The Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county, China, is a modern day legend. Dating back nearly 1500 years, the school has a history so rich that its name has become common in cultural lexicons the world over. Its members — the monks that practice there — have come to find their likenesses embedded in various legends, historical accounts, films, and graphic novels and video games. Yet it is far from outdated. The school still accepts thousands of new students each year, and has evolved into a contemporary, world-renown academy for martial arts.
However, its age-old training techniques remain irrefutably gruelling. If there were ever an “Elightenment Boot Camp”, the Shaolin Monastery would be it. Behind each Shaolin Monk lies a history of intense discipline known for pushing both physics and human biology to extremes (and in certain cases, seemingly defying them), lending to their near-mythical reputation. Children are accepted as young as the age of three, and their turn at the monastery can last a lifetime. A typical day begins at 5am and doesn’t end until 10pm, with the simplest of meals and excessive mental and physical refinement filling the spaces between. All of this is done in an age-old pursuit of mastery over both the material and immaterial worlds that each of us individually occupies. Here follows a break-down of the specific processes.
The training one must undergo in order to become a true practitioner of Shaolin Martial Arts goes much deeper than physical training alone, as it is the rigorous preparation of the mind that forms the foundation from which all Shaolin techniques flow.
Shaolin teachings are divided into two facets — Chan and Quan. Chan refers to the Buddhist spiritual awareness, and mastery over perceptions of the mind. Quan refers to the physical side of the training, but Quan itself is rooted in Chan, as one cannot practice Shaolin Kung Fu without first understanding the Buddhist teachings of meditation. Indeed, one famous Shaolin monk was quoted as saying, “Shaolin is Chan.”
For Shaolin Monks, Buddhist teachings are more than just a means to improve fighting techniques. It’s their religion. Chan Buddhism is the specific sect or teaching of Buddhism which students of Shaolin practice adhere to, and when a student is accepted as a trainee by the Shaolin Monks, they must first shave their head. This is to honor the form of Buddha, and it also symbolizes the release of all worldly desires.
These teachings of Chan Buddhism encourage students to turn their eye inwards, and become self-aware. While this self-awareness is incredibly useful in all aspects of life, this is particularly true when it comes to Kung Fu. Once a student begins to become more aware of their breathing patterns, they can begin to control them and use them to lend immense power to their physical movements.
In addition, ancient Buddhist teachings that date back to the construction of the temple explain how to isolate and control muscle and ligament groups through meditation. It is because of these intense periods of focus that students are able to grow in their control over their bodies and increase their flexibility and power. Shaolin Monks spend hours each day seated in a state of meditation.
Another extremely important aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu is a force that can only be activated through a highly concentrated state of mental/emotional awareness. This force, known as Chi by Shaolin Monks, is considered to be the true source of a Martial Artist’s strength.
The harnessing of one’s Chi is achieved through meditation, but can be activated at will by accomplished Shaolin Monks during combat. This requires incredible focus, and it is this skill that enables Shaolin Kung Fu masters to achieve what outsiders may view as physically impossible.
Chi is considered a type of “active” meditation, where control and awareness are achieved without the process of being seated, a concept similar to Yoga. Tai Chi is an exercise that focuses entirely on this concept, and it is practiced regularly by Shaolin Monks. Tai Chi is a Martial Arts technique that involves slow, purposeful movements designed to strengthen Chi.
3) Qi Gong
A similar type of exercise also practiced by Shaolin Monks is Qi Gong. This practice also involves slow movements, but not as a Martial Arts technique. Instead, Qi Gong focuses on using Chi, also known as Qi, to strengthen and heal the body, and its health benefits are extremely well documented.
It also has direct applications to Shaolin Kung Fu. Using a technique known as “Hard” or “Hard Style” Qi Gong, Shaolin Monks are able to use lower-abdominal breathing methods to turn their bodies into living shields. This increases their resilience exponentially, enabling them to survive circumstances — in combat and otherwise — that might normally prove lethal.
This technique is epitomized by a training exercise that involves several monks lying on top of one another. The first lies flat on top of several knives. The second lies on top of the first, with a layer of nails between them, and a third lies on top of them both. A concrete block is then placed on top of the third monk, which is subsequently broken with a sledgehammer. All three monks must employ the use of “Hard Style” Qi Gong to avoid injury.
