In ancient times progressing from a novice to a master Shaolin Warrior Monk took many years of hard work and study. The young were required to attend a series of two hour training sessions each and every day and after that they would carry out their assigned chores in the temple. Junior monks would attend three sessions and senior students, a fourth class at midnight. So it took huge amounts of hard work and discipline to become a Shaolin monk. If a monk wished to leave the temple as a Shaolin master he was required to pass a test. Only after he was successful would he truly become a Shaolin monk.
The monks had to defend themselves at a series of five gates guarded by their teachers. The master monks would choose methods of defense from five different fighting styles based on animal behavior namely the tiger, leopard, snake, crane and dragon. Today the animal techniques number 170!
Shaolin monks served the people of China as warriors and priests for many centuries earning respect for their discipline, bravery, adaptability and action-oriented approach. Today these same principles are the example for students dedicated to Shaolin.
How to Become a Shaolin Monk – The Ten Steps
To become one of these admired warriors it is necessary to follow the ten basic precepts of the combat arts, the most of important of which is believed to be persistence. A Shaolin monk needs to train in weaponry and combat no matter what the weather, his circumstances or physical condition.
The ten precepts detailed below and give a guideline of skills and practice requirements for those who want to become a Shaolin Monk. These are the ‘Holy Grail’ for a warrior to be and if you truly want to join this elite group you will need to understand them.
1. Precept 1
Agility – The body must be agile, fast and alive with energy. If you take any step you hand must make a corresponding quick movement. The movement of all body parts must be completely coordinated. If about to strike do not even look at the shadow of your hand, never attract attention to your fist. Only if you improve your skills constantly will you reach the pinnacle of your combat potential.
2. Precept 2
‘Motion and rest of two arms and two feet must be in coordination and in supplement of each other’ It is believed that the motion of the heart is in control of how energy or ‘chi‘ is distributed to the whole body and originates at the cinnabar or ‘dantian’ field i.e. three to five centimeters below the navel.
How the chi is vibrating affects how the body will behave. If the chi flows freely the body will be heroic and tough like a tiger or dragon. When the body’s force and energy combine it is manifested by the ability to ‘exert astonishing sounds.
3. Precept 3 It is believed that during a fight all the five elements should be uniquely fused. The five elements of nature interact constantly and to understand them they should be observed. An understanding of the laws of birth and the ‘surmounting of the five elements’ enables a Shaolin warrior to absorb the meaning of combat arts.
Each element originates with unified chi energy, the force which causes the body to act. If you grasp these concepts you will have incredible strength. Blood and chi are required to be in harmony and if so the Shaolin warrior will have superior health and strength.
Precept 4 for a Shaolin Monk
You must know and understand the eight-point theory of ‘ba tiao’. For example you move up and down and retreat in such a way that your retreat seems to be an advance. Following this law, the eight successes will be phenomenal. Precept four aims at learning how to make swift movements up and pliable, soft downward movements. All movements will be supremely coordinated.
During combat you need to be prepared to take on an enemy who appears, disappears and reappears. An enemy can be as dangerous as a tiger which has been let out of his cage but if you can turn and defend yourself in an instant from both front and rear you are a divine protector of combat arms who is guarded from all sides.
You need to be able to protect the left and the right very quickly. When retreating, you must decoy your enemy in a trap. Be furious as this will help you. Small birds who take their chance can fly over a high mountain!
‘Your gait must be as stout as that of gods’. It is a better idea to make five more steps than to make a mistake by one qun (one qun is equal to 3.2 cm approximately)’.
Movements during combat vary. Measured steps or ‘gun bu’ must be separate from each other by not more than three chis (one chi is equal to 0.32 m). As your life is always at stake in combat you must step carefully. Steps that are steady should be separated from each other by five chis. Steps that are too big are equal to two gongs (in ancient times one gong was equal to five chis).
Quick stepping (kuai bu) is equal to one zhan (one zhan is equal to 10 chis). A horizontal leap is made with the energetic force of thighs and feet. Spilling steps (zhan bu) are great upward leaps taken to break out of encirclement.
This rule pertains to the knowledge of arm and leg movements during combat. Shaolin fist work is unique in the discipline. Each punch should ‘pierce the enemy and cut him into pieces’. An arm should bend without bending and unbend without unbending. This is so the enemy can’t follow your movements and can’t get a good view of your punch.
The arms must separate the thorax with great speed. Training and activity of sinuous body parts determines how much force the arms have. Punches must take your enemy by surprise, so he can’t avoid the blow. The arm should make an accurate cut, flying upwards obediently and readily, or, if required, go down.
It does not matter in what way the body is twisted or if your hands are bound, it is believed that you might free yourself, ‘like a swallow has always a chance to find water springs.’ If one hand is pinned down or both hands are restrained, you can punch with a stone elbow into the enemy’s pudenda from below.
Seven leg works also exist:
“qi” – uprising
“fan” – overturning
“lo” – tumbling
“zhin” – advance
“ti” – kick
“qai” – kick
“zhuan” – kick.
The five natural elements bond to form a single “chi” and feet act in unison from the front and behind so you cannot be approached. Warriors must move step-by-step and make no sound but those of ‘punches of infuriated soles touching the ground after strikes. The legs are like ferocious tigers or dragons in the sky’.
Precept 7 for a Shaolin Monk
This rule demands the simultaneous advances of arms and legs. During combat arms and legs act together and depend on each other. This means when you advance towards your enemy the legs, arms and torso act in complete agreement.
The following qualities are to be achieved: mind, body obedience, manhood, speed and fury.
Mental work or ‘gong’ means that during a fight one must depend on your mind. Body obedience or ‘shun’ means you must train for a long time to make movement natural. Manliness or ‘yong’ indicates that you should work out bold plans and achieve them boldly. Speed or ‘ji’ demands that during hand-to-hand fighting you must act quickly. Fury or ‘hen’ must be present only at the moment when you attack.
You are encouraged to watch over enemy’s stances and positions and understand them with a view to finding his weak points. Never start fighting and deliver blows without thinking about and studying your enemy.
This rule relates to the concept of ‘all-round defense’. It concentrates on its unique manifestations and timely pursuit. The rule of cover or ‘ting’ relates to permanent protection in the front, from the behind, from the left and from the right. Apart from these areas one need to remember that the enemy may strike from above and from below.
‘Zhe or the rule of distinct manifestation is used for work of arms, body, head and heart. All movements should be clear and efficient at the moment of action. Your shout should frighten your enemy. ‘You should be able to win without a fight, only with your loud laughter’.
The rule of pursuit or ‘zhui’ relates to of using any opportunity to pursue your enemy. Never give him a chance to collect himself. When an enemy’s steps become faster you should use the chance to attack him.
The three human elements namely: eyes, ears and heart intelligence should be in harmony at all times. Eyes must be attentive and active and monitor the enemy’s movements constantly. Keep the ears alert to sense movements and rest.
Precept 10 for a Shaolin Monk
This rules advises warrior monks to use their sinews. ‘Shen’ is the ability to use spiritual sources. Sinews are chiefs of bones and if they tremble, “chi” energy is wasted. It is believed that sinews are transmitters of information from the three senses (vision, hearing and mind).
There are several attributes required by Shaolin warriors and you will need to attain them if you want to become a Shaolin monk.
1. To be as graceful as a cat
2. To be as aggressive as the tiger
3. To step like a dragon
4. To act like a lightning stroke
5. To shout like thunder
6. To move like a gust of wind
7. To stay like a nail
8. To be as heavy as a mountain
9. To be as light as goose down
10. To be soft as cotton wool
11. As hard as iron
If you are serious about your intent to become a Shaolin monk you will need to study, understand and practice the ten basic precepts of combat until you have mastered them. Still this is only the beginning; there is a wealth of skills and techniques to discover as well. For in depth information oh how to become a Shaolin monk read ’72 Secret Arts’ (now in English) compiled by Jin Jing Zhong.
Those are the Ten Basic Precepts of Combat Arts. To achieve them, one must work a lot. The most valuable quality for mastery of combat arms is persistence. One must persistently practice pugilistic arms and weapon use.
One should remember that only the noble men of high morals may be taught the true combat art. On no account a bad man who does not follow true “dao” (the way) should be taught.