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Hello everyone!

You don’t have to be a judo black belt or even be a fan of this sport to know where most martial arts originated, in Asia of course. Japanese, Chinese and Korean masters have taught karate, taekwondo, aikido and other martial arts to several generations of people. In China, the history of these arts is particularly interesting. It is inextricably linked to religion. It’s believed that local monks created most martial arts in the Chinese empire, but not just any monks. We are talking about the legendary Shaolin warriors. They even inspired George Lucas, to create the Jedi in “Star Wars”. Many legends have been told about these monks over the centuries. Many people consider them to be superhuman, capable of breaking the boundaries of the human mind, while ignoring both pain and the laws of physics. In today’s video, we will tell you in detail how Shaolin monks are trained without mercy, what they have to endure in order to be accepted in the monastery, and why everyone considers them invincible.

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EARLY EDUCATION

Before talking about the training program for young monks, we’ll briefly tell you the history of the Shaolin. The monastery dates back to the 5th century. In the 6th century, soldiers were trained here to defend the Chinese empire. This lasted for several centuries, until the 1920s, when a military leader set fire to the legendary home of the skilled fighters. The fire destroyed important sources of knowledge that the masters had passed down from generation to generation. And for half a century, the Shaolin monastery fell into oblivion. The masters who possessed precious techniques were dying. So, the future of the ancient traditions was in doubt. Fortunately, the Chinese authorities realized this in time and in the 80s, the monastery got a new lease of life. To become a Shaolin warrior, kids start training at a very young age. As a rule, training sessions begin at the age of three and even the youngest students have to work very hard. Just like the adults, they get up at 5am and go to class. It’s not uncommon for children to cry and want to go back to their mother, as is the case in any summer camp. But Shaolin teachers don’t pay attention to that. Over time, the children become accustomed to the fact that they can’t see their parents more than once every two months. And they become fully engaged in the learning process. The youngsters engage in up to five hours of physical activity a day just like Olympic athletes. Training includes elements of kung fu, kicking, jumping, grabbing, as well as balancing exercises. In addition, the young fighters study Buddhism for several hours a day and perform everyday tasks. So, they have almost no time for games or other activities.

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GOING DOWN THE STAIRS

Do you want to know what kind of exercises the monks practice to achieve a perfect physical shape? Well, we will tell you. Here is an example of the usual training of these skilled warriors. Don’t you just get tired by looking at them, we do. For this exercise, you must use all the muscle groups. So, an untrained person probably wouldn’t last a few seconds. Compared to this, planking is nothing. And there are versions of this exercise in which you have to stand on your hands or jump. Normally, the first training session in the Shaolin monastery begins before breakfast. In the morning hours, the monks stretch and warm up their muscles and also train the so-called childish skills, i.e. flexibility and balance, which an adult often loses over the years, but don’t think it’s easy. The monks also run and do push-ups and jumps right after the warm-up. Training then lasts about an hour after which the monks eat breakfast, study theology, tend to the grounds and get some rest. And in the afternoon, it’s time for the second training. This time for endurance and fighting skills, which we’ll talk about later.

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IRON HAND

The following exercise is known as iron hand, for a very good reason. The idea is to make certain body parts as strong as if they were made of steel. This is necessary not only to perform in front of the thousands of tourists who come to see the shows of the modern Shaolin monks, the challenge is to tolerate even very strong blows to the torso, limbs and head without consequences. And to use parts of your body which are as strong as cold weapons against your enemy. It is difficult to explain exactly how the monks give power to their hands or belly, but to do so it’s necessary to channel the internal key energy to the right part of the body, as well as to control your breath. For example, at the right moment, you have to hold your breath or strike as you exhale. However, the methods for performing these tricks are secret and they remain unknown even in China. The Shaolin monks don’t like to reveal their knowledge. At first sight, the exercises to develop the iron hand may seem like a waste of time, but it’s much more difficult to do these exercises correctly than it seems. Hitting the water, for example, sharpens the precision and strength of the warrior. If you have ever belly jumped into a pool, you must know how unpleasant it can be. In this case, the same thing happens. Only the monks don’t feel pain anymore. Often, teachers force students to perform this task on especially cold days. So, that along with the strength of the impact they also have to develop tolerance to low temperatures. In this case, the monks stand in front of pots of sand or beans, and take turns sticking their palms in there. You think there’s nothing special about this, then you’re wrong. After only a couple of seconds, this fun activity begins to become a real torture for your fingers, which have a lot of nerve endings. And the monks have to undergo this exercise for several hours, almost every day. They end up having powerful fingers like wolverine’s claws and a complete indifference to pain.

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CHINESE WEIGHTLIFTING

Another exercise. Here the fighters grab a wooden bar with a heavy pot attached to it and turn it, while keeping the pot balanced. This may also seem like an easy task, but you can’t imagine the tension they experience in their shoulders. The most important thing is that monks repeat these exercises many times during their lives. After all, this is the main idea of kung fu, to repeat something until it becomes a part of your nature. And most of the time, they perform the same exercise millions of times, regardless of the results. It takes a lot of patience to do the same thing for so many years and also to overcome severe pain, don’t you think?