Shaolin Monks believe that once they have trained their minds to achieve the level of focus necessary to harness their Chi, their physical movements are limited only by their imaginations. They are capable of extraordinary feats when it comes to their Kung Fu skills. The course of a Shaolin Monk’s physical training will carry them from straightforward tasks, in the beginning, into ever-increasingly complexity, cresting with seemingly impossible trials of physical strength, agility and flexibility. A Shaolin Monk is not allowed to progress to the next level of his training until he has mastered what he has already been taught.
1) “Childish Exercises”
The initial training techniques a Shaolin Monk learns are known as the “Childish Exercises.” These techniques involve stretching the body to achieve incredible flexibility, in a variety of poses. These exercises, known as “Tong Zi Gong,” are essentially a Chinese form of yoga. There are 9 poses which train stretching and flexibility, and 9 poses which focus on balance.
The reason these techniques are called “Childish Exercises” is because once a Shaolin Monk masters them, he is said to reclaim the purity and youthfulness of a child’s body. Because Shaolin Kung Fu demands extreme flexibility in order to carry out most of its movements, it is necessary to train using Childish Exercises before attempting any Martial Arts techniques.
2) Kung Fu
The next stages of a Shaolin Monk’s training are the Kung Fu techniques. The foundation from which all Shaolin Kung Fu movements flow are rooted in the 5 basic Shaolin Stances, as follows:
This stance is achieved by standing with the feet wide apart, bending at the knees while keeping the back straight, and raising the arms outward or to the side. This can also be developed by standing on stumps elevated from the ground, which puts more of an emphasis on balance. Horse stance, when practiced over time, greatly increases strength and stability.
Bow stance is similar to Horse Stance, although it focuses on directing energy to one side rather than balance on both feet. Bow stance is achieved by starting in Horse Stance and rotating one foot until it is pointed outwards, then leaning in that direction while rotating the other foot outwards.
This stance focuses on lowering the centre of gravity to the ground. Starting from Horse stance again, Sliding Stance involves lowering the body down over one foot, while extending the other leg straight outwards.
This stance involves putting both feet together, and bending one’s knees. The important part of this stance is to put weight on only one foot while maintaining a strong posture. This is one of the most iconic Shaolin poses, and also one of the most difficult.
Twisting stance is achieved by starting with the feet together. The right foot steps back about a foot with the heel raised, while the body lowers and the torso twists to the left. The right foot should be bent and almost touching the ground, while strongly connected to the left foot.
“The Seventy-Two Secret Arts of Shaolin”
The seventy-two secret arts of Shaolin are the mastery of Chi put into action. Together when viewed as a whole, they form a guide for using Chi to unlock latent powers hidden within the human body. Therefore, it is extremely important that a Shaolin Monk masters the Buddhist teachings of meditation, focus and self-awareness before attempting any of the seventy-two secret arts.
These secrets not only form the basis for Shaolin Kung Fu, but have also had a massive influence on various forms of Kung Fu which have branched off from Shaolin. The word “secret”, however, is a misleading part of the teachings’ name, as all 72 arts of Shaolin have been published and can be found in the book entitled Authentic Shaolin Heritage: Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin by Jin Jing Zhong. They are as follows:
1.) Diamond Finger
Supposedly, Shaolin Monks are able to use their fingers to attack with this technique in the same way one would use a knife; cutting holes through and into targets. The technique uses only the forefinger, and it is possible to train the forefinger of the opposite hand as well. It is only after three years of continuous training with this technique that a Shaolin Monk can start seeing results.
2.) Twin Lock
The twin lock technique involves using both forearms and joining them together to form one solid wall which a Shaolin Monk can use to repel any attack, even if the opponent is armed with weapons. It is also possible to break the opponent’s arms and hands with this block. The training necessary to achieve this strength is related to Qi Gong and breathing exercises rooted in Zen Buddhism, which improve blood circulation.
3.) Striking with Foot
This is a simple but nonetheless powerful attack. When mastered, it is possible for a Shaolin Monk to strike opponents so they are flung great distances. They train to do this by striking small stones in mid-air with their kicks.
4.) Pulling out Nails
Shaolin Monks who are able to pull off this technique have strengthened their hands and fingers to incredible levels. The name of the technique makes the training self-explanatory– the Shaolin Monks attempt to pull nails out of wood with their thumb, forefinger and middle finger. In combat, this technique is used to lock onto the target and inflict enormous damage.
