Category Archives: kung fu forms

The Secret Training Of A Novice Shaolin Monk

When a novice monk arrives at the temple, the first thing they have to attain is stamina. Think of stamina as energy for training. Without stamina, there’s no training. This is why, when students ask me what they need to prepare for the summer camp, I tell them, just run. I don’t mind if they’ve never done any martial arts before. All I ask is they have stamina.

The first Shaolin exercise the novice monk learns is the Five Fundamental Stances. In the gym, students squat with weights in order to strengthen their legs and core. The Five Fundamental Stances are similar but the squats come from different angles. They open the hips, strengthen the core, help with balance, and increase static stamina.

There are many pictures of Shaolin Monks eating breakfast while staying in horse stance. While I’ve never done that! Shaolin Monks do hold stances. Static stamina is another way to strengthen the body. Western people typically do planks. You’ll be surprised how much you sweat just by holding a stance. I combine many of these movements in my Qigong for Lower Body.

The Five Fundamental Kicks are the next exercise they learn. The beauty of the Shaolin movements is they don’t just do one thing. They are multifunctional. The kicks build stamina speed, agility and flexibility. Shaolin is a highly efficient and intelligent way to train. The training has a destination: to transform the novice monk into a highly efficient martial artist. The secret to Shaolin? Training. Training. And more training.

If I’m travelling and all I have access to is a car park. I’ll take my skipping rope, do some skipping to warm up then combine some of my fight training with novice monk exercises. These exercises are never learnt then not practiced. They are practiced for the rest of our life. Once you know these exercises well you can combine them into your workout. If you workout at the gym, whether its kettle bells, weights, circuit training or MMA then add in a couple of kicks or stances into your workout. Mix it up. Don’t just stick to one thing. You don’t want your training to be too linear. Your body will thank you for it. It will improve your fighting kicks, your stamina, make you run faster. Try it and let me know!

The Shaolin Workout are thousands of years old. Passed from generation to generation and still practiced by millions of people every day. If any of you have been to Shaolin, it’s amazing to see hundreds of students practicing. Why do they do it? If the exercises were rubbish, they would have been forgotten along time ago. The reason they’re still practiced is because they’re a proven way to change our muscles and tendons.  

And let’s not forget that the Shaolin Temple is a Zen Temple. The exercises act as a bridge to Zen. The link between mind and body is the breath.  It’s impossible to do any of these exercises mindlessly. Breath is an integral part to the training. It’s a little like swimming. Even if you’re out of breath when you swim, you have to find a way to control your breathing otherwise you’ll breath in water. It’s the same with Shaolin, you can’t inhale on a kick or a punch. It feels completely unnatural. Natural breathing happens of its own accord. Once the mind and body are working together the body becomes happy and this in turn makes the mind happy and  the endorphins of peace and happiness are released.

It’s best not to explain too much because too much information takes away the student’s own raw experience. But there is so much misinformation on the internet about Shaolin that sometimes students tie themselves in knots. and this confusion creates unhappiness. What are we all looking for? We want health and happiness. This statement is overused and sounds a bit silly but actually it’s a strong and worthy thing to want.

I show you from the Shaolin Way how we go about it. Maybe you’re not interested in Shaolin and find happiness from skiing or flower arranging and so that’s what you need to do.

But if you do study Shaolin, keep it simple. As soon as you start over thinking or getting complicated, stop, bring yourself back. Breath and movement together. That’s all you need to do.

Novice Monk exercises are taught in my Shaolin Workout bookDVD and download.  In next week’s article I’ll talk about the second stage of a novice monk’s training: forms.


5 Tips for Mastering Your Shaolin Forms

yellow mt4-00007Shaolin Forms teach the many muscle groups in our body to work together. They are the only exercise I’ve come across where every muscle is engaged and you’re simultaneously building flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, and power. These ancient forms teach us how to move in our modern life, whether that’s carrying our groceries home or climbing the stairs to the subway. Everything becomes part of our training: total mind-body wellness

Here’s My Top 5 Tips for Mastering Your Forms:

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  1. Learn the 5 Fundamental Stances and 5 Basic Kicks – Every Shaolin form, whether it’s Qigong or Kung Fu is made up of Five Fundamental Stances and Five Fundamental Kicks. Master these stances and kicks first before you move onto practicing Shaolin Forms.
  2. Give It Meaning – Make sure that your breathing, movement, and even your eyes work together. Make your stance have meaning so that people can see you have a strong foundation.
  1. Have Good Flexibility – Most people are familiar with the impressive quick fluid forms of the Shaolin Monks in performance. This is due to their flexibility. When you do the form, you don’t want it to be stiff, you want it to be fluid. Never skip the stretching part of your workout.kung fu-00286
  1. Use Your Heart – Use your heart to practice each movement so that your form has soul inside. If your mind shifts and you keep thinking of other things, gently bring it back. You need to be right here and now when you practice.
  1.  Slow It Down then Pace It Down- It’s a good idea to practice kung fu forms as slow as we practice Qigong so we can get the feel for the movements and get the form exactly correct. Try varying the pace each time you practice and see how if feels. The more you’ve mastered the form, the quicker you can practice.

Shifu teaches the 5 Fundamental Stances in his book Instant Health: The Shaolin Qigong Workout For Longevity

He teaches the 5 Fundamental Stances and the 5 Fundamental Kicks in his DVD and download, Shaolin Workout 1 and his book Instant Fitness: The Shaolin Kung Fu Workout. (released in October)