Shaolin Kung Fu is a martial art that was born in the Songshan Shaolin Temple's Buddhist cultural environment. It has roots in Yin Yang and the Five Elements Theory and evolved as a way to support Buddhist practice. Although most people practice martial arts to learn fighting skills, the Shaolin monks mainly focus on cultivating Chan practice and manifesting the spirit of traditional Chinese culture. Through the practice of Kung Fu, a practitioner embodies the wisdom of Chan Buddhist ideas, ideas which then offer profound insights into the universe and life. Shaolin martial arts are a unique spiritual and physical tradition formed from the merging of Kung Fu, Chan Buddhism, and Chinese cultural influences. It is an integral part of traditional Chinese culture.
Kung Fu in China is complex because there are so many different styles. Shaolin Kung Fu is a vast martial art system, in comparison to other Kung Fu systems, which tend to specialize in specific techniques. According to documented history, Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the most complete and sophisticated Kung Fu systems in the world, as well as one of the oldest.
The Shaolin Temple's training manual, which has been handed down for generations, lists more than seven hundred Empty-Hand and Weapons forms, but the details and descriptions of many of these forms have been lost throughout the years. Today, fewer than two hundred forms have been properly passed down. In addition to the surviving forms, there are also over seventy skill sets, including Chin-Na, pressure point attack techniques, and various internal and external exercises.
Like other martial arts, there are four basic fighting mechanisms we use in offense and defense routines: kicking, punching, throwing, and grappling/joint locks. These basic components are in direct correlation with Yin Yang philosophy, a philosophy which aims to understand the essence of a subject by studying the relationship between its apparent opposite qualities. In Shaolin martial arts for example, we analyze and practice certain seemingly opposing attributes such as, advance/ retreat, attack/defend, motion/stillness, fast/slow, hard/soft, empty/full, rising/sinking, and many, many more. All these contrasting pairs have certain requirements. Attack/defend requires particular methodologies, motion/stillness are integrated, fast/slow must alternate clearly and advance/retreat requires proper distance. These pairs continuously change into each other and are part of a complete pattern making up a complete form. Forms are the most important means for transmission of the martial art.
Each form in Shaolin Kung Fu has distinctive qualities; there are single-person forms and multi-person forms. For example, forms can be short, fast, long, slow, hard, or soft. But, although each form has its own features, each individual movement has its own strict requirements. In addition, the rhythm of the form must be clear and all of the connecting movements continuous, not stopping. The rhythm must be fluid and possess spirit as well as structure. Even if the movement is fast, the rhythm should not be messy, and if it's slow, one should not stop.
In order to properly practice forms, a practitioner must always apply and harmonize the eight fundamental external and internal training methods:, practitioners may realize their full potential.
1) Fists Like a Comet (quan ru liu xing)
2) Eyes Like Lightning (yan si dian)
3) Waist/Torso Like a Snake (yao(shen) ru ser xing)
4) Footwork Must Stick (bu sai nian)
1) Fill Your Spirit/Essence (jingshen yao chong pai)
2) Sink Your Qi (qi yi chen)
3) Power Must Reach Target Smoothly (li yao shun da)
4) Purify Your Skill (gong yi chun)
Shaolin Kung Fu
Throughout history, Shaolin Kung Fu has been continually tested and refined. Elements that are not useful are discarded and new ideas are incorporated. Shaolin Kung Fu follows the idea that the best exercises are the ones that are the most natural and harmonious with the structure and bio-mechanics of the human body; an idea that is influenced from the ancient Chinese thought and underlying principle of Unification of Heaven and Human Being. Today, Shaolin Kung Fu has achieved a very high level of sophistication and completion. Through regular training, practitioners may realize their full potential.