she) is your sifu or student, and it does not matter whether the accusation is having sex, cheating money, stealing fruit or any thing considered improper. If you are a person of principles you will choose the action that is ethical and noble.
Even giving some allowance for individual preference, we can safely conclude as follows:
Action A is unethical and ignoble. It goes against divine laws. It is often based on self-interest.
Action B is also unethical and ignoble, though it may be based on others’ interest.
Action C is honorable but may not be wise.
Action D is ethical and noble. It is the best of the five choices in line with our Shaolin Wahnam philosophy.
Action E is rash though honorable.
Punch Yourself in the Face
To summarize Sifu Wong’s post above:
- Denouncing one’s sifu = unethical and ignoble.
- Telling more people about the allegations so that other people could take precautions = unethical and ignoble.
- Ignoring the allegations, thinking one’s Sifu would never do this = honorable but might not be wise.
- Protecting one’s Sifu, irrespective of whether the allegations were true or not = ethical and noble. (This would be the best choice, according to Sifu Wong.)
- Punching the one who made the allegations in the face = rash but honorable.
Let’s not forget that, by the time Sifu Wong posted this, he had already heard directly from Trish (one of the victims). And let’s not forget that her complaint was about her own Sifu.
Looking at Sifu Wong’s post above, one has to wonder:
Should Trish punch herself in the face? Would that be rash, but honorable, since she made accusations against her own Sifu?
When I saw the above post by Sifu Wong, I was once again stunned. I remember trying to explain the situation to my wife, but being unable to find the words.
Once again, I should have resigned after seeing Sifu Wong’s post. I should have seen then that there was no way to reconcile the huge differences in our core values.
My Own Investigation
By this point, it had become clear to me that Sifu Wong would not launch his own internal investigation. Even if he did, how would he ever get victims to confide in him after the public stance he had already taken with the “Just For Fun” posts?
If anything, Sifu Wong seemed more concerned with the so-called “betrayal” by Pete (the senior disciple) than the sexual abuse scandal.
So I launched my own investigation. Since I have a lot of contacts in the larger Shaolin Wahnam organization, I started talking with people. I even traveled internationally in order to speak with some of them. During my travels, I also made a point to help some of the victims, as well as some possible victims (who have not spoken up) to heal.
Once I started investigating, I was shocked at how easily information came to me.
Here’s what I found.
What I Found
Over the course of several months, I did a ton of investigation on my own time (and my own dime, I might add). I found an overwhelming amount of evidence corroborating what Fred, Trish, and Pete had presented to Sifu Wong.
Around this time, Sifu Wong openly stated that he wanted to bring Gary back into the organization.
Sifu Wong wrote:
“To me the allegations against Gary, which may or may not be true, are unproven and invalid. The allegations are that Gary raped women, or at lease used his psychic power to have sex with them against their will, and that Gary manipulated people.
Only one woman came to me to say that Gary had sex with her. (This does not mean that there aren’t other women who also had sex with Gary, but that is their and Gary’s business, not mine and also not yours.) This woman admitted that it was not forced on her, though she later regretted it. (I was wise enough not to ask whether she enjoyed the sex at the moment despite her later regret.)”
As I’ll explain later, this post by Sifu Wong was a distortion of the facts that were presented. Furthermore, it shows that Sifu Wong was unconcerned about all of the other potential victims in the organization.
At the time, however, I was focused on blocking Gary’s return, so I pleaded with Sifu Wong, telling him about my investigations. I presented him with all the evidence that I had gathered, including the following:
- Gary allegedly sexually assaulted 3-12 of his female students.
- Gary allegedly verbally abused students during classes.
- Gary allegedly flirted inappropriately with female students during classes.
- Gary allegedly touched women inappropriately (breasts, buttocks, groin) during classes.
- Gary allegedly led female students into having orgasms during classes.
- Gary allegedly encouraged students (married or not) to cheat and experiment sexually with other partners.
- Gary allegedly showed up for classes drunk.
