The way to achieve enlightenment
Shaolin quan (少林拳）
chan,wu, yi (禅武医), The essence of Shaolin culture
The story of Bodhidharma
Shaolin Temple was built during the Northern Wei Dynasty under the Taihe Emperor (495 A.D.) for the prominent monk Ba Tuo (跋陀/ Bátuó) or Buddhabhadra (佛陀跋陀罗/ Fótuóbátuóluó) who taught Buddhism in China but not the elements of martial arts. The Buddhism taught was known as Xiao Cheng Buddhism.
Bodhidharma (菩提达摩/ Pútídámó), an Indian monk, is considered the first patriarch of Chinese Buddhism. He reached China 32 years after the founding of the Shaolin Temple in Guandong Province by sea, during the Wu Emperor of the Liang Dynasty (520-557). In China, he was known to as “Damo” (达摩/ Dámó).
When Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin Temple, the monks gathered to invite him to the Temple, but instead, he went behind the Temple, on the mountain called Five Breast Peak (五乳峰/Wǔrǔfēng), in a cave at the top of the mountain. He sat down facing a wall and meditated for nine years. Bodhidharma’s shadow is imprinted on the rock on the cave wall. Today, this rock is displayed in the Shaolin Temple. The monks would invite Bodhidharma to the Temple, but he never answered. During the meditation years, the Shaolin monks built the Bodhidharma Pavilion (达摩亭/Dámótíng) inside the Temple. Towards the end of the nine years, Bodhidharma meditated inside the Bodhidharma Pavilion.
cultivate introspection not speech
eternal bliss of nirvana comes from the mind at rest
The mind is the source of all virtues and the chief of all powers. Rebirth in the three realms also comes from the mind. The mind is the door to every world, and the mind is the ford to the other shore. Those who know where the door is, do not worry about reaching it. Those who know what the ford does, do not worry about crossing it. Authentic Buddhist teachings are not found in books or memorized liturgies but in the face-to-face experiences with the Buddhist masters and their disciples.
Chanting Amituofo is an essential part of Shaolin’s practice used to greet, please, thank you, sorry, great job, before and after training sessions, to start and end a routine or taolu (tàolù 套路).
Amituofo chanting acts as a reminder that there is something beyond the daily understanding of life. Amituofo is a wake-up call not to live this life in vain, not to engage in the useless practice.
Amituofo is chanting with the mind, invoking.
Shaolin Kung Fu is chanting or invoking with the body. Namo Amituofo translates as “to return to the boundless light of awareness.”
Although Shaolin Quan is a mixture of traditional Kung Fu, it also includes a profound cultural and ideological content. To a Shaolin warrior monk, the power of understanding is more critical than keeping fit and self-defense. Moreover, if one is sincere, one has the capability of knowledge at the fingertips. Only then will one be able to realize the significance of Shaolin Kung Fu. One needs to understand the philosophy of life through Kung Fu practice, attaining a balance of mind and body similar to the state of mind reached in meditation. To a Shaolin warrior monk, knowing a routine without understanding its inner meaning—Kung Fu practiced for its own sake— is only skin-deep knowledge. It is, at best, a showy performance.
Culture understanding & Kung fu
methods of training
Kung Fu is genuine only when it combines both form and spirit.
Shaolin basics theory and practice including customs, body posture, warm-up, fist forms, stances, stands, combination techniques, hands, and eye training, waist training, pelvic training, footwork, and isometric training.
Jumps and rolls allows a practitioner to master the basic skills of Wushu but also to enhance the flexibility and tenacity of joints of the lumbar vertebrae, ankles and wrists, improve the ability of ascertaining position in the air, vestibular balance, coordination and muscle flexibility.
Flexibility through stretching and power stretching, balance, and stability training. Stretching exercises keep the muscles, tendons, and ligaments flexible and supple. Increased balance and muscle coordination will increase the body’s control, agility, reaction times and overall body performance. The balance is crucial as we age because a fall can be sometimes fatal.
Power is developed using proper breathing, body strength, and posture. The body’s power is the muscle workout and a combination of breathing with an appropriate technique. Speed is crucial for self-defense—the routines and movements combined with breathing increase the speed. Body relaxation is a must to maximize speed as stiffness delays movement. Endurance represents the physical capacity to successfully use techniques after physical exertion. The work combined with Qi is the target for the advanced students.
Hard Qigong functions to tighten the muscles to release the strength and aims to reach the goal of abdominal breathing for Kung Fu training.
Hard Qigong combined with abdominal breathing and physical self-defense training increase the conditioned body’s pain tolerance capacity and cell density intensity.
The Shaolin Temple records registered 708 routines, out of which 552 are empty hand routines, 156 routines with weapons, and 72 unique skills, as well as controlling, combating, bone dislocating, hitting vital points, Qigong, and other Kung Fu exercises and practices.
Shaolin weapons include a standard ax, cudgel, spear, halberd, sword and broadsword, 3-section staff, dart, dagger, black tiger hammer, plum blossom broadsword, Bodhidharma staff, tiger hooks, and many others. These weapons are equally divided between short and long.
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Shaolin movements and routines include:
- Movement with stillness.
- The balance between Yin and Yang.
- Hardness and softness.
- The integration of mind and body.
The routines tap deeply into the man’s body’s potential energy, such as Da Buanjin, Yi Jin Jing, and Xi Sui Jing.
Shaolin quan training path
Shaolin Quan Martial Arts training consists of the progressive practice of the following techniques:
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The complete training methods are taught at the Temple or Online
The 72 skills of the Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin Temple had originally 72 secret skills handed down orally, composed of 36 exercises that emphasized physical force and 36 for mental focus. Examples include iron cloth-shirt, single-finger Chan, iron arm boxing, gold bell cover, eagle claw, roof climbing and wall scaling, flower picking, and plum blossom stake.
A good mastery of these skills would make one capable of overpowering regular Wushu practitioners.
Eagle claw Kung Fu was developed based on eagle’s movements as it fights for and seizes food. The exercise uses various claw-like techniques such as grabbing, pressing, pinching and capturing. The movements include:
- Tilting and striking when the hands are extended forward,
- Grabbing and capturing when the hands are pulled back,
- Splitting the tendons and dislocating the bone joints,
- Hitting the vital points to knock the breath out of the opponent,
- Rendering him momentarily unconscious,
- Moving as swiftly as an eagle.
"Learning a fist form is easy. Correcting the wrong fist form is very challenging."
Shifu Shi Yanjun
internal & External
When training in Shaolin Kung Fu, it is essential to understand the relationship between internal & external, shape & spirit. When practising taolu (routine 套路) techniques, the connection between internal and external and spirit and shape can be seen.
Internal and external are one, but they can be connected, influenced, controlled, and penetrated by each other. The external harmony depends on the balance of the internal and vice versus. These are the essential requirements of the human body in martial arts practice. The spirit is the foundation of the shape, and the shape is the employment of the spirit. Therefore, martial arts movements are not simple muscle movements, but they depend on the expression of shapeless internal movements.
The mind leads the Qi. The Qi generates power. The Qi connect to the external shapes and the external shapes to show the shapeless internal power. The energy inside is Qi, the outer shape is power, and the unique way of the ancient Chinese traditional training methods.
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