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The Basic Techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu

author image Denise Stern
Denise Stern is an experienced freelance writer and editor. She has written professionally for more than seven years. Stern regularly provides content for health-related and elder-care websites and has an associate and specialized business degree in health information management and technology.
The Basic Techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu
Martial arts take much discipline. Photo Credit: Vagengeym_Elena/iStock/Getty Images

Shaolin kung fu is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts exercise. Developed thousands of years ago in China and adapted from Indian yoga postures, Shaolin kung fu is based on the characteristics and attack methods of more than a dozen different animals, including the snake, the tiger, the dragon and the cobra. Shaolin monks in China incorporated the exercise forms with their philosophy of nonviolence, using kung fu only as a form of self-defense.

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Techniques for Shaolin kung fu depend on the style of martial art in which you are interested. Some styles are better suited to physical size, strength and ability than others. However, the basics of all Shaolin styles are founded on punches and kicks. Strengthening the thighs, improving balance and exercises that enhance perception, precision and speed are valuable attributes that can be applied to each different style of Shaolin kung fu. Forms found in each style are taught, with technique and approach catered to the style, purpose and positions of that style.


Stances are commonly found in each style of Shaolin kung fu. The horse stance is a common stance used to develop thigh strength, endurance and patience. Known as zhan zhuang, or stance training, this position provides a foundation for training in learning intermediate and advanced kung fu moves. Stand with your feet farther than hip distance apart. Bend your elbows close to your sides, with hands fisted and facing upward in front of you. Sink down into a squatting position until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor; hold the position for as long as you can, for 2 to 5 minutes.

Shaolin Kung Fu Philosophy

Shaolin kung fu is based upon peace-keeping and self-defense. In Shaolin kung fu, the way of the tiger is primary and based upon an ancient Chinese proverb: When two tigers fight, one is killed and the other is severely hurt. Tiger blows are swift and dangerous. Self-discipline and conservation of motion characterize Shaolin kung fu techniques. Kicks are direct, punches swift, movements are in large, circular, swiping motions, like a cat. Shaolin kung fu strikes go for the most vulnerable body areas -- throat, knees and eyes.

Fierce Tiger Technique

Commonly utilized in the tiger form of kung fu, this technique improves fluid movement, timing and a stable foot position that is enhanced through the horse stance position. Use large arm movements with a clawed hand, mimicking swiping motions of an angry tiger. This technique is performed by sinking down into a horse stance position. With your back straight, lash out with control with a sharp, twisting punch that slightly rotates the wrist joint as your hand approaches your opponent or target. You may utilize a tiger-claw technique, in which you strike your opponent with the heel of your hand. Immediately following the strike, claw the fingers and swipe downward, much like the swipe of a tiger claw.

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