Shaolin Kung Fu Secret Fighting Exercises: Windlass or Bucket-Lifting Arts

The 72 Consummate and Secret Arts of the Shaolin Temple are a collection of inter-related fighting exercises which fall into a number of key categories. The example which follows, ‘Windlass Arts’, is a Hard, External Power-Training Exercise. Details of training intensity and duration are accompanied by description of the simple, basic, yet very effective, traditional training aids required to develop these key skills.

Shaolin Temple Secret Arts are also known as ‘Kungs” or ‘Fighting Exercises’ these involve extreme training but can produce astonishing results. ‘Windlass Arts’, which develops arm, hand and finger strength, is described as an example. There are actually quite a few more than 72 Shaolin Temple Secret Arts. Various authorities have produced different lists, equally authentic, although these have overlapping, common content. Yang/Yin, Gang/Rou and Internal/External are descriptors used to Classify these Fighting Exercises or ‘Kungs’.

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

Windlass Arts (Sometimes Known As Bucket-Lifting Arts)

This is a Yang Gang Hard External Power Training exercise focusing on developing hand and arm strength.

Technical Analysis

The Windlass/ bucket arrangement, in various forms, has been regularly utilised as a tool or training aid to enhance martial development, from the twin water-buckets carried by Shaolin Novices to the various movie scenes where someone at this training stage endlessly hauls up water from a well.

This exercise is usually performed in a Horse Stance (Ma Bu) with both arms extended at chest height, knuckles upwards. Sometimes a high place is used for practice, like a balcony or above a stairwell, as the extra added effort involved through using a longer rope substantially increases results.


Use either a household bucket, a sturdy non-porous sack or loose gymnasium-type weight-discs and attach or thread these onto around four feet (120 cm) of rope. Tie this firmly to the middle of a wooden pole about two feet (60 cm) long and approximately two inches (5 cm) in diameter, ensuring that there is no ‘slip’.

With 1/2 a Kilo (1 pound) of weight attached this is wound clockwise upwards and anticlockwise back down thirty times, twice a day, for one month. Each subsequent month sees another 1/4 kilo (half pound) added for five more months. After this, 1/2 a Kilo (1 pound) is added every three months until maximum capacity is reached..


There has been a need to convert from Traditional Chinese (e.g. Catties and Taels) to both Modern Imperial and Metric System Measures for the convenience of non Chinese-speakers worldwide. Moreover, the original measures were based on the Malaysian Catty which weighs around 20% more than its Chinese equivalent–therefore the above Figures should always be seen as approximate.