5.) Ringing Round a Tree
Using this technique, Shaolin Monks are able to use both arms to uproot trees. In combat, the monk uses both arms to lock onto his opponent and pull upwards, inflicting serious wounds. The training is again self-explanatory, with Shaolin Monks attempting to uproot small trees in the beginning, but it also requires mental fortitude and the application of Zen Buddhist techniques connected to Qi Gong.
6.) One Finger of Chan Meditation
This is one of the most mysterious and powerful techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu. The rare few Monks who can perform this attack are able to strike beneath the skin and directly damage internal organs using the forefinger. It is said that this attack blocks blood flow to critical areas of the vascular system. Shaolin Monks who train to use this technique practice on a flame lantern. If the flame goes out, but the glass remains unbroken, the monk has mastered the technique. This attack requires incredible focus through repeated meditation, and deep mastery over one’s Chi, possibly more so than any of the other attacks.
7.) Iron Head
Masters of this technique have extremely tough heads. These Shaolin Monks have trained the forehead, the top of the head, and the back of the head, and have achieved a surface in this area that is harder than rock. Trainees practice this technique with a mixture of Qi Gong exercises and physical exercises that involve breaking bricks and stone slabs.
8.) Iron Shirt
This is a technique that is rare even amongst Shaolin Masters. It involves focusing one’s Chi to harden the body immensely, granting the ability to repel all attacks. It is said that the opponent is completely thrown backwards when trying to attack someone utilizing this technique. Those who wish to learn this technique must build a strong foundation from the “Childish Exercises,” to become aware of their internal energy and eventually gain control over it.
9.) Four-Part Exercise
This is a series of stances and movements closely related to the main stances of Shaolin. During these movements, a Shaolin Monk is able to improve his health and harness his Chi. This not only aids in fighting power but also health and a sense of well-being.
10.) A Series of Blows
This technique is harnessed by allowing oneself to be struck numerous times by another Monk. The end result is the strengthening of muscles and sinews, and avoiding injury altogether, starting with wooden sticks and moving into bricks. This technique requires a strong ability to direct one’s Chi to the parts of the body which are being struck.
11.) Sweeping with an Iron Broom
This type of attack is designed to knock an enemy’s weapon out of their hands with a sweeping kick, although it can also be used to simply devastate the enemy’s body. The shin delivers the main force of the kick, and a Shaolin Monk is considered a master of this attack when he is able to break bones.
12.) A Bamboo Leaf
This technique trains a Shaolin Monk to use his palms to deadly effect. After continuous training of striking hard objects with both hands, the monk is left with exceptionally strengthened palms. Once he is able to break these objects, he has mastered the attack and is capable of causing terrific damage on opponents.
13.) Jumping Centipede
This technique, although deadly in it’s own right, is more of an evasive method as opposed to a means to attack. Shaolin Monks who train to use this technique practice supporting themselves on all fours, on the toes, the fingers, and eventually one finger. In practice, the monk is able to move at a fast pace at low levels, evading surprising attacks.
14.) Raising a Weight of 1000 Jins
This technique trains the strength of the forefinger, thumb and middle finger, specifically the insides of the fingers. Shaolin Monks train to do this by holding heavy objects for hours using only these parts of their bodies. This eventually enables them to press holes through wooden boards and inflict similar wounds on opponents.
15.) Celestial’s Palm
This is relatively simple technique that trains a Shaolin Monk in the use of four fingers arranged in a row to attack in a stabbing motion. This is done using palm strikes, but it is the fingers that hit the target, not the palm. In training it is important that strikes with both hands are practiced.
16.) Method of Hardness and Softness
The name of this technique reveals that it is an equal combination of both Chan (meditative power) and Quan (physical power). Shaolin Monks train to utilize this technique by making fists that grip paper bundles during combat exercises. It is said that this technique can fling men great distances and is especially useful against multiple opponents
17.) Cinnabar Palm
This is a technique that, when mastered, defies physics completely. Only by training the internal power of one’s Chi through meditation can one master this technique, as it requires incredible focus. The attack is carried out by striking with one’s palm- but the palm never actually touches the opponent. Even at a considerable distance, opponents who are on the receiving end of this attack are said to sustain fatal injuries and will die in anywhere from a few hours to fifteen days later. It supposedly takes a minimum of fifteen years to master this technique.
