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15 Things You Didn’t Know About Shaolin Monks That Will Blow Your Mind! This is why Shaolin monks are so strong and hard to beat.
#15: THE SHAOLIN MONASTERY WAS ESTABLISHED BY AN INDIAN!
Indeed, the Shaolin Monastery is a Chinese development standing for over a thousand years. Still, Shaolin was established by a Buddhist monk from India. Buddhabhadra or Batuo came to China in 464 CE to spread Buddhist teachings. He taught for decades before he was made the first abbot of Shaolin Monastery on Mount Song, and spread the Hinayana Buddhism teachings in the empire of Northern Wei.
#14: IT’S NOT THE ONLY ARTS-WIELDING MONATERY
While it might have the most famous iconic warrior monks, Shaolin isn’t the only Chinese Monastery where monks are physically disciplined. Centuries before Batuo came to China, there were many other temples and monasteries in China whose monks practiced with weapons and martial arts. There were even Indian warrior monks like the Naga Sadhus and Japanese and Korean monks, who practice Buddhist temple martial arts. Tibet even has its own warrior monks commanded by the Dalai Lama.
#13: SHAOLIN DIDN’T CREATE KUNG FU
Shaolin Kung Fu is the most famously known kung fu but it’s not the original. Kung fu’s roots may date back as far as 800-500 BC.
#12: THE MONASTERY WAS ALMOST BURNT DOWN IN 1928
Warlord Shi Yousan burned the monastery in 1928 letting it burn for 40 days and destroying many ancient texts in the process. One of these papers was Xuan which was essential to Taijiquan or Tai Chi. He was also publicly arrested and executed by the monks.
#11: SOME MONKS CAN DRY WET SHEETS BY THEIR MINDS!
No, it’s not a legend. A Harvard study verified that Tibetan monks can truly boost their body temperatures with their minds. Known as g-tummo meditators, these individuals can dry wet sheets wrapped on their cold naked bodies. And only a few monks possess this rare skill. Just a handful of monasteries in the Chinese provinces of Shanghai and Sichuan follow this type of meditation. The studies have determined that finger and toe temperatures increased due to vasodilation, which involves widening the blood vessels to reduce blood pressure. The monks also employ what is known as forceful breath and gentle breath meditation to warm their bodies. The monk increases body heat, while the latter maintains it. Follow-up studies support Benson’s conclusions.
#10: SOME CAN EVEN THROW NEEDLES THROUGH THE GLASS!
Do you know the video of a monk throwing a needle through a sheet of glass and darting a balloon on the other side? Most of the glass stays intact but for a tiny hole. It doesn’t seem possible yet, the balloon certainly bursts. The key to this exercise is hitting the glass directly with the needle’s point at a fast speed and as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. While it’s not easy to achieve, with a lot of practice, it can be done. The type and thickness of the glass are also necessary. Some glass varieties are created so they’re difficult to break. However, 1/8-inch plate glass is not too difficult for the monks to force a hole into. The tiny needle’s force punctures just one section of the glass and not the whole piece.
#9: MONK SKIN CAN RESIST EXTREMELY SHARP OBJECTS, EVEN AN ELECTRIC DRILL!
The monks use Qigong and a unique breathing method with the lower abdomen to transform their bodies into armor. This allows them to resist powerful blows, including those from dangerous and sometimes, sharp objects. By cultivating their inner calmness, they can ward off mental, physical and emotional stress. Also, they use Qigong to ward off illness. Meditation helps with pain. Breathing and relaxation are used to combat discomfort. To take one’s thoughts away from the source of pain, people must focus their mind on other parts of the body. Shaolin monks seem to achieve the impossible but actually they have merely developed their minds and bodies in ways that let them perform extraordinary feats of mental and physical power by tapping into their internal energy and through physical conditioning.
#8: MONKS HAVE IRON HEADS!
There is a reason headbutting is restricted in sports such as mixed martial arts and it’s the risk of traumatic brain injuries. The legendary Shaolin iron head, however, not only suggests these sorts of blows but prescribes them as a regular training practice. Students extend the frontal bones, temporal bones and top of the skull close to a superhuman rigidity, rivaling stone. The objective is relatively basic; knock objects into your head and your head into objects slowly and gradually over the years, to strengthen the skull’s bones. With dozens of micro fractures, combined with healing and repetition, the bones reshape to the pressure and become incredibly resilient. However, this can take lots of years of everyday practice to achieve, each time with the risk of permanent injury.
