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The Fundamentals of Shaolin Kung Fu

By: Scott Elledge & David Stubblefield

• History of the Shaolin Temple • Breathing & Meditation • Conditioning & Stretching • Internal Styles • External Styles • Weapons

History of the Shaolin Temple

The word Shaolin is derived from Shaoshi Mountain and “lin”, the Chinese word for forest.

This describes the geographic area of the first temple built in the Henan Province around 495 A.D.

32 years later, an Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma came to the temple, but was turned away by the head abbot, Fang Chang

Bodhidharma was determined and went to a nearby cave and meditated

Nobody knows exactly why, but Bodhidharma was then allowed into the temple and he soon noticed that the monks were in poor physical health

He began teaching them moving exercises designed to enhance Chi flow and build strength. . They consisted of 18 actions known as the 18 Lohan movements or forms.

later know as Kung Fu. These movements were the start of Shaolin Ch’uan or Shaolin Fist.These 18 forms later evolved into 54 forms and then into 108 forms. .

due to repeated attacks and periods of inactivity due to reigning Imperial and regional leaders who feared the monks. The 5 main temples were: . other temples were incorporated into Shaolin.Over the years.

The Henan Temple. . the original temple and the one seen in Chinese Kung Fu movies.

. know as the “headquarters” during times when Henan was either destroyed or under threat.The Fukien Temple.

. known as the snake temple.The Kwangtung Temple.

The Wutang Temple. known as the Tiger temple. .

. known as the Crane Temple.The O Mei Shan Temple.

Breathing and Meditation Meditation is the essence of Chan Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu and it is the soul of Bodhidharma’s teachings .

.Meditation simply means to be fully aware of the moment.

which is stretching out between two benches with your head on one and your heels on the other. .It is done in a number of different postures such as sitting. head stand. and Iron Bar. standing.

These postures were usually held for several hours at a time and some monks achieved such high levels of sitting practice that they would meditate for a week straight with no break for sleep. .

some even die in state. . which means to pass on in seated meditation with out falling over.Some monks have skills so high that they abstain from lying down ever again and at the highest level.

.Breathing is an important part of meditation and there are two basic types of breathing.

the “breath after your birth”. and heighten sensitivity. It is used to relax the mind and body.The first is Hou T’ien Chi. It involves positive breathing in which the abdomen expands when inhaling and contracts when exhaling. .

The other is Hsien T’ien Chi. It is referred to as negative breathing and involves contracting the abdomen when inhaling and expanding while exhaling. the “Breath before birth”. .

but the following are some aspects of the system. and numerous to account for in full detail. . But the Shaolin conditioning and stretching training system is too vast. including Kung Fu. deep.Conditioning and Stretching Conditioning and stretching are essential to all Martial Arts.

I Chin Ching: These are basic stretching exercises based on the 49 postures of the I Chin Ching or Muscle-Tendon-Change Classic that Bodhidharma is attributed to have initiated. .

.These 49 postures are designed to develop a balance of strength and flexibility by working on the muscles and tendons and each posture is usually practiced for 49 breaths each.

Yin/Yang Conditioning: The Human body has 434 voluntary muscles composed of two types of fibers. It is referred to as postive/negitive conditioning . white and red. This form of conditioning helps in part to develop a balance of the slow twitch or red fibers as well as fast twitch or white fibers.

It consisted of a set of exercises that are designed to develop endurance and stamina. .Endurance punching and kicking: This was carried out indoors in the winter.

It was designed for endurance and strength as well as balance on uneven outdoor surfaces.Outdoor Conditioning: This was carried out outdoors in the fall. .

tree. and palms on either a punching bag. legs. . It’s carried out to densify the skin and bones by mechanical vibration or controlled stress caused by impact of the forearms. or into hot sand. water.Iron Bone Training: This is probably the most famous of the training done by the Shaolin.

.Internal Styles There are numerous Internal Styles. but the two most well known are Tai Chi Ch’uan and Qigong.

