72 Styles

The 72 Arts of Shaolin are legendary secret methods of preparing the body and the mind to develop special skills. These methods were developed by Shaolin warrior monks through their hundreds of years’ experience doing hard training in martial arts. It is commonly said that there are 72 arts of Shaolin Kungfu. These 72 arts are sometimes divided into two groups, namely 36 external arts and 36 internal arts, or 36 “hard” arts and 36 “soft” arts.

 

According to Shifu Heng Jin’s master Shi YanZi , if the Shaolin student trains only in forms and acrobatics then they cannot put their techniques to use in a ring or a in real life self-defence situation. 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 possess a part of their body - that through their hard training - they have transformed into iron or steel.In all practices of the Seventy-two Arts at first the basic theory is studied and only then exercises are done. At first those who practice the arts train the softness of their sinews and bones and try to make agile all their joints and articulations. Then they set into motion the main breath, strengthen the internal organs, improve blood state, consolidate body strength, control the  cinnabar field and concentrate energy in it, overcome their desires and requirements. The strength spreads on the four extremities and the hundred joints and articulations and makes a practitioner in command of unlimited power and he can move off one thousand jins.

Shifu Heng Jin training 72 Styles Sanshou under Master Shi YanZi in Shaolin Temple Uk (Courtesy: GongfuLondon)

The following is a traditional list of 72 special skills practised in Shaolin Kung Fu. Although they are commonly called “72 Shaolin arts”, they are many different versions of these 72 skills, hence there are actually more than 72 in total.

 

