SHAOLIN MONK TRAINING: How to Develop Inner Peace and Iron Head Butts

WHAT: Shaolin Monk Training

For centuries, Shaolin monk training took place in the shadows in remote temples around China. Shaolin monks were a secretive people, and so was their ancient Shaolin Kung Fu training system. That changed in the 1970s when Bruce Lee`s flying kick burst through western cinema screens. Almost overnight, the Shaolin training system found global fame. Since then, it’s risen to become one of the most respected martial arts traditions in history.

In an era where MMA hogs the martial arts limelight,  one could argue Shaolin Kung Fu training places less emphasis on choking, armbars, or other battle-tested, real-world techniques. And that may be true. However, Shaolin Kung Fu is not just a mere fighting art. It is a single, albeit vital branch on a much larger spiritual tree, the roots of which lie in Buddhism. Its reputation as one of the toughest fighting disciplines stems not from the damage it can assuredly inflict in battle. But because of the emphasis it places on training.


shaolin kung fu monk training headstand
Photo Credit: Tomas Gudzowatzky

Shaolin monk training begins by trading material pleasures and worldly distractions for an ascetic lifestyle of study, physical exercise, pain, and meditation. And, above all, the self-discipline required to razor-sharpen their minds and bodies into perfect fighting machines.

Shaolin training wall run
Photo Credit: Steve McCurry

From ancient, humble beginnings, Shaolin culture continues to stretch human limits to breaking point. So remarkable are their achievements they’ve been dismissed as fabricated stunts. In fact, their supernatural capabilities are down to patience, perseverance, and decades of unwavering dedication.

westerner training in shaolin kung fu
Photo Credit: Martial Hearts

Do you genuinely believe you have the minerals to sign up for Shaolin monk training? If so, then certain monasteries accept non-Chinese nationals into their programs.

Forget the cool stunts you’ve seen on youtube. Instead, picture a marine boot camp during active wartime. Then take that picture and file it in the WIMP folder. Shaolin monk training demands a complete life change. They give up much, abandon pleasures the rest of us take for granted, and devote themselves to physical, mental, and spiritual excellence. Late risers, complainers, and entitled slackers need not apply.

A typical Shaolin monk training day looks something like this:

  • 3:00 am Wake. Rise. Meditate.
  • 3:30 am Breakfast
  • 4:00 am Kung fu
  • 12:00 pm Lunch
  • 12:30 pm Kung fu
  • 5:30 pm Dinner
  • 6:00 pm Buddhist scripture
  • 9:00 Prayer
  • 9:30 Meditation
  • 10:30 Bedtime

You won’t learn to ‘ground and pound.’ However, you will be taught The“Iron Head.” A titanium-skull creating technique that allows you to headbutt nails into wood and your opponent into a coma. Or “Bao Shu Gong,” a deadly ‘bear hug’ technique trained for by uprooting fully grown trees from the ground.


Shaolin Bao Shu Gong
Bao Shu Gong

Even in China, few people are able to enter full-time Shaolin monk training. For those unable to make a lifelong commitment, certain temples offer authentic, 3-month long Shaolin monk training camps.

Shaolin monk training monasteries exist in many parts of China. However, the original Shaolin monk training Temple is located 90 kilometers west of Zhengzhou,  Henan Province.


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Shaolin warriors are the closest thing to bulletproof any human can become. And they don’t get there by lying on the sofa playing Mortal Combat. Shaolin monk training involves sparring, fighting, and getting your ass kicked all day, every day, with no respite. Meanwhile, when you’re not fighting, you’re kicking, kneeing, punching, elbowing, and headbutting solid objects.

This creates micro-fractures that reshape and galvanize the bones to superhuman levels of resilience. Once healed, you deliberately break them again. You do this for months, maybe years. Permanent severe injuries can and do occur.


The unadulterated focus required to develop one’s body, mind, and spirit to its fullest potential, particularly if undertaken during youth, can reap huge rewards in all aspects of later life. Consequently, many Chinese parents believe a few seasons spent in Shaolin monk training is the best possible foundation they can give their children. Eventually, they become as tough as the nails they’re headbutting. Moreover, the phrases “I can’t do it” or “I can’t be bothered” are banished from a Shaolin’s vocabulary. Procrastination becomes a thing of the past.


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