Five-Animal Play

Monkey Play from Five-Animal Play

Question 3

Kung Fu masters, martial art experts and generals who retired went to the Shaolin Temple for cultivation and due to their martial arts background they modified the 18 Lohan Hands to their needs which evolved into the 18 Lohan Art. Later it evolved into Lohan Kung Fu.

You mentioned that it was believed that the Monkey Kung Fu originated from the Five-Animals Play. How in your opinion did or could that happen?

Could it be a similar development like the 18 Lohan Hands where some masters with martial arts background and knowledge and experience of the Five-Animal Play modify the movements for their needs in combat?

The 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises, if I am correct, generate energy flow especially along the 12 primary meridians. In this sense, each exercise would correlate with a specific meridian.

Could you please elaborate the connection between the five major organs and meridians in relation to the Five-Animal Play?

Sifu Roland Mastel


The 18-Lohan Art and the 18-Lohan Fist, or 18-Lohan Kungfu, evolved from the 18-Lohan Hands independently. I believe the 18-Lohan Kungfu evolved from the 18 Lohan Hands first, before the 18-Lohan Art also evolved from the 18 Lohan Hands.

The 18 Lohan Hands continued to be practiced in the Shaolin Temple after the 18-Lohan Kungfu was evolved. In other words, both the 18 Lohan Hands and the 18-Lohan Kungfu were practiced at the Shaolin Temple side by side.

Later the 18-Lohan Art evolved from the 18 Lohan Hands. So at this time all the three arts – 18 Lohan Hands, 18-Lohan Kungfu, and 18-Lohan Art – were practiced at the Shaolin Temple at the same time.

The 18 Lohan Hands were the most popular. All Shaolin monks practiced the 18 Lohan Hands. Next in popularity was the 18-Lohan Kungfu. All kungfu monks at the Shaolin Temple practiced the 18-Lohan Kungfu. Some monks at the Shaolin Temple were not kungfu monks. The 18-Lohan Art was secretive. It was available only to selected kungfu disciples.

There were many styles of Monkey Kungfu. A few Monkey styles developed from the monkey movements of the Five-Animal Play, but other Monkey styles developed from other sources.

This could happen when some kungfu masters were sick or injured, they practice the Five-Animal Paly to overcome their sickness or injury. When they had recovered they incorporated these monkey movements into their kungfu as they found them effective for combat. Eventually these monkey movements evolved into Monkey styles. Yes, it was quite similar to the development of 18-Lohan Kungfu from the 18 Lohan Hands.

It is worthwhile to mention that using chi flow to overcome sickness and injury is, and was, elite. Even masters do not, and did not, know how to do so. When they are sick or injured, they have to take medication, like herbs. In the past, if they were lucky, they might practice Five-Animal Play from chi kung healers, who were rare, to overcome their sickness or injury.

From what I have read, chi kung healing in the past was unlike chi kung healing we practice in our school today. Chi kung healing in the past was thematic, and operated mainly at a physical level. A chi kung healer would prescribe specific chi kung exercises for specific diseases, and patients would have to practice for quite some time before they could experience chi flow. It was infrequent that such chi kung healing could overcome so-called incurable diseases.

Our chi kung healing is holistic and operates at the mind level. In fact, our chi kung healing is so powerful that often our chi kung healers have to lower the level of chi flow so that patients would not over-train. Our chi kung healing can overcome any diseases, including so-called incurable diseases, and our success rate is very high. In the recent Chi Kung Healing Course in Kuala Lumpur (March 2014), Dr Foong Tuck Meng told the class that the success rate, including with patients whose doctors had told them that they would die, was 100%!

Understandably, other people would think we are boastful, but I am just stating the truth. This results in two important points for us. One, we, especially those who have undergone training in our chi kung healing, are in a very privileged position to help people recover from so-called incurable diseases. I am quite certain that in the future our chi kung healing would be the norm in medicine. Two, at present we must accept the fact that most people, including conventional doctors and those who suffered from so-called incurable diseases, do not believe in our ability.