. It is one of the more popular internal styles that is practiced by the general public in China and the West.Tai Chi Ch’uan: means “the Grand Ultimate Fist” and is often referred to as meditation in motion.

in actual it is the most devastating of all martial arts when trained for that purpose .Although it is commonly considered to be a slow gentle form that is like meditation in motion.

in actual it care to pursue it for more than exercise and people is the most devastating of all martial arts when trained for that purpose holistic purposes .Although it is commonly consideredand the slow Yet. few of practice that is like meditation master it. fluidity to be a decades gentle form that it requires to truly in motion. because of its subtlety.

Tai Chi training, when carried out with the martial aspects in mind, enhances sensitivity, yielding ability (like a snake), rooting, fluidity of motion (swimming in air, reeling silk), and counterstrikes that involve returning the opponent’s energy.

The ancient masters of the art were so skilled that a fly landing on their arm would set their entire body into motion, a sparrow sitting on the palm of the hand was unable to fly, every punch or kick thrown in their direction were brushed away effortlessly and they delivered the devastating earth-shaking strikes by sinking, rooting and discharging their chi.

Qigong is the art of developing vital energy, particularly for health, vitality, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation.

It is a major part of Shaolin kung fu and is intertwined into every external style. .

.It involves the building of Chi and directing it to parts of the body for prevention from injury or to an opponent with the intent to injure.

without which it remains at its external. considered by Chinese martial artists as rough and low-class. mechanical level. .All great kung fu makes use of energy training to develop internal force.

yet with his internal force he can cause much damage to his opponent if he wishes.Hence. and actually is. gentle. a kung fu master may look. .

yet with his with age. and he can apply it for internal force he can cause much peaceful use in his daily living damage to his opponent if he wishes.Hence. a kung fu master may look. His internal force does not diminish and actually is. . gentle.

Temple-derived non-temple styles. Temple styles.External Styles External styles styles may generally beand the majority of them These kung fu vary into the hundreds divided into 3 classes: Shaolin are based on animal movements. . and Family styles and there are two major divisions in Shaolin kung fu.

The Southern Shaolin styles, which are predominantly hand technique oriented, consist of Southern Praying Mantis and the 5 animals that make up the Five Animal Fist: Tiger, Dragon, Leopard, Snake and White Crane.

And the Northern Shaolin styles, which put more emphasis on kicks and foot techniques. It consisted of Northern Praying Mantis, Black Crane, and Black Tiger.

Southern Praying is employed, but so are numerous other trapping and The Mantis hook Mantis rarely emphasizes one type of technique. controlling maneuvers.

The typical closed fist of other styles is absent from the southern sect. which instead favors the mantis fist. but concentrating all of the striking force through a single finger. . a modification of the leopard punch.

Stances are low to moderate. but firmly anchored to the ground and there is tremendous use of the knees. . powerful kicks. elbows and low.

. external approach to combat that meets force with force and is very likely to maim or kill an opponent because of the nature of the counterattack.Southern Tiger utilizes a hard.

. While kicking maneuvers are usually low to middle range kicks of great power.It’s primary hand weapons are the closed fist and tiger claw.

snappy moves. muscles and tendons.One studies Tiger to develop bones. culminated in short. hard. . The emphasis is on strength and dynamic tension.

endowing the creature with powers of elusion and power. earth and water.The Dragon represented two of the ancient elements. .

Dragon style relies heavily upon evasion as a tactic and evades primarily by rotation of the upper or lower torso with little or no stance movement. .

It employs pinpoint strikes to vulnerable targets and also heavily uses tiger-like punches and clawing techniques. and leopard-like hit and run strikes to weaken a physically superior adversary. snake-like stance shifts. .

for it is the fastest of the tiger family.Leopard style is construed as a soft subsystem and is used to develop speed and strength. .

The fist is formed in such a way that it can jab. striking soft points in the anatomy and structural weak points. rake or crush on any surface without alteration.The main weapon is the leopard fist. .

