Shaolin 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
The world of Western traditional physical exercise is beginning to catch up with what Shaolin Warriors have known for thousands of years. Fitness is not just about burning calories and sweating. It’s about being healthy from the inside out. Research is revealing that this mind-body fitness not only keeps us healthy but also greatly helps to banish stress, increase happiness, and aid longevity.
- Train Your Mind As Hard As Your Body – A person can look strong but this doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Body builders may be inflexible and internally weak. Yoga practioners may be flexible but ask him or her to perform a martial art’s kick and they have no power or speed. Shaolin Forms – both Qigong and Kung Fu – are the only exercise I’ve come across where every muscle is engaged and we’re simultaneously building flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, and power. They then 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
- Switch Your Workouts – One day Shaolin Warrior’s train in the Five Fundamental kicks and stances from Shaolin Kung Fu Workout 1, on another day they train Circuit, on another bag work, and on another day Qigong. Keep surprising your body so it never reaches a plateau.
- Inside Out Fitness – For true health and fitness we need to practise stretching and Qigong. The Shaolin Warrior always finishes their training with Qigong. This enhances the power of their external training, extends and deepens their martial arts, and balances their Yin and Yang.
- Effortless Effort – A Shaolin Warrior’s movements look easy. When they run they tell their body to keep light and positive. When they punch they tell their body to relax. When they kick, they know exactly which muscle they need to use and which muscle they don’t. When they practise Qigong they know when they need to inhale and when they need to exhale. They focus on what they need to focus on and this gives them confidence and power. They understand that if their mind is strong then their body is strong and if their body is strong then their mind is strong. It’s not possible to separate the two out.
- Train Hard – A smith puts gold through the fire so she can mould it into the shape of jewelry she wants. Our martial art’s is the fire we put our mind and body through so we can mould ourselves into the martial artist we want to be. If it’s not difficult, if it’s not challenging, there can be no transformation.
- A Zen Koan – Shaolin Warriors use the breath to link the mind and body. They focus on the present moment because it is the only moment when we can be truly alive. This is why – in the past – Masters sometimes used shock tactics or said Koans in an attempt to awaken their student to what life really is.
- What is the sound of one hand clapping? – If we try to understand with our intellect then we’ll never understand and if we try to do martial arts with our intellect we shall never understand. Only when we have cultivated strong willpower and let go of our mind can we move to hard training to build up our stamina level and create a Shaolin Warrior’s mind and body.
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Learn Shaolin Qigong and Kung Fu with Shifu Yan Lei. Downloads, DVDs, books and training equipment available from shifuyanlei.com. Instant Health: The Shaolin Qigong Workout For Longevity is also available as an e-book on amazon and apple in the US