Shaolin kung-fu training from beginning to mastery
in Chinese, ‘kung-fu (功夫)’ means a skill you practice and perfect. in the athletic context, it is traditionally called wushu (武术), which means martial art. Shaolin (少林), temple of Zen, developed Shaolin kung-fu1 during 1500 years. kung-fu has 2 categories of skills:
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 .
combat skills (拳法: quan fa): combat styles, each with several forms (套路: taolu) and their barehanded or weapon and barehanded vs weapon combat methods. time schedule: Shaolin kung-fu exercises can be done anytime. the usual time schedule is: monks train daily except one day a week to rest. they get up before sunrise. before breakfast, they train for half an hour by warming up, endurance training, and child skills. of the 72 skills, every monk masters a few select ones, each skill can be practiced anytime for a few min, but some skills take up to half an hour or more daily. qi kung meditation is done after waking up or before sleep or another time for half an hour. combat skills are usually learned and trained before or after noon for half an hour or more. some sayings are, ‘Shaolin kung-fu is trained in a lying ox’s place,’ it means a small place. ‘wear light clothesin hot and warm clothesin 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.’
Shaolin kung-fu basic training
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 turning each joint to and fro for a few, like 5 times. this routine takes less than 2 min:
at the end, loosen up whole the body and shake all limbs.
endurance exercises begin lightly, for example by jogging, then gradually do them quicker and heavier to beyond your endurable 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 10 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, highknee 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.
soft-body (stretching) exercises are described for every posture. this is a complete set of stretching exercises. hold each position and stretch for 15 sec, gradually further the stretch by tensing your muscles, relax for a few sec before the next exercise. do all these exercises, which altogether take less than 5 min daily. at mastery level, which takes about 5 years of training, you can do these soft-body postures with ease.
exercise: ‘clasp Buddha’s foot’: one leg squats, other leg straight to side, bend sideward, hands pull back toes of the straight leg, try to touch your toes with your head; switch legs. try ‘side split’, legs straight. at advanced level, combine these to ‘posture 7’.
light-body (balance) exercises are better learned by using supports, like leaning to a wall, etc., at the beginning. hold still or push up/sit up in each posture for a while. practice for 10 min or more daily by doing a few postures. at the mastery level, one may load weights on his body in balance postures.