The Fundamentals of Shaolin Kung Fu

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  • T h e F u n d a m e n ta ls o f S h a o l in K u n g F u

    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.

  • These 18 forms later evolved into 54 forms and then into 108 forms.

    These movements were the start of Shaolin Chuan or Shaolin Fist,

    later know as Kung Fu.

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

    The 5 main temples were:

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

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

  • The Kwangtung Temple, known as the snake temple.

  • The Wutang Temple, known as the Tiger temple.

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

  • Breathing and Meditation

    Meditation is the essence of Chan Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu and it is the soul of Bodhidharmas teachings

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

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

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

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

  • The first is Hou Tien Chi, the breath after your birth.

    It is used to relax the mind and body, and heighten sensitivity. It involves positive breathing in which the abdomen expands when inhaling and contracts when exhaling.

  • The other is Hsien Tien Chi, the Breath before birth.

    It is referred to as negative breathing and involves contracting the abdomen when inhaling and expanding while exhaling.

  • Conditioning and Stretching

    Conditioning and stretching are essential to all Martial Arts, including Kung Fu.

    But the Shaolin conditioning and stretching training system is too vast, deep, and numerous to account for in full detail, but the following are some aspects of the system.

  • 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, 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 is referred to as postive/negitive conditioning

  • Endurance punching and kicking: This was carried out indoors in the winter.

    It consisted of a set of exercises that are designed to develop endurance and stamina.

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

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

  • Internal Styles

    There are numerous Internal Styles, but the two most well known are Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong.

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

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

    Yet, because of its subtlety, fluidity and the decades of practice that it requires to truly master it, few people care to pursue it for more than exercise and holistic purposes

  • 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 opponents 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.

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

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

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

    His internal force does not diminish with age, and he can apply it for peaceful use in his daily living

  • External Styles

    External styles vary into the hundreds and the majority of them are based on animal movements.These kung fu styles may generally be divided into 3 classes: Shaolin Temple styles, Temple-derived non-temple styles, 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 Mantis rarely emphasizes one type of technique. The Mantis hook is employed, but so are numerous other trapping and controlling maneuvers.

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

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

  • Southern Tiger utilizes a hard, 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.

  • Its primary hand weapons are the closed fist and tiger claw.

    While kicking maneuvers are usually low to middle range kicks of great power.

  • One studies Tiger to develop bones, muscles and tendons.

    The emphasis is on strength and dynamic tension, culminated in short, hard, snappy moves.

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

  • 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, snake-like stance shifts, and leopard-like hit and run strikes to weaken a physically superior adversary.

  • Leopard style is construed as a soft