The best place in the world to study Kung Fu is the Shaolin Temple in China. This temple is considered the birthplace of Kung Fu and its age-old training techniques are grueling and allow students to master the material and immaterial worlds.
Of course, most of us will never be able to travel to China and study at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county, China, but that does not mean that we cannot learn a great deal from the processes involved. So what happens at the monastery? Here is a brief synopsis of the training methods that occur there.
Shaolin teachings are divided into Chan and Quan. Chan refers to the Buddhist spiritual awareness or the mastery over the perceptions of the mind. Quan, which is rooted in the Chan, refers to the physical side of training.
The mental side of training involves religion, Chi and Qi Gong.
Religion: Students are encouraged to turn their eye inward and become self-aware. Once aware of their breathing patterns, students can control these patterns and use them to bring power to their physical movements. It also helps them to isolate and control groups of muscles and ligaments through meditation, which allows them to better control their body and increase flexibility.
Chi: Chi is a force that is activated through mental awareness. It is the true source of a martial artist’s strength. Harnessing Chi occurs through meditation but is activated during combat. Chi is referred to as active meditation.
Qi Gong: The practice of Qi Gong involves small movements that focus on using Chi, or Qi. It strengthens and heals the bodies. Through hard Qi Chong, one is able to user low abdominal breathing methods that convert the body into a shield. It intensifies toughness so much that a martial artist is able to survive mighty blows and continue to fight without injury.
The physical side of training begins when a student’s mind has achieved the level of focus necessary to harness their Chi. At this point, physical movements are only limited by what a student can imagine. Their physical training carries them from relatively basic tasks to complex trials of agility, flexibility and physical strength.
It is at this stage that training focuses on Kung Fu techniques from which all Shaolin Kung Fu movements flow. These movements are rooted in five basic Shaolin stances: horse stance, bow stance, sliding stance, cat stance and twisting stance.
The Shaolin Monks at the Shaolin Temple exemplify mastery over mind, body and emotions. And while you may never have the privilege of training in China under these monks, that doesn’t mean that you cannot pursue this journey, at some level, where you are today.