You will find a brief description of each of the 10 levels to Shaolin Academy Black Sash plus links to detailed information about these levels and the curriculum including Video training Materials!
With the primary 5 levels you set down a solid Foundation for Shaolin Kung Fu. We are not talking about just Basics but a Foundation that will allow you to make your Kung Fu style be what you wish it to be. You will not be limited to a Military Style, everyone does and is exactly the same. It is therefore important that your foundation is solid, wide and stable as the rest of your Kung Fu will be built on this.
This is not to say that you will not learn many very interesting, effective and unusual techniques, form, principles, moves and thoughts. All this means that once you have completed the 1st 5 levels your choices multiply by the quality of your Kung Fu!
In the first beginner level, your learn the most important aspects of 5 Animal Kung Fu; Foundation, Balance/Stature, Breathing, Focus and Center-line Management. These seem to be aspects that every human being has except we mostly learned them 'en-natural', by default; without anyone really telling us what is the minimum requirement and what is best for us. So on this level you, we focus on having everybody know what is a good Balanced Stance and Solid Earth/Ground Connection, How to achieve increased Stamina and Power just through breathing. Increase your focus and decrease your vulnerability to distraction and incidentals. And that which many martial art style forget, Center-line Management rather than mindless conflict.
The skills so gained have good benefits for everyday life. Improving your Foundation usually also improves your confidence. it is not only a metaphor being on solid footing, it is also a psychological advantage. Working on your Earth/Ground connection and Balance will eventually lead you to understand the old wisdom "if you truly know martial art you will not need it". Only in the last 20 years or so has medicine recognized the power of Improved Breathing for health, well-being and energy. Something that 5 Animal Kung Fu and Indian Yoga have know and used for a few thousand years. Improving Focus for work, study or just even fun actually allows you to achieve more in your life with less effort. Although it may seem that the Center-line Management is only a Martial Art skill, it is more, far more to the point where it warrens the same importance as breathing and the other subjects covered in this level.
You will also learn the most powerful punch and kick, how to evade and block against these and a breathing and relaxation routine that will help you work, sleep and ... relax.
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If you are into Martial Art for the sake of Health, Fitness and Fun; then this will not be for you. But if you ever wish to learn about martial arts in depth, you will need to also teach. In teaching you learn far more than in just learning. In teaching you learn what you have not quite learned, not quite understood and not quite do right; your students will tell you!
The Shaolin Academy MAP (Martial Art Professional) Program develops the martial art student into a Martial Art Professional leading to a Martial Art Master. It is not just focused on the Commercial Aspect of teaching martial arts although this is thoroughly covered; it is not just focused on the Legal and Ethical aspects of teaching martial arts and managing classes, although this too is thoroughly covered. Subjects like Class & People Management and Leadership, Planning and Execution, teaching and Learning Styles are also covered and many more. The aim of the MAP program is to develop the martial artists to be what they wish to become, teacher, master, Champion, professional or just achieve the most from your learning. Understanding leads to wisdom!
If you are interested, try out the usual; 3 free session and see if the MAP path is for you. For more information look at the Martial Art Professional (MAP) Program page or speak to Sijo before or after training or write to Sijo .The Instructor Training (MAP) Program is available to any Martial Artist from Any Style; click here for details!
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The 2nd level builds on the 1st basics and develops this into a stronger, harder and more effective form of martial art and self defence. Loosely based around the Kwantung style which is believed to have influenced Japanese Karate (amongst others), this level teaches you to focus on effect and simplicity whilst developing your Strength and Stamina (Physical, Mental and even Spiritual). A first introduction to Conflict Management Skills, tactics and strategy are included.
Improving Strength and Stamina though is a strong bi-product of your martial skills but by far not the only. Although you can do martial arts for fitness it would be like using a limousine and driver to fetch milk from the corner store. It is true that 5 Animal Kung Fu has always been the main form of fitness exercise for most Chinese through millennia. Through it's many dynasties and unification efforts there has always been much strife and lawlessness in China and thus many, many effective styles of martial art developed; only the best and safest survived into the 21st Century.
Some of the most street-wise techniques are included in this level; techniques that you learn both to use but also understand how they can be used against you and how to best deal with them, Combined with the Iron Shield Blocks from the previous level, on success completion of this level you should be able to manage most self defence and competition situations.
