The legendary stories about the Shaolin Temple monks using their bodies as weapons before the invention of bombs or guns are historically accurate. The monks trained hard because if they didn’t train hard enough then they would lose something far worse than a fight, they would lose their life. The impermanent nature, inherent in all things, that the Buddha taught, may seem far away to us today, but for the Shaolin monks it was a very real thing. They would go into battle one day and may not come back the next. This focused and sharpened their minds so that they gained the best skills for battle. It gave them the desire to become invincible, and it was from these difficult times that the 72 styles were born.
Now that we have sophisticated weapons, these skills can no longer be used in warfare but they can be put to great use in the ring. There is much discussion about whether a Shaolin trained fighter could beat an MMA fighter or a Muay Thai fighter. If the Shaolin student trains only in forms and gymnastics then they cannot. But if they train in the 72 styles, they have the potential to become the best fighter in the world. Not only will they possess superior fighting skills but also their mind will be stronger than their opponent, and they will have a secret weapon, which will make them unbeatable. The Shaolin fighter goes into the ring knowing they posses a part of their body – that through their hard training – they have transformed into iron or steel. They then use steel to fight flesh. This is how powerful the Shaolin 72 style’s training is.
Modern research shows the Shaolin Qigong that we use for body conditioning lessens the impact of shock, blows, and pain. There is no other training I know of that can do this. This is a valuable jewel that has been passed down to us by our great Chinese masters. It would be arrogant and foolish of us not to use it. We don’t need to look anywhere else or invent something new, the jewel is right here; we just need to start the 72 style’s training so that we can discover the jewel for ourselves.
The 72 styles is for students who want to take their martial arts to the highest level. Once you start there is no turning back. There are no excuses not to train. It’s only when you are given no choice that your martial arts and self-discipline can grow.
Some fighters ask: Why would I spend my time learning something traditional? How can it help me in the ring? But my brother and I ask the question: Why do fighters not train in the 72 styles? If you are already training as a fighter then you already run, kick, punch and spar so all you have to do is add in some Shaolin training. As you develop your secret weapon, you will condition your body, lessen the impact of injury and increase your pain threshold. Even those factors along can help you greatly in the ring.
If you are not a dedicated martial artist or you don’t want to fight, you can still do the 72 styles training, in the same way that some people run a marathon. It is a challenge to see how far you can push your body and your mind. This may be the biggest challenge and hardest workout of your life but once you have mastered a skill, you will be able to take with you for the rest of your life. And as we train, we must never forget the Ch’an philosophy that lies behind our Shaolin Temple training. Although we are turning our body into a weapon, we are training not to conqueror another but to conqueror ourselves. Conquering ourselves is the only way to understand and find peace within ourselves.