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The Extraordinary Shaolin Monks: Martial Arts Masters

Shaolin Monks. Their name alone evokes an air of mysticism, martial arts prowess, and feats that defy explanation. They live in monasteries, far from “everyday” people, where they continually practice both mental and physical exercises to take their skills well beyond the mastery stage.

They perform extraordinary feats. Based on their achievements, the Shaolin Monks seem almost superhuman, from gravity-defying acrobatics to withstanding blades being pressed upon their skin to stone-breaking martial arts power. 

But are all their exploits true and genuine, or are they just well-conceived deceptions performed to illustrate that the Monks themselves transcend the norm of everyday people and rise above to serve their own higher power? 

We’ll explore the monks‘ upbringing and journey from young beginner to master and attempt to answer the question of whether their seemingly unbelievable feats are true or just a glorified dose of smoke and mirrors. 

(Photo by iStock)

Who the Monks Are

The Shaolin Monks’ origins date back over fifteen hundred years ago. An Indian monk, Bodhidharma, as the legend goes, found the existing group of monks at the Shaolin temple in China and noticed their then current state of poor health and overall weakness. He then taught them forms of both martial arts and dance, as well as the religion Buddhism. Bodhidharma had the monks train their bodies to an incredible extreme. He reasoned that if their bodies were ultra-strong, their health would be the best it could be, and thus, they would live longer and be able to meditate for longer periods of time. 

Unbelievable Feats

To anyone lucky enough to watch true Shaolin monks perform their martial arts and acrobatic feats live, it would appear that they possess superhuman characteristics. They can do acrobatics that make Olympic gymnasts jealous and withstand physical punishment better than some of the toughest fighters. They have a mental toughness greater than some of the most disciplined minds on earth. This allows them to keep poses and balance for long periods, all the while maintaining a meditative state. 

To those not in the know of the monks’ behind-the-scenes regimens, their awe-inspiring shows truly appear supernatural in origin. But in reality, practice makes perfect, and practice is what they do to the hundredth degree. 

If any skeptic were to follow their course of study (yes, I know that they would have to start when they were very young), they, too, may be able to achieve success.
(Photo by iStock)

Extreme Training Regimens

While just the fact that a monk’s daily training routine is mapped out 24/7 without deviation alone may explain their extreme prowess, both mental and physical, it goes much further. Some of their exercises are honestly bordering on the impossible, but all are true. One such exercise is finger punching. Monks will begin to start poking trees and wooden planks to harden and strengthen their fingers. Over time, their fingers are conditioned to hold their weight even when doing a one-finger handstand. 

Trees can be seen on the monastery grounds with numerous indentations from repetitive finger strikes. Another involves the monk basically hugging a tree in an attempt to try and pull it out of the ground. Over the years (yes, years) of repeating this action, the trees begin to shake, and some leaves actually fall from the monk’s force, eventually uprooting the tree.

 Monks also harden their bodies to an incredible level to withstand striking stone walls with their unprotected heads. They easily brush off opponents’ iron or steel bar strikes to their heads. 

Additionally, their skin is highly conditioned over time by scraping with their fingers, then eventually with blades. The skin hardens and becomes resistant to pain. Eventually, solid iron hammers are struck to the midsection of a monk’s body, and no pain or injury occurs. The monks also condition their entire bodies by constantly falling into a sand pit and landing upon various body parts. First, with protective cushioning and eventually free of bodily protection.

Martial Arts Masters

For those who are not aware of a Shaolin Monk’s extreme training regimen, their first reaction would be disbelief. In truth, most people would never have the discipline, mindset, or dedication close to what the monks achieve. 

Their amazing acrobatics, body conditioning, and martial arts mastery are all scientifically possible. Their bodies perform intense, repetitive actions over decades that make their skin and bones act like steel. They channel intense inner strength and speed and exhibit balance and stealth on par with the world’s big cats. If any skeptic were to follow their course of study, they, too, may be able to achieve success. It can be done, but only by a minuscule number of people. 

Discipline Is The Name of the Game

If only one word could be used to describe a Shaolin Monk, it would be disciplined. Without extreme discipline in the mental and physical aspects of the lifelong lifestyle, a monk could never reach the level of skill that continues to amaze the “average Joe” regularly. So, the next time you view such feats, think that it took that individual decades to perfect (and ongoing practice to get even better), and in no way was it done with trickery, special effects, or even a bit of smoke and mirrors.

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