Interview with Master Sam F.S. Chin

I'm borrowing content from the Russian ILC group (obviously, since the videos are largely in Russian).  The parts where Sifu Chin is speaking are in English.  I've made a partial transcription of the English portions.  I'll fill in more of the transcription as I get more free time.

 

Ever year my student Alex, the chief instructor in Russia, promotes and organizes two workshops for me to come here. Firstly, it [my trip] is to promote the art. Secondly, it is to check on the progressions. And thirdly it is to pass on some new ideas or the standards... to check on the standards and the curriculum of the art itself. So, Alex has done a very good job here.

[...]

If the art itself [is a] benefit to people, there's no point holding back. It's good to share with people. But we say the secrets protect themselves. You really need to learn and do it yourself in order to understand it. So our system is built [upon] understanding the mental and physical. The art itself has three portions. The first portion is understanding the philosophy. Understanding the philosophy, that consists of Zen and Tai Chi philosophies. Understanding the philosophies covers the concepts of how you train and then to recognize the principles. But from here, the next level is to understand how your mind works with your body. That means you need to understand unification. Unify your body, then unify with your mind. And then the third part: with the unifications (of the mind and body), you've got to unify with the environment. So, the system that we started is [learning] to recognize how the mind effects the body and how the body effects the mind. We've got to learn to understand the mechanisms of the body, just like dao (dao4), the way as it is. And Zen is also the way.

From here, we learn to understand the body, the mechanisms of the body, just as it is. Second, you have to learn the feelings--emotional feeling, human feelings... human feelings that motivate us to react...what kind of feelings you have. Practically speaking, we try to recognize the feelings of you like, you don't like, [or] you don't know.

All feelings fall down into [these] three here. These feelings will pull your mind, [affect] how you act. From here you also have to recognize your mind. the conditions on the point of contact, [and] what kind of ideas pop up, why [they] pop up. The pop-up--the thoughts, the thinking, the process--, is it based on past experience, that you like, you don't like, [or] you don't know? Or are you [acting] on the moment, recognizing what is what based on action and reaction, the cause and effect. From here then, the last [part] we learn is to recognize is the environment, the conditions, the nature as it is. These are the four things we learn.

Under the [system] structure, of course, we have the exercises [for] recognizing the mechanisms, the body itself, recognizing how to breathe, control breathing. We say that the breathing is the condition which controls the body. Learning the feeling is controlling the mind. The curriculum is built up as such.

[...]

Because in China, there are a lot of small village variations(?). We are from ??? (couldn't make out), one of the dialects. It's not one kind of a big style, so they don't have much philosophy. It's a more small style. From [a] very young [age], I don't have much philosophy. When I was in the temple for 10 years, that's where I started to engage, to understand how the mental works--that is, what we call the concentration, the mindfulness, and the awareness. Because all arts, like tai chi... all martial arts, they try to learn the sensitivities... that is the listening power... In the temple, I recognized that listening power is about mindfulness. You need to [be] able to understand what is concentration in order to be mindful; then only can you [be] aware and know. This the part of things that I brought into I-Liq Chuan... that is how I structured things. Because we say you can't understand attention--how to use attention [...can't hear phrase...]. Intention is narrowing down. Attention is opening and observing. [They] are two different things. So you must know where to use your effort, where to put [it]. If you know where to put [your effort], you open up, then you observe; you turn yourself [into] a receiver. The nature speaks for itself, so you are not judging. Because [in] the art... that is in Buddhism, Zen, Tai Chi, the highest [attainment] is to drop. To drop means without using your past experience, without using your ego. That means you cannot judge. Without judging, that means you must be able to understand the present moment. You must go along with the observations(?), then you can only understand what is happening... that is [to say] you cannot label the things, you cannot judge, you cannot think. If you think, then you are using the past experience; you will be reacting with your ego. In this way is how I understand and how I structure the exercises.

The first thing I teach the student is to say "you must know how to use your attention." If you use your attention wrongly in the first place (beginning), you start to accumulate. But [this] is against the principle of Zen. You cannot take away. You cannot add. That is the nature. You must know just by this. We call this the feel of suchness. From here can you only understand how the nature works.

[...]