The 12 Sinew Metamorphosis exercises may not necessarily generate energy flow along the 12 primary meridians. It was recorded that the Sinew Metamorphosis exercises as well as the 18 Lohan Hands flow at four levels; the level of the skin, the level of the flesh, the level of the bones, and the level of the bone marrow. In other words, when Shaolin monks practiced exercises from the 18 Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis, their energy would first flow along the skin, then along the flesh and bone and finally along the none marrow.

This would give the Shaolin monks good health physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually so that they could more effectively practiced sitting meditation to attain Enlightenment. When chi flowed along the bone marrow, it generated a lot of internal force which was necessary for the monks to break through their illusionary physical body to merge with Cosmic Reality.

These effects of chi flow were collectively described as bone marrow cleansing. There has been a long debate, still extant today, whether Bodhidharma taught bone marrow cleansing. The debate occurred because the people involved did not differentiate between techniques and skills.

People believed that Bodhidharma taught the 18 Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis because the techniques of these two arts are clearly described. But there was no descriptions of the techniques for Bone Marrow Cleansing. In other words, these people did not know what Bone Marrow Cleansing techniques Bodhidharma taught.

When we understand the difference between skills and techniques, and that Bone Marrow Cleansing referred to skills and not techniques, we would know that there were no specific Bone Marrow Cleansing techniques because any techniques, when performed correctly and sufficiently, could produce the results of chi flowing at the skin, flesh, bone and bone marrow levels.

The Bone Marrow Cleansing taught in our school is different from the Bone Marrow Cleansing taught in the Shaolin Temple. In our school there are 5 levels of chi flow, namely along the skin, the flesh, the meridians, the internal organs and the bone marrow. At the Shaolin Temple, there were 4 levels of chi flow, namely at the skin, the flesh, the bones and the bone marrow.

Why do I teach 5 levels of chi flow. It is because it has been recorded by chi kung classics that chi would flow at these five levels. Some students may ask, which is correct, chi flowing at 4 levels or at 5 levels. Both are correct. It is a matter of choice. In principle it is like asking which is correct, driving on the right side of the road as in continental Europe, or on the left side of the road as in the United Kingdom, though many continental Europeans would call it the wrong side of the road. Both sides are correct. It is a matter of choice.

But in the case of the Five-Animal Play, why are there 5 animals, and not 4, 6 or any other number? Is it also a matter of choice?

No, here it is not a matter of choice. There are 5 animals because they represent 5 characteristic types of chi flow movements. Why are there 5 characteristic types and not any other number? It is because these different types of chi flow movements are manifested from five primary organs or their counterparts, and their respective meridians.

In Chinese medical philosophy there are 5 xang or storage organs, namely heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys. These organs are regarded as yin, and their yang counterparts, which are 5 fu or transformational organs are small intestines, gall bladder, stomach, colon and urinary bladder. The pericardium and its yang counterpart, the triple-warmer, are also important organs, and they are grouped in the same category as the heart.

The energy from the five storage organs or its counterparts and their meridians results in characteristic chi flow movements. Energy from the heart, or its counterpart, the small intestines, and their meridians, i.e. the heart meridian and the small intestine meridian, as well as the pericardium, the triple-warmer, the pericardium meridian and the triple-warmer meridian, results in chi flow movements resembling a bird.

Energy from the liver and its counterpart, the gall bladder, and their meridians results in chi flow movements resembling a deer. Energy from the spleen, and its counterpart, the stomach, and their meridians results in chi flow movements resembling a monkey. Energy from the lungs, and their counterpart, the colon, and their meridians results in chi flow movements resembling a tiger. Energy from the kidneys, and their counterpart, the urinary bladder, and their meridians results in chi flow movements resembling a bear.

Some people may ask why energy from the heart results in chi flow movements resembling a bird and not something else. It is the way of things. In principle it is like asking why a person with a viral infection has a fever. It is the way of things. Western doctors discovered that when a person had a viral infection, he had a fever. Chinese doctors discovered that energy from the heart resulted in chi flow movements resembling a bird.

Five-Animal Play and Other Chi Kung in Barcelona 8-11 May 2014

Questions on Five-Animal Play – Overview

The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread Hua Tuo’s Five-Animal Play - 10 Questions to Grandmaster in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.

Monkey Kungfu

A pattern, "Look Around in Four Directions", form the Shaolin Monkey Set