Chinese martial arts for mental health | Sunday Observer

Chinese martial arts for mental health

14 March, 2021

Arrows swifter than the wind, blows stronger than the thunderbolts and the warriors faster than the hawks must not be alien to the fans of Chinese movies though the legend behind the Chinese martial arts may be unknown to them.

It is said that the history of Chinese martial arts dates back to the Xia dynasty and that it has been shaped and sharpened like a sword for over 4000 years.

The yellow emperor, according to the records, is believed to have introduced the martial art techniques to China. We can observe different techniques in Chinese martial arts.

Hand-to-hand combat

In the hand-to-hand combat, two fighters are involved in the fight within a short distance and refrain from using arms, but sometimes, the use of knives, sticks and batons can be observed.


In the hard and soft techniques, the fighters are expected to ward off the attacks in armed and unarmed combats. Hard techniques basically require a great strength and can be used in offence, defence and counter offense.

The key point of hard technique is none other than avoiding the attacks without receiving any attacks and injuries from the opponent. In the counter offence unlike the offence hard technique the fighter should break the attacks. Soft technique denotes the art of deflecting the attacks to the opponent’s disadvantage.

Chinese martial arts can be classified according to the martial arts families.

Among them, the shaolin quan is the most prominent and oldest martial arts family.

Thanks to the tele series titled “Kung-Fu”, the word Shaolin is not unknown to Sri Lankans. It is believed that Shaolin temple was set up during 495 AD under the guidance of Emperor Xiao Wen of Northern Wei Dynasty. Bodhidharma Thera said to have lived during the fifth century is thought to be the founder of the Shaolin chan tradition of China. Bodhidharma Thera that the bhikkus in the temple get feeble because they are not involved in heavy tasks.

The Thera developed martial arts techniques to enable the monks keep fit. The exercises created by him are now regarded as the basis of Shaolin kungfu.

Shaolin kungfu

Shaolin kungfu as clear as crystal and as strong as rock has been rooted in the Chinese culture. It is one style of different martial arts styles in China. This martial art style was named Shaolin due to the influence of the Shaolin temple close to the Zheng Zhou city. It can be said that Shaolin techniques require a great strength and quick movements. The students are expected to undergo a long training program to gain the skill. We can find five major schools of shaolin kungfu: Song mountain shaolin, Fu Jian shaolin, Guangdong shaolin, Sichuan shaolin and Hu bei shaolin.

Shaolin weapons

Shaolin weapons play a vital role in the martial arts. It is evident that no weapons, such as knives and blades, are allowed in Shaolin kungfu except for the staff. Shao Huo Staff, Qi Mei staff, Liu He stick, Yun Yang stick, Pai stick, Monkey staff and Da Mo staff are the main weapons of the Shaolin style.

The purpose of the Shaolin staff is to increase the force, speed and power and enable the fighter to defense himself while attacking the opponent.

This staff can be thrown at the opponent from a certain distance and is used for joint locks. Qi Mei Gun is a double headed staff and has to be gripped with one hand. The eyebrow staff used in Songshan Shaolin and southern Shaolin styles is different from the other staff.

Traditional weapons

Related to the Chinese ancient weapons, it is not possible to skip the Stone Age and the Metal Age because during the Stone Age, the ancient Chinese made weapons out of stones. In the Metal age, the Chinese used bronze to make weapons. Powerful weapons can be observed in the Chinese martial arts. Among the weapons, the most prominent ones are sword (Dao), the long bow and the cross bow, spear (Qiang), Emeici (this is like an arrow with sharpened ends, but in the middle, there is a tiny rotating ring so that the fighter can use the weapon comfortably), Deer horn knife, Broad knife, Speargun, cudgel, battleaxe, battle spade, halberd, lance, whip, blunt sward, hammer, fork, dagger, shield and snake spear.

Mental health

Related to martial arts influenced by Buddhism and Daoism, it is inevitable to focus on its psychological aspect. Buddhism gives an emphasis on self-mastery, self-realisation and self-enlightenment. Chinese martial arts enable fighters to ponder about one’s mind and body and can be divided by function and philosophy into traditional and non-traditional according to the way of teaching.

The traditional teachers teach self-improvement while the non-traditionalists teach the self-defence. Spiritual development, discipline and physical fitness are the areas focused by traditional teachers. Non-traditional teachers focus on combat discipline and spiritual development.

Tai-chi proven to have been based on a fight between a crane and a snake, is a style of martial arts which was developed in the 13th century.

The philosophy behind Tai-Chi is inter-connected with the Chinese medicine theory. Tai-Chi can impact on one’s health positively: reduce depression and anxiety, increase the physical strength, improve agility, increase memory and reduce fatigue.

Currently if a wayside bush is kicked, hundreds of martial arts practitioners will jump out according to local parlance.

But these practitioners should be aware of the main purpose of martial arts which is none other than self-defence and creating a sane society sans evils.