How To Learn Shaolin Martial Arts?

If you’ve ever dreamed of mastering the ancient and revered art of Shaolin Kung Fu, you’re not alone. The allure of this martial art, with its deep-rooted history and incredible feats of physical prowess, has captured the imaginations of people all over the world.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of Shaolin Kung Fu, answer burning questions like “Can you still learn Shaolin Kung Fu?” and provide you with valuable insights on how to embark on your own Shaolin Kung Fu journey.

Table of Contents

What Martial Arts Do Shaolin Use?

The Shaolin Temple, nestled deep within the lush mountains of China’s Henan province, is renowned as the birthplace of martial arts.

The monks of this sacred temple have practiced and developed an array of martial arts over centuries.

These include:

1. Shaolin Kung Fu (Shaolinquan):

  • Shaolin Kung Fu is the most famous of all martial arts associated with the Shaolin Temple. It encompasses a wide range of techniques, including striking, grappling, and weapon-based combat.

2. Tai Chi (Taijiquan):

  • Tai Chi is a slow, flowing martial art that focuses on balance, relaxation, and energy flow. It is not just a martial art but also a form of meditation and health practice.

3. Praying Mantis Style (Tang Lang Quan):

  • This style is inspired by the movements of a praying mantis and is characterized by rapid strikes and trapping techniques.

4. Drunken Fist (Zui Quan):

  • Drunken Fist mimics the movements of a drunkard and is known for its unpredictable and evasive techniques.

Tang lang Quan (Praying Mantis Style)

The diversity of martial arts at the Shaolin Temple showcases the adaptability and innovation of its practitioners over the centuries. These arts serve as a testament to the monks’ commitment to physical and spiritual excellence.

Can You Still Learn Shaolin Kung Fu?

While the traditional training may be grueling, the opportunity to learn Shaolin Kung Fu is very much alive.

There are numerous locations across the globe where you can learn the art of Shaolin Kung Fu, with a significant concentration of these schools being situated in China. Additionally, you can discover Kung Fu academies in various countries across Europe, the Americas, and Southeast Asia.

What’s noteworthy is that some of these martial arts schools offer a diverse curriculum, encompassing not only Shaolin Kung Fu but also providing instruction in Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and a range of other martial styles.

Training at Shaolin:

To learn Shaolin Kung Fu at its source, you can participate in training programs offered by the Shaolin Temple. These programs typically range from a few weeks to several years, depending on your commitment level.

The immersive experience allows you to train under the guidance of experienced monks, learning not only the physical aspects but also the philosophy and spirituality that underpin the art.

Outside the Temple:

If traveling to China is not an option, there are numerous schools and instructors around the world who specialize in teaching Shaolin Kung Fu. These schools often follow the traditional teachings of the Shaolin Temple and offer various training programs suitable for beginners to advanced practitioners.

While the journey may be challenging, the rewards of learning Shaolin Kung Fu are immeasurable. It’s a path of self-discovery, discipline, and physical excellence.

How To Join The Shaolin Monks

Can Foreigners Go to Shaolin?

Yes, foreigners are welcome at the Shaolin Temple. In fact, the temple has embraced international visitors who seek to learn and understand the art of Shaolin Kung Fu. As long as you respect the temple’s customs and follow its rules, you can immerse yourself in this ancient martial art.

When visiting the Shaolin Temple, it’s essential to approach it with reverence and respect for its cultural and spiritual significance. The monks appreciate visitors who genuinely want to learn and appreciate their heritage.

The Life and Training at the Shaolin Temple

Is Shaolin Kung Fu a Good Martial Art?

Shaolin Kung Fu is not just a martial art; it’s a way of life. Its benefits extend far beyond self-defense, making it a highly regarded martial art for both physical and mental development.

Here are some reasons why Shaolin Kung Fu is considered exceptional:

1. Holistic Approach:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu is not solely about combat. It emphasizes physical fitness, mental fortitude, and spiritual growth. Practitioners often experience improved focus, discipline, and a sense of inner peace.

2. Versatility:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu encompasses a wide range of techniques, making it adaptable for different situations. Whether you’re interested in unarmed combat or weapon-based forms, Shaolin Kung Fu has something to offer.

