Learning all 10 Forms of Northern Shaolin takes time, but each form is a great workout by itself. Most people learn #6 Short Striking first. Often #7 Plum Blossom next, followed by #5 Martial Art. Each of these forms is about 45 movements long. Each takes between 1 and 3 minutes to perform at full speed. Full Speed is very fast indeed with punches flying like shooting stars, high kicks leaving no shadows and leaps and turns all monkey nimble and fast. At the end of a full speed form most people are out of breath. Being able to maintain great breath control and not be out of breath or breathing through your mouth at the end of a full speed performance shows outstanding conditioning and deep familiarity with coordinating your movements and breathing together.
When it is time to practice forms the plan is to practice repetitions. Once you can throw all the fundamental kicks, strikes, and form your stances it becomes easier to physically perform each form. As you practice you will become more and more familiar with the movements. Then it becomes possible to do the entire form as one unitary whole. This is awesome because now you can do a series of repetitions of a single form. This could mean doing Northern Shaolin #6 Short Striking five or ten times in a row. After the first repetition simply stand where you finished and catch your breath. Then do another repetition of #6. Finish, don’t move, walk away, drink water, start chatting, just catch your breath and do another repetition. Resting should be a minute or two, focusing on sorting your breathing as quickly, easily, and calmly as possible, becoming centered and prepared to go again. This develops your breath control. How about five repetitions of each of the five short forms – #s, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 for twenty-five forms total in an hour?
As you practice each form they seemly become shorter, more comprehensible and easier as you improve. Northern Shaolin has a great method because each form is gradually more challenging, and each has its own focus. There are many common elements between all Ten Forms but each form also has its own unique movements and flavor. This makes them more interesting and also more accessible. The most advanced and difficult forms are well really advanced and difficult! The average person is simply not ready to learn or perform them. But most people can start Northern Shaolin #6 Short Striking and enjoy it immensely. Even if they can’t throw the flying kicks or broom sweeps at first, It is OK. If people are inspired and simply do the repetitions, I have never seen anyone fail. Everyone becomes super athletic, not necessarily skinny, usually very athletic, strong, and well balanced.
Once someone learns all Ten Forms then simply doing each one of them a single time is a pretty incredible workout. This is especially true because the “5 Long Forms – #s 1, 2, 3, 9, 10” are twice as long, and three times as difficult, as the “Five Shorter Forms – #s 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8”. Performing all Ten Forms takes between 30 and 60 minutes or more. If you are out of shape, you’ll never finish them all. If you can do all Ten Forms, you will get a great workout. If you push the height of all the kicks, the length of the leaps and the depth of every stance, developing full power in each martial technique that is a heroic level workout in terms of technique, endurance, raw strength and flexibility, and self-control.
As an advanced student doing all ten forms and then a few different weapons as well as some sparring and warming up is a fantastic workout!
Thinking about training for fight or a match? Doing the 10 Forms averaging 2 minutes each with a 60 second rest between them is fantastic conditioning for fights with a 2 minute round and a one minute rest. The standard length of a round in an amateur event is often two minutes and the period of rest is often one minute. Doing the 10 Forms you are practicing all sorts all of your favorite movements conditioning yourself in an incredibly diverse way, deeply stretching and strengthening your entire body. This method develops your anaerobic endurance so you can sprint hard for two minutes or less and then recover quickly. Or you go to the track and do wind sprints, or you could run a few miles. All these workouts take about the same amount of time. Northern Shaolin is far superior to the sprinting, distance running or gym exercise routine.
When I finish practicing my forms, I feel fantastic, tired to be sure, but not exhausted, everything is worked out, but nothing is over worked out. Mentally I feel relaxed, happy, clearheaded, encouraged, and alert. Our world can be challenging at times. After practicing Northern Shaolin, you feel ready to heroically face and conquer any challenge or overcome any obstacles. If you practice enough, you might even enter such a good mood and great state of mind that no problems can arise that can disturb your joy experiencing being healthy and alive.
So, Enjoy your next workout!