In May of 2012, Sifu Fong went to Hong Kong with several students in his classes. The students went so that they could benefit from additional training, but Sifu Fong was also looking for a teacher for himself. He was very lucky on this trip. One of his friends in Hong Kong introduced him to a retired teacher, and right away Sifu knew that this teacher had important knowledge. The teacher was 69 years old, much older than Sifu, but he looked years younger than Sifu. The teacher appeared full of energy, with smooth skin and black hair, and he was physically beautiful-‐looking because he was shining with good health.
When Sifu asked this teacher why he had retired, the man answered that he doesn’t want to teach because students are lazy. In his view, students don’t put in the time or effort to learn. Fortunately, he could see that Sifu has a lot of energy and is a hard worker. The two go together: without doing hard work, it’s not possible to generate and maintain a lot of energy, especially as a person starts to get older. This teacher knew that Sifu would do the work, but there was also an element of luck, because the teacher owed a favor to the person who introduced Sifu to him. Teaching Sifu would allow him to return the favor. Luckily, Sifu was at the right place at the right time and had the right connection.
As Sifu started to learn, this teacher told him that the meaning of chikung is to open up the channels in the body so that the energy in the body can flow better. After that, whatever training a person does is more useful and beneficial. Sifu describes this as unblocking a garden hose. If the hose is bent or clogged, only a little water can get through, and the water flow will not be powerful. To have a strong blast of water , the water needs to be able to run the full length of the hose through the full opening. The movement of chi inside the body works the same way. For energy to flow through as efficiently and strongly as possible, certain points in the body must be opened, such as bai hui at the top of the head and C7 in the neck. The kidneys must be strong. The teacher in Hong Kong also stressed that the most critical area is in the neck, where the lymph glands are located. He said that massaging in an upward direction in this area helps to clear the toxins out of the body.
When Sifu first started to learn from this teacher, he felt a little skeptical. He knows that a lot of what is advertised as chikung is a waste of time. Some is just physical exercise, nothing more; it has no particular benefits inside the body. Because so much fake chikung exists, it can be hard to know what chikung is real. The teacher in Hong Kong started by teaching Sifu massage for various acupuncture points that correspond to organs. The goal is to spend five to fifteen minutes each day working on each of the various points.
Fortunately, when Sifu came back to Portland, he decided to teach these methods to our class right away. We spent the beginning of each class learning where the points are and how to massage them. After that, we were on our own to practice at home. In addition to showing us the points on the head, neck, chest, back, arms, legs, hands, and feet to massage, he also showed us how to do facial massage. While Sifu was in Hong Kong, he saw his teacher’s wife do a 20 minute facial massage with
coconut oil on a woman who came in to see her. When the wife was done, the woman looked five years younger. Many women come to see the teacher’s wife for this kind of massage, and Sifu had the wife give him a facial massage as well so that he could experience her techniques. For people who have no interest in exercise but who care about how they look, this facial massage can have good benefits.
After about a week of practicing the facial and acupuncture point massage, I woke up with a soreness in the right side of my jaw. Over the next few days, the lymph glands in the right side of my neck started to swell a lot. Pressure built up inside my ear and behind my eye. Worst of all, I could taste something horrible and bitter dripping down the back of the right side of my throat. Like Sifu, I have been skeptical about many chi kung claims, even though I have studied and observed different types of it over the years. For example, I saw a “master” in China pass his “energy” around a circle of people, except that he was really using an electrical current (some of us spotted the wires). Because I am skeptical, at first I didn’t connect what was happening to me with the massage. After four days, I went to both my dentist and my doctor, thinking that I must have an infected tooth, even though I had no fever and no toothache. The doctor, who is a Western medical doctor, expected to see a blockage when she looked into my mouth, but she didn’t find anything. I asked her if the massage could have created what I was experiencing, and she said yes. She explained that sometimes there can be small stones or crystals that can get lodged in the many glands in that area. When they do, infection can build up behind them. She guessed that the massage had released such a stone and infection and advised me to keep doing the massage, to drink lots of fluids, and to put heat on the area as well to help the toxins drain out. She advised me not to take antibiotics. As well, the dentist found nothing wrong with my teeth on an x-‐ray and agreed with what the doctor had said. Within two more days, the bitter taste had stopped and the pressure was relieved. The swelling started to go down.
In our next class, I told Sifu what I had experienced. He had not expected such a result, and he had me tell both classes what had happened to me. Later, another student told Sifu that he had experienced something similar. It seems clear that this massage method definitely creates results.
To learn real chikung is not easy. In China, it has been a tradition for many masters to keep their knowledge secret. They pass it on to very few students, and don’t teach outsiders. They also have to like the student, or they won’t pass on the knowledge. A lot of real knowledge has undoubtedly been lost to the world because the people who mastered it took the knowledge with them to death. Meanwhile, others without real knowledge have seen that there is money to be made with fake performances and “teachings,” and people have been fooled into thinking that these fake claims are real. Sifu said that he has been searching for a teacher with real knowledge for all his life, and he plans to go back to Hong Kong to continue to learn from this man and to give workshops. As Sifu’s student, I am glad that I have the opportunity to learn how to take care of my health and strengthen my energy, but I also know that I have to put in the work. It won’t happen without standing (zhanzhuang) to charge the energy, and it won’t happen without committing the time to do the practice. Even though right now massaging some of the points, especially in my arms, is painful, I keep going. I am looking forward to discovering what other benefits I will gain from the practice, and I feel very grateful that Sifu Fong has the philosophy that knowledge is meant to be shared so that we can all benefit if we are willing to make an effort.