Shaolin kung-fu training from beginning to mastery

in Chinese, ‘kung-fu (功夫)’ means a skill to practice and perfect. in the athletic context,
it is traditionally called wushu (武术), which means martial art. Shaolin (少林) kung-fu1
was developed by the monks of Shaolin temple, by combining Zen Buddhism and martial
art, during the last 1500 years. kung-fu has 2 categories of skills:

1. basic skills (基本功: jiben kung): kung-fu practitioner should be ‘endurant, soft, light,

hard, and fast.’ these are the 5 basic 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 skills2. 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, each with one or a couple of forms that

teach barehanded or weapon and barehanded vs weapon combat tactics and methods.

Shaolin kung-fu exercises can be done anytime. Shaolin monks usually train daily except
one day a week to rest, and their training schedule looks like:

– warm-up, endurance, child skills: usually before sunrise and breakfast, 20 min or more.

– 72 skills: a few select ones are mastered, each for a few min, altogether 20 min or more.

– combat skills: are usually learned and trained before or after noon for 20 min or more.

– qi kung meditation: half an hour or more daily.

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

1Shaolin kung-fu (YouTube channel): complete video tutorial.
2‘Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin’ and ‘72 Consummate Arts Secrets of the Shaolin Temple’.
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 basic 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 5 times. this routine takes 1.5 min:


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, then gradually do them
quicker and heavier to beyond your endurance limits. endurance is not just a property
of your body, but also of your mind. when you think you cannot do anymore, do more,
harder. you improve day by day. do some exercises for 5 min or more daily: jog, run
forward, sideways, backward, zigzag, stationary run, high-knee run, run raise foot forward,
run raise foot backward, 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 soft and light, 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 described for every posture. this is a complete
set of stretching exercises. in each exercise, hold the position, lock the posture by tensing
your muscles, and stretch for a count of 10. do all these exercises as a routine, which
takes 3.5 min daily. at mastery level, which takes about 5 years of training, you can do
these soft-body postures with ease.

lazy monk salutes Buddha (懒僧拜佛)

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 the palms joined together.

2 2, single-leg variant 3
tortoise (金龟) cross the river on a reed stem (一苇渡江) sun and moon (日月)

exercise: stand, turn both toes outward as far as possible, sit down.
exercise: stand, turn both toes inward as far as possible, bend down.
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.

dragon rolls waist (青龙卷腰)

exercise: feet apart, bend forward, try to pass your upper body through your legs.

6, single/double-leg pre-variant 6, pre-variant 6
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 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 6’.
7, pre-variant 7, pre-variant 7
side clasp Buddha’s foot(抱佛腳) side split (橫叉) side skyward step(朝天蹬)

exercise: ‘clasp Buddha’s foot’: one leg squats, other leg straight to the 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 7’.

8, pre-variant 8
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)

exercise: sit down or stand up, try to hook your feet behind your neck, do with both legs.

9, an advanced split
dragon raises tail (青龙摆尾)
4. light-body (balance) exercises are better learned by using supports, like leaning to
a wall, etc., at the beginning. practice for 5 min 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)

2 3
swallow balance (燕式平衡) reverse swallow balance
aka dragon surfs on sea (蛟龙探海)

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)
aka naughty child salutes Buddha (顽童拜佛)
6, pre-variant 6, pre-variant 6
Buddha ascends midair meditation 6, advanced single-arm variant
to heaven (佛升天) (悬空打坐)

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

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

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