The Curriculum of the Northern Shaolin style of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, as offered by PATHS Atlanta Kung Fu.


Regardless of what instructor, school, sub-style or flavor encountered, the Core Curriculum of the Northern Shaolin Boxing School (北少林拳門) (boxing here refers to Chinese Boxing or Chinese Martial Arts, more commonly known as Kung Fu (功夫) of the Gù Rǔzhāng (顧汝章) lineage consists of several categories.

Some Northern Shaolin lineages have more or fewer categories than others. They might include Lion Dancing, Dragon Dancing, Chin Woo curriculum, Auxillary Training, extended curriculum, and more.

For example, we have a Five Element or Five Animal phase in our training, which many other Northern Shaolin groups do not. Others have Lion Dancing included (which can, in addition to being an additional topic of study, be an additional income source for the school – performing for Chinese New Year and other celebrations) however currently, PATHS Atlanta Kung Fu does not (currently).

Due to historical connections with the Chin Woo Athletic Association, the Central Guoshu Institute, the Shaolin Monastery, and various other associations, some schools might offer varying additional courses of training as well.

It’s also worthy of note that special training methodologies, such as (鐵掌功) or Iron Palm Skill, Golden Bell Cover, and others, may or may not be included in the curriculum of different lineages. They might be available, yet not promoted publicly. Often-times, these old skills are falling by the wayside, due to various issues of modernity.

Kung Fu Salute to You!

Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Curriculum

  • 基本功 / Jī Běn Gōng / Gei1 Bun2 Gung1 / Basic Skills Training
    • Introduction to Basics
    • Five Animals
  • 2 Training Forms (more or less, some offer 3)
  • 10 Traditional Empty-Hand Kung Fu Forms
  • 4 Standard Traditional Chinese Weapons Forms
  • Auxillary Training

Much more is available for the serious student.

And of course, quite a bit of learning How to Apply what you learn in the forms – Applications and Crossing Hands. Here’s some Tips for Learning a Martial Art.

Now let’s look at how this breaks down. (Not comprehensive, but it gives you a taste of what you might learn with us)

In the below section, the names of the forms are listed first in Chinese characters, then in Mandarin Pinyin, followed by the Jyutping romanized version of Cantonese and ending with English.

Chinese / Mandarin / Cantonese / Generic English

Ji Ben Gong or Basic Skills Training

Introduction to Basics

Some of what you will learn in the beginning level of our curriculum are:

  • “Kung Fu” related terminology
  • Basics of Class Etiquette (and some broad Martial Virtue applications)
  • Style Classifications
  • Physical Fitness Exercises
  • 基本 步法 / Jī Běn Bù Fǎ / Gei1 Bun2 Bou Faat / Basic Stance Methods
  • 2 Seed Movements – their significance, application, practice & more
  • Basic Kung Fu Concepts (Root, Structure, 4 Combat Methods and more)
  • 五步拳 / Wǔ Bù Quán / Ng5 Bou Kyun4 / Five Stance Fist

Five Animals

The Five Animals is an important level. Intention might be the best word to describe what this level is all about.
  • Basic Five Animal Forms and Applications
    1. Tiger
    2. Crane
    3. Leopard
    4. Snake
    5. Dragon
  • Basic Kung Fu philosophical theories (Yi or Intent, 無極 Wuji, 太極 Taiji, Liangyi, Yin & Yang, 三寶 San Bao and more)

Three Kung Fu Training Forms

These forms take the least amount of time to learn, practice, learn from and master. However, they, being seed forms – or those that will, once mastered, educate your further physical development & intelligence, will more than educate your form and eventually your application and fighting strategy.

