Shaolin Kung Fu Secret Fighting Exercises: Pipa Arts (Aka ‘Plucking the Guitar Strings’)

The Shaolin Temple’s 72 Secret And Consummate Arts, also known as ‘Kungs’ or Fighting Exercises’, involve extreme training but can produce astonishing results. Pipa Arts (aka ‘Plucking the Guitar Strings’) an Internal Energy Training Exercise which enables one-finger knockouts, is described, together with details of training methods and their intensity, stages and duration.


There are actually a lot more than 72 Shaolin Temple Secret Arts. Various authorities have produced different equally authentic lists, although these have much in common. Yang/Yin, Gang/Rou and Internal/External are descriptors used to Classify these Fighting Exercises or ‘Kungs’

‘Kungs’ involve mostly either Soft ‘Yin Rou Energy’ Training, (mainly Internal) or Hard ‘Yang Gang Power’ Training (mainly External) although a few involve both.

Technical Analysis

Pipa Arts (‘Pipa Gong’) is a specific exercise involving strengthening the power of the finger tips and is a Yin Rou Soft Energy Training Exercise which, hard to master, demands dedicated practice from students if progress is to be achieved.

The finger-nails are flicked outwards (individually and collectively) just like when strumming or playing a guitar. The hidden strength of the fingertips is tremendous yet comparatively unknown thus few realise how to draw upon this. A further version of this exercise: ‘Finger-Tip Spring’ which trains the first two fingers only, instead of all four, using the same methods also exists.


Fold all the fingers into your palm. Next, coil each in turn under the thumb and then flick them out sequentially, one-at-a-time, 60-80 times each. When you reach the little finger do twice this number (i.e. 120-160 ‘flicks’) before working up your fingers, back to the index finger again, for the same number of repetitions as before. Finally, flick out all four fingers simultaneously from your palm 300 times. Ideally this practise should be repeated twice-a-day, morning and evening, for three years to obtain proficiency in this art.

An Optional Extra Stage of ‘Pipa Gong’ involves ‘flicking’ a sack containing coarse sand treated with white vinegar and salt instead of the ’empty air’. Moreover, a traditional extension of this incorporates a number of further ingredients into the sack’s contents. These include such esoteric and hard to obtain materials as wild wolves’ teeth and the gall-bladder of a large python. Although substantial strengthening of the fingernails is the outcome of using such ingredients, I believe that adding full details might prove counter-productive.

The above methods applied to the first two fingers only lead to proficiency in ‘Finger-Tip Spring’.


Mastery of this skill enables individuals to knock someone with the flick of a single finger to an appropriate point, without leaving a single mark or trace on their opponent-any damage inflicted would always be internal. Old-style Masters trained using the esoteric methods and recipes referred to above could be recognised by the deep, dark discoloration of their fingernails whilst their thumbnails were clear and unmarked. It was always highly advisable to be polite to such individuals and not to annoy them tradition wisely insisted.