18.) Lying Tiger
This technique involves a surprising attack from a prone position. Shaolin Monks who master this technique are able to attack with both toes and fingers. Once these parts of the body are strengthened to a desirable level, the attack is capable of tremendous damage.
19.) Swimming and Diving Skill
Shaolin Monks have their own swimming techniques. It is important for them to know these skills because their teachings encourage them to be ready for any and all situations. These techniques are different from the mainstream swimming styles most people are familiar with.
20.) Weight Lifting
Shaolin Monks can attest to benefits of weight lifting on their fighting prowess. They hold it in such high esteem because of the fact that it activates not just the arms, but also the entire body when done correctly.
21.) Covering with a Golden Bell
Shaolin Monks view this as the most important of all the 72 secret arts. In this technique, the Shaolin Monk tries to turn their body into a bell-shaped blocking mechanism, by creating a continuous shell with the chest and back muscles. It not only strengthens the toughness of the outer body, but also the internal organs. After two years of continuous training, it is possible to master this technique.
22.) Finger Lock
This technique is yet another exercise which strengthens the attacking capability of the fingertips. What makes this technique unique is that it uses seizing motions, with the goal being to crush and splinter an enemy’s bones. It takes four to five years of training to master this technique
23.) Luohan’s Exercise
This exercise utilizes Chi and inner focus to see at night and at low-light conditions. This is one segment of a whole separate group of Buddhist exercises that train vision. A Shaolin Monk who has mastered this technique can supposedly see in complete darkness. Apart from meditation exercises, Shaolin Monk aid their training in this technique by eating boiled mutton.
24.) Lizard Climb the Wall
This technique enables a Shaolin Monk to move on walls with great ease. Putting one’s back to the wall and using one’s elbows to move in any direction on the wall is the correct way to carry out this technique. This gravity-defying stunt can only be mastered after ten years of dedicated training.
25.) The Art of Lash
This technique focuses on training a Shaolin Monk’s forearms. Masters of this skill are able to withstand incredible impacts. A trainee is considered an expert when he is able to burst out of ropes tied around his forearms.
26.) Three Fingers of Yin
This technique involves striking the opponent with the outside of the fingers, including the nails. The striking motion involved with this attack is a flicking motion, using the springing motion of one or more fingers flowing outwards.
27.) The Pole of a Falling Star
This technique trains striking and increases toughness of the skin when striking with hands, feet, elbows and all other parts of the body. Placing a bamboo pole deep in the ground so that it has a firm base is the first step of training. When striking the bamboo pole, it will flex and bend, bouncing back towards the trainee. This trains a Shaolin Monk’s reflexes.
28.) The Art of Stone Padlock
This is another training technique where weights are used, although in this case there is a specialized weight being used. The shape of this weight is like a huge padlock, and the Shaolin Monks train by lifting it in a way not dissimilar to dead lifting.
29.) Poles of Plum Bloom
This technique trains Shaolin Monks to fight while leaping to and from a series of several poles in the ground. This not only trains agility and strength, but also vision.
30.) Skill of the Iron Arm
This technique strengthens a Shaolin Monk’s arms. Training is carried out by striking poles, both with the front and back of the arm. It is a relatively easy skill to master, and possible to learn after one year of training
31.) Fist Like a Bullet
This technique utilizes the second joints of the fingers to deliver devastating blows. A Shaolin Monk is judged to have mastered this skill when he can use it to dent steel plates. It takes a minimum of four years to gain this ability.
32.) Soft Bones
Shaolin Monks who wish to learn this skill train their bodies to become soft and flexible, maximizing the mobility of all joint and muscle groups. Along with physical and mental training, trainees use hot towels to relax their muscles during training.
The name of this technique refers to the shape that a person’s body assumes when they try to lift a heavy object that is on the ground. By increasing the weight of the object, Shaolin Monks are able to increase their strength and resilience. This technique is also related to Qi Gong exercises.
34.) Piercing the Curtain
This technique is reliant on a Shaolin Monk’s inner Chi and self-awareness. It enables the trainee to make massive horizontal leaps, and they often train by leaping through rings lit on fire. It usually takes up to ten years to master this skill.
35.) The Force of the Eagle’s Claws
A Shaolin Monk who has mastered this fighting method is able to grip his opponent which pincer-like strength, causing excruciating pain. Shaolin Monks know they have gained this ability when they are able to perform this strike in front of a horse, and the horse instinctively moves in the direction of the strike.
