HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF
EIGHTEEN-LOHAN ART

Yang Style Taijiquan

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I was intrigued how Northern Shaolin masters like Huo Yuan Jia and Wng Zi Ping of recent times, or Wang Lang, Bai Yu Feng and Venerable Fu Yu of older periods had so much internal force. Unlike in Southern Shaolin where there were internal force training methods ofter incorporated into kungfu sets themselves, like One-Finger Shooting Zen, Triple Stretch and Double Dragons Emerge from Sea, there were no such methods in Northern Shaolin.

But I have read that many Northern Shaolin masters modified some exercises in Eighteen Lohan Hands, which was the fundamental chi kung set at the Shaolin Monastery, for martial purposes, and eventually, without the masters’ conscious awareness, the Eighteen Lohan Hands, which is called Shi Ba Lou Han Shou, evolved into an art generally called Eighteen-Lohan Art, or Shi Ba Luo Han Gong in Chinese. As different masters modified the Eighteen Lohan Hands exercises at different times, there were different versions of the Eighteen-Lohan Art.

These Eighteen-Lohan Art exercises were exclusive, taught only to selected disciples. It was noted that Wang Lang, the founder of Shaolin Praying Mantis Kungfu, was an expert in Eighteen-Lohan Art. So when Roland (Sifu roland Mastel of Switzerland) invited me to teach Shaolin Praying Mantis Kungfu in Bern in 2010, I decided to include the Eighteen-Lohan Art.

I myself did not learn the Eighteen-Lohan Art in my student’s days. But because of my knowledge and experience in Shaolin Kungfu, I would be able to understand it when I come across it. So I researched as extensively as I could into the Eighteen-Lohan Art.

Although there were a few good sources most of the sourses were mediocre, merely showing routines of techniques with little internal force exhibited by the practitioners. Based on these sources, as well as my knowledge and experience, I composed 18 exercises of the Eighteen-Lohan Art.

Our version of the Eighteen-Lohan Art is very effective. Participants at the Praying Mantis course in Bern as well as in other regional courses later on could develop internal force within a few days!

One should note that unlike the Eighteen Lohan Hands which are gentle and mainly for health, the Eighteen-Lohan Art is powerful and is mainly for developing internal force. One should learn it from a competent teacher. Self learning from books or videos is likely to cause adverse effects.

On looking back, especially when organizers in various countries asked me to teach the Eighteen-:Lohan Art, I found that our version of the art could be classified into three categories. The first 6 exercise, which focus on developing internal force, form the first category. The next 6 exercises, which focus on exploding force, form the second category. The third set of 6 exercises, which focus on agility, form the third category. I did not have these three categories in mind when I first composed the 18 exercises of the Eighteen-Lohan Art, though subconsciously I might be thinking of developing force, exploding force and attaining agility during the composition.

There was an olden art also called the Eighteen-Lohan Art. It consisted of 18 yoga-like postures. This could be the art first taught by the great Bodhdharma to the Shaolin monks before these exercises evolved into the Eighteen Lohan Hands.

Wong Kiew Kit
10th February 2016

Yang Style Taijiquan

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