- Gary allegedly repeatedly lied to students and business partners.
- Gary allegedly encouraged students to take hallucinogenic drugs as part of their training.
Offering me a rare glimpse of hope, Sifu Wong responded by thanking me for doing such a thorough investigation. He even went so far as to refer to me as a “gallant soul” to the other instructors.
I was thrilled with his response. It was the most positive reaction any of us had received until that point.
Shortly after I presented this evidence, Sifu Wong officially “shelved” his plans to bring Gary back to the organization.
He posted this to his instructors:
This is the first time I have received evidence of Gary’s doings. Earlier I just had accusations but those who accused him were not ready to substantiate with evidence.
These doings are certainly not in line with our Shaolin Wahnam teaching. Hence, I have sent him an e-mail asking him not to attend the coming XXXX course in XXXX in XXXX. My original plan of having him return to Shaolin Wahnam is also shelved.”
I was happy. And yet, I couldn’t help but find Sifu Wong’s reaction confusing.
My evidence, although shocking, was very similar to what had already been presented to him by Fred, Pete, and Trish. It certainly wasn’t “the first time” Sifu Wong had received evidence of Gary’s wrongdoings.
To this day, I still don’t know why Sifu Wong suddenly shelved his plans to bring Gary back.
That was roughly one year ago.
A few months ago, Gary suddenly appeared in an international Shaolin Wahnam course led by Sifu Wong.
No warning was given to any of the instructors, the students, nor to me.
I immediately wrote to Sifu Wong, saying that I thought I deserved an explanation. To be fair, I was a bit curt with Sifu Wong. Here’s what I wrote:
I and several of my students saw a public picture on Facebook from your courses in XXXX. Gary was in the picture, sitting as if he were an instructor.
I think that I deserve an explanation.
This was Sifu Wong’s response:
“I think that I deserve an explanation” sounds like a teacher reprimanding his student, not a student humbly asking his teacher for some information.
I don’t have to give you an explanation.
I’m actually grateful that Sifu Wong responded the way he did. It’s what finally woke me up, as if a spell had suddenly been broken.
Although I was a bit disrespectful to him, it was clear to me that his response was not even remotely satisfactory considering the circumstances.
The 4th and 5th Resignations
Around the same time, several other Shaolin Wahnam instructors wrote to Sifu Wong, also asking for explanations about Gary’s picture on Facebook.
Sifu Wong’s responses to these instructors were downright illogical. For example:
“What you heard about Gary may or may not be true. It is worthwhile to note that many of his students are important and publicly well-known people who also know about the accusations, like company presidents and a Nobel Prize winner, and they would not associate with him if they believe the accusations are true.”
For those of you familiar with logical fallacies, the above is a prime example. This is called an appeal to authority, and it is an attempt to prove Gary’s innocence based on his association with authority figures.
When the instructor pointed this out to Sifu Wong, showing the flaw in his logic, Sifu Wong responded by calling the instructor rude.
Around this time, Sifu Wong posted the following:
“I am really fed up with people asking me about Gary as if I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have to give any explanation to my students or their students on what I do. It is sufficient that I feel what I do is right and honorable.”
As a result of these interactions, two more Shaolin Wahnam instructors quietly resigned, including one chief instructor.
I should mention that, at this point, I finally made my own decision to resign. Better late than never.
I chose to wait until today to send my resignation out of respect for Sifu Wong’s courses in Malaysia. I had students in attendance, and I didn’t want to make it awkward for them.They had already booked their flights and hotels, and I didn’t want to ruin their trip.
Out of respect to them, and to Sifu Wong for all that he has done for me, I decided to wait.
The course ended last night, and I resigned this morning
Wisdom and Compassion?
After the 4th and 5th resignations, Sifu Wong posted the following:
“I wish to thank the many instructors who wrote to me to declare their support of my action in Gary’s case, highlighting that no one in our school should question my right in doing what I feel is correct and honorable, as well as highlighting the values of wisdom and compassion that we cherish.
