John Mini M.S.C.M./L.Ac./Dipl. Ac.
My original introduction to Empty Force came through my Chinese medicine teacher Dr. Lai Yat Ki. Over the years that I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dr. Lai he told me many stories of his teachers and others back in China who had developed a unique power that they were able to utilize for martial arts, healing and divination purposes. Sometimes Dr. Lai would ‘bump’ me with his Qi and it would make me jump. Occasionally I could feel this force come through his eyes or through his entire Qi field and direct me in his clinic or on our many excursions through San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Sitting, Standing and Walking
Dr. Lai encouraged me to study with his friends Master Cai, Sang Feng and Sifu Fong Ha. Sifu Ha introduced me to sitting, standing and walking practices. He and his senior students would frequently work with me to help develop my own Qi in order to understand and receive Empty Force better. Sifu Ha’s group worked with and practiced Empty Force techniques on a regular basis, and it didn’t take long for me to become fascinated with this art.
When I began studying with Sifu Ha I had been practicing Tai Qi very seriously for several years. This practice made me quite strong and flexible, but had no appreciable effect on my cultivation of Qi. I was shocked when Sifu Ha suggested that instead of practicing so much Tai Qi, I would do much better to practice standing meditation instead. Honestly, I didn’t believe him at the time, but I agreed that I would try it for one year and check the results.
My body changed a lot after doing standing practice for several months. I got leaner and my posture and attitude changed. I had no idea how much stronger I was until one day I had to move a very heavy couch that I hadn’t touched since the days when I did so much Tai Qi. I dreaded doing the job and did my best to avoid it because I was barely able to move the couch at all at that time.
Finally the day came when I had to move the couch no matter what. I was blown away to discover that I was able to lift the couch and maneuver it like it was an empty cardboard box or a giant piece of Styrofoam! In that moment, I became a rabid enthusiast for Kong Jing, or Empty Force. Even though I can’t say by any stretch of the imagination that I was moving that heavy couch with Empty Force, the fact that I was so much stronger from only doing Zhan Zhong meditation instead of heavy physical and martial training was a real eye opener for me.
I studied with Sifu Ha for several years until life and adventures took me elsewhere. I am still very grateful for the introduction to the world of Empty Force that he gave me. Even though I was no longer able to study with Sifu Ha, I continued with the practices he taught me.
After some time I heard through a student of Brian O’Dea at the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley that Madame Min Ou Yang, AKA Madame Yu, was alive and teaching in San Francisco. My first exposure to Madame and Professor Yu came from a video that Fong Ha had shown me some years before of them throwing their students by bouncing their Qi off of a brick wall and knocking the students around like billiard balls. This was impressive to say the least, but I never imagined that I would be able to study such Kung Fu myself at that level.
How wrong I was. The story of how I actually got to study with Madame Yu is long and hilarious. I have recounted that tale in the book Yu’s Qi Gong, so I needn’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that for the next 13 years I entered into the world of Qi Gong and Empty Force in ways that I never dreamed possible. In fact, if I learned anything at all during that time it was to not let my dreams limit me and hold me back from what is truly possible, all of which goes completely beyond imagination.
Flying, bouncing, many illusions and miraculous healings were all daily fare in the basement studio of Madame Ou Yang, who I rapidly came to call by her honorific title of Shi Mu, Honorable Mother. Pretty much anything that you’ve seen in a Kung Fu movie I saw and/or was part of in that basement. Those many years were grueling, demanding and totally worth it. When a real teacher comes into your life in that way, you cannot put it off for another time. You have to just do it. I did.
Madame Yu was nearly 101 years old when she passed. She left behind a jigsaw legacy where each of her students holds a part of the whole of her teaching. The reason for this is that each of us was only able to absorb as much as her/his capacity allowed, and Madame Yu had much more to teach than any of the students could fully embody. Although this was a source of frustration for those involved, it also underscores the quintessential core of her teaching: each person has his/her own Kung Fu to develop. This personal Kung Fu is determined by a combination of factors that include raw potential, willingness, commitment, discipline and destiny.
Studying Empty Force Today
In the wake of Madame Ou Yang’s departure, only two of her students are teaching her system openly. They are John Cole of Vallejo, California and Dale Freeman of Chico, California. I continue to study and practice with each of them and plan to spend as much time as possible in this endeavor for many years to come.
John Mini M.S.C.M./L.Ac./Dipl. Ac.