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Whereby level 2 was Low and solid and Strong, Level 3 introduces you to the concept of High and Light and Swift. This level is dedicated to avoidance and evasion. Whereby Level 2 was harnessing the most power and delivering it, L3 is about economy of movement and effort and still achieving a good result. Whereby L2 was about one action, one result, L3 is about a series of small, seemingly effortless actions achieving the same result. The way of speed and indirectness rather than force and directness.
Each and everyone of us has a different way of achieving success, be it in life, work, martial arts or exercise. Through 5,000 years + of development, 5 Animal Kung Fu has recognized that there is more than 'one way' to achieve a result and that every person has their one best 'one way'. Thus the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu (Gong Fu) Academy uses Shaolin Kung Fu versatility to achieve multiple outcomes in each level like; introducing new techniques, teaching different martial art and life principles, showing how each of these can be adapted to individual needs. All learn the same curriculum and to the same standard but once learned, each person is encouraged and helped to express it in their own way, in their own perfection.
On this level we truly start with some very unique and distinctive Chinese Martial Art techniques and different ways of movement. This level is a transition level which also starts you on the way to more serious, more interesting but also more complex moving, exercising, thinking and succeeding.
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Although you continue to learn more techniques, more ways of moving, more style of exercise and more ways of martial arts, this levels seeks to introduce to you the concepts of Misdirection and Misconception; both as a tool and as a defence. Techniques in this level go beyond what most martial art styles teach or even attempt. Some techniques on this level are fairly common to some Chinese Martial Art Styles but there are also many that have, for the most, been lost and are only honored in some small enclaves and family style martial arts.
The concept of Transformational Techniques; the delivery of a particular technique which during delivery transforms into a totally different technique or where a defensive move turns into an offensive technique are the overlaying principles of this level. Defensive techniques that both Block and Lock, Offensive techniques that target one but deliver impact in another. An introduction into the reality of a 5000+ year old style, beyond the back and forward and into the realm of the unusual.
And we continue to add interesting, unique and unusual techniques to your arsenal of already learned. Stances and Postures become less defined, techniques less predictable, movement less evident and straight forward. Attacks that are not and defence's that can stop an attacker are all part of this level. If you were to look at the techniques listing on the Wudang Page, you may notice that there is a certain 'Symmetry' to the techniques and curriculum, this is about to change.
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To quote a famous saying from the Matrix, "Everything that has a beginning has an Ending"; but then, many Endings are a new Beginning, as it is with this level.
Aside from seeking to ensure that everything you have learned so far is solid and functional (Consolidation) you learn a few more unusual and unnerving and even nerving techniques. But you also need to review and renew all the material that you have learned so far and make sure it is worthy and ready for a full Red Sash Assessment. In additional a new principle of 5 Animal Kung Fu is added.
One of the most difficult forms of Martial Art is 'Asymmetrical'; the ability to have your left side work independently from you right side, your upper body independently from your lower body without each of these working against each other. This the 5th level will introduce to you Techniques, Combinations, Movement and Asymmetrical thinking. This is not a form of misdirection but an aspect of Chaos thinking and applications; the ability to make yourself unpredictable and untouchable.
In that vein, the techniques on this level are all over the place; all the left over's, the techniques that did not really fit in anywhere else, were to difficult for the initial 4 levels or to different; much in the spirit of this level. We also introduce you to the concept of Iron/Steel/Bronze Martial Art.
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Tiger Style Martial Arts is the quintessential of the Styles. The style that is best suited for the person who is best suited for Martial Arts. If you are big and strong and have a dominant attitude, the Tiger Style will put it all together for you.
The Tiger Style teaches the power of simplicity, directness, strength; the techniques are about power, dominance and right to the point. When you choose to work on Tiger Style you will need to develop your strengths, physical, core and mental. You will work on finding the simplest and most direct solution, the advantage of immediate and quick action and the power of directness.
But there are also some techniques to learn and variation on already learned techniques. Claws and Scrapes will be your speciality weapons. Claws for Scraping, Claws for Raking, Claws for Grabbing and Claws for Ripping; the Tiger Style is a Claw Style and you will develop your claw finger strength.
Tiger Style (Chinese) Martial Arts is also the reference style, the strongest and most powerful. It is also the simplest to learn and to maintain. Many martial arts use aspects and principles of the Tiger Style, simply because it is so effective and so direct. All other styles are measured against this style. But what is if you are not big and strong and have a powerful attitude?
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Panther/Leopard Style teach's us to out-think, to out-class, to out-maneuver and to simply out our attackers. It is the style that seems to do the east but does the most but in an invisible way. It teaches us to use our Brains and our Skills. It teaches us the power of Patience and Planning, Preparation and Purpose.