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RUNNING ON WATER

You probably think that only Jesus can walk on water without sinking, but the Shaolin monks are up to the task, too. Just look at Shi Liliang. A few years ago, he walked 125 meters on water. However, with some help. There was a fragile bridge of thin planks under his feet. If you think that that makes the task easier though, then you’re very much mistaken. The thing is that plywood boards float on the water and are not secured in any way. Of course, they offer grip while you run, but to run on a structure like this for at least a couple of meters without falling, you need to have incredible speed, perfect balance and a lot of strength. By the way, this Shaolin student holds the world record for running on water. He set his first record in 2009, running 18 meters. To achieve this, he trained for 10 years. Just imagine how long that took. As time went by, his performance improved and now he plans to cover a distance of 150 meters. Skeptics, meanwhile, challenge him to make at least a couple of steps without the boards. In any case, we really think that Shi Liliang’s example is inspiring, and his story is incredible. Not only did he endure all the trials of the Shaolin school, but he also arrived here much later than other kids. He only began training in 2000, when he was already a man and was working as a driver. When Shi was a child, he loved kung fu films and dreamed of being like his heroes. So, one day, while passing near a Shaolin school. He decided to leave everything and pursue martial arts. Could he become a superhero?

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BALANCING A BOWL ON THE HEAD

Any athlete will tell you that static exercises are much more difficult than high intensity exercises that require energy or speed. Try for example, doing sit-ups slowly, and you’ll notice how your body starts to shake or for example try planking for at least 10 seconds. And immediately, your arms and your back will start to hurt. Not in vain, static training is the core of kung fu. Shaolin monks practice these poses every day for hours to develop their muscle strength, concentration and endurance. This is for example one of these standard poses. The student stands with his arms open, legs shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, making the task very difficult. To control the posture and execute this task correctly, each student has a bowl of liquid on his head and hands. They can’t spill the liquid under any circumstances. In a more difficult version of this exercise, the mugs stand on special pillars and hold oil lamps in their hands. Wanna tell us about how hard your leg day was?

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IRON FINGERS

Shaolin monks must be able to lift loads heavier than their bodies and the fingers are one of the fundamental elements for this kind of exercise. Their strength and endurance are in fact much more important than the strength and the size of the biceps. One proof of that is that, under the robe, monks are lean. And their muscles are not supernaturally sized. To train their deathly grip, Shaolin students undergo another torture, putting their hand between two rollers. Only the most experienced monks are able to do this. After all, you mustn’t only overcome the pain, but also channel the vital force of key into your hands, so that you don’t lose your fingers.

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FINGER HANDSTAND

As a result of the previous exercises we’ve mentioned, the extremities of these Shaolin masters acquire supernatural powers, so much so, that they can do handstands while only using their index fingers. Do you remember Shi Liliang, the monk who can run on water? He also set another impressive record. He did a handstand for 10 seconds, not with two but with one index finger. Of course, some people are very skeptical of the monk, supposedly he doesn’t fall to the ground thanks to the wooden board. In fact, it does help him keep his balance a bit. However, the fact that no one has been able to publicly repeat Li Liliang’s record, proves how cool he is.

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NECK OF STEEL

Having iron hands is great and very useful in a fight. However, many Shaolin monks know how to give unbelievable strength, not only to their limbs but also to less obvious parts of the body. Hang a few seconds from a rope tied around your neck and come out alive? Easy. Although, it is actually the result of a very complicated workout. To achieve these skills, the monks have to torture themselves for decades, with exercises. For example, hitting their necks against a wooden stick, developing a complete indifference to pain and acquiring the ability to turn their muscles into stones under any pressure. Although it looks very frightening.

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UNBREAKABLE SKULL

Perhaps the most famous skill of Shaolin monks and kung fu fighters is the ability to break different solid objects, such as swords and bricks, with their heads. It is rumored that the students of the monastery begin training for these tricks at a very early age. At first, they carefully hit a wall, putting a layer of silk between the head and the brick, as the years pass the student’s skin, bones and muscles become stronger. So, they begin to hit harder and may stop even using the silk layer. In the end, the steel head is the monk’s most dangerous weapon. After all, it’s like being hit with a huge stone. In combination with the iron hand, the Shaolin monk becomes a real fighting machine. Some say that to strengthen the skull, Shaolin warriors even sleep on their heads. We don’t know if this is true or not but judging by the incredible shows they put on for the audience, it may well be true.

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BED OF KNIVES

Speaking of sleeping, in the Shaolin monasteries there’s a trick that consists of lying on a bed of knives and nails. This exercise is often practiced in the monastery and is one of the favorites of the public, because you can only believe it when you see it with your own eyes. The trick goes like this. They place a few huge knives on the ground, with the blades facing upwards. The monk lies down on them and then a plate with hundreds of sharp nails on both sides is placed on his stomach. Next, another kung fu master lies down on that plate and takes a concrete slab with his hands. A third fighter then breaks the plate with a hammer and voila! All the monks are safe and don’t even have a scratch on their skin. How is this possible? We have no idea. And we believe that no doctor could explain this either.

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FIREWALKING

However, it is possible to explain how people lie on nails or walk on them. After all, not only Shaolin monks are able to do this. It is very simple. The smaller the area of contact, the greater the pressure. We know that sounds complicated, but just so that you understand the pressure exerted by a woman wearing shoes with pointed heels is much greater than what an elephant with one foot can exert on the ground. By the same logic, if there was a single nail, the attempt to stand on it would not end well but if there are hundreds of them, the pressure will be evenly distributed on the foot or back, saving you a lot of pain. All you need is practice under the supervision of a professional, of course. Another spectacular trick that the audience loves is running over hot coals. How do people manage not to burn themselves in the process? The answer is simple as well. Usually, the feet or hands are wet beforehand. The liquid evaporates instantly and forms a protective vapor layer on the skin. You can observe the same phenomenon if you drop some water on a hot pan. The water doesn’t spread in the same way as on a table, does it? On the contrary, you’ll see a sphere rolling on the surface. It’s due to that protective layer of steam. However, you do have to run over the coals pretty quickly to reduce the risk of getting burned.

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