INVEST IN YOURSELF
At the Shaolin Temple, we get up every morning at five-thirty, and go for a run up the mountain. This is like putting money into a saving’s account. If we do not have the stamina then we will not be able to practice the skill. When we come back from the mountain, we practice five basic stances, five basic kicks and stretching.
Learning martial arts is no different from learning maths or English, if we cannot add two plus two then we cannot progress to algebra, if we cannot read the alphabet then we can never read Shakespeare. This is the reason we study these very basic skills. Only when our body is getting stronger do we then start to learn some internal and external forms, and only when our master feels we are ready do we progress to studying fighting punches and kicks and then start to fight in the ring.
THE IMPORTANCE OF QI
We also practice body conditioning. I specialise in Shaolin Steel Jacket. The reason I specialise in Shaolin Steel Jacket is because I am small – not much taller than 5ft 6 – so when I fight, I have to go into my opponent, and they are nearly always taller and heavier than me, which - without my body conditioning skill - would give them an advantage over me.
I know it is difficult for many Western people to believe in Qi. Science still has not found a way to prove or disprove it. Excluding the Western understanding of the bodies anatomical system such as the nervous and respiratory system, within the human body there are a network of pathways which we call meridians, they carry Qi through out the body. They are like small rivers which when the body becomes stressed or ill become blocked. The Chinese believe in preventing illness rather than waiting for it to happen so we practice Qi Gong to keep a healthy flow of Qi running through our bodies. Sometimes I think we look after our cars, better than we look after ourselves. We don’t wait for it to break down before we give it gasoline, water, oil, or take it to the garage for a check up, so why do so many of us do that with our bodies?
If we only want to keep healthy, then we will continue to practice healthy forms of Qi Gong all our lives, but if we want to be fighters then we learn to master the Qi and direct it into different parts of our body. The analogy I use is to compare it with the wheels on a car, they are useless without Qi – air – but by pumping simple air into its tyres the car is transformed from a vehicle with a powerful engine that can go nowhere to a vehicle with a powerful engine that can go everywhere.
Body conditioning gives us the confidence to come up against our opponent even if he looks bigger or stronger than us. With the Shaolin Steel jacket technique I put my Qi into my back and my torso and then I am confident that I will be protected from blows. My back and torso is like steel. It is my armour.
PLANTING THE FIGHTING SEED
All of this training is the planting of the seed. You plant an apple seed you get an apple tree. We plant a fighter’s seed, this means we set our motivation; we want to become an excellent fighter. We train hard - this is the cultivation - and then, after years of training, we start to become the fighter we always wanted to be.
THE FIRST FIGHT
But usually when we first go to fight, we are disappointed in ourselves. Training and fighting are very different. We may be good at training but that doesn’t make us good fighters. As Bruce Lee said, if you can’t hit your target, then what does it mean? And in the beginning, you may find it hard to hit this target who is no longer a pad, a bag or a fellow sparring partner but a determined fighter who wants to win as much as you
Nothing can prepare you for your first fight. But if you have trained consistently then you will know you are strong. You know you did everything to be the best. Doesn’t mean you will win but you will have the confidence to win. If you don’t have confidence then you can never win.
ARE THE SHAOLIN FIGHTING SKILLS FOR YOU
We all want to win. It feels good. But we must remember it is just a stopping point on the way, it is not our ultimate destination. And the Shaolin fighting skills are not a dream, and they are not a film, they are a life. So ask yourself, do you love the Shaolin Martial Arts? If you do then you must continue to train. Through hard training you will begin to understand that you are much more than you thought, through Qi Gong you will have health and energy, through meditation you will develop control over your mind. You will ultimately win the war over your ego. This is the highest martial arts of all, and one, which may take you many lifetimes to achieve.
Shifu Yan Lei offers a graded path of Shaolin Training for health, martial art, self-defence and fighting. For more details visit: