Aspects of Shaolin Kung Fu
Shaolin Kung Fu Guan

Shaolin Quan 少林拳

Shaolin Wu Shu is a complex art that has evolved over the last 1500 years. It utilises all aspects of martial practice: punching, kicking, striking, throwing, grappling, weaponry, point striking and qi cultivation. Unlike many reports Shaolin is not just a kicking style from the north, as is commonly misunderstood. It contains both Wai Gong (External skill) and Nei Gong (Internal skill) in its methodology, which is another common misunderstanding that labels Shaolin Kung Fu as only an external style of Kung Fu.

Shaolin Kung Fu cultivates Qi, Jing and Shen and promotes the development of the muscle, bones and skin. Shaolin practice is also a pathway to Chan (Zen). Shaolin Kung Fu consists of Ji Ben Gong (Basics), routines, application analysis, selected combinations, sparring, conditioning, Qi Gong, and meditation (Chan (Zen) practice as well).

Shaolin can be described as fast, agile, unpredictable and effective. With its blend of Chan (Zen) Buddhist philosophies Shaolin Kung Fu is unique in its execution.

When practising Shaolin Kung Fu you must keep in mind the following:
“Have no stance but every stance"
"Exist like the wind and be unpredictable"
"In defence be like the virgin in attack be fierce like the tiger"
"The outside is fierce the inside is calm"
"Make noise in the east and attack from the west "
"Show up and hit down"
"Be as hard as iron yet soft as silk"
"Be heavy like iron and light as a leaf"

Shaolin Kung Fu is most famous for its animal styles and imitation styles. The most famous of the Shaolin techniques is the five animals. The Snake, Dragon, Crane, Tiger and Leopard make up this system. Each animal displays a certain characteristic throughout the forms. The Dragon develops spirit, the Tiger develops the bones and tendons, the Snake develops internal energy, the Crane develops the essence and the Leopard develops strength.

Although these are well known Shaolin Temple has such animal styles as Praying Mantis, Eagle Claw, Duck fist, Toad, Monkey, Dog and also Scorpion to name a few.

Shaolin Kung Fu's imitation styles are quite elaborate, the most well known being Drunken boxing. It is a style of kung fu depicted in many movies by famous stars but the true Shaolin Drunken style consists of fist, sword and staff. It is difficult and very deadly in its usage. It utilises many Qin Na techniques and takedowns. It is a style that is for more advanced students.

Iron Palm, Tong Zi Gong (Youth Skill), Yi Zi Chan (One Finger Zen) and Iron Shirt are a sample of the famous skills Shaolin holds true today. The Shaolin Temple is known for its rigorous body training, both externally and internally.

Originally Shaolin temple had 32 hard arts and 32 soft arts. The practice of the 72 arts is under strict supervision and usually a student will only practice a select few techniques, as desired by their Sifu. The arts have different levels of skill requirements but it is important that the practice is conducted precisely and throughout the year. The understanding of breath and Qi is a must for the correct application and practice of the 72 arts.

Shaolin Kung Fu is a form or manifestation of Chan. For those entering the realm of Wu (Martial Arts) with a mind on Chan, the silent smile awaits them. When Chan and Wu are in Harmony, Chan and Quan is nowhere to be found. Shaolin Martial arts are then, an integral part of spiritual practice from China's Shaolin Temple. The idea is that by following a strict martial arts discipline, the gap between the body and the mind is bridged.


Chinese martial arts are also known for its extensive and exotic weaponry. Weapons can be divided into long, short, double, flexible and throwing. Due to Shaolin Temple’s history it has many unique and deadly weapons as part of its arsenal, however it is important that to be a well rounded martial artist it is important to know the 18 fundamental weapons. Weapons’ training is good for coordination, concentration and the ability to project ones energy to and beyond the weapon. Weapons’ training is also good for understanding different types of weaponry that may be used in the street or in a confrontation. Developing a respect and understanding of a weapon and losing your fear of that is important for self defence against an armed assailant.

Qi Gong

Utilisation of the Qi is an integral part of Shaolin Kung Fu and Chinese Martial Arts. In Shaolin there are many forms of Qi Gong with different usages. Qi Gong in Shaolin can be used in the following:

  • Health
  • Martial
  • Chan (Zen)

It is important that the Shaolin practitioner is in tune with their own energy, this will allow for a greater use of power in the martial sense but also a great way of preserving ones health. Qi Gong originally at Shaolin was devised to help the monks during long periods of meditation which left their bodies frail. Qi Gong is a jewel of Chinese medicine and culture.


Meditation is the essential part of Chan Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu. Da Mo was famous for sitting in a cave before a rock for nine years in meditation. His practice was so powerful that it left an impression of his face in that rock. This rock is still housed in a special hall at the Shaolin Temple for anyone to see. According to legend, Da Mo created Qi Gong and Kung Fu exercises to increase personal vitality so monks could sustain prolonged meditations.

However, the very act of practicing kung fu can be, in itself, an act of meditation. Such is the paradox of Chan. Sitting Meditation is a regular part of Shaolin practice. Shaolin practitioners often accompany their meditation with the practice of some chi kung, in particular Ba Duan Jin (eight-section brocade), Yi Jin Jing (muscle tendon washing form) or Xi Sui Jing (bone marrow washing form).

Meditation periods can vary from a few minutes to several hours. Some monks have achieved high levels of sitting practice. A daily practice is recommended, generally beginning with fifteen to thirty minutes a day and working up to longer periods as your lifestyle allows. The effect of meditation is subtle at first but can be very rewarding in the long run. In fact, it may even lead to your enlightenment.

Chan (Zen) Buddhism 禅

What is Chan Buddhism?

Buddhism was born in Nepal about 2500 years ago. Chan Buddhism is said to have originated at Shaolin Temple, and its spiritual founder was an Indian prince named Bodhidharma, or as he was known to the Chinese, Da Mo. It is characterized by a rejection of much of the protocol associated with other sects of Buddhism and is oriented around the practice of meditation. In Chan, the Temple is everywhere, and one can pray anywhere, meditate in any position, and it emphasizes the idea of personal awakening and understanding. Chan is the spiritual parent of Japanese Zen Buddhism.

What does "Amituofo" or "Amitabha" mean? Amituofo means a multitude of things, depending on how it is used. It can be a greeting, a salutation, a blessing, or it can mean "please" or "I'm sorry." Literally, it is the name of a Buddha, the "Amita" Buddha ("fo" being the Chinese word for Buddha). It is pronounced "Ah-mee-twoh-foh". "Amituofo" is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit "Amitabha".

Medicine 醫

Medicine has deep roots in Buddhism. In Tibet, the Medicine Buddha is one of the most dominant icons. Tibetan tradition believes that the simple act of meditation upon the Medicine Buddha is healing in itself. It not only increases the healing powers of the meditator, they progress towards the attainment of enlightenment.

Shaolin Temple use’s specially formulated powders, pills and plasters to cure illnesses. These external treatments help to adjust the internal flow of the body. Shaolin Medicine is the lesser known of Shaolin Temple’s three treasures, Chan, Wu and Yi. Shaolin has its own distinctive method of medicine, which is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine but with its own unique methodology. It is important to know how to heal and help others than it is to cause harm.