  1. 譚 腿 / Tán Tuǐ / Tàam Teúi / Springing Legs
    Tan Tui is a widely-popular form is a complete system unto itself, developing power, flexibility and an impressive array of martial tactics and applications.
  2. 練步拳 / Liàn Bù Quán / Lin Bou Kyùn / Continuous Stepping
    AKA Linked Stepping, Chained Stepping, Footwork Practice and so on, this form was widely practiced by the Chinese Nationalist troops as basic military training, and will develop your hand-eye
    coordination and teach you many interesting, yet extremely practical combat techniques.
  3. 功力拳 / Gōng Lì Quán / Gung1 Lik6 Kyun4 / Power Generating Fist
    An interesting 長拳 Cháng Quán or Longfist form consisting of strength-training principles and long-range martial tactics, entries and even some short-hand combinations as well.
    (Replaced 小圓拳 / Xiǎo Yuán Quán / Siú Yùn Kyùn / Small Circular Fist, which is a specific variation of Gongliquan)

Ten Traditional Empty-Hand Forms of Northern Shaolin

  1. 開 門 / Kāi Mén / Hōi Mùn / Open the Gate
    Includes essential entry-movements and diverse leg attacks
  2. 領 路 / Lǐng Lù / Ling Lou / Lead the Way
    Leading the Attack. Balances the body; learning to fight with either side
  3. 坐 馬 / Zuò Mǎ / Jo Ma / Mount the Horse
    Builds stamina; learn follow-up combinations when your first attack fails and counter-attacks
  4. 穿 心 / Chuān Xīn / Chyūn Sām / Pierce the Heart
    Combinations alternating quickly from side to side. Increase reaction speed. Coordination of Left hand / foot.
  5. 武 藝 / Wǔ Yì / Mou Ngai / Martial Skill
    Trains in aggressive, charging attacks, combinations and powerful conditioning routines. Includes the triple kick
  6. 短 打 / Duǎn Dǎ / Dyún Dā / Close Combat
    Close-range fighting. Short power. Introduces the Tornado & Sweep.
  7. 梅 花 / Méi Huā / Muì Fā / Plum Blossom
    “Breaking the Ambush.” Deception. Palm Strikes. Back Kicks.
  8. 拔 步 / Bá Bù / Bat6 Bou / Uprooting Step
    From dynamic sweeps to flying kicks, this set contains many rapid combative techniques, which show you how to follow through with your attack and take advantage of openings. Open-space fighting combinations.
  9. 連 環 / Lián Huán / Lìn Wàan / Chain of Rings
    Chained multiple strikes. Unusual surprise attack maneuvers that are characteristic of advanced Shaolin fighters.
  10. 式 法 / Shì Fǎ / Sīk Faat / Skilled Method
    Essential techniques from other styles. All of the previous sets prepare you for this one. After working through the other nine sets, Sik Fot challenges your mind and body by taking you to the next level of Kung Fu skill.

Four Standard Traditional Chinese Weapon Forms

  1. 劈掛 單刀 / Pī Guà Dān Dāo / Pek Gwǎ Dāan Dōu / Hanging Thrust Single-Edged Saber (Chinese Broadsword)
  2. 九洲齊 眉棍 / Jiǔ Zhōu Qí Méi Gùn / Gáu Jāu Chài Mei Gwǎn / Nine Province Height Staff
  3. 龍形 劍 / Lóng Xíng Jiàn / Lùng Yìng Gim / Dragon Shape Sword
  4. 劈掛 槍 / Pī Guà Qīang / Pek Gwǎ Chēung / Hanging Thrust Spear

Auxillary Kung Fu Training

Auxillary Training can consist of many different things, either sprinkled throughout the learning career of the student or perhaps as “Advanced” material. Topics could include:

  • Two-person fighting choreographed forms (Empty-hand vs Empty-Hand, Empty-Hand vs. Weapon, Weapon vs. Weapon, etc.)
  • Lion Dance
  • Dragon Dance
  • Additional forms of the four standard traditional Chinese weapons
  • Other weapon forms
  • Content from other styles
  • Special conditioning methods
  • Meditation methods
  • Qigong techniques
  • Chinese Language
  • Chinese History
  • Studies in Psychology
  • Teacher Training
  • Body language
  • Performance sets
  • TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) or CCM (Chinese Classical Medicine) [See the TCM Podcasts]
  • Spiritual & Philosophical Pursuits

Although all of the above seems like it might be fairly comprehensive, there are a great many things that we can not include, simply due to the possibility of overwhelm. Be that as it may, have no doubt that there are a lot of topics covered throughout the student’s progress not covered here.

If this does seem overwhelming, it might help to learn more About Us, hear some of What our Students Say or to get a feel for what a typical class is like. Read one student’s story Good to be Back! A Kung Fu Class Review.