36.) Iron Bull
This technique trains not only the physical toughness of the body, but also the psychological robustness of a Shaolin Monk. After mastering the technique, Shaolin Monks have stomachs that are impenetrable by spears, knives and swords. They also learn when to keep silent and when to speak by developing this technique.
37.) Skill of Eagle Wings
Shaolin Monks who develop this skill train to improve the strength of their entire arms, including elbows and joints, and both palm and fist strikes. The goal is to be able to block attacks rather than to hurt the opponent.
38.) Hand of Sun Rays
This is a striking technique that is purely based on Qi and transcends the physical world. Without touching the opponent, it is possible to inflict painful, although non-fatal damage. A Shaolin Monk knows he has mastered this skill when they perform it in the direction of a dog at a considerable distance and the dog begins barking.
39.) Exercise for Groin
This technique focuses specifically on strengthening the scrotum area. Although perhaps a strange idea to some, it is actually quite clever considering how that area is an extremely weak and vulnerable spot for males. This is a very difficult technique to master, and it involves being struck in the balls repeatedly. Only when no pain is felt has a Shaolin Monk mastered this skill.
40.) Iron Bag
This technique is rather straightforward and it involves being able to fling or eject great amounts of force. The training involves Shaolin Monks throwing heavy bags filled with iron pellets back and forth at each other.
41.) Method that Reveals the Truth
This technique trains a Shaolin Monk to perform 64 different types of somersaults. It is an extremely tough skill to learn, but it results in the strengthening of a trainee’s bones and muscles.
42.) Skill of Tortoise Back
This skill enables a Shaolin Monk to increase the strength of his outer body. It is very important during training exercises to focus on breathing exercises. It is said that those who have mastered this technique have skin that is as hard as metal.
43.) Skill of Deft Jumps
Shaolin Monks who master this ability can run along walls. Trainees have to be able to navigate walls in any direction, and it has to be completely silent. It takes a minimum of six year to gain mastery over this technique.
44.) Skill of Light Body
This technique trains Shaolin Monks to make their bodies lighter than a birds. This allows them to stand on fragile objects in the same way they would a rock.
45.) Iron Knees
The Iron Knees skill strengthens a Shaolin Monk’s knees. After a minimum of two years of training, a trainee can use his knees for both defense and attack using this skill.
46.) Technique of Jumps
This technique trains a Shaolin Monk’s jumping ability, with an emphasis on bypassing obstacles.
47.) Palm of Iron Sand
This technique involves strengthening a Shaonlin monk’s palm strikes. Training is done by mixing a soup-like paste with iron fragments, and filling a sack with it. The bag is then struck repeatedly.
48.) Pulling a Silk Thread
This trains a Shaolin Monk to use balance and coordination to walk on rope, similar to tightrope walking.
49.) Drawing in Yin
It is said that those who have mastered this skill are able to suck their testicles into their abdomen, in order to prevent them from being targeted by the opponent.
50.) Rubbing and Thrusts
This is a method that trains the toughness of fingers, allowing them to be used as cutting implements on the enemy. It is possible to tear stomach muscles with this technique.
51.) Stone Pile
This training technique strengthens the leg strength and stability of a Shaolin Monk, making it impossible for the opponent to throw him off balance.
52.) Neither Lances Nor Broadswords Can Wound
This skill focuses on the ability to engage multiple enemies armed with weapons whilst unarmed. The training technique focuses on dodging, and developing the eye to be able to see multiple attacks coming at once.
53.) Hand of Five Poisons
This is another fatal striking technique. When fully trained, it will kill a man, and because of the poisonous nature of the strike it is necessary for the trainee to wash his hands in a special solution after training.
54.) Skill of Water Separation
This striking technique focuses on being able to hit multiple enemies with the same motion. The power is concentrated in the arms, and the goal is to create a tidal wave effect on opponents.
55.) To Fly Up to A Ridge and to Walk on a Wall
This technique teaches Shaolin Monks to navigate walls and obstacles, and they train to do this by running along ridges carrying weighted bags.
This is another technique that involves training using weighted bags, and once the Shaolin Monk removes them he feels light and is able to jump over high walls.
57.) Skill of Somersaults
This technique uses the skill of Somersaults to train to be able to climb walls more easily, gripping one ledge and then the other whilst somersaulting in between.
