Wu Dao Gong : Training for Life (interview with Fei Wang)
– Brett Wagland
Wu Dao Gong is an internal Chinese martial art. Fei Wang developed this system and introduced it to Australia. Fei is a traditional Chinese medical practitioner and has trained with high level masters in his home city of Shanghai.
I have known and trained with Fei for 15 years. I have also trained with many famous Chinese kung fu masters. Fei is every bit as skilled as those. However, he shuns fame and refuses to be called master or any other fancy Chinese title. It is rare in this age of self aggrandizement and unabashed publicity to meet a truly decent accomplished practitioner. Anyone who has met Fei quickly becomes infected by his light heartedness and profoundness.
How long have you been training in the Chinese martial and healing arts?
Fei Wang (FW): I started at the age of 9 so it’s now more than 30 years.
What made you want to begin training in kung fu?
FW: As a young boy, I read many stories about Chinese heroes. They were influenced by the great philosophers and the practice of Chinese martial arts.
How did you meet your first teacher?
FW: In China, some of the high level teachers are very inconspicuous. They don’t advertise. These arts are for your life – a precious treasure. So, in China, to meet these people is through introduction. They only have private students. My first teacher was a professor.
What did you learn from your teacher?
FW: The first thing he asked me to practise was Chicken Legs, the low slow one. This sort of training is part of building the foundation. It goes straight to the roots to develop the energy. In other words, it trains your physical and internal. Chinese kung fu is training for your life. It develops your determination and spirit.
In traditional training, if you don’t pass this slow Chicken Legs practice, the teachers won’t teach you the next thing. They won’t change what they teach to make it easier. Everyone can pass this foundation practice if they are determined.
After I had passed the Chicken Legs, my teacher taught me Yang Style Tai Chi.
How did you meet your second teacher?
FW: In the area where I lived, there were many retired scholars, doctors and professors. One of my neighbours was a famous traditional Chinese medical practitioner. He introduced me to reading the classics on Chinese medicine. I was about 12 years old at that time. So for two years, he taught me the foundation of Chinese medicine. Then, one day, he asked if I wanted to study martial arts with him. He looked like a scholar – very thin, wore glasses – and was 72 years old. I said, “You are a scholar, not a martial artist.” He then went to a nearby rope fence and grabbed it with one hand and proceeded to do a one arm hand stand on a rope fence. I immediately wanted to be his student.
Traditional Chinese martial arts and medicine have a close relationship. They have their base in qi (energy). If one doesn’t understand energy, one can never be a good doctor or develop martial skills to a high level.
Why didn’t your teacher introduce you to martial arts in the beginning?
FW: Learning Chinese martial arts is not easy. It is something precious – something you have to really want. Also, this rare knowledge is power and a teacher has a responsibility to pass it on to the right person. So for the first two years, my teacher was observing my personality. When he thought I was ready, he introduced me to the martial arts aspect.
What martial arts did your teacher show you?
FW: My teacher corrected my Chicken Legs and Tai Chi. I trained with him every day. It was very difficult. I trained until I could hardly walk. At one time, I had to practically lift my own legs to go up the stairs. Eventually, my teacher introduced me to the Xin Yi form which is one of the main skills we teach in Wu Dao Gong. In Chinese culture, these teachings are considered arts. It is a serious pursuit. It is only for people who are willing to work hard.
Why did you decide to offer this training to people here?
FW: In my clinic, many of my younger patients were looking for a way to relieve their stress and strengthen their bodies. Traditional Chinese martial arts can treat all of these problems. Unfortunately, the traditional way is too difficult for westerners. This is the reason for my developing the Wu Dao Gong program. This system can be practised by westerners. It is a way to understand yourself through training.
Through my experience of treating patients and teaching classes, I have developed an understanding of the western physique and culture. It has enabled me to choose aspects of the traditional training that suit people here. It is not just teaching Ba Gau, Xing Yi or Shaolin. It is about using the most suitable elements of these arts to help people to change their bodies effectively.
Many Wu Dao Gong students have studied other martial arts. When they come to class, they realise how much they don’t understand. They have to start at the beginning. The training quickly reveals their weaknesses. Many students had previously thought that Chinese martial arts were merely forms or dancing routines. They soon realise that this training is much more than that. In the Wu Dao Gong system, our emphasis is not on techniques. We focus on building power, coordination and spirit. In the end, it’s not about a student’s movements looking good. It’s more about the quality of training and how effectively it changes the body.
How can students gain the most benefit from Wu Dao Gong?
FW: This kind of training isn’t a sport. It is not something you do just because you might feel like it. This training is for life. The training can change your life for the better. You must believe that you can do it and you must do it in order to obtain the benefits. Your mind and body will become stronger as time goes by. Even if at first you don’t understand the big picture, as long as you persevere and practise consistently, you will get there eventually. If you find the training physically difficult or hard to understand, just keep going. Remember that it is your body that you need to train every day. The teachers can’t do it for you.
In the beginning, your body will have many weaknesses – weak legs, tense upper body, lack of coordination, poor concentration, etc. I often call this stage “the mushroom body”. It means no roots and top heavy. In order to build your body and mind, you need to practise regularly for a certain period. If not, your body won’t change. The more you do, the more changes you will notice and the more you will enjoy your training.
In summary, Wu Dao Gong is training for life. It is an invaluable tool for building self confidence and good health. Everyone can benefit from this practice. However, you must do it for yourself – no one can do it for you. Be determined and persevere and you will transform your life into a meaningful journey of self discovery. You will be surprised at the potential that lies dormant within you and at what you will be able to achieve with resolution. I wish you all the very best on this precious path!