Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps and Rolls – The Class I Never Wanted To Skip
A LOT OF FUN
A LOT OF PAIN AT THE BEGINNING
A LOT OF MUSCLE SORE AFTERWARDS
PEOPLE DROPPING OUT DURING THE CLASS
LIST OF SHAOLIN KUNG FU JUMPS AND ROLLS
THAT I HAVE LEARNED IN SHAOLIN KUNG FU SCHOOL
KUNG FU ROLLS
SHAOLIN KUNG FU JUMPS
WHICH MUSCLES ARE USED TO DO A HANDSTAND PUSH UP
Firstly, we roll forward like in the physical education class at school, where the teacher covers a program focused on gymnastic skills. To go with the flow, the next roll is the kind you do in martial arts – side roll.
So… you don’t roll strictly forward anymore because you don’t want the head to touch the ground. The pressure of the fall is amortized by the shoulder and spreads subsequently to the other parts of the body. If the roll is done correctly, there is no way you hurt yourself. This explains why it is so common not only in fighting but also in parkour when you land doing a side roll after a crazy jump.
BACK ROLL TO PUSH UP POSITION
Let’s come back to primary school. Normally, the forward roll would be followed by the back roll. Here, yes, as well, but with a slight hindrance at the end called push-up.
Most girls have a lot of trouble making it and spend months learning it, or they are never successful. The guys – some of them get it in the first class, some need more time but rarely as much as girls.
So… the conclusion was simple. To make it, I needed strong arms.
The person, who learns back roll to push-up position, cannot be a weakling. But… what became clear to me over time, and this refers not only to back roll but any possible skill you want to learn, is that the key to performing a movement is a technique, which also means the ability to use muscle power in the right moment. I tried to figure out the technique of back roll to push-up position. Many students were giving me good advice, not to mention my Master’s teachings. Still, I wasn’t able even to lift my head from the mats.
In May, after traveling with my mum, I met a new student from France, Daniel’s friend – Matt. With his encouragement, I spend a few classes practicing back roll to push-up position. We tried to break down piece by piece, where I should use the power to make it. That was a stone mile in learning a back roll to push-up position. What I got to know was that it was not only about push-up from my arms but, more importantly, push-up using my legs. The key was the momentum of kicking up. At the end of the movement, Matt caught my feet and pulled up.
– Good. Like this – he said – PUSH UP!!! To handstand. Your body – straight. Your legs want to kick somebody above you.
It took me more than half a year to actually visibly improve my back roll to push-up position. Still, I am on my way to doing it correctly.
Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls
After back roll to the push-up position, we do a head flip. It is a typical Shaolin Kung Fu jump. At school, we perform head flip with the support of hands. However, in the Shaolin temple, some students perform it without using their hands, JUST ON THE HEAD!!! Tough guys!
When I saw the other student doing a head flip during my first Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps and Rolls class, I stopped and stared at them with my eyes wide open.
- So… now… I am supposed to do it?!! – I thought.
空前翻 [kōng qián fān] HEAD FLIP
I could do a headstand – no problem. But every time I was doing it in yoga class, the teacher warned me against falling backward. Now, I was not supposed to fall back but worst – throw my legs there!!!
- What about my neck, my spine, and my whole body? Will it follow?
Not exactly. At least not at the beginning. What was awaiting me instead was landing on my butt and spine, and pulling my neck strangely. It took me less time to learn head flip than kick up (the next Kung Fu jump). However, it was training kick up, which helped me improve the head flip.
Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls
The following Shaolin Kung Fu jump is a kick up. Firstly, we land from the straight position into the elbow plank. We change the position of the legs so they are in front of us, and we do kick up followed by head flip. It took me two months of intense kick up training to eventually get it. It started in January. Each Form class (a kick up was a part of my new Form – Kung Fu Broadsword) and some of the afternoon classes I dedicated to a greater or lesser extent to train kick up (meaning around 6 hours a week).
The time I spent on training it seemed to last ages. I started to doubt that I ever would make it. Then, one cold day, on the 13th of March, I managed to do a kick up from the ground. Since that moment, though my kick up still needs improvement, I can proudly say I have learned it.
Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls
The other sequence of jumps, performed during the Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls class, is front flip with landing on the shoulders and arms spread to the sides followed by a kick up and head flip. It was one of the exercises, which I didn’t appreciate, feeling that I was just dangerously throwing my body. Fortunately, it was not included in a regular class schedule. Also, with time it became easier, and it didn’t hurt as much anymore. It doesn’t mean, though, that I started to like it.
SIDE FALL & TWIST UP
Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls
After plank and kick up, come side fall with twist up. Twist up is a name given by me. I couldn’t find an English name for this technique of getting up after a fall. If you know its proper name, let me know in the comments below. I remember before coming to China, one of the first videos I watched about Kung Fu training was “Dragon Girls”.
Write in YouTube Dragon Girls Documentary and you will find the video I am talking about or click HERE (maybe this link will work). It is really worth watching.
This documentary movie presents a few stories about young girls learning martial arts. The youngest performed a Kung Fu straight sword form with the side fall (7:41 min of the movie). Immediately, I liked it, and I wanted to learn it. Side fall didn’t give me a headache like kick up. However, I never felt any improvement while training it. Similarly, twist up.
Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps
Many from Shaolin Kung Fu Jumps & Rolls movements are similar to those performed in gymnastics. Both competitive Wushu martial arts and athletic gymnastics integrate complex techniques and beautiful movements. However, the real Shaolin Kung fu emphasizes more practical application of the movement than artistic aesthetics.
The Shaolin Kung Fu jump has to be done with purpose, like kick or push. It has to be powerful to defeat the opponent. For this reason, the most common sentences used by Masters during the classes are: “More Power!!! Faster!!!”. The detailed approach, where the precise position of the hand or feet is corrected, happens after the student achieves a more practical level of the exercise.
So, when I am talking about Forward Handspring or the movements described above, like head flip or kick up, or the movement described in the following subchapter, like aerial, tornado kick or butterfly kick, the way the new students learn them, looks approximately like this:
Second: we follow, meaning we just try to copy what we saw, praying that we won’t break anything or – for less courageous – we make a scared face. The Master comes to us. Shows the movement as slow as possible, and we follow, praying that we survive without any injury.
Third: we never do the movement again because it hurts or – for more courageous – we keep training, and eventually, somehow, we learn it.
I was among the second one. Not so much because I am courageous. More because I am stubborn. I always wanted to learn gymnastics, but I never had an opportunity. In modern dance, my favorite exercises were those on the floor and in yoga, the upside-down asanas. I am addicted to the feeling of being in the air. Even if I still cannot do any of these jumps properly, I enjoy them a lot.
I want to know how many of these difficult movements I can learn, starting to learn at my age – 28 years old. This is what this journey is about. I have trained Forward Handspring for a year now, and I still land on my butt, or if not, I land on deeply bend legs. I know there is a lot of training in front of me. But I stay positive, and I can see slight improvements. Importantly, not only in the performance of the movement but also in my attitude towards it. It’s not so scary anymore, and it even seems not so difficult as at the beginning.
After performing forward handspring, the next Shaolin Kung Fu jumps are cartwheel and round off. The second one is also a cartwheel, but with two legs meeting each other in the air and bouncing off the ground together, preparing for the following tumbling sequences, like back handspring or flips.
AND NOW I WANNA FLY !!!
My favourite Shaolin Kung Fu jump kicks:
FLYING SIDE KICKS7
Before performing the flying slap kick, we put the mats a bit higher. We run, bounce off the mats from the right leg, kick the right hand, and land on the same leg as we kicked.
侧空翻 [cè kōng fān] AERIALS3
I started to learn aerial in February. During the next three months, I was stubborn to learn it at any cost. I tried and tried. I received hundreds of advice from my Master, my colleagues, and Daniel. I watched videos observing how people have done it and compared my almost aerial to their full aerial. I dreamed about it. I begged. Whatever it took, I really wanted to do it. But… I couldn’t.
So, after that time, I just let it go. I still tried my best. But, my hope wasn’t there anymore, and nor was my dedication.
“If one man gets there with one try, try ten times.
If another succeeds with a hundred tries, make a thousand.
Proceeding in this matter,
even one who is a bit slow will find the light,
even a weak man will find the energy.”