Insane Real Training Methods of the Shaolin Monks You Won’t Believe

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The Shaolin Monastery is a Zen Buddhist temple located in Dengfeng County, Henan Province, China. Founded around the 5th century, it is the primary Shaolin school of Buddhism. The students and monks here have been world renowned for centuries because of the vigorous meditation and training they go through. All the monks learn Shaolin Gong Fu (Kung-fu), which is said to be the best martial art in the world. The practices and exercises students must endure to become a master the art are truly astonishing and straight up super human. Below are just some insane real training methods Shaolin Monks do you won’t believe. 


Bao Shu Gong 

Ringing Round A Tree

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Bao Shu Gong is the practice the Shaolin monks do to be able to completely uproot a fully grown tree. The training is simple enough. A monk basically gives a tree a big bear hug and pulls up as hard as he can. It is said that after one year of doing this daily, progress will start to show. The first step is to shake a couple leaves off the tree. The types of trees used in this training are not very big, like a peach tree but it still takes years of constant training and force for the tree roots to loosen. Once this skill is mastered the Shaolin monk can do serious damage to an opponent just by clasping them and squeezing. 


Jie Di Gong

Method That Reveals The Truth

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In this exercise the Shaolin monks first learn and practice 18 difficult jumps, somersaults, tumbles, and learn how to fall with perfection. The most basic of these moves is simply falling forwards on one’s face without flinching. Once that is mastered, then they practice falling on their backs. From there they become much more difficult. So difficult in fact that it’s said that internal organ damage is unavoidable. They train to be able to perform mid-air somersaults that bend and contort their bodies in unnatural ways in all directions; forward somersaults, backward somersaults, leftwards and rightwards. These moves give them incredible mobility while in a fight. Once the monks have mastered the 18 somersaults they go on to practice and master 64 more. 


Tie Tou Gong

Iron Head


Shaolin monks practice Tie Tou Gong to make their heads a great tool in a fight. However, it is forbidden to strike first with a headbutt, it must be only used in self defense. In this practice the monks knock their heads against objects to harden their skulls like iron. They train the forehead, the top of the skull and the back of the skull. They are very careful with this exercise to avoid permanent brain injuries. At first the monks wrap their heads with silk and just repeatedly tap their skulls against a brick wall. The force causes micro fractures in the skull that heal and when done over and over again the skull hardens. In the first year 3 layers of the silk are removed every 100 days. The progress is very slow and with good reason. Once they mastered banging the wall with a bare head, they go on to more extreme exercises like two monks knocking their heads together or dropping ice blocks on top their skulls. Once a monk has mastered Tie Tou Gong their headbutts can be fatal.  


Men Dan Gong

Skill Of A Golden Cicada

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We all know the most vulnerable part of a man is his groin. Just a little bit of force to that area can render him useless. So, the Shaolin train their groins to be able to withstand great force. Men Dan Gong, also known as the skill of a Golden Cicada is commonly referred as “iron crotch”. Training this exercise starts with intense meditation to clear the mind of lustful thoughts and to accept the pain that will come. Then the student flicks their own testicles to reduce sensitivity and harden the scrotum. Eventually they upgrade to more and more force until they can withstand full on punches and kicks to the groin. To achieve this some monks have pulled weights across fields tied to just their scrotums. 


Tie Niu Gong

The Iron Bull Technique

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This exercise is to train the stomach area to become extremely resilient. At first, the monk scrapes their own stomach with their fingers, palms and eventually blades. After significant skin hardening, they proceed to receiving blows from fellow monks. Once the blows don’t hurt, they graduate to hammers. They start with wooden hammers and work their way up to iron ones. The most advanced monks in this exercise do something referred as “knocking the bell” which is basically getting hit with a full on battering ram to the stomach. The point of all of this, is to be able to receive full on punches, kicks, slashes and even stabbings without damage. 


Jin Shen Shu

Skill of Light Body

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Jin Shen Shu, known as the Skill of Light Body is extremely hard to master. The training starts with a student balancing and walking on the rim of a giant clay bowl full of water for hours a day. The student must also carry weight as he does this. Every month a bowl of water is removed and weight is added to the monk. He will practice on the clay bowl until it is completely empty. Then he will move on to a giant wicker basket with iron chips in it. Just like the water in the clay bowl the iron chips are slowly removed. Shaolin testaments state that men of 100 “jins,” (110 lb) can rest on tree branches like butterflies or bees. In 2014, a monk managed to run atop a lake on sinking plywood planks for over 385 feet. 


Monk Pillar Skill 

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The Monk Pillar Skill is to improve the monk’s balance as well as his legs and core strength. What happens is the monk stands on two pillars with one foot on each. Then he sits in a squat position and stays like that for hours. Sometimes they even put a sharp bamboo stick under them. As they progress, the monks hold bowls of water in each hand and on top of their heads. Eventually, the bowls are replaced with oil lamps. It takes great physical endurance to master this skill, as well as great mental endurance since they are still for so long. 


Zu She Gong 

Striking With Foot

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The young Shaolin students are expected on their morning and evening walks to kick small stones with their bare feet. When the foot hardens and small stones are easy, they kick bigger stones. The advance training in this exercise is kicking boulders from a distance. This training allows a Shaolin monk to kick his opponent completely off-balance. 


Bo Ding Gong

Pulling Out Nails

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Like most Shaolin practices, Bo Ding Gong is a very simple concept but extremely hard to master. It is to simply pull out a nail from a wooden block using only your fingers. The rule is at first the student only can use three fingers, rotating them so that each finger is trained in this exercise. The fingers of the student must possess the strength to depress the wood itself to successfully remove the nail. Once the student has mastered this, the nail is driven into wood, dampened, then allowed to rust before the monk can pull it out. After this the student trains only using two fingers. When a Shaolin monk has mastered this he can move on to more advanced finger training like the “diamond finger.” 


Ya Zhi Jin Gang Fa 

Diamond Finger

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Ya Zhi Jin Gang Fa or the Diamond Finger is truly an amazing feat that takes near super human power to pull off. The Diamond Finger is when a Shaolin can balance his entire body on just one finger. This should be impossible and is for 99.99% of the human population. Many monks have mastered the two finger hand stand but only using one is a whole other story. Legendary Shaolin Monk Hal-Tank demonstrated the Diamond Finger in Chicago for an audience when he was a young man. What’s even crazier is he was recorded doing it again when he was 90 years old!

Peter O'Melia