In the year 525 AD, a Buddhist monk named Bodhidama trekked through thousands of miles from India to China.  He eventually found his way to a monastery deep in a green young forest.  Because the monastery was set in the midst of the woods, it was unsurprisingly given the name Shao Lin that means young forest .

When Bodhidama started instructing the monks of the Shao Lin monastery he was appalled at how weak they were physically. He then proceeded to prescribe exercises for the passive and apathetic monks. These were composed of special hand movement’s body positions and breathing exercises. These turned out to be the rudiments of a self-defence technique.

Through hard training and extremely hard moral discipline, the inmates of the monastery .  

were able to develop these exercises into a more refined hand-to-hand combat. The final result was a technique with faster and more efficient movements aimed at achieving maximum effect on the opponent with minimal effort.

These new concepts in fighting were not confined to the green forest of Honan but were propagated to all parts within the boundaries of the Middle Kingdom.

  • Hand of the enlightened one (Lohan Shou) is considered to be the original Shaolin fighting style. It includes empty hand combat, strikes, kicks, blocks, and sweeps.
  • Northern fist (Pei Chuan) is the style for which the northern Shaolin temples were best known. It developed from Lohan Shou, and includes many basic blocks, kicks, and punches. Since its original practitioners were built a little larger, Northern fist is known for adding techniques that emphasize power and range.
  • Southern fist (Nan Chuan) is the basic style which developed in the southern Shaolin temples. In addition to its basic techniques, since its original practitioners were a little smaller, it is known for using lots of high kicks, joint attacks, and movements that look big and flashy (while still being effective).
  • Eight drunken immortals (Pa Hsien) or drunken style has forms based on each of the Eight Immortals from Chinese mythology, as well as other forms and weapons forms. It uses staggering, stumbling, and imitations of drunken movements. Its training emphasizes flexibility, dexterity, and careful timing.
  • Monkey style (Hou Chuan) is known for its playfulness and cleverness. This style develops flexibility, agility, and an unpredictable fighting style. It often incorporates rolls, flips, and a broken rhythm when fighting that is aimed at confusing opponents. Monkey style is a precursor to mantis style, which uses some similar footwork.
  • Mantis style (Tang Lang) was developed by a man named Wang Lang. Legend has it that, after being denied entrance to the Shaolin temple, he created his own style based on observing the movements of the predatory insect. After combining similar movements with Monkey style footwork, he became skilled enough to gain the respect of the temple, and his style has been passed down to Shaolin martial artists ever since. Mantis style typically uses quick, oblique movements and precision strikes.
  • Bird style is one of the older styles that is still in practice. It uses many open handed strikes and finger strikes, as well as some joint attacks and tearing claws. It is especially noteworthy because it is the precursor to a number of other styles, such as crane, swallow, eagle claw, and Tai Chi.
  • Tiger style (Hu Chuan) is also a very old style. It typically uses claw shaped hands for palm strikes, tearing, and joint manipulations. It is known for emphasizing powerful, snapping movements, and is supposed to help strengthen the bones.
  • Crane style (He Chuan) is based on the graceful, powerful movements of a large bird. Like bird style, it often uses open hand and finger strikes. It is characterized by soft style blocking and big sweeps followed with quick, powerful strikes that remain very graceful and fluid.

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