One of the foundations of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu is the Yi Jin Ching, or Muscle Tendon Changing Classic. According to the history of the Shaolin Temple these exercises where created by the great spiritual leader Tamo or Bodhidharma, the Indian Buddhist Patriarch, who founded Chan Buddhism. Tamo traveled from India to China to spread Buddhism. When he arrived at the early Shaolin Temple the monks were working hard to translate Sanskrit texts in Chinese. When Tamo began to teach the meditation techniques now known as Chan or Zen the monks were too weak and fell asleep! So he taught them this series of exercises to strengthen their bodies and minds for the rigors of meditation.
This series of 24 exercises uses breathing, stretching, and strengthening movements to heal and prepare the body for Northern Shaolin Kung Fu and Zen meditation. All of the exercises involve moving the body. The “stationary exercises” remain mostly in one location. The “walking exercises” progress across the training area in a linear fashion using steps to change location. These exercises are excellent for improving ones health and can be practiced by people of all ages and abilities.
These exercises help build breathing patterns that are a perfect compliment to the movements in the Northern Shaolin Forms. They also strengthen the tendons, help make the joints supple, circulate the vital energy throughout the body, strengthen the limbs and torso, train spiraling and twisting movements that increase the power of ones Kung Fu techniques, and improve balance.
Each class we will study one or two exercises in great deal and then practice the entire set. This balances detailed instruction with a good round of exercise and aides memorization. For people who need to begin exercise gently we can modify any movements that are too difficult to suit your needs. Full instruction in proper posture, body alignment, and Qi Gong theory makes class safe and interesting. There are many exercises that specifically benefit one organ or meridian. Because these exercises are deeply connected with traditional Chinese Medicine they are very therapeutic and nourishing.