Disclaimer On Proper Practice According to Shifu Guolin by Stephen Chao
Hungry to learn, Stephen Chao spent a great deal of time at the temple with Shifu (and Shifu's disciples), dedicating himself passionately to classes and practicing at home. Over the years, Stephen has proven himself to be a valuable member of STOH contributing his time and skills. He has participated in numerous performances, helped organize events and instructed classes. Stephen has remained a loyal practitioner of Shifu Guolin's teachings to this day and continues to help Shifu accurately communicate them.
In Shaolin Temple, it has been said that Kung fu forms are the body of martial arts and qigong is the heart. It is for this reason, that all practitioners and lovers of Shaolin wushu are encouraged to train internal arts properly and safely. Many martial arts students encounter internal arts for the first time through Kung fu shows and stage performances of iron body qigong; driven to training by the excitement derived from stunning displays of stone and wooden planks smashed over one's body or fists shattering boards and bricks.
While these are incredible feats of human achievement, they are but mere shells of the benefits you can reap from internal training. Every practitioner of Shaolin Kung fu should bear in mind that the primary goal of martial arts training is achieving a healthy body, tranquil mind and compassionate heart. For the seeker of enlightenment, Kung fu is merely the conduit we use to expand our universal understanding with internal arts (Qigong, Meditation, Tai Chi or Rou Quan) being an essential piece.
In Shifu Guolin's method of training, the first step is learning to control your breath. Cultivating your qi is essential to all forms of martial arts. Attaining true understanding of qi can take many years and must be undertaken with great thought and devotion. Only once your qi is fully cultivated and you understand its impact on your mind and body, can one apply it to external practice such as iron jacket safely.
In our present day of technology, one must be cautious of the information they encounter as the sources may be unreliable. There are many DVD's and Internet videos showing body hardening techniques such as striking sand bags or staff blows across the midsection. Remember that these techniques are the last step in a long road of practice and study. I encourage the novice to avoid these techniques and focus on their qigong forms. According to Shifu, he, did not develop iron jacket through physical body hardening, but rather, through long and careful training of the Qigong breathing techniques which he learned from his grandfather. As one develops their Qi, their body will become protected externally without having to practice the physical hardening techniques. Furthermore, Shifu often emphasizes that without proper qi cultivation, these techniques are simply dealing the body trauma and ultimately unhealthy.
I hope this message can benefit all Kung fu lovers everywhere. Please remember to train with a healthy body, pure mind and compassionate heart. Use your wushu to promote wellness and bring happiness to all sentient beings. Amituofu February 2015