He then went on to talk about how we should forgive Gary.
Let me remind you that this happened AFTER Sifu Wong had made his appeal to authority, saying that “important” people wouldn’t associate with Gary if they thought he was guilty.
Which is it? Is Gary innocent or guilty? If he’s innocent, then why do we need to forgive him?
Later, Sifu Wong posted the following, contradicting his earlier implication that Gary might be innocent:
[“Why do you still hold such a deep grudge against Gary? Ask yourself, and you may discover an answer to your deep-rooted problem. Even if you leave aside compassion and altruism, and consider only self-interest, Gary is not a threat to you. He won’t take away your students, or your business. Why are you angry at his ability to influence people, or at his ability to have sex with women?”
To imply that those instructors resigned because they were angry at Gary’s “ability to have sex with women” is ludicrous and insulting.
It’s also another logical fallacy, called a strawman argument.
The Ten Shaolin Laws
I’d like to mention that I originally chose Sifu Wong as my primary teacher precisely because I respected with his strong moral code.
Before my first trip to Malaysia, I wrote to him asking if I should practice the Horse Stance daily.
He replied, saying that it would be fine to practice the Horse Stance, but that it would be better to practice the Ten Shaolin Laws. For me at the time, that was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.
The Ten Shaolin Laws, for those who don’t know, are a simple moral code from the Shaolin tradition. You can read more about them here:
Today, 17 years later, it’s painfully clear to me that my interpretation of the 10 Shaolin Laws is quite different than Sifu Wong’s.
For Sifu Wong, it seems to me that there is only one Shaolin Law that really matters, i.e. “respect the master”.
Sex with Students?
Recently, Sifu Wong openly admitted that he believes that Gary probably had sex with several of his female students:
“I believe that when Gary had sex with other women, and I have no doubt that he did, he believed he was doing ‘good.’
I should mention that this statement, in itself, proves that Gary is a liar. Back when Fred made the first allegations, Sifu Wong confronted Gary about the allegations.
Gary vehemently denied the allegations, right to Sifu Wong’s face.
Sifu Wong continued:
“It is important to note that forgiving Gary does not mean that we condone what he did, even if it were true. It is equally important to note that different people have different perspective of what is “good” and “evil”. To some people…having sex with married women is “evil”. In the same way, though to a lesser degree, ditching one’s girlfriend to marry another girl is “evil”. But to other people, having sex with a married woman when both agree, is “good”, or at least not “evil” even if it is not “good”.”
Note the words “when both agree” in the above statement, which was made just a few weeks ago.
In other words, Sifu Wong is once again arguing that the sex was consensual, despite all evidence to the contrary.
As for whether or not Sifu Wong condones what Gary may or may not have done — then why not clearly state that it is wrong? And why not do so publicly?
Rape Culture and Victim Blaming
Rape culture is a modern concept that examines the habit of normalizing rape due to societal attitudes.
The standard narrative in cases of sexual abuse is to blame the victim. And that’s exactly what Sifu Wong did, although I don’t even think that he realizes it.
For example, at one point Sifu Wong told Fred (the first resignee) that it was common for women to try to take down great men by defaming them.
That’s an example of victim blaming.
When Sifu Wong wrote the words “when both agree” in the above post, that’s an example of normalizing rape (i.e. ignoring the direct evidence to the contrary that Trish presented to him).
Later, when referring to Trish, Sifu Wong said the he was “was wise enough not to ask whether she enjoyed the sex at the moment despite her later regret.”
That’s another example of normalizing rape.
Here’s an excerpt from an email that I wrote to Sifu Wong in direct response to the comment above about him being “wise” enough not to ask whether she enjoyed being abused.
