The true history of Shaolin Kung Fu is unlikely to be fully determined and is steeped in both tradition and myth. What is generally accepted is that most asian martial arts have their origins linked to Shaolin Kung Fu, including popular arts like Karate, Judo, and Taekwondo.
To try and describe Shaolin Kung Fu in one page detracts from its vastness but the following attempts to give you a starting point.
Shaolin Kung Fu is both an internal and external art. The internal focuses on breathing and the flow of Chi (energy) throughout your body. The external focuses on the punching and kicking aspects. In this way, it is both a “soft” and “hard” martial art. It places a large importance on the balance of Ying and Yang that is so traditionally seen in Chinese philosophy.
For example, instead of meeting force with force, (blocking a kick with your arm), a kung fu practitioner will move or deflect the attack while simultaneously aiming their attack to an opponent’s weak points. In this way, kung fu uses the attacker’s force against them, allowing for a smaller defender to defeat a larger attacker.
Chinese martial arts are also inherently circular in nature. Techniques and movements flow together in sequences that appear to have no endpoint. Not only is it impressive to watch, but this flow is also an important part of kung fu’s effectiveness.
While difficult to explain here, we recommend you attend a few classes to see these concepts in motion and further increase your understanding.