3. Cultural Heritage:

  • Learning Shaolin Kung Fu allows you to connect with a rich cultural heritage that spans centuries. It’s a journey of self-discovery and understanding of Chinese traditions.

4. Physical Fitness:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu promotes physical strength, flexibility, and agility. It’s an excellent form of exercise that enhances overall health and well-being.

5. Self-Defense:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu equips practitioners with effective self-defense techniques, instilling confidence and the ability to protect oneself and others.

How Much Does It Cost to Train at Shaolin?

The cost of training at the Shaolin Temple or a Shaolin Kung Fu school can vary widely depending on several factors, including the duration of training, the level of instruction, and the location of the school. Here’s a rough estimate to give you an idea:

Training at Shaolin Temple:

  • Short-term programs (a few weeks to a few months) can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
  • One-year-term programs can range on average from $3500 to $5000 or more.

Training at a Local School:

  • Costs at local schools outside of China can vary significantly. Monthly fees might range from $100 to $300, with additional costs for specialized training, equipment, and grading examinations.
shaolin training cost
Shaolin training cost at Shaolin Temple Yunnan

It’s essential to research and compare different options to find a program that suits your budget and goals. Keep in mind that the investment in learning Shaolin Kung Fu extends beyond monetary value; it’s an investment in yourself.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Shaolin Kung Fu?

The time it takes to master Shaolin Kung Fu depends on various factors, including your dedication, prior martial arts experience, and the intensity of your training.

Here’s a general guideline:

Basic Proficiency:

  • To achieve basic proficiency in Shaolin Kung Fu, including a grasp of fundamental techniques and forms, it may take around 1 to 2 years of regular training.

Intermediate Level:

  • For intermediate skills and a deeper understanding of the art, you might need 3 to 5 years of consistent practice.

Advanced Mastery:

  • To reach an advanced level where you can perform complex forms and techniques with precision and teach others, it may take 10-15 years or more of dedicated training.

Remember that learning martial arts is a lifelong journey, and progress varies from person to person. Your dedication, practice, and commitment to self-improvement will be the driving factors in your journey towards mastery.

Can I Learn Shaolin Kung Fu on My Own?

While it’s possible to practice some aspects of Shaolin Kung Fu on your own, it’s highly recommended to seek guidance from experienced instructors.

Here’s why:

Proper Guidance:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu involves intricate techniques, and proper form is crucial to prevent injury and maximize effectiveness. An instructor can provide valuable corrections and guidance.


  • Instructors can design a structured training program that ensures you progress in a logical and safe manner. They can also help you set and achieve goals.

Tradition and Philosophy:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu is not just about physical movements; it encompasses a rich philosophy and spirituality. An instructor can impart these essential teachings.

Learning from an experienced instructor also allows for sparring and partner drills, which are crucial for developing practical combat skills. However, if attending a formal school or having an instructor is not possible for you, there are still ways to begin your journey.

How to Learn Shaolin Kung Fu at Home

If attending a Shaolin Kung Fu school or temple is not feasible for you, you can still embark on your martial arts journey from the comfort of your home. Here are some steps to get started:

1. Online Resources:

  • There are numerous online tutorials, video courses, and instructional materials available that can guide you through the basics of Shaolin Kung Fu. Make sure to choose reputable sources.

2. Create a Dedicated Space:

  • Set up a practice area in your home where you can safely perform exercises and techniques without obstacles.

3. Practice Consistently:

  • Regular, consistent practice is key to improvement. Develop a training schedule and stick to it.

4. Seek Virtual Guidance:

  • Consider virtual coaching or remote lessons with experienced instructors who can provide personalized feedback.

5. Join Online Communities:

  • Participate in online martial arts forums and communities to connect with fellow practitioners, share experiences, and seek advice.

Shaolin Kung Fu training videos

Remember that learning Shaolin Kung Fu at home is a challenging endeavor that requires discipline and dedication. While it may not replace traditional training completely, it can be a valuable supplement to your martial arts journey.

The Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu

To truly understand and appreciate Shaolin Kung Fu, it’s essential to delve into its philosophical underpinnings. Shaolin Kung Fu is not just about physical prowess; it’s deeply rooted in spiritual and philosophical principles. Some key aspects of the philosophy behind Shaolin Kung Fu include:

1. Balance and Harmony:

  • Shaolin philosophy emphasizes balance in all aspects of life. This balance extends to physical movements, where practitioners strive for harmony and efficiency in their techniques.

2. Mind-Body Connection:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu places a strong emphasis on the connection between the mind and body. Meditation and mindfulness are integral to the practice, allowing for heightened awareness and control.

3. Discipline and Patience:

  • Patience is a virtue in Shaolin Kung Fu. Practitioners understand that mastery takes time and unwavering discipline. This philosophy extends beyond the training hall into daily life.

4. Compassion and Respect:

  • Shaolin monks are known for their compassion and respect for all living beings. This philosophy extends to their interactions with fellow practitioners and opponents.

5. Continuous Learning:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu is a never-ending journey of self-improvement. Practitioners are encouraged to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and growth.

The Importance of Forms in Shaolin Kung Fu

Forms, known as “katas” in other martial arts, are choreographed sequences of movements that serve as a fundamental aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu training. These forms are not just physical exercises; they encapsulate the essence of the art, embodying its techniques, philosophy, and history.

Key Aspects of Forms:

  • Technique Refinement: Forms allow practitioners to refine their techniques, ensuring precision in movements, strikes, and defensive maneuvers.
  • Mental Training: Performing forms requires concentration and mindfulness, fostering the mind-body connection that is central to Shaolin philosophy.
  • Historical Significance: Many forms have historical significance, telling stories of legendary monks and events within the Shaolin tradition.
  • Conditioning: Forms help build endurance, strength, and flexibility, contributing to overall physical fitness.
  • Self-Defense Applications: Techniques learned in forms have practical applications in self-defense situations.
  • Expressing Creativity: Advanced practitioners often develop their variations of forms, expressing their creativity and understanding of the art.

Learning forms is an integral part of Shaolin Kung Fu training, allowing practitioners to deepen their understanding of the art and its philosophy.

The Role of Meditation in Shaolin Kung Fu

Meditation is a cornerstone of Shaolin Kung Fu practice. It plays a pivotal role in developing mental clarity, focus, and spiritual growth. Here are some key aspects of meditation in Shaolin Kung Fu:

1. Zazen Meditation (静坐):

  • Zazen, or “seated meditation,” is a fundamental practice in Shaolin Kung Fu. It involves sitting in a specific posture, focusing on the breath, and emptying the mind of distractions.

2. Mindfulness Meditation (正念):

  • Mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to be fully present in the moment. It enhances awareness of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, allowing for better control of one’s mind and emotions.

3. Meditation Postures (坐法):

  • Shaolin Kung Fu incorporates specific meditation postures that promote comfort and stability during extended meditation sessions.

4. Spiritual Growth:

  • Meditation is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a spiritual journey. It allows practitioners to explore their inner selves, fostering a deeper connection with the art and the universe.

5. Mental Resilience:

  • Meditation helps develop mental resilience, enabling practitioners to remain calm and focused even in high-stress situations, both in and out of combat.

The Shaolin Temple and Its Cultural Significance

The Shaolin Temple, or Shaolin Monastery, is not only the birthplace of martial arts but also a significant cultural and spiritual landmark.

Its history dates back over 1,500 years, and it has played a vital role in shaping Chinese culture and the spread of Buddhism.

Cultural Significance:

  • Buddhism and Zen: The Shaolin Temple is synonymous with Zen Buddhism, which emphasizes meditation and mindfulness. It has been a center for Buddhist teaching and practice for centuries.
  • Historical Legacy: The temple’s history is intertwined with Chinese dynasties, emperors, and martial arts legends. It has witnessed and survived numerous challenges, including wars and political changes.
  • Cultural Exchange: The Shaolin Temple has served as a hub for cultural exchange, attracting scholars, artists, and martial artists from all over the world who seek to learn from its rich heritage.
  • UNESCO World Heritage: In 2010, the Shaolin Temple and its associated cultural sites were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its global significance.