Because of this there are many 'specialization' options with the style. It is a 'catch-all' style that has within it many, many 'sub-style' which serve to accommodate many different aspects of Panther Martial Arts; one of the most famous of these is Monkey Style which focus on the Strategy of Capriciousness. But it is by far not the only aspect; The Wolf and Lion aspects teaches the Strategy of 'Cooperation between the lesser to overcome the greater'. Cheetah symbolizes the Strategy of "Hit and Run'; Snow Leopard is the aspect for Hidden and Hiding Strategies..... Anytime when you are confronted with a large task, large opponent, large attacker, overwhelming odds there is a proactive strategy to suit; as there is no such thing as the ultimate attacker; everyone has a weakness and the Panther Style specializes in finding, expanding and using attackers weaknesses.
The Panther Martial Artists needs to be aware of the greatest's amount of tools (techniques, methods, strategies, etc.) and in theory should be familiar with all techniques and specialize in many. yet, this is the secondary level and all these levels are meant to be introduction and try-outs for you to see what is best for you; which works and is best for the person you are. It is also a learning process which helps you find the person you can be.If you think you fully understand a Panther, Beware!!
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The lightness you learned in Yellow Sash will be built on in Crane Style Martial Arts. Ease of movement and Evasion are the key to what would seem a hit and runs style strategy of the Panther, except it is not.
When something is unbeatable, invincible, unconquerable, even for the Panther then it is time for Crane Style.
The Crane style developed in a few areas of China independently and usually as the result of trying to deal with a vast overwhelming power. In a way if the Tiger is the Ultimate Warrior, the Crane is the Ultimate Warriors Ultimate Antagonist. It is also the style that requires the lest strength, the least power, the least action; what it does teach is timing, precision, patience and vital points.
With the Crane Style we leave fist and power techniques behind and we learn to use fingers, palms, hand edges and small claws. We also learn re-directive and inverting movement patterns as well as Patience as a Strategy. The crane will also be the Master of Timing, possibly once of the most undervalued of all martial art techniques and almost totally ignored by tiger Stylists. Crane is possibly the only Style that can get the Tiger to defeat itself.
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The Snake Style Martial Art is all but lost. In an time where the catch cry, "no retreat and no surrender" is common in Martial Arts a no aggressive very precise, evading style is not really wanted. But this is a wrong perception because the Snake is also a style that relies on Grappling and Holds; a bit like the Anaconda and Boa Constrictor. It is a style of two halves, the Dim Mak, precise, one strike debilitating style that requires a lot of training and knowledge to be effective. And the knowledge of Holds and Pressure Points to subdue an attacker without causing harm.
Where the Tiger Tares, the Panther Breaks, the Crane Wears-Down, the Snake seeks the most useful Vital Point. The point that will, with one precise, not to strong but very swift and well timed strike will stop the opponent!
It's tools are Joint Locks and Hyper Extensions, Dragon, Snake, Phoenix, Leopard and Tiger Fists as well as a small assortment of specific Claws including the Crab and Mantis Claw. It rarely uses kicks although it will if the opportunity is favorable. Accuracy, Timing and a good knowledge of the Human Body makes the Snake Martial Artist the surgeon of the Animal Styles. Very difficult to Master and requires years of dedication. Not a style for the instant gratification generation Y.
The Snake Stylist has a disjointed training regime. The need to balance Strength and Flexibility, Work on Speed and Accuracy, Study the Human Body and Vital Points and Develop 5 key Strikes and 5 Key debilitating locks, to perfection.
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The 10th level is Consolidation and preparation for Black Sash. Generally taking a full year from the last Assessment, this level is a Renew and Review level not requiring any additional learning except the 2nd Shaolin 5 Animal Form.
It is a relatively complex form stretching and testing your martial art skills. Aside from this, you will be tested on a large selection of items from the previous levels; skill and knowledge and are expected to demonstrate your skills in front of an audience of peers. You will be examined on items from each level whereby it is the examiners role to find your weakness. it is the weakness that will sink you. this is the Physically most demanding grading as it should be. It is the last time that you are required to be so physical; subsequent examination for 2nd and 3rd degree levels will challenge you mind mostly but will still have a component of endurance and strength work.
The Spiritual meaning of the Dragon level is "optimum thoughts leading to best action leading to a win-win-win solution". Embracing the Dragon aspect is a life changing step; but it can be done one small step at a time and should not be done all at once.Do not dawdle and do not rush, hast can turn you wins to slush;
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