Shaolin Kungfu is a kind of martial art practiced long time ago, by monks under the special Buddhist culture of the Songshan Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, Henan Province. Shaolin has been known throughout history as one of the most devastating and effective martial styles in China. Proven time and time again during wars and conflicts, Shaolin monks regularly tested and improved their skills through conflict. At present Traditional Gongfu has been replaced to modern Wushu. Most people are somewhat blinded by the beautiful movements in the forms, and are not able to fully comprehend the essence and value of Traditional Gongfu.

Shaolin Kung fu trains both, a person's body and a person’s soul.
By training the body we will be able to link the nervous system with the muscles and be healthy. We also will be able to protect ourselves against physical attacks and our reflexes will also improve and develope.By training the soul our heart will be calm and we will be able to discover many wise thoughts and get to know life and the universe better.If one has achieved both, then he is at the highest level. This is what we call the union of chan and wu.

Shaolin knowledge has been transmitted, since it’s beginning, from generation to generation.


The Legend

Legend has it, that after Bodhidharma got out from the cave where he meditated for 9 years and went down to the Shaolin temple he found the monks week and ill, As a fact of their long sitting and studying sutras. Bodhidharma decided to stay with the monks and started to teach them "Chan" meditation (Zen Buddhism), "chi gong" (breathing exercises) and "tong zi gong" (18th basic exercises Based on the ancient Indian yoga).

The following Shaolin exercises are attributed to Da Mo:

Yi Jin Jing - Muscle changing classic
Xi Xue Jing - Marrow washing classic
Lohan Shi Ba Shou - 18 hands of Lohan

At that time , there where many conflicts within the region. So, many of the monks in the Shaolin temple were retired or hidden soldiers and generals. Under the pressure of frequent attacks by bandits, the Shaolin monks combined Da Mo's teachings with the martial arts techniques of the Chinese warrior class to create a unique and highly effective method of combat. Since then, the Shaolin monks continue to train their body and mind from sunrise to sunset. Da Mo is often regarded as the "patron saint" or founder of Shaolin Kungfu

The martial art of Shaolin became famous in China and later on throughout the world while many various styles developed inside and outside the temple.



The temple of Shaolin, although destroyed many times over the years, still stands today and upholds its proud tradition and hard training methods as ever before. Students of kungfu (gong-fu in mandarin) develop very high physical skills such as posture, maximum flexibilty, acrobatic skills, balance coordination, power, endurance, quickness, swiftness, lightness, concentration, bare hands and weaponry fighting skills, inner peace, self-control and love for others and for nature.

Shaolin Kung fu is divided into 4 main categories of study:

1. Chan meditation.
2. Empty hand. ( basic skills, forms, fighting skills and chin-na)
3. Weapons.
4. Qi-gong . ( soft and hard qi gong )

Is a state of self realization. one will be able to penetrate his true self, find himself and understand better the way of the universe. When he will be part of the universe and nature, He can use his power of silent meditation and realization of true and false , cause and effect and true love and happiness, at that time he will be able to transmit his knowledge and to use it in order to help the society and try to help them cure their suffering.

The empty hand refers to almost all the activities: fighting method, body and movement without weapons. This is the most fundamental martial part that all practitioners of the martial arts must develop to a high level of practice and fighting.

In Shaolin chuan empty hands there are many subjects of study:
a) Chi'n'gong (basic skills )
b) taolu ( forms )
c) sansho-sanda ( fighting )
d) chin na ( seize & control )

a) Chi'n'gong is divided into different types of trainings:
stances, steps, jumps,hands techniques, legs techniques, drilling execises, elbow techniques, knee techniques, head techniques, acrobatics. The basic is the trunk of the art. It develops power, speed, endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination quickness, flow, it teaches all the basic elements of kung fu. It takes several years of intense trainings to reach a high level of mastery of the chi'n'gong.

b) Taolu ( forms ): The forms of Shaolin are very famous for their characteristic and style, in china there is a strong emphasis on studying Taolu ( kata in Japanese). There are more than 100 empty hand forms and they were created and designed through the years of the history of Shaolin. Some of the forms are very ancient and some were developed only few hundred years ago .

The forms are divided into some groups and level of difficulties
There are forms who related to damo (bodhidarma) and other related to Buddha himself. Some forms are imitating and teaching the way of fighting and behavor of animals such as dragon, tiger, snake, crain, leopard. These were the first famous five animals that were developed and Shaolin temple is very famous for other animals developed through the years such as monkey, praying mantis , scorpion, eagle, tiger, frog, dog, and some other….