Visiting the Shaolin Temple is not just a martial arts pilgrimage; it’s an opportunity to immerse oneself in the history and culture of China.

Famous Shaolin Kung Fu Practitioners

Shaolin Kung Fu has produced many legendary practitioners and masters throughout its history. These individuals have not only mastered the art but have also left a lasting impact on the martial arts world and popular culture. Here are a few renowned Shaolin Kung Fu practitioners:

1. Bodhidharma (Da Mo):

  • Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk and the founder of Chan Buddhism, is credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China. He is considered the patriarch of Shaolin Kung Fu and is said to have introduced meditation and physical exercises to the Shaolin Temple.

2. Jet Li:

  • Jet Li, a renowned martial artist and actor, trained in Wushu, a modern form of Chinese martial arts heavily influenced by Shaolin Kung Fu. His martial arts skills are on full display in his films, inspiring countless martial artists worldwide.

These famous practitioners have not only elevated the status of Shaolin Kung Fu but have also inspired generations of martial artists to pursue excellence in their own practice.

The Importance of Discipline in Shaolin Kung Fu

Discipline is the backbone of Shaolin Kung Fu. It is the driving force that enables practitioners to endure rigorous training, master complex techniques, and achieve personal growth. Here’s why discipline is paramount in Shaolin Kung Fu:

1. Consistency:

  • Discipline ensures that practitioners adhere to a regular training schedule, allowing for continuous improvement and skill development.

2. Mental Toughness:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu training can be physically and mentally demanding. Discipline helps practitioners push through challenges and setbacks, cultivating mental resilience.

3. Respect for Tradition:

  • Discipline includes respecting the traditions and customs of Shaolin Kung Fu, from bowing to senior practitioners to adhering to the ethical principles of the art.

4. Self-Control:

  • Discipline instills self-control, which is crucial in both combat situations and daily life. Practitioners learn to manage their emotions and reactions effectively.

5. Goal Achievement:

  • Setting and achieving goals is an integral part of Shaolin Kung Fu. Discipline ensures that practitioners remain committed to their goals and stay on the path of improvement.

The Impact of Shaolin Kung Fu on Modern Martial Arts

Shaolin Kung Fu has had a profound influence on modern martial arts, both in China and around the world. Its techniques, philosophy, and training methods have shaped numerous martial arts styles and systems. Here’s how Shaolin Kung Fu has impacted the martial arts landscape:

1. Spread of Martial Arts:

  • The Shaolin Temple played a pivotal role in spreading martial arts knowledge throughout China, leading to the development of various regional styles.

2. Integration of Techniques:

  • Techniques and forms from Shaolin Kung Fu have been incorporated into many other martial arts, enriching their repertoire.

3. Popularization of Kung Fu Films:

  • Kung Fu films, often featuring Shaolin-inspired action sequences, have gained global popularity and introduced martial arts to a wide audience.

4. Cultural Exchange:

  • Shaolin Kung Fu has become a symbol of Chinese culture and has facilitated cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world.

5. Inspiration for Martial Artists:

  • Many martial artists draw inspiration from Shaolin Kung Fu, integrating its philosophy and techniques into their own practice.

In essence, Shaolin Kung Fu’s legacy extends far beyond its temple walls, shaping the world of martial arts and inspiring generations of practitioners to pursue excellence and self-improvement.


Learning Shaolin Kung Fu is not just a pursuit of physical mastery; it’s a journey of self-discovery, cultural immersion, and personal growth. Whether you choose to train at the historic Shaolin Temple itself or at a local school, the path to mastering this ancient art is open to all who are willing to commit themselves to the rigorous training and discipline it requires.

As you embark on your Shaolin Kung Fu journey, remember that the true essence of this martial art goes beyond combat techniques.

It’s a philosophy of balance, harmony, and continuous improvement that can enrich every aspect of your life. So, when you ask yourself, “Can I learn Shaolin Kung Fu?” know that the answer is a resounding “yes.” The path is open, and the journey is yours to embrace.

Begin your training, and may it lead you to not only become a skilled martial artist but also a better version of yourself. The legacy of Shaolin Kung Fu awaits you, ready to be continued by your dedication and passion.

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