  1. The Diamond Finger method (一指金剛法 Yī zhǐ jīngāng fǎ; literally: One Finger Vajra Skill)

  2. The Twin Locks (雙鎖功, Shuāng suǒ gōng)

  3. The Striking with Foot Skill (足射功, Zú shè gōng,

  4. The Nail-Pulling Skill(拔釘功, Bá dīng gōng)

  5. The Tree-Uprooting Skill (抱樹功, Bào shù gōng; literally: Tree-Hugging Skill

  6. The Four Part Exercise (四段功, Sì duàn gong)

  7. The One Finger Chan Meditation skill (一指禪功, Yī zhǐ chán gōng)

  8. The Iron Head Skill (鐵頭功, Tiě tóu gōng)

  9. The Iron shirt (鐵衫, Tiě shān)

  10. A Series of Blows (排打功, Pái dǎ gōng)

  11. The Iron Broom Sweeping Skill (鐵掃帚功, Tiě sàozhǒu gōng)

  12. Bamboo Leaf Hand (竹葉手, Zhú yè shǒu) a.k.a. The Bronze Gravel Palm (銅砂掌, Tóng shā zhǎng).

  13. Jumping centipede (蜈蚣跳, Wúgōng tiào) a.k.a The Snake Form Movement (蛇行術, Shéxíng shù)

  14. Lifting a Thousand Jin (提千斤, Tí qiānjīn)

  15. The Celestial’s Palm (仙人掌, Xiānrénzhǎng)

  16. The Hard and Soft Method (剛柔法, Gāng róu fǎ)

  17. The Cinnabar Palm (硃砂掌, Zhūshā zhǎng)

  18. The Crouching Tiger Skill (臥虎功, Wò hǔ gōng)

  19. The Swimming and Diving Skill (泅水術, Qiú shuǐ shù)

  20. The Sluice Shutter Weighing 1000 Jin (千斤閘, Qiānjīn zhá)

  21. Gold Bell Shield (金鐘罩, Jīn zhōng zhào)

  22. Finger Locking Skill (鎖指功, Suǒ zhǐ gōng)

  23. Luohan’s Skill (羅漢功, Luóhàn gōng)

  24. The Lizard Scaling the Wall (壁虎游牆術, Bìhǔ yóu qiáng shù)

  25. Whip Power Skill (鞭劲功, Biān jìn gōng)

  26. Pipa Skill (琵琶功, Pípá gōng)

  27. Falling Star Pole (流星樁, Liúxīng zhuāng)

  28. Plum Blossom Pole (梅花樁, Méihuā zhuāng)

  29. Stone Padlock Skill (石鎖功, Shísuǒ gōng)

  30. Iron Arm Skill (鐵臂功, Tiě bì gōng)

  31. Projectile Skill (彈子功, Dànzǐ gōng)

  32. Soft Bones Skill (柔骨功, Róu gǔ gōng)

  33. Toad Skill (蛤蟆功, Háma gōng)

  34. Curtain-Piercing Skill (穿帘功, Chuān lián gōng)

  35. Eagle Claw Skill (鷹爪功, Yīng zhǎo gōng)

  36. Iron Bull Skill (鐵牛功, Tiě niú gōng)

  37. Eagle Wings Skill (鷹翼功, Yīng yì gōng)

  38. Sun Rays Hand (陽光手, Yángguāng shǒu)

  39. Groin-Protection Skill (門襠功, Mén dāng gōng)

  40. Iron Bag Skill (鐵帶功, Tiě dài gōng)

  41. Truth-Revealing Skill (揭諦功, Jiē dì gōng)

  42. Tortoise Back Skill (龜背功, Guī bèi gōng)

  43. Deft Jumps Skill (蹿縱術, Cuān zòng shù)

  44. Light Body Skill (輕身術, Qīng shēn shù)

  45. Iron Knee Skill (鐵膝功, Tiě xī gōng)

  46. Jumping Technique (跳躍法, Tiàoyuè fǎ)

  47. Iron Sand Palm (鐵砂掌, Tiěshā zhǎng)

  48. String Pulling (一線穿, Yīxiàn chuān)

  49. Yin-Absorbing Skill (吸陰功, Xī yīngōng)

  50. Rubbing Skill (磨擦術, Mócā shù) a.k.a Golden Gravel Palm (金砂掌, Jīnshā zhǎng)

  51. Stone Pillar Skill (石柱功, Shízhù gōng)

  52. Impenetrable by Spears and Broadswords Skill (槍刀不入法, Qiāng dāo bù rù fǎ)

  53. Flight Skill (飛行功, Fēixíng gōng)

  54. Five Poisons Hand (五毒手, Wǔ dúshǒu) a.k.a. Five Poisons, Gravel-Chasing Palm (五毒追砂掌, Wǔ dú zhuī shā zhǎng).

  55. Water Separation Skill (分水功, Fēn shuǐ gōng)

  56. Flying Up a Roof and Walking on the Wall Skill (飛檐走壁法, Fēiyánzǒubì fǎ)

  57. Somersaulting Skill (翻騰術, Fānténg shù)

  58. Pole of cypress (柏木桩, bǎimù zhuāng) a.k.a Kick wooden pole (踢木桩, tī mù zhuāng)

  59. The Conqueror’s Elbow (霸王肘, Bàwáng zhǒu)

  60. Flower-Pinching Skill (拈花功, Niān huā gōng)

  61. Mountain-Pushing Palm (推山掌, Tuī shān zhǎng)

  62. Horse Saddle Skill (馬鞍功, Mǎ’ān gōng)

  63. Nephrite Belt Skill (玉帶功, Yùdài gōng)

  64. Yin Fist Skill (陰拳功, Yīn quán gōng)

  65. Sandbag Skill (沙包功, Shābāo gōng)

  66. Stone Piercing Skill (點石功, Diǎn shí gōng)

  67. Mountain Moving Skill (拔山功, Bá shān gōng)

  68. Praying Mantis Claw (螳螂爪, Tángláng zhǎo)

  69. Cloth Bag Skill (布袋功, Bùdài gōng)

  70. Guanyin‘s Palm (觀音掌, Guānyīn zhǎng)

  71. Pot-Lifting Skill (上罐功, Shàng guàn gōng)

  72. Rubbing palms (合盘掌,hé pán zhǎng ) aka golden dragon hands (金龙手,jīnlóng shǒu)

 

Other skills listed in other works on 72 arts

  1. Iron Beads Bag (鐵珠袋, Tiě zhū dài)

  2. Whirlwind Palm (旋風掌, Xuànfēng zhǎng)

  3. Demon Slaying Sword (斬魔劍, Zhǎn mó jiàn)

  4. Empty Fist (玄空拳, Xuán kōngquán)

  5. Golden Shovel Finger (金鏟指, Jīn chǎn zhǐ)

  6. Running on Plank Skill (跑板功, Pǎo bǎn gōng)

  7. Dodging Skill (閃戰法, Shǎn zhàn fǎ)

  8. Golden Broadsword, Palm Exchanging Skill (金刀換掌功, Jīn dāo huàn zhǎng gōng)

  9. Flying on Land Skill (陸地飛行術, Lùdì fēixíng shù)

  10. Thousand Layers of Paper Skill (千層紙功, Qiān céng zhǐ gōng)

  11. Wind-Chasing Palm (追風掌, Zhuīfēng zhǎng)

  12. Soft Skill (軟玄功, Ruǎn xuán gōng)

 

Further reading

  1. "Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin” by Jin Jing Zhong (1934, English)

  2. "72 Consummate Arts Secrets of the Shaolin Temple" by Wu Jiaming (2002, English)

  3. Encyclopedia of Shaolin martial arts"少林寺武術百科全書  - volume 4". By Shi Deqian (1995, Chinese)

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