As I just said, it is I-Liq (意力 , pinyin: yi4 li4). I (意) is "mental", Liq (力) is "force". So it is--force you can also say is "physical"--"mental physical fist." You cannot train without [the] mental. Every moment you've got to train with consciousness, understanding the how, why, and when. This the cause and consequence, action and reaction... This system is built up not just for fighting. It is a way of life. It is the tools to recognize "who are you"--[recognizing] yourself. From here you must be training every moment, every minute, every second. We watch our five senses of contact: our ears, our eyes, smell, taste, and touch. These are the five senses of contact that receive messages; we've got to pay attention to these five senses, what we receive, and what (how) we act. It doesn't matter whether you are training, sitting, eating, walking, talking, you [will] be training how you react with your emotions. Are you doing it with "you don't like, you like, or you don't know"? You like, you want more. You don't like, you reject. You don't know, that means you don't know. This is the process of self-recognizing and [training the ability] to discipline yourself to control yourself. So, practically you are learning every minute, every second.

Actually the rules [themselves] are already in the curriculum. Of course, the student [himself/herself] must have interest to learn, so I won't mind teaching any student. But you see, if the student learns with ego, with aggressiveness, the system does not allow it because I teach you to recognize the mind first and to understand the moment. If you are in the moment, you can change with change and maintain [yourself] in the moment; the art is about the moment. Recognizing the moment... if you don't relate to the past, you are not judging. So any moment, if you can react understanding in the moment, you will be good. It's not based on the past. Based on the past, then there will be problems because [there is] "you like" and "you don't like"; it's the ego. If you change... if you train with understanding [of] the moment, then ego is not involved. It's just recognizing the situations Anyway, if the students train with aggressiveness, normally they won't last long. The students will go away. The system is built such that if [they] don't give up ego... if those [who] have strong ego, they want to train to build up ego, they won't fight on this system. Within one or two months, they leave. That's why [within] the structure of the art itself, you tame your ego.

[...]

The quality for a student, of course, must be hard working... and able to be honest enough to himself and to others. So he knows he is able to admit what is wrong, what is right. And about the secret: there is no secret. The real secret, as I've said, is the secrets protect themselves. Even [if] I tell you, you still won't know. Even [if] you know, you won't understand. You've really got to do your thing. You've got to pay your dues, to work on understanding. If the secret that I tell you and straight away you know, that is not a true secret. If someone is teaching and then you watch and the secret is gone, that is not considered a real secret. The real secret, even if I tell you, you still don't know; that is called a real secret. You need to expand your attentions to understand. Even when I teach, I will repeat the same thing, telling the same thing. Some students will be able to understand what [they] think... because it depends on every student's realization power. The art itself is based on understanding the time and space. With the time and space, you've got to work on the attention, the consciousness, the readiness. If they don't have this, that means their recognizing--the realizing power--is not strong enough. They can only understand what they understand. They need to build up higher power to understand [more]. That is how it is.

[...]

In our system, we have the curriculum [that has] 11 student levels and 6 levels of instructors. When they complete everything, there's another 3 levels. [Those] other 3 levels [are] not through grading. [Those] other 3 levels [are] through accomplishments: how he brings up the students, and what he has achieved on spreading the art, and how he's served the community. That level is only the master level. You must be able... to lead and promote... that is the master level. The system is built up like: primary school, high school, college. How do you put this into... oh you learn this... this for primary school, you learn this is for high school, this is for college. You can't say you learn the high school ten times, [then] ok you can have college level. No. Because the material is different. The exercises of training the timing, training the spacing, of increasing the attention... that is the curriculum built up as I've said. It's all about spacing and timing that the structure (of the curriculum) is created.

(Video is all in Russian. Can't transcribe anything without a lot of wild guesses.)

No, other arts still can call(?) it. I cannot talk on behalf of other arts. I can only say on behalf of my own art. Some people call I-Liq Chuan the "human art" because we learn the mechanisms of the body--that is, our human body. We try to act as a human body, not trying to act like different animals or anything. Our human structures--ligaments, tendons, bones--are as such: they only can generate in such a way to generate what kind of power. You need to understand the muscles... how there are two groups of muscles: contracting muscles and extending muscles... understanding the ligaments, tendons, [and] the bone [form] the structure. So this is understanding [what] we call the four alchemies... that is: earth, water, fire, and air. Understanding these four alchemies... how they [relate]... for understanding the bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons to the skin, that is for the earth. Then from the breathing... how to understand breathing, that generate the movement and controls the body, coordinates the water and the fire. Understanding here... because of this you need the timing. You need to understand the mind [to pierce] the moment to see this, so you can make use of yourself. Comes down to the bottom is: how well do you know yourself? (interpreted as: At the most basic level, it is about how well you know yourself) You are using yourself to do something, so you must know yourself enough to do something. That's why we say it's (ILC) is a human art.