Some of the forms were named by their creators like hong family with the famous "shao hong chuan" and "da hong chuan" . Forms like "tong bei chuan", "lohan chuan" , "shin yi chuan" . Some forms imitate human behavior like "tsui chuan" drunken fist style ...and many other more are now practiced all over the world as part of tradition and history of the Shaolin temple kung fu way.

There are some forms that are hardly practiced anymore because some masters died and the knowledge went with them, but most of the knowledge was restored and was rearranged and written by monks of Shaolin and now printed in books to assure the longevity of Shaolin chuan kung fu.

c) Sanda ( Shaolin fighting ): Sanda refers to different types of fighting methods along with the traditional forms and fighting style. The word "sanda" means free fighting and "sansho" means free hand. Many people think that the monk only demonstrate and practice forms and acrobatic (because of the modern media) but it is wrong! They practice very hard in the full contact fashion fighting and reach the highest level.

Nowdays there are monks who compete in the main events of "Sanda" competition and take the lead. It is important to note that it is not the main thing in Shaolin kung fu but it is a very important part and a strong emphasis is put in the training and fighting to develope into a real high level Shaolin warrior monk.

d) chin-na: The idea of chin-na is to overcome the opponent using his own force or attacking his week points in order to control him. Chin-na method usually deals from short and close range of fighting like : throw techniques, lock techniques, choeks techniques, vital points techniques, paralizing techniques, ground fightings techniques = "ditan chuan" -ground fighting (this is a special art practiced at shaolin ), breaking bones & organ tearing.


The practice with the weapons is divided into a few categories.
1. basic techniques and control of the weapon
2. forms alone and against other weapons.
3. free fighting techniques.

Today the practice of weapons is mainly a way of body and spiritual development. It is interesting and joyful and is part of the traditional Shaolin Kung fu.

4) QI GONG (chi-kung)

The word "Qi" ( qi = ki …in Japanese) means energy or universal energy, also internal energy that exists in any human body. “Gong” means skill that will come after a long effort and work. The qi exists in any thing alive. We must learn how to use it.

There are two types of qi gong : The first one is a soft qi gong and the other is the hard qi gong.
In Shaolin chuan kung fu the monks practice qi gong from the very first stage starting with soft chi gong like "ba dua jing" or “yi yin ying” and other types coming from “tong zi gong”.

There are other kinds of qi gong practice like : the iron head, one and two fingers Chan, iron fist , metal jacket armor , the iron throat and many more. This types of qi gong is usually thought from teacher to student privately and was one of the main secrets of the Shaolin warriors monk skills. Today these training is still being thought and practiced by the monks and followers and can be seen in any shaolin monk performance today

The qi gong practice brings good health and long life , it also helps the warrior to use his power in efficient way by controling his qi and direct it to a certain points in his body. This action will hardening the area were he might be attacked and prevent the penetration of the attacking power .



There is said to be 72 Shaolin Major Arts - incorporating freehand patterns (such as the famous Luo Han Hands, Cannon Fist and Big/Little Hong patterns), two-person patterns, weapons, drunken styles, and animal styles. Supplementary to these are the hundreds of specific methods for cultivating a particular skill or technique. Not as long as patterns, they contain the most advanced skills of Shaolin kung fu such as light body techniques, iron body conditioning and soft bone skills.

Throughout history, the monks of the Shaolin temple lived in close harmony with their natural surroundings, and the monks, observing how animals used their movements for health or self-defense, incorporated some animal characteristics into their patterns. Animal styles are a traditional hallmark of the Shaolin style and there are a range of animal patterns practised by the monks, such as

tiger, snake,

crane, scorpion

eagle and monkey
between others.

Literally hundreds of patterns, routines and fighting drills make up the body of Shaolin martial arts. It is almost impossible for anyone to master them all, and many of the senior monks will specialize and focus on one particular branch of the Shaolin tree.
Shaolin kung fu is definitely a complete art. It covers all fields and aspects of the art. Taking martial art skills and actions as the performance form and Buddhism belief and Zen wisdom as the cultural meaning, the Shaolin Kungfu has a complete technical and theoretical system.

When we look to find the roots of most martial arts, we find the basics and the knowledge in Shaolin chuan kung fu.