Basic Exercises of Kung Fu

Basic Kung Fu exercises and skills include stretching, meditation, striking, kicking, throwing and jumping and this training aims to develop strong and flexible muscles, manage breath and chi, and proper body mechanics. They are essential to improve your form, especially at a more advanced level.

Ji Ben Gong, written as 基本功 in Chinese, translates roughly to Basic (Ji) Foundation (Ben) Work (Gong) and is a set of 18 techniques which are considered to be the basic skills of Shaolin Kung Fu.

It is considered to be the foundation of Kung Fu before students move onto studying all kinds of other forms and postures. And it is therefore said that, at the very beginning of your practice it is called basic skill or Ji Ben Gong and only after a long time of practice will it become Kung Fu.

Good Kung Fu lies in hard work and studying (this is what Gong Fu actually means in Chinese, hard work or skill, through effort).

You can never obtain good kung fu by imagination and thinking.

Shi De Yang (Shaolin Head Monk)

A Kung Fu practitioner should never ignore the basic skills of its school and in reality, other Kung Fu forms of “boxing” are merely different patterns of performing Ji Ben Gong. Sometimes other forms have more insane postures, but they essentially evolved from the basic exercises and skills of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Though it’s not necessary to train these Basic Skills as a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner, it is helpful to know how Shaolin has contributed to the development of Tai Chi Chuan (as it did to other martial arts). Many of the stances and skills in this list are also found in the Tai Chi forms. For example, Gong Bu is a stance that is performed quite frequently throughout the Tai Chi forms, as is Ma Bu or the more famous English name, horse stance.

It is therefore beneficial for any Tai Chi Chuan practitioner to know about the basic skills and perhaps even practice some, so you can improve your quality and understanding of Tai Chi Chuan.

Below is a list of the moves and techniques which are traditionally considered to be the 18 basic skills or the Ji Ben Gong of Shaolin Kung Fu. All the way at the bottom of the page is an instruction video from the Shaolin Temple in which Grand Master Shi De Yang himself instructs them.

  1. 马步担扁 Ma bu dan dian : Punch in horse stance
  2. 弓步行斜 Gong bu xie xing : Punch in archer stance
  3. 仆步切掌 Pu bu qie zhang : Knife palm in drop stance
  4. 虛步格掌 Xu bu ge zhang : Sword palm in empty stance
  5. 歇步冲拳 Xie bu chong quan : Punch in twisting stance
  6. 丁字步 Ding zi bu: T-shape stance
  7. 鸡行步 Ji xing bu : Chick leg stance
  8. 弹腿 Dan tui : Snap Kick
  9. 低弹腿 Di dan tui : Front Heel kick
  10. 正踢腿 Zheng ti tui: Front Stretch kick
  11. 侧踢腿 Ce ti tui : Side kick
  12. Shi shi ti tui : Cross kick
  13. 里合腳 Li he jiao : Inward swing kick
  14. 外摆腳 Wai bai jiao : Outward swing kick
  15. 二起腳 Er qi jiao : Jumping double kick / Slap foot kick
  16. 漩风腳 Xuan feng jiao : Spinning Tornado kick
  17. 空中外摆腳 Jia zhong wai bai jiao : Outside Lotus kick
  18. 前扫腿 Qian sao tui : Front sweep kick