58.) Pole of Cypress
Shaolin Monks train to achieve mastery over this skill by kicking a large rock repeatedly, and if they are able to kick the rock large distances they have mastered the technique.
59.) Ba Wang’s Elbow
This technique strengthens the tip of the elbow to be used as a striking surface. It takes 3 years to be able to break a man’s chest with this attack.
60.) Pinching a Flower
This is a potentially fatal style of attack that is another variation of a fingertip strike, and it takes many years to perfect.
61.) Pushing a Mountain With Palm
This technique is a non-fatal palm strike that causes enemies to fly backwards, and Shaolin Monks train to redirect the enemy’s strength rather than opposing it.
62.) Technique of Horse Saddle
This technique, which trains a Shaolin Monk’s toughness, enables them to literally break someone in half when fully mastered. This is trained by splitting and striking various stones and objects.
63.) Skill of Nephrite Belt
This is a skill that utilizes both arms to grab, rotate and hold opponents. It is practiced first with heavy objects.
64.) Yin Fist Method
This training technique focuses on strengthening and increasing flexibility of fist strikes.
65.) Skill of Sand Bags
This is a technique best suited to situations where a Shaolin Monk is surrounded. Training for this involves surrounding oneself with four sandbags, and striking each sand bag with every part of the body.
66.) Piercing Through Stones
This is a striking technique where Chi is focused into two fingers, and it is capable of causing death, even when separated by distances or physical barriers.
67.) Pulling Out a Mountain
This technique enables a Shaolin Monk to grip his opponent using Chi force, causing the enemy to rise off the ground simply by raising his arm.
68.) Claws of Mantis
This technique is a close range attack that involves a downward motion with a forward bent wrist, striking with the edge of the palm and wrist. The Shaolin Monks strengthen their wrists and palms by striking piles of paper, the aim being to split them in half.
69.) Kung Fu Bag
This technique teaches Shaolin Monks the ability to repel attacks using their stomach. They train to do this by focusing Chi into their stomach regions, and pushing outwards, eventually flinging logs away with just their stomach muscles.
70.) Palm of Gaun Yin
This technique trains a Shaolin Monk to utilize a chopping attack with the outer palm. They practice this by using this attack to separate soy beans from the bottom of a pan like a knife.
71.) Raising a Pot
This exercise helps to increase shoulder and arm strength, and it involves lifting a pot filled with heavy weights.
72.) Rubbing Palms
This is a rubbing attack that can reduce any object to scrap and rubble. A Shaolin Monk learns this skill by rubbing metal chopsticks, he is said to be a master if he is able to wear them down to considerable thinness and increase their length.
Shaolin Monks consume a strictly vegetarian diet with some unique attributes. This diet is commonly referred to as “The Shaolin Temple Diet.” It is a science of good health, believed to aid in preventing a wide range of illnesses, from heart disease to cancer, but it is also adhered to because of their Buddhist belief systems.
A Shaolin breakfast is usually something as simple as good old-fashioned beans. This is followed by vegetables for lunch, typically eaten raw. Spices are a no no for the Monks, because they believe any kind of flavor or spiciness incites emotion. Finally, at dinner, they mix things up with noodles and, wait for it… bread! Of course, both these exciting ingredients also have to be whole-wheat and gluten free.
After one hundred days of training, the first skills amongst Shaolin Monk trainees emerge. After three years, they achieve mastery over Shaolin Kung Fu. But it is only after fifteen years that Shaolin Monks begin to exhibit truly extraordinary skills. Some of the legends accompanying the Shaolin Monk’s abilities may seem like science fiction, but keep in mind that these powers are rare even amongst their most proficient fighters. While these metaphysical abilities may seem unreal, it is important to note that Buddhism is mainly a nontheistic religion, and Buddhists are well known for their empirical outlook on life. They would be the last to knowingly spread an un-truth.
In the end, Shaolin Monks stand as living examples of the type of mastery — over mind, body and emotions — that humans are capable of. Their entire lives are spent in dedication to honing every aspect of their bodies and their consciousness into a state of being that mimics both the serene peace and fierce power of nature itself. They are the very embodiments of their philosophy, and, as the world continues its awakening process, with ancient eastern teachings such as this filtering through into the west, they may just be appearing on the horizon as harbingers of a future that finds the human race far more in touch with its own mind, body and soul.