Iron Palm Book Excerpts: Introduction

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Sifu Lam’s Ultimate Iron Palm book, just re-released in a second printing:

Nearly all martial arts styles use some form of hand conditioning.  Iron Palm refers to martial hand conditioning that focuses on the use of the palm strike.  In some schools the word iron refers to the practice of actually hitting iron with the hand.  In other schools, it refers to developing a hand as strong as iron.

In this book, Iron Palm refers to two separate but related training regimens learned by Sifu Lam:  Northern Shaolin Iron Palm training as passed down by the legendary Gu Ru Zhang, and Tiger Iron Palm.  Both styles required a practitioner to strike bags filled with materials of increasing hardness:  first mung beans, then gravel, and finally steel shot.  Both benefit from the same warm-up exercises for the hands, and both use the same lineament-and-massage routine to treat injuries.  Most importantly, both styles not only condition the hands, but teach the use of internal power. 

There is only one secret to Iron Palm: perseverance.  In the past, practice methods, application techniques, and herbal medicines were kept secret so that practitioners would have an edge over their enemies.  Today there is no need for secrecy. 


The book is available once again for order:


Book Bundle Deal!

In celebration of the publication of the Northern Shaolin book, and the second printing of Sifu Lam’s Ultimate Iron Palm book, we are offering a special discount bundle that includes all four of his books:

Ultimate Iron Palm

Southern Shaolin Kung Fu Ling Nam Hung Gar

Authentic Five Animals Style Hasayfu Hung Kuen

Young Forest, Traditional Skill Northern Shaolin

A great deal to start off the new year’s training just right.  Click here to order!

Northern Shaolin Book Excerpt: Concepts

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 in the book, on Concepts:

At the core of any martial arts style are the concepts and principles that inform and define everything about that style. All the movements, techniques, strategies, training, and capabilities spring from these foundations. Training without these concepts is to train without the possibility of reaching your fullest potential within that style. While you may learn the overall movements, you will be like a paper tiger – perhaps looking good and mighty but without actual solidity, power, grace or martial capability. Understanding and incorporating the concepts in each movement is your means to attaining great skill.

This volume introduces the most fundamental concepts of the Northern Shaolin style, and it is within these concepts that you will begin your training. Volume Two of this series will delve into more advanced concepts that are appropriate to explore once these fundamentals have been well integrated into your practice.

If this is your first read through this chapter, aim to grasp an overall idea or vision of the complete nature of the style. You do not need to remember every concept word for word or to obsess over every principle during practice – in fact, given the number of concepts to remember it would be counterproductive to even try. Each practice, choose one or two of these core concepts as your focus for development. By continually working on individual concepts, over time they will become natural to you and automatically be present in all of your movements.



Shaolin Volume 1 Cover

The book is now available to order here:

Northern Shaolin Book: Preface

“Shaolin, Shaolin.” This beautiful and magnificent theme song was featured in the kung fu movie “Shaolin Temple.” With this movie, the ancient and famous martial art temple woke up after having been asleep for the previous one hundred years. Today, the spirit of Shaolin is widely broadcast to every corner of the world.

The Shaolin style of martial arts is as vast and complex as the universe. It includes both offensive and defensive fighting techniques, external and internal training methods, