Kung Fu’s 5 Animal, 5 Element, 5 Organ Body-Conditioning Matrix

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The ‘Da Mo’ Set or Shii Soei Jing

When Bodhidharma, or Da Mo, the First Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, arrived at the Shaolin Temple in Henan in 528 CE he introduced the Shii Soei Jing into the Monks’ training schedule, bringing about considerable improvements in their Martial Arts and overall health.

This Training Programme improves physique, makes the 5 major internal organs ‘Qi -batteries’ (empowering martial activities) cleans and refreshes brain and bone marrow, strengthens the immune system and generally conditions the interior of the body. A potent anti-aging tool, the ‘Da Mo’ Set is also used in the pursuit of enlightenment as well as longevity.

The Da Mo Set helps develop the internal strength and endurance needed for prolonged Kung Fu training. The Set also significantly enhances leg and arm power (substantially increasing the latters’ effective reach) and provides numerous other martial advantages and applications.

Designed according to ‘Wuxing’ or 5 Elements Theory principles, the Set underpins both the Changquan and 5 Animals Systems (‘Wuxing’ in Chinese means both 5 Elements and 5 Animals–different Chinese characters are used for each term). It is likely that the Shii Soei Jing’s development led directly to that of the 5 Animals of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. Awareness of the element-animal-organ inter-relationship is essential to appreciate the Set’s workings in full.

Element, Internal Organ and Animal correspondences are as follows:

Earth: corresponds to the spleen (associated with transportation, excretion bile and anger) and the Snake (consider how the colonic and rectal passages ‘snake’ down to the anus). The venomous serpent downs foes with a tiny bite or ‘touch’ and Snake Technique, associated with vital point strikes, can have the same effect.

Metal: corresponds to the lungs. Lightweight in construction these power the whole body–like Metal displaying a high power-to-weight ratio. The Leopard displays similar size-to-strength features. Stronger pound-for-pound than the much heavier Tiger he is, unfortunately, no match, even fully grown, for his striped superior. Leopard Techniques are usually medium-range, involving knees and elbows, whose sharp-pointed nature concentrates more attacking power into each strike.

Water: corresponds to the kidneys. These govern (amongst other things) the hormonal secretions into our bloodstream that need to be balanced for optimum health. Corresponding to Water, the elegant Crane, symbolises balance, poise, endurance and longevity–Crane Technique embodies skillful defence and counter-attacks.

Wood: The only ‘living’ Element of the 5. We depend on Wood for life itself, eating either grains, grasses, vegetables and fruit etc. or animals that do. Wood corresponds to the Liver which filters and purifies the various food essences into ‘spirit’ or body-fuel, which provides energy. The Dragon is the associated Animal here–powerful locking and pulling techniques, alongside nimbleness, dexterity and wisdom are all Dragon characteristics.

Fire corresponds to the Heart. Those with strong healthy hearts are frequently ‘warm’ and courageous. The Tiger, top of the food chain, is unused to losing fights. Kung Fu Techniques taking the fight to reluctant opponents fall into the Tiger category.

In terms of ‘method’, concentration on the relevant organs in turn, performing appropriate internal exercises at distinct, separate points in a sequence of breathing-cycles, whilst holding and moving between a number of extreme body-positions are all features of the Set’s performance. These enable the various benefits of repeating the ‘Da Mo Set’ to begin to condition and strengthen the body from within.

The Da Mo Set or Shii Soei Jing provides many advantages to the martial artist, especially when performed regularly. The 5 Elements are universal building-blocks and inevitably precede the 5 Animals (inhabitants of this universe) whilst the 5 Organs locate the associated principles firmly within the Kung Fu practitioner’s body. The Da Mo Set helps ensure the healthy integration of these key principles into Kung Fu and broader Martial Arts training.

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