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Shaolin kung-fu training from beginning to mastery

in Chinese, ‘kung-fu (功夫)’ means a skill to practice and perfect. Shaolin (少林) kung-fu1
is combination of Zen Buddhism and martial art that was developed by the monks of
Shaolin temple during the last 1500 years. kung-fu has 2 categories of skills:

1. body skills (基本功: jiben kung): kung-fu practitioner's body should be ‘endurant, soft,
light, hard, and fast.’ these are the 5 body skills. the set of Shaolin soft (flexibility) and
light (balance) skills is called the child skills (童子功: tongzi kung) and the set of Shaolin hard
(power) and fast (speed) skills is called the 72 arts2. besides, energy is developed via
internal skills (气功: qi kung), which include static and dynamic meditation3.

2. combat skills (拳法: quan fa): combat styles and fighting which teach barehanded or
weapon and barehanded vs weapon combat tactics and methods.

Shaolin monks practice daily except one or a couple of days a week to rest, and their daily
training schedule includes:

– warm-up, endurance, flexibility, and balance: a half hour or so with empty stomach.

– power and speed: a few ones of the 72 arts are practiced, each for a few minutes.

– combat skills: a half hour or so.

– qi kung meditation: a half hour or so.

these exercises could be done together in one daily session or at different sessions, at
morning, evening, or any other time.

some sayings are, ‘Shaolin kung-fu is trained in a lying ox’s place,’ it means a small place.
‘wear light clothes in warmth and warm clothes in the cold, but do not be afraid of the
weather.’ ‘train 100 days to see difference, 3 years to achieve skills, and 10 years for mastery.’

1 Shaolin kung-fu free full video tutorials by Shaolin temple inheritors.
2 ‘Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin’ and ‘72 Consummate Arts Secrets of the Shaolin Temple’ books.
3 Yang Jwing-Ming’s ‘Qigong for Health and Martial Arts’, ‘Qigong Meditation: Embryonic Breathing’,

‘Qigong Meditation: Small Circulation’, and his other Qi kung books.

Shaolin kung-fu body training

1. warm-up in the beginning makes training easier and more efficient and prevents
injuries to the body. Shaolin monks warm up by loosening up the 9 main joints of body by
rotating each joint to and fro for a few, like 9 times or so. this routine takes a couple of


wrists elbows shoulders


ankles knees hips


waist back neck

at the end, loosen up whole the body and shake all limbs.

2. endurance exercises begin lightly, for example by jogging, gradually do them quicker

and heavier to beyond your endurance limits. when you think you cannot do anymore, do
more and harder. you improve day by day. do some exercises for 10 minutes or so daily:
jog, run forwards, sideways, backwards, zigzag, stationary run, high-knee run, run raise foot
forward, run raise foot backwards, jumping run, sprint, jump, turning jump, single-foot jump,
high-knee jump, squat, squat walk, squat hop, crawl, roll, somersault, pushup, punch, kick, ….

‘Shaolin child skills’ are the set of Shaolin kung-fu soft (flexibility) and light (balance)
skills. ‘masters of child skills, being as soft as cotton and as light as a swallow, feel like being
given a second childhood.’ child skills can be mastered at any age, young or old, but it is
better to be trained since childhood. the saying is that ‘child skills are 18 postures.’ here
you see 18 main – 9 soft and 9 light – postures and their usual variants. begin:

3. soft-body (stretching) exercises are a complete set for whole the body. in each
exercise hold the position, lock the posture by tensing your muscles, do 5 or so stretching
bounces to wake up the muscles, and force stretching continuously in position for a count
of 10 or so. do all the following exercises; this routine takes less than 10 minutes daily.
mastery level, when you can do these soft-body postures with ease, takes about 5 years of

exercise: hands grab a string, turn shoulders and

arms back and forth. try with the shortest possible
length of string. at advanced level, it’s done with palms
joined together.

lazy monk salutes Buddha (懒僧拜佛)

exercise: stand, turn thighs outward

as far as possible, sit down.

