Rituals Course Work

Published: 2021-06-22 00:46:47
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Category: Education, Students, Students, Exercise, Training, Sports

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At my visit at the Illinois Shaolin Kung Fu center, I have observe some rituals and symbols of the discipline and learned some things about them from Master Cheng, the instructor and expert.

One of the actions most repeatedly done is the meditation. Everyone, from the Master to the students must do them before beginning the exercises. The students line up in columns on the exercise area facing the Master. They sit on the floor on a cross-legged position and close their eyes. Master Cheng will ask the students to let go of whatever they are thinking of outside the training area. He will ask them to empty their mind, and then think only on the things within the training area, the training, of their heart to train, and nothing else. Master Cheng will ask them to fill the flow of Chi (or power) within their body. The room will have an atmosphere of calm and tranquility for a few minutes before they start the movements. Master Cheng explains that meditation is basic to all who practice Kung Fu. The monks and masters of Kung Fu always meditate to get in touch with the Chi in their bodies so that they can direct them at will. Meditation is one of the first things the students of Shaolin Kung Fu are taught.

After meditating, Master Cheng leads them to a series of exercises or stances. They do the basic stances and exercises before going to the more complicated ones. They have names for the stances like bow, horse, or cat. The punch and kick in the exercises. At first I would not have considered the exercise ritual because they change and develop into skill.

But I later on learned that they are doing more than just exercise when performing the kicks, punches, and the stances. They are training their inner energy too - their chi. Chi, when masterfully directed can be really powerful. This is the reason why Shaolin fighters can break bricks with just their hands, just one hand in fact. It is more of the act of controlling the direction of the chi more than physical power. For this reason, I consider the daily repeated basic exercise as ritual. It is the act of consciously getting in touch with the chi in their body and learning of its movements within them. They say the chi starts from the abdomen. The meditation and the exercises together can be called chi-gong, which is the ritual of controlling the chi in the body. This is the basic component of the Shaolin Kung Fu discipline.


Master Cheng tells me that the weaponry displayed at the training area are the most basic weapons of the Shaolin Kung Fu. The Staff are also called Gun, and it is the most basic of all weaponry. A Shaolin Master can make it a deadly weapon when he uses it. The next is a straight sword, also called a Jian. It is a very common weapon and looks like the one used by many cultures. Master Cheng tells me that it is considered a "gentle sword." Perhaps, it is because it is the simplest weapon and looks very light to use. Women can use them better than men it seems. And the last one is a broadsword, also called the Dao. I thought at first that it is a giant metal knife. In fact, it is indeed patterned to a knife, but it looks more barbaric and brute compare to the straight sword. If this is the basic weaponry, there must be other weapons that are not in the school that the Shaolin uses. Master Cheng says that they are a lot more. If he has a student who might like to learn how to use one, he brings one in. He sometimes do to show some students the other kinds of weapons the Shaolin uses.

Another symbol I expected to see in the site was the uniform popularly related to Shaolin. The movies about Shaolin Kung Fu feature monks in sashed orange robe that they use for training most of the time. All the students, including Master Cheng, wear a modern set of t-shirt - pants uniform, both made of cotton.


While some people want to train in Shaolin Kung Fu in its purest form, not mixed with Western figures and influence, other people becomes only interested in training because they can relate to the western materials in the school, like the uniform. Master Cheng uses very good English as well, and most of the time translates the Chinese words into English so that the students will appreciate their meaning. But because the basic rituals and symbols are visible in the school, all those involved, the students, parents, staff, and spectators, know that they are witnessing authentic Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu being demonstrated by Master Cheng.

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