Shaolin Martial Arts

As one of the most important Chinese Kung Fu, Shaolin Martial Arts is regarded as the symbolization. It originated in the Buddhist culture of the  Shaolin Temple in Mt. Songshan, Henan Province. Its essence lies in the combination of Kung Fu and Buddhist ideology, in which manner the monks not only learn the Kungfu skills, but also cultivate themselves by grasping the Buddhist ideology. Furthermore, this Kung Fu style has been well-known due to the functions of self-defence, body-building and athletics. In these years, it has been presented on the world stage and more and more westerners take interest in learning it.


It’s said that during the Dahe Reign (477 - 499) of the Chinese Northen Wei Dyansty (386 - 534), Bodhi Dharma, the 28th generation follower of Sakyamuni, created this Kung Fu styles after nine years of development in the Shaolin Temple.

Since the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581 - 907), Shaolin Kung Fu started to be developed and promoted. In the end of the Sui Dynasty, the political situations were in chaos because of the contention of the new throne. Shaolin GenreIn the continuous wars, Li Shimin, the Taizong Emperor of the Tang Dynasty later, got great favor from the thirteen monks of the Shaolin Temple. As he was on the throne, he awarded the monks and ordered to massively develop the temple. Since then, the temple had flourished well together with the martial arts, eventually becoming the leading Kung Fu school in the central plains of China.

During the Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties, it further developed. In the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), some Kung Fu masters gathered in the temple to compare notes, which boosted the diversification of the boxing skills. In the end of the dynasty, the monks there actively took part in the patriotic war to resist the Jin army. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), the temple had a close relationship with the imperial court. The Shizu Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368) appointed the abbot to direct all the temples around the Mt. Songshan.

In the modern times, Shaolin Kung Fu has become more and more popular, especially some special skills, such as Shaolin Boxing in the central plain, Southern Boxing (Nanquan) in the southeastern China, Northern Leg (Beitui) around Beijing and the Wing Chun Boxing.

Boxing Styles and Weapon Skills

According to the historic records, Shaolin Kung Fu includes 708 series of skills and tricks, 552 boxing styles and weapon skills as well as 72 stunts. The existing 200 series are over 100 boxing skills, over 80 weapon skills and several pair exercise series. The basic skills are daily practices or routine procedures for Shaolin disciples, mainly including tumbling, jumping, rolling and others.

Major boxing styles are the Arhat Boxing, Small Hung Kuen, Big Hung Kuen, Old Hung Kuen, Shaolin Five Fists, Interlink Boxing, Internal Strength Boxing (Neigong Boxing), Plum Blossom Boxing, Drunken Boxing, Soft Boxing and others.
Shaolin Kungfu Shaolin martial arts
With a 3,000-year history, Hung Kuen is the most popular in Guangdong Province. It is abundant in hand skills, limited in step movements and powerful in skills etc. The foundational skills lie in fist, palm, claw, grapple, finger and elbow. The Drunken Boxing style was developed for the movies. It is so named because when performed the person staggers along like being drunk. Animal Imitation Boxing refers to the skills imitating the movements of various animals. It aims to imitate animals’ appearance and spirit, in which manner the players not only improve their capabilities of thinking, but also promote their flexibility. Please let me know whether it makes sense now. Monkey Boxing mainly reflects the participant’s flexibility and lightness just like the monkey.

The influential staff skills include the Evil Subduing Staff, Evil Suppressing Staff, Small Yaksha Staff, Big Yakcha Staff and other styles. The skills include single and pair exercises which can strike a group of people. They can not only contribute to body-building, but also develop skills useful for resisting the enemy in a battle.

Additionally, there are other skills, such as Sword Style, Saber Styles, Finger Style and others. Spear is regarded as the king of the ancient weapons. Spear arts are various, including Shaolin spear, spear for night fighting, spear for keeping the door and so on. The vigorous and graceful movements of the sword dance give the dancer a feeling of participating in a wonderful artistic performance. 

Rules and Taboos

According to the Buddhist Scriptures, the rules and taboos of Shaolin Kung Fu reach to 5,000 entries which mainly include four impressive manners and ten taboos. Four impressive manners are “lying like a bow, sitting like a bell, waling like a gust of wind and standing like a pine”. Ten taboos refer to ahimsa, abstinence, no stealing, no amativeness, no arrogance, no luxury and other moral disciplines.

- Last updated on Feb. 13, 2023 -
Questions & Answers on Shaolin Martial Arts
Asked by surya from USA | May. 20, 2015 20:52Reply
who invented kung fu and were was the birthplace? Also tell me were you found that out.
Answers (3)
Answered by Sharon from IRAQ | May. 21, 2015 01:53

Surya, legends have it that Kung Fu was invented by Fu Xi, a famous tribe leader during the New Stone Age. His birth place is said to be Tianshui City in Gansu Province.
Answered by Sujit | Aug. 24, 2020 09:58

Kung Fu was invented by Bodhi Dharma, an Indian monk. He taught the chinese people what they call today as Kung Fu / Gong Fu.

And the chinese after learning this Self defense art from the monk Bodhidharma, They gave the name Kung Fu and created Sports Kung Fu style today called as Wushu.

Inshort, Martial Arts developed in India and then its practitioners travelled around the world and spread those knowledge and gave names like Karate, Taekwondo, JiuJutsu, Capoeira, Boxing, etc.
Answered by Rich | Feb. 13, 2023 11:07

Kung was NOT Taught to the Shaolin BY Bodidharma. They already knew numerous styles as they had existed from at least 400BC. The monks didn't practice their arts constantly as it was overall a Buddhist temple and their primary goal was meditation for enlightenment. But when Bodidharma arrived he noticed that they were physically weak and rather sick from TOO much sitting meditation. He then used the knowledge he had of Chi-gung to create the Yi Jing Ching and Shui Soei Ching of external and Internal muscle changing classics. These series of exercises made the monks VERY physically strong, powerful and greatly improved their health and power. When this was applied to their currently martial styles and techniques, their skills increased by leaps and bounds. Bodi did teach them some other techniques that he knew when they added to the monks current knowledge. Over time more styles and techniques were invented and tested in combat at various times over the following decades. Bodi didn't bring kung-fu to the Shaolin, he brought knowledge of breathing and other techniques to them. But Breathing techniques and other chi-gung knowledge ALREADY existed in China going back to at least 3000BC and likely earlier to the Yellow Emperors classis in 2400BC. So what Bodidharma did was bring internal and chi-gung knowledge TO the Shaolin Temple which then, because of their increasing fame and reputation for incredible martial skills, popularized it to the world leading people to believe THEY started Kung-fu and that Bodi taught them. Bodi did bring the knowledge of Chi cultivation and other techniques but he didn't invent kung-fu.
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