Shaolin Kungfu

The Art of Shaolin Kung Ku


I am only 16 but I have been training since I was 8 years old. I practice 6 days a week 1-2 hours everyday with devotion and refine techniques to my knowledge's limit, but now for the first time I think my techniques are useless. I come to you because I believe you can help me with this block. I was training so hard for a few months then when I needed the techniques I failed to apply them, causing myself injury and now I am scared to train again.

-- Ben, USA


There is no doubt that you are dedicated to your training, but it is indeed a pity that your training has been futile. Yours is what we endearingly call “water-buffalo training”. Yours is also a good example to warn others that training on your own without proper guidance can be very expensive in terms of effort and time.

You have not described what your training was, and how or why you could not use your techniques when you needed them, nor how you injured yourself. Hence, I could not offer specific advice, but I shall give you general guidelines which can be very helpful.

But first, be comforted that your training was not necessarily wasted if you can convert what was futile training to something useful. Let us say you had been training kungfu forms, thinking that they were great kungfu, but when someone attacked you, you could not defend yourself. Or suppose you had been training Iron Palm for many years, but when you tried to break a brick you broke your hand instead. If you just stop your training now, then all the years of previous training would be wasted. But if you can learn from a real master who is willing to teach you how to apply your forms for combat, or how to develop internal force in your Iron Palm, your earlier training would be useful.

If you or anyone wishes to obtain the best benefits from their training, the following 5-step approach will be very helpful.

  1. Have a sound understanding of the scope and depth of the art you are going to devote yourself to.
  2. Define your objectives and aims in training the art.
  3. Find the best available teacher you can afford and learn from him.
  4. Practice, practice and practice what your teacher asks you to, and not what you yourself think the training should be.
  5. Periodically access how well, or badly, your training helps you to realize your objectives and aims.


I have 3 of your books, "The Complete book of Zen”, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” and “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chaun'. I have studied the Shaolin arts to a limited extent but I love its philosophy and history and fables and folklore.


If you have read and understood my three books, and if the training you referred to is in Shaolin Kungfu, Tai Chi Chuan or even another martial art, you should have sufficient theoretical knowledge enabling you to avoid wasting the time you did. The fact that you found your training useless despite having spent 1 or 2 hours every day for 8 years suggested that you did not put into practice what I had advised, or you obtained my books only recently.

Nevertheless, your main problem was the lack of a competent teacher guiding you. If you meet a good teacher he may help you to convert what you thought was futile to something useful.

I would recommend you attend my regional Shaolin Kungfu or Tai Chi Chuan courses. If you find them useful, attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Tai Chi Chuan Course in Malaysia.

The Shaolin philosophy has enriched my life as well the lives of my many students. We do not merely practice kungfu, but the benefits we derive from our Shaolin training, such as good health, abandon energy and mental freshness as well as confidence, perseverance and righteousness enable us to enjoy our work and play every day of our life.

The above is taken from Questions 6 and 7 Dec 2004 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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