#7: THE JIEBA PRACTICE
You probably saw in kung fu movies that the Shaolin monks often have 9 dark dots on their foreheads. These are jieba. When they finish their extensive training program, monks receive these from their masters as the diploma. Each dot represents one of the major rules of conduct followed by the Shaolin monks. The ceremony was banned until 2007. It is a lengthy ceremony and involves a few months of meditation and preparations. In the end, 9 incense sticks are placed on the monk’s forehead where they burn until the very end, leaving special marks on the skin. The process has a harrowing ending and something that kind of reminds us of frat house initiations, but with more morals.
#6: STAR WARS REFERENCE?
Let’s take a short pause from dangerous practices. Although their dress sense may drastically differ, it was in fact the Shaolin monks who inspired George Lucas during the creation of the Jedi Knights. The idea of the force within each living thing also originated from the concept of chi.
#5: DIAMOND FINGER
We are talking about one particular legendary monk. As a young man, Hal-tank visited Chicago where he demonstrated his extraordinary talent; a handstand, his entire body weight atop one index finger. The small muscles in the index finger should topple and the bones should snap under strain. This is quite an impressive feat for a young man. Still, what actually makes this incredible the monk repeated his trick over 50 years later. Nearly 90 years of age, the famous monk Hal-tank replicated his excellent one finger handstand; diamond finger. His poise is breathtakingly calm during the act, deep in meditation he balances firmly atop his fingertip. Until his death, he was the only man able to perform this technique.
#4: RINGING AROUND THE TREE
A Shaolin student will require an unusual training partner for his training, a fully grown tree. The exercise sounds simple enough; wrap one’s arms around the tree and pull until your energy is completely expanded. After the first year of everyday practice, progress will begin to show. The first step to mastery is the power to shake loose a few leaves of the tree. Another year of the challenger shaking leaves from the tree must pass with the same intensity, without stopping. The monk must continue throughout their life with this practice, only becoming a master once they have completely uprooted the tree. Even the tiny trees used for this training require immense constant force over the years to loosen the roots. If a chief of this practice ever clasps his antagonist as he does the tree, fatal injury can occur quickly.
#3 : THE TRAINING OF FALLING DOWN
At its core, this technique is a set of heart evasive and tactical tumbles. Falling face down on a stone floor without wincing, somersaults that twist and warp the spine, and even maneuvers that bounce the monk off the ground, are steps on the road to mastery. When one has survived and mastered these 18 somersaults, one may progress to an additional 64 more complicated and risky tumbling techniques. Great masters who have improved this technique can do countless somersaults in an uncountable number of ways. Not only is this said to stimulate chi, but skin, bones and muscles grow more substantial as well.
#2: SKILL OF A GOLDEN CICADA
The skill of a golden cicada is popularly known as the iron crotch, and it is not amusing at all. Initial training being with intense meditation to clear the mind of all disdain and anxiety for the literal torture to follow. A bizarre benchmark of this mental training is the ability to spontaneously summon an erection during meditation, but only by concentrating chi to the naval base, not by having inappropriate thoughts, hopefully. From here, the desensitivity training begins. One must snap one’s own testicles thousands of times. When the process is no longer painful, the training upgrades to more extreme methods involving rolling pins, punches, kicks and even shots from weapons directly into the crotch. Some monks even attach ropes around their testicles pulling great stone weights over fields to master this skill. With precise healing and massage therapy to the tissue, damage to reproductive health can be degraded, but inevitably not prevented.
#1: YOU MAY NOT EVEN GET ACCEPTED IN THE MONASTERY!
And finally, number one of our list. What can be worse than grueling exercises? Doing them and not becoming the monk, of course. In the beginning, the new monks do not have any mentors at all. The masters at the temples observe the new candidates and decide whether they are worth training or not. Those who are not chosen by any master have to go home. However, today some students might still get accepted but they won’t be entitled Shaolin monk. The only constant in this world is changing, and the Shaolin monks represent that more than anyone. They’re still playing the same centuries-old game, despite an evolving playing field with an ever-shifting set of goal posts. Today, there are no bandit warlords to fight with, but there are live stream followers to gain and a new generation of young kung fu fans to swoon. All of whom are sensitive to the fantasy-laden mystique of the Shaolin temple and it’s mutual gain because Shaolin might be just the chunk of enlightenment they need.
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