.The back of the hand is often used in breaking while a variation with the first two fingers extended is used for attacks to the eyes.

Southern Snake style is distinguished from most of the other animal styles by the introduction of circular movements in its parries and attacks. .

. The circles themselves can be compared to the dynamics of Yin and Yang in Taoism.This introduction of circles characterizes the transition to a higher style.

straight techniques are countered by circular ones. . Similarly.Circular attacks (viewed as Yin) are countered by direct attacks (Yang).

The emphasis on snake style is hitting weak points along the Chi meridians as in acupuncture. .

that the meridian routes were mapped based on preferred sites for mosquito bites. Many bites induced discomfort in distant parts of the body.It has been suggested by some practitioners of acupuncture. .

reflect the influence of three different styles. however. . It’s range of techniques.The modern snake kung fu style is a collection of older styles which have now died out.

Its trademark was the tongue strike – two fingers aiming often at arteries and veins. .Viper consisted of intimidating strikes that could inflict heavy psychological damage by drawing lots of blood without causing life-threatening damage.

Its characteristic hand technique was an open hand with the thumb curled underneath in order to maintain dynamic tension.Cobra. . but rather very serious strikes to nerves and pressure points. which did not emphasize highly recognizable or showy techniques.

Python relied on the leopard fist for its pin point strikes and included grappling. .

.The two universal aspects of snake techniques are pin point openhand strikes and twisting arm postures to disguise one’s line of attack.

. Using fast. counterattacks and drives home his attack. the practitioner drills at an opponent.Most snake kung fu practitioners use an upright. mobile stance which allows for rapid advances and sidestepping footwork. sidesteps. alternating hand jabs.

. when out of the forest came a gorilla. He feared that the ape would destroy the bird.One day an old man was meditating near a pond when he observed a beautiful white stork. but was amazed by the bird’s elusiveness and ability to peck vital parts of the gorilla’s anatomy.

. and the crane’s beak. wing-like movements. a hand weapon made by joining the fingertips firmly. high kicking.Major characteristics of this system include wide-armed.

. making even minor contacts painful to the attacker. the torso turns with force that accelerates the force of a strike.As the defender physically evades an assault.

who in turn has the opportunity to tire his opponent before launching a definitive counterattack. .And evasive footwork forces the opponent to work harder to target in on the kung fu practitioner.

targets being anything from the head to groin. Bottom of the foot kicks are effective.Footwork in the White Crane is legendary. Other kicks are designed to dislocate or unbalance opponents. as are crushing stomps. . generated at close range and with great speed.

.D. He took the basic movements of a praying mantis and incorporated the erratic footwork of the monkey style.The founder of Northern Praying Mantis was the boxer Wang Lang. who developed the method of combat around 1600 A.

. but common to all Northern Mantis kung fu styles is the use of the mantis hook.Northern Mantis splinters off into different styles like Seven Stars or Plum Blossom Praying Mantis.

but never maintain a strong grip.The hook is used for striking. Advanced practitioners employs breaking of opponent to employ sticking Mantis further learn to lock onto thejoints. or leading techniques. . particularly at the elbow. blocking and parrying.

. could be studied by range style for boxing useful to tall boxers.Black Crane kung and locks but is missingsets intricate forms Crane it It includes throws fu constitutes the hand the of the Shaolin so that and provides a shortthe general populace or military personnel.

the style inherited the stork stance long before white crane kung fu itself was introduced into China. Because the exercises were intended to teach character and spirit. .The movements are a collection of the ancient crane style. some tiger and the motion of snake.

Black Tiger kung fu originated in the Henan Shaolin Temple. .

.It has more emphasis on footwork than the Southern Shaolin kung fu forms and bears some resemblance to Eagle style.

frog. monkey. and eagle. such as dog style. one for just about every animal imaginable. .The list of animal styles goes on and on.