2 2, single-leg variant
tortoise (金龟) cross the river on a reed stem (一苇渡江)

exercise: stand, turn thighs inward

as far as possible, bend down.

sun and moon (日月)
4, pre-variant 4, on-knees variant 4, on-chest variant
bridge (桥) hide flower under the leaf (叶底藏花)

exercise: feet apart, arc backward, try to land your palms on the ground at behind.

5, an advanced split
dragon raises tail (青龙摆尾)
exercise: sit or stand, turn your upper body to look backward as far as possible, switch side.

6, pre-variant 6
double clasp Buddha’s foot (抱佛腳) dragon rolls waist (青龙卷腰)

exercise: legs straight, bend forward with straight back as far as possible.

exercise: ‘clasp Buddha’s foot’: one leg squats, other leg straight
in front, hands pull back its toes, bend forward with straight spine,
try to touch the toes with your chin; switch legs.
try ‘front split’, legs straight; switch legs. at advanced level,
combine these to ‘posture 7’.

7, pre-variant 7, pre-variant 7
clasp Buddha’s foot (抱佛腳) front split (竖叉) skyward step (朝天蹬)

exercise: ‘clasp Buddha’s foot’: one leg squats, other leg straight
to side, hands pull back its toes, bend sideward with straight spine,
try to touch the toes with your head; switch legs.
try ‘side split’, legs straight. at advanced level, combine these to
‘posture 8’.

8, pre-variant 8, pre-variant 8
side clasp Buddha’s foot (抱佛腳) side split (橫叉) side skyward step (朝天蹬)

exercise: sit or stand, pull back your thighs to hook

your feet behind your neck, switch legs.

9, pre-variant 9
dragon coils in the nest (青龙盘窝) golden rooster stands on one leg (金鸡独立)
aka twin dragons play with a pearl (双龙戏珠)
4. light-body (balance) exercises are better learned by using supports, like leaning to a
wall, etc., at the beginning. practice for 10 minutes or more daily by holding still or doing
push-ups/sit-ups in one or a couple of postures. at the mastery level, one may load weights
on his body in balance postures.

1, pre-variant 1 1, simpler variant

on horse stance (马步) arhat salutes Buddha (罗汉拜佛)

swallow balance (燕式平衡) 3
aka dragon surfs on sea (蛟龙探海) reverse swallow balance

child salutes Buddha of
compassion (童子拜观音)
5, pre-variant 5
sleeping arhat (罗汉睡觉) sleeping fish carries Buddha (卧鱼载佛)
6, pre-variant 6, pre-variant 6
Buddha ascends midair meditation 6, advanced single-arm variant
to heaven (迎佛升天) (悬空打坐)

7, pre-variant 7
single-arm support (单臂扶撑) arm support (臂扶撑)

8 8, advanced variant
handstand (倒立) one-hand stand

9, pre-variant 9
headstand monument (头倒载碑) upside-down salute Buddha (倒拜佛) Amituofo! _/\_

in case of injuries, bleeding, fractures, etc, wait until after the healing, then continue on.

iron sand hand: each palm 30~50 time, 100 day; 50 time after 100 day.

sand claw: rice, 50~100 time (until claws get numbed), 2~3 month; then with sand; then iron, 30~50 time, 1 year;
50~130 time; then wall, more than 100 time daily, after a long time one can make a hole in the wall.

punch: 0-100 time, 3~5 month; more than 100 time; after the pain vanish, 3~4 session daily, each session 50 time,
3~4 month later can break brick; then with stone, continue 10, 20, or 30 year.

head: both fists punch head, morning and evening 30~50 time, 3 month; 100 time, 1 year; 300 time 1 year; continue
3~5 year; then hit head with a staff 45 cm long 5 cm thick, grab it with both hands, slow to fast, light to heavy, morning
and evening, 30~50 time, 3 month; 50~100 time 1 year; 100~300 time 3 year; after success hit head to wall, 10~15
time, light to heavy, slow to fast, 3 month; 50~100 time 6 month; 100~300 time 3 year.

jump: hole 30 cm, 3~5 minute; morning and evening 15~20 time, until about 1.5 meter.