The Shaolin Temple’s 72 Secret Fighting Exercises or ‘Kungs’ involve dramatic training extremes which, if persisted with, deliver astonishing results. ‘Iron-Broom’ Arts develops bodily stability, both when still and moving, and an irresistible floor-sweeping kick capable of uprooting multiple opponents. Details of the training methods and the three key stages involved follow.
The 72 Kungs can be classified as: Yin/Yang, Gang/Rou (Hard/ Soft), Internal/External and Power/Energy Training in nature. They usually fall into one of two categories: either Yin Rou Internal Energy Training or Yang Gang External Power Training Exercises (although a few embody characteristics of both).
Various accounts of the whole 72 exist and, whilst there are slight differences between equally respectable authorities over minor details of description and method, the overall level of agreement as to their essential nature and purpose is remarkable.
Shaolin ‘Iron Broom’ or Tie Sao Zhou, also known as ‘Iron Legs Kung’, is a Yang/Gang Hard External Power-Training Exercise. This considerably strengthens the thighs and adds concentrated power to the legs. Leg power has tremendous importance in combat, having numerous advantages over fist-thrusting: Kicks can attack opponents’ legs, midriff or upper body; legs are longer and stronger than arms; they can startle opponents-Master Sun’s (Sun Tzu) ‘Art of War’ advocates ‘Surprise attacks…whenever or wherever the enemy is unprepared.’ Legs can launch these. Iron-Broom Arts is particularly effective as a counter-attack, with the unwary victim often taken completely by surprise and dumped on their back-side unceremoniously.
Shaolin maxims confirm legs’ combat advantages:
‘Kung Fu beginners without legs are like trees without roots, swayed by the wind’;
‘Power-fists 30%: legs 70%’;
‘Hands protect like two doors, legs beat the opponent’;
‘Fail to practise leg skills and legs are powerless and slow-one can be easily hurt or beaten by an opponent.’
Tiptoes, heels, soles, plus inner and outer shanks and thighs, are all used towards these ends.
Stage 1 involves lengthy horse- stance (Ma Bu) practice (e.g.up to 2 hours daily) gradually defying feelings of fatigue, extending standing times and shortening rest-periods. This develops leg strength, stability and power considerably.
Next, bury a post firmly at a suitable location or choose a convenient sapling, stand in Ma Bu at an appropriate distance and kneel down on one leg, balancing on the ball of that foot. Place your two palms firmly on the floor and with the other leg stretched out fully, sweep its foot round powerfully until the instep hits the post or sapling forcefully. Repeat the exercise immediately and continue to do so until fatigued.
Initially, the post will not move, merely vibrating as you practice, until, one day, it moves appreciably when struck. Persist until it breaks when swept, get a larger diameter replacement and repeat the exercise.
The final training stage requires a buried bamboo pole. Although light and hollow its flexibility makes this hard to break but persist until you do. Lastly, repeat the exercise on a large tree until it vibrates when struck–if this dis-lodges branches and leaves, you have developed an invincible Iron-Broom!
The three stages described, necessary to acquire Tie Sao Zhou/Iron-Legs Kung, should take approximately three years in all!