Frank Chan - Waiting For My Horses To Die...

           "When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Appears."  - Zen Proverb


Waiting For My Horses To Die...

My Medical Qigong instructor’s name is Hao-Hee "Frank" Chan.  Master Chan has been teaching Zhening Qigong in the United States since 1995.  In my opinion he is one of the most unassuming masters you could ever hope to meet. 

Master Chan says: “I am no Sifu!  I am still just a student like you. I have only been practicing for 40 years.  I teach Qigong because it is the best way for me to learn.  Really I have just learned something a little before you.  That is all. That is why I consider myself a Lao-shi (‘Teacher’) not a Sifu (‘Master’).”

In China, Master Chan’s students affectionately call him — Chan Lao-shi.  But here in the United States he tells his American students: “Just call me Frank.”  Frank tells the story that back in Hong Kong he had the same Taiji teacher as Bruce Lee. 

He says: “Look at Bruce Lee.  He is very very famous.  He is known the world over. And we had the same teacher in Hong Kong.  Bruce Lee becomes famous. Does anybody know who Frank Chan is?  No.  But!  Bruce Lee is also very dead.  So, maybe it is not such a bad thing to be Frank Chan...”  He tells this story to prove a point: It is the efforts of the student that makes all the difference.

In America,  Zhening Qigong is also known as Chi-lel™ Qigong.  "Chi-lel" translates as: ‘Qi Therapy.’  I once asked Frank why he didn’t just use the name Zhening Qigong.  He said, “Marketing!  You’ve got to call it something.  That way if someone calls me and says they have studied Chi-lel, I know they are my student.  If they said: I am studying Zhening Qigong, I do not know what they think they have learned. So I would maybe not be able to help them?”

The main practice form of Zhening Qigong is a healing form called "Lift Qi Up & Pour Qi Down."  Lift Qi UP & Pour Qi Down borrows deeply from Taijiquan and White Crane Qigong.  But has elements from all 5 Origens of Qigong - Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Wushu, and Medical Qigongs. 

Early in my training, on retreat, I was performing LQU&PQD with a large group of students — some of whom were quite ill.  Honestly I was having a very difficult time with it.  After a long day of practice, both of my arms had become so heavy and tired.  Just holding my arms up became impossible.  At last I could not take it any more any with a wincing sigh I let my arms drop.  I opened my eyes to see how well the others were doing...

Now bear in mind: I was not sick.  I was not there seeking a cure for anything. I was there because I wanted to learn how to help others — or so I thought.  Throughout my life I have been involved in one sport activity or another.  I am a decent athlete and at 6’2” 240lbs I am neither frail nor weak. Generally speaking, I am what you might call a ‘big and strong guy.

So imagine my amazement and chagrin as the muscles in my arms began to scream with tension and my shoulders started to ache with so much pain that I had to drop my arms.  That was embarrassing enough.  But when I opened my eyes, there to my left is this extremely thin woman in her mid- to late seventies wearing a chemotherapy-pump around from her emaciated shoulders!  Not only are her too-thin arms still up in air, but she is smiling!  I thought: “What is on earth is wrong with me that I can’t even hold my arms up to do the complete 16-minute version of the form?”

Later during a break I asked Frank why it was so difficult for me to keep my arms up.

Oh!” he said. “Your Qi is blocked.  It cannot flow through the meridians so you are using your muscles instead.  You need to relax and let the Qi take over.  Then the Qi will do it for you - not the muscle.”

“And how do I do that?” I asked in frustration. “How does the Qi take over?”

To help explain, Frank asked me a question: “Do you know the difference between a donkey and a horse?”

“Probably not,” I said sullenly.

He said: “Well, you know a donkey. You can get a donkey to work hard for you.  But once the donkey gets tired — it will sit down!  It will not move.  You can hit it with a stick.  You can push it.  You can tie a rope and try to pull it.  But if the donkey is tired the donkey will not move.  Do you know why?  Because the donkey is smart!  Until it feels rested the donkey will not get up.  There is nothing you can do about it.”

“But a horse...”  He continued.  “You can get a horse to run and run and run for you until it falls down dead.  Do you know why?  Because basically: the horse is stupid.  The horse loves you.  It wants to work for you.  It will feel bad if it lets you down.  It will try and try and try.”

“Do you see?”

“Not exactly,” I admitted.

“Your muscles are like the horse.  Your muscles love you.  They think they know how to do everything.  You say to yourself: ‘I am going to hold my arms out.’  And your muscles say: ‘Oh, we know how to do that.  It is simple.’  And then they try to do that.  So you have to learn how to relax.  Don’t use the muscle.”

“But,” I asked. “How do you raise your arms and relax your muscles at the same time?”

He said, “It is your mind’s intent.  You just keep trying.  In the beginning your muscles will try and try and try.  Oh!  It will hurt.  Believe me.  It will feel terrible.  Your muscles will get so tired. Eventually they will want to fall down dead, but — your arms will still be up in the air.  That’s when you know the Qi has taken over for you.  It is the mind’s intent.  Really your muscles have nothing to do with it.  Your mind learns how to lead.  Your body learns how to follow.  Now, does that make sense?”

“I guess so. Sort of...”

“You just keep on trying.  One day you will see.  Your arms will become so tired.  You will not be able to hold them up.  Suddenly instead of dropping them you will relax them.  The meridians will open up.  Then the QI will flow and it will not hurt.  You know your horses are dead.  But your arms are still floating there.”

“It is a strange thing.”  He said at last.  “But that is how you learn to let the Qi take over.  Just keep practicing.  Keep on relaxing and relaxing.  It is bound to happen sooner or later.  ‘If you do the Gong you will get the Qi."

"Don’t worry!  You just get the Qi in there.  The Qi knows what to do...”

After nearly eighteen years - to this day - whenever I practice Qigong I always hear Frank’s voice in my head.  His Chinese accent is contagious.  His training sutras go on repeating and repeating and repeating in my head reminding me to:


“Drop shoulders...”

“Relax low back...”

“Raise Bai Hui and tuck in chin...”

“Withdraw vision inward...”

“Feel as if you are sitting but not sitting...”

“Relax the knees...”

“Go out in six directions...”

“Think Blue Sky...”


One more Frank story...  Frank’s wife Eva is a MD.  Not long ago the two of them were invited to the wedding of two of her colleagues.  Frank said afterwards at the reception he was the only person at his table who was not a doctor of some kind.  As he tells it:

“There were MDs and PhDs and all those kinds of ‘Ds’ and then there was me.”

And as they were going around the table making formal introductions he learned there was a cardiologist, a neurologist, two internists, a pediatrician, and so on...  Finally it was Frank’s turn to introduce himself to his table mates...

“I am Frank Chan. I teach Qigong.”

“What kind of work is that?” They asked out of curiosity.

“Qigong is traditional Chinese healing.”  He replied.  “It is my job eventually to put you all out of business!”

I Love that Man!  So wise and funny!  Thanks Frank for teaching me how to heal myself!  Hao la!


--Pahka Dave