“Sifu, you did not need to ask! And that’s because she specifically told you that she did NOT enjoy it, and that she did not want it to happen! Your distortion of the evidence that was presented to you is shocking. As I said many months ago in an email, you are sweeping this important issue under the carpet. A public statement should have been made months ago, and yet there has been nothing. Most students don’t even know whether Gary is in or out of Shaolin Wahnam. Many of the Shaolin Wahnam healers and instructors don’t even know! In fact, Gary’s picture is still right on your home page, as both an instructor and a healer, adding to the confusion!”
Begging, Pleading, Crying
I want all of you to know this process has been absolutely heart-wrenching for me. That’s not an excuse for my mistakes. It’s more of a confession.
Those who are close to me know that I have been weaker and sadder these past two years. As a direct result of this awful situation, my energy has suffered, my finances have suffered, my marriage has been strained, and at times, my health even suffered. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, as I type this, I’m fighting off a cold.
It’s a testimony to the art of Qigong (which is absolutely amazing, no matter what Sifu Wong may have done) that I have been able to endure the incredible amounts of stress of that this situation has caused.
Although I should have resigned sooner, I felt that it was important to do my best to get through to Sifu Wong. I’ve known the man for 17 years, and the arts that he taught me have improved my life in countless ways.
So I begged. I pleaded. I tried to reason. I wrote emails. I wrote posts on Sifu Wong’s instructor’s forum. I spoke to Sifu Wong in person.
My efforts failed, obviously. Although part of me regrets not resigning sooner, part of me has zero regrets about trying to get through to Sifu Wong. In that regard, I know that I did my absolute best.
My Advice to You
As of a few weeks ago, there have been rumblings about Gary being accepted back into the organization.
Personally, I doubt it will be long before he is officially recognized as a certified instructor.
If you are a student of a Shaolin Wahnam instructor, then I recommend that you show him/her this post. Please don’t assume that your instructor already knows all these facts. Many of them know very little.
If you are a student of Sifu Wong, or somehow involved in the larger Shaolin Wahnam organization (not just Flowing Zen), then my advice to you is simple:
Question whatever you are told (or not told) about this issue.
Don’t take anything on faith. Not a damn thing. It’s too dangerous.
Most importantly, question Sifu Wong. Write to him and tell him what you think. Or post on his public forum.
See for yourself what responses you get. And then question those responses deeply.
Some of the responses will be predictable. Here are some tips for dealing with those responses:
- If people attempt to say that the evidence is inconclusive, then ask: “How much evidence do you think is sufficient in cases of sexual abuse?”
- If people attempt to question the character of the disciples who have resigned, then ask: “Why were these disciples so highly regarded up until the moment they resigned?”
- If people attempt to shift blame on to the victims, then ask: “Are you aware of the concept of victim-blaming.”
- If people start talking about forgiveness, then ask: “Should we forgive an innocent man? After all, Sifu Wong hasn’t clarified whether or not Gary is guilty of some wrongdoing.”
- If people attempt to attack me for posting all of this information publicly, then ask: “If Sifu Wong truly believes that he has done what is right and honorable, then why would he fear public scrutiny?”
- If people start branding me as a traitor, then ask: “Do you honestly think that Anthony should have kept quiet?”
By questioning everything, you will be better positioned to protect yourself, and those you love.
The Bitter Pill
Some of you are probably thinking, “It can’t possibly be as bad as Anthony says.”
Honestly, it would be totally hypocritical for me to blame you for thinking that.
It took me a long time to overcome that kind of thinking.
I know that this information is a bitter pill to swallow.
For some of you, it will probably take you time to process what I’ve posted here.
A few years ago, I would have probably punched you in the face for saying something bad about my beloved sifu. I absolutely thought that Sifu Wong’s moral code was unshakeable, and that he was incapable of behavior like this.
But now, it’s me speaking up — one of his most loyal and senior disciples.
And I’m not alone. As I’ve said, I’m the 6th instructor to have resigned over this issue.
I’m sure that more will resign soon. If not — then perhaps you might ask them about their stance on the issue (and of course question their responses).
You may see comments from some of the former instructors below. I encourage you to scroll down and read them.
And I encourage you to post your own comments as well.
You have a voice here.