The Practice of Shaolin Kungfu

发布日期:2016-08-01   字体大小:   

                                                                       ---A talk by Ven. Abbot Shi Yongxin


Shaolin’s kung fu training method is unique and unparalleled in the world and can only be found at Shaolin Monastery. Shaolin kung fu is transmitted through the teacher as well as through “mind transmission” which is distinct from other schools. When I talk about “mind transmission”, I refer to the enjoyable experience of being graced by a mind force during practice. This is a unique feature of Shaolin’s kung fu routine and practice format. Shaolin’s training format and process completely engages a practitioner’s body and mind into the kung fu practice by focusing his mind and spirit single-pointedly on the routine. A practitioner will be totally immersed in learning kung fu and would even dream about his practice. This is an important part of the practice. In fact, many practitioners are able to resolve, learn and grasp difficult moves and applications of a routine during their dreams.

Patriarch Bodhidharma had instructed his disciples, “In order to realize the nature of mind, one must first strengthen the body.” This also highlights Shaolin kung fu’s distinctive approach of “Unity of Chan and martial art.” What is “Chan”?   Chan seeks to calm the mind and guard one’s aspirations, help one abide in calmness and contemplation, and completely relax the body and mind. Letting go of all mundane disturbances, troubles, mental obscurations, people and affairs, so as to activate innate luminosity and realize the nature of mind and the nature of existence, and bear testimony to the fundamental wisdom of our life. Shaolin kung fu differentiates itself by emphasizing that martial arts arise from a Chan mind and through understanding of human existence. Ultimately, kung fu practice is also a practice towards realization --- this is called “Chan Martial Arts”. As all trees are manifestation of perfect wisdom, and every sound contains dharma teachings, so every move is a masterstroke when one rests in the “unity of Chan and martial arts.”
Throughout my kung fu training, I have greatly benefitted from “mind transmissions”. In order to become completely immersed in kung fu practice, the selection of practice location and time are critical. I used to practice alone at night at sparsely visited places. One location was the cemetery on the other side of the hill behind the monastery. This is where even a mind that runs like a rabbit can inevitably concentrate, and where I could clearly hear my every move in the extraordinary stillness of the night.  
The Heilong (Black Dragon) Lake in the canyon was also a good location. Since I usually visited Heilong Lake during the darkest of the night, I dare not look around me. When practicing at such location, one cannot help but remain in intense concentration. One practice session in such a state of mind yields the power of two months of regular practice. Therefore, one visit to Heilong Lake equals a full night of meditation.
There was one more location: in front of the Qianfo (Thousand Buddha) Hall. Many people have the impression that this location has spiritual energy although this is only an unsubstantiated notion. The fact is the bluestone ground in front of the Qianfo Hall has been polished by the endless stream of incense offerings over the years, so a kung fu practitioner must focus his attention to avoid slippage during practice. It is this deep concentration during kung fu practice that yields quick results.
In those days, I had spent a great deal of effort on my kung fu practice and kept at it for a very long time. I had left many testimonies of my training at the aforementioned locations, which bring back many memories and reminiscing. 
Learning kung fu was very difficult in the beginning. In my opinion, during the first three months, a practitioner drives himself to practice kung fu; and in the ensuing three months, the practitioner is driven to practice. When one starts to learn kung fu, his tendons and bones are not yet flexible and he needs to do stretching exercises, by doing splits, throwing punches, and other movements, all of which results in all sorts of bodily pain. However, if he stops practicing after having followed a daily practice routine for a few months, his hands and feet will feel prickly and his entire body will feel edgy and restless, so he will be driven to continue his practice.
If we look at Shaolin kung fu as a system of techniques, it appears as a series of martial art routines, with each routine consisting of a collection of movements. The fact is Shaolin kung fu movements were designed and created based on the foundation of ancient Chinese medical knowledge of the human body. These movements are in alignment with the rules of bodily exercise. The combination of movements of a routine emphasizes the amalgamation of action and inaction, balance of Ying and Yang, complement of brute strength with gentleness, and the inclusion of both spirit and form. From this arises the theory of “Liuhe” (Six Harmonies): harmony of hand and feet; harmony of elbow and knee; harmony of shoulder and pelvis; harmony of heart and mind; harmony of mind and chi; and harmony of chi and force. According to Chinese ancient philosophy of “Tian Ren He Yi” (Unity of Man and Universe), the most reasonable movements are those that are most aligned with the natural construct of the human body. Shaolin kung fu routines represent the essence that has endured a selection process lasting ages through incorporating experimentations, innovations and new developments. These routines epitomize the optimal method of exercising and fully releasing the latent potential of the human body.

The practice of Chan and the practice of Shaolin kung fu ultimately steer a practitioner towards realization. The initial stages of practicing Shaolin kung fu is characterized by a focus on physical strength. As long as a practitioner trains hard and diligently use proper methods, his skill will improve. Once a practitioner reaches sufficient attainment, his training progresses from a focus on physical strength to one on intellectual capability. This stage requires full attention that goes beyond being serious and hardworking. It depends on one’s capacity to realize awareness. This is the watershed between mediocrity and sainthood. One reaches the sublime perfection of kung fu if one can realize the heart essence of “Chan martial arts”; if not, one’s life is wasted. Whether one attains realization or not depends on one’s talent, but it is not predestined. One whose foundation of wisdom has been sharpened will reach realization sooner. For those whose foundation of wisdom is dull, it is only a matter of time that they too will attain realization after they have corrected their situation.


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