Shaolin Kung Fu (少林功夫) is among the oldest institutionalized styles of Chinese martial arts, originated and was developed in the Buddhist Shaolin temple in Henan province. During the 1500 years of its development, Shaolin kung fu became one of the largest schools of kung fu.
Shaolin temple has two main legacies: Chan (禅), which refers to Chan Buddhism, the religion of Shaolin, and Quan (拳), which refers to the martial arts of Shaolin. In Shaolin, these are not separate disciplines and monks have always pursued the philosophy of the unification of Chan and Quan (禅拳合一; chan quan he yi). In a deeper point of view, Quan is considered part of Chan. As late Shaolin monk Suxi said in the last moments of his life, “Shaolin is Chan, not Quan.”
On the Quan (martial) side, the contents are abundant. A usual classification of contents are:
- Basic skills (基本功; jīběn gōng): These include stamina, flexibility, and balance, which improve the body abilities in doing martial maneuvers. In Shaolin kung fu, flexibility and balance skills are known as “childish skills” (童子功; tóngzǐ gōng), which have been classified into 18 postures.
- Power skills (气功; qìgōng): These include:
- Qigong meditation: Qigong meditation itself has two types, internal (内; nèi), which is stationary meditation, and external (外; wài), which is dynamic meditation methods like Shaolin four-part exercise (si duan gong), eight-section brocade (八段锦; bā duàn jǐn), Shaolin muscle-changing scripture (易筋经; yì jīn jīng), and others.
- The 72 arts: These Include 36 soft and 36 hard exercises, which are known as soft and hard qigong.
- Combat skills (拳法; quánfǎ) skills: These include various barehanded, weapon, and barehanded vs. weapon routines (styles) and their combat (散打; sàndǎ) methods.