f you’ve coveted Bruce Lee’s lean musculature or marveled at his mental cool, then the Shaolin Workout may be for you. Sifu Shi Yan Ming’s book is a 28 workout introduction to Shaolin martial arts. You won’t be a proficient back-flipper or a brick-breaker by the end, but the stretches, kicks, and mental exercises will improve your flexibility and inspire confidence. The best part? “It looks too difficult” is no longer an excuse for the workout wary. The exercises are incredibly slow-paced and do-able.
What it does:
You won’t get Hulk bulk but you will get chiseled. Balance, along with agility and speed will also be improved. The Shaolin workout claims to be holistic. It incorporates both the mental and physical aspects of fitness. I’m not a fan of exercise books. It’s always difficult to assume the correct position while keeping the book open and readable. But the step by step, color photographs prove more handy than the black and white illustrations that plague most manuals. Workouts comprise various stretches, kicks, and stances. All limbs are involved. Kicks are coupled with simultaneous arm movements, stances involve the shifting of weight of both the arms and legs and the stretches are also quite whole body intensive. By the end of a workout you’ll feel a greater body awareness and be sore.
The Shaolin temple was founded in 495 A.D. It is often credited as the birthplace of kung fu. The monks developed it as a physical complement to their meditation.
It was also a useful tool in their encounters with invaders. Ming is a 34th generation Shaolin warrior monk. He has had to endure all kinds of inconveniences. Ming has learned how to sleep standing on one foot, he has had a 50 lb weight suspended from his testicles. And he had developed the neck muscles to withstand leaning directly into a spear without injury. His newly released book isn’t a how-to manual for the more impressive moves; it takes a very gentle approach to the introduction of kung fu.
Who it’s best for:
With its stances and arm swirls, it sounds like a reprisal of tai chi. But many of the exercises call for slightly quicker movements. They require greater coordination and mental engagement. iPod-ing probably isn’t a good idea. It is fairly comprehensive non cardio. If you’re looking for some more intense stretching, or have a desire to be initiated, sans pain, into the realm of kung fu, then the book may be of interest.