While the Shaolin Temple in Henan province is one of the most famous names within the Kung Fu world, it seems there is an incredibly amount of misunderstanding about what Shaolin Kung Fu is. On this page I hope to clear up some of those misconceptions and introduce what Shaolin Kung Fu is and how it is practiced. The main difference between Shaolin Kung Fu and other styles is that it is not one particular system, and is not particularly standardised. Shaolin encompasses a huge curriculum which includes many different sub-styles that practitioners can choose to focus on. This is because, contrary to the popular Bodhidharma myth that is perpetuated, no Kung Fu actually originated in the temple, rather it was absorbed from the surrounding areas over a period of hundreds of years. Shaolin was something of a hub, where local martial artists would come and exchange, monks would learn styles from outside and in turn would teach them to other outsiders. This constant coming and going of people and skills led Shaolin Kung Fu to evolve into what it is today. While nowadays the temple’s image is focused mainly on modern Wushu, there are monks who keep the traditional arts alive, although the vast majority of old styles are to be found in Dengfeng town and the surrounding mountain villages. Check out Master Hu Zheng Sheng’s introduction to Shaolin Kung Fu below. I also highly recommend the book The Shaolin Monastery by Meir Shahar.
On the pages above I will introduce some of the more common Shaolin forms.