Learn Kungfu in China

Kungfu is one of the oldest, most elaborate martial arts in existence. There are hundreds of different kungfu styles, such as taiji, Shaolin, qi gong, Praying Mantis and more. If you choose to study and learn kungfu in China, you are choosing to learn as close to the source of the knowledge as possible.

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.

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 kungfu

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 kungfu

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 on the YouTube Channel of Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy. Some examples:

Justin perform Continuous Fist form:

Davina perform Black Tiger Fist:

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 kungfu 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.

After broadsword, students generally continue with straight sword or spear. The straight sword is similar to the broadsword but requires an even higher level of coordination, because the movements are often more subtle, elegant and precise. Spear is similar to the staff, except for the sharp tip of course. It requires more strength and precision than the staff, as the fighting moves mimick stabbing your opponent while holding on to the far end of the spear.

After this, the student and Master decide together which weapon (or fist) form will best help the student improve his/her overall skills. Some people may choose to do an animal fist form, other may choose daggers, double broadsword, or pudao. Weapons such as three-section staff and (chain)whip are only taught when the student reaches a sufficiently advanced level. The average beginner generally takes almost a full year to reach this point. An experienced martial artist might need less.

They say, however, that the most important weapon a martial artist has, is his mind.

The Shaolin mindset to learn kungfu

You have probably seen some of the amazing feats that Shaolin Monks can perform: breaking a brick with their bare hands, breaking a wooden staff on their arm, leg or head and even pushing the sharp tip of a spear against the softest part on the human body – the little dent at the bottom of the throat. How can they do all of this? Are they physically different?

Shaolin monks believe that their strength comes from the mind. Their mind directs their body, their movement and their qi (‘life energy’ or ‘life force’). Because of this belief, and hours of tireless practice and conditioning, there are almost no limits to what shaolin monks can do with their bodies during training.

This mindset, mind over matter, is crucial to learning kungfu. Shaolin kungfu training is known as one of the hardest training regimes in the world. Regardless of how skilled you are, the Masters will challenge you to push your limits. There will be many times when you feel like you can’t go on anymore, or that you simply cannot do a certain move. If you refuse to give up and push yourself just that little bit further, you will find that your body can often do so much more than you think!

Many of our students managed to set new personal records, mastered advanced level weapons form or acrobatics and/or broke bricks with their bare hands. Join them and learn Kungfu at the birthplace of Kungfu: China.