.There are also other styles attributed to the Shaolin such as Wing Chun.

It was made known to the west by Bruce Lee and James Lee in the late 1960’s in what was the single most influential introduction of Chinese kung fu outside China .Wing Chun is arguably the most famous single style within the Shaolin system.

his association with that style was a major factor in its continued success over the years.Despite Lee’s rapid evolution of a personal style away from traditional Wing Chun. .


.Wing Chun was developed by a Shaolin “nun” and there are three different forms.

and a variety of arm parries and blocks employed. Most moves are repeated 3 times.The first requires use of his or her imagination in the practice and application of techniques. . the primary attack is a sun fist (thumb facing upward on impact). There is no footwork employed.

Bridge techniques are extended arm moves that intercept and redirect incoming attacks without using the brute power required in blocking. These techniques take advantage of the physics of swinging objects. but adds more sticky-hands and bridge techniques.The second adds a few new moves to the techniques from the first form. .

and stance shifts. . using finger thrusts or spearhands in a variety of ways.The third form is primarily an offensive form. low kicks. including a sweep. There is more footwork.

.Drunken Style kung fu is a well known style and is often incorporated into animal styles and use of weapons.

.The secret behind drunken kung fu is the sudden release of power from awkward positions.

falling. A common hand form is positioning the hands as if holding a small Chinese rice wine cup or a jug. . and move as if he were drunk.The footwork enables the user to confuse his opponent by swaying.

.The use of weapons was skillfully mastered by the Shaolin fighting monks.

the monks developed many different weapons and their unique styles. The variety of Shaolin weapons eventually increased to over 120. but the basic 18 are: .After repeated practice and research.

Shaolin Fork .

Tri Point Double Edged Sword .

Staff .

Shaolin Iron Pen .

Shaolin Hand Dart .

Straight Sword .

Sickles .

Ta Mo Cane .

Flying Dart .

Monk’s Spade .

Broadsword .

Shaolin Thorn .

Spear .

Axe .

Zhuihun Sword .

Nine Section Whip .

Chunqiu Sword .

Iron Flute .

All of these weapons were usually mixed into different animal and drunken styles. but some styles were based on the weapon itself. .

nor does he or she dispatch the most devastating defenses in any situation.One of the oldest Shaolin philosophies is that “one who engages in combat has already lost the battle” and the Shaolin practitioner is never an attacker. .

the study of kung fu leads to better understanding of violence. . and consequently how to avoid conflict.Rather.

Overall. for most students entered the order under the age of ten. the early phases of Shaolin training involved a lot what we would call grammar school. .

Taoist and Buddhist philosophies. painting. pottery. history. agriculture. . Students also learned math. manners and customs. and cooking.Long days were spent learning to read and write. textile work. music.

or learn medicine. or natural history. while others would form musical ensembles. poetry. .Older students and disciples would often write books of history. paint.

.It was one’s development of the cultural side of life that mainly marked one’s standing in the Shaolin community.


com Http://www.heming.shaolinwushu.com Http://www.com Congratulations on completing your first quarter at ITT! Animal Planet’s The Animal Within (video) Http://www.net Http://www.shao-lin.harmoniousfist.topcities.Http://www.shaolin.com Http://www. .com .nl Http://www.co.com .com like to thank the following Websites The creators would Http://www.shaolins.kungfu-taichi.com .com Http://www.mullins-shaolin.geocities.html Http://www. Http://www.com Http://www.clara.html Http://www.geocities.kungfu-wushu.com Http://www.wheeloflife.com/dragonrojo Http://www.com Http://www.net Http://www.com/bryanba11/five animal kung fu.uk/webindex.com Http://www.carly.sfdt.com Http://www.shaolin-do-kungfu.beijingwushuteam.shaolinwahnam.com A&E’s The Martial Arts (video) Http://www.shaolin-overseas.com Http://www.shaolin-viaggi.shaolin.shaolinwolf. Http://www.russbo.

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