China is the birthplace of kungfu, and the art has been developed over thousands of years. Generation after generation received the knowledge from their (grand) parents, continued to develop it, and then passed it on to their children.
As a result, kungfu is one of the oldest, most elaborate martial arts in existence. There are hundreds of different kung fu styles, such as taiji, Shaolin, qi gong, Praying Mantis and more. If you choose to study kungfu in China, you are choosing to learn as close to the source of the knowledge as possible.
Until not too long ago, it actually wasn’t possible for just anyone to learn kungfu. The knowledge was only transferred within certain family lines or to those potential students who had proved themselves worthy to a kungfu Master. Today, wŭshù (literal translation of ‘Chinese martial arts’) is an Olympic sport and people from all over the world are welcome to learn kungfu with us in China.
How to learn kung fu
Learning kungfu requires diligent practice and dedication to the art. Although the word kungfu is often used to refer to Chinese martial arts, in its original meaning, kungfu (or gōngfu) can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice – martial arts, dancing, or even cooking. The key to good kungfu skills therefore lies in hard work and plenty of practice.
A very skilled kungfu martial artist has excellent coordination skills and stamina, is fast, flexible, strong, and pain-resistant. Our training schedule is developed to help you improve each of these aspects.
The basics of learning kung fu
Your training will begin with the Masters assessing your current level of physical fitness and ability. They teach every student the basic moves of kungfu and evaluate with which level and speed you learn this. Some of the basic exercises include a series of several different (but simple) kicks, punches and stances. You will need these moves in the next phase: basic forms.
Based on your ability, the Masters will teach you a selection of basic forms. A ‘form’ is a series of combative movements performed in a certain order. Examples of basic forms are the Front Sweep, Back Sweep, Five Step or Continuous Fist. These are all fist forms, which means they are without weapons. You can watch our students perform different fist forms if you search YouTube for “Maling Shaolin Kungfu Academy”. Some examples:
- watch the Group Form performed by several students.
From formlessness to form
To a beginning student, learning a form may feel like an unnatural way of moving, because the body is not used to the movements (it is ‘formless’). However, the immediate benefit of learning kungfu forms is that it significantly improves your coordination skills. It also helps you to learn and remember a particular set of fighting moves. The longer term benefit is that each move can be applied in an actual fight.
The forms are taught to you during Traditional Forms class, while the way to apply them in a real fight is taught in the Applications class.
From form to formlessness
Each move in any form has been distilled from thousands of fighting moves to leave only those that are most effective. After practicing them for many times, the moves will start to feel natural to your body. Your muscles will remember what to do before your brain does. At this point, you shift from form (conscious action) to formlessness (subconscious action, or automatic reflexes).
Different students require different amounts of time to reach this level. It also depends on how much you practice. At the Shaolin Temple, students are expected to continue learning a form until they have completely perfected it. They spend as much as a full year to learn a single form. We understand the students at our academy do not have as many years available to learn, hence the average student takes about 1 month to learn a basic fist or weapon form. Some more complex forms which are longer or more difficult can take 2 - 3 months to learn.
Shaolin kung fu weapons
The amount of weapons you can learn to wield in Chinese martial arts is close to endless. For the beginning kungfu student, the first weapon that you generally learn is the staff. This is a long wooden stick, which should be customized to be as tall as you are. The staff, while the first weapon, is often the favourite weapon of many expert kungfu practitioners. It is a great weapon for learning kungfu, because it feels natural to handle and helps you get used to using weapons.
If the Master considers you sufficiently skilled with the staff, you progress on to broadsword. This weapon requires better coordination skills, as the risk of self-injury is a lot higher when the sword has a sharp blade. For martial arts training, we use only dull blades. In addition, practicing broadsword will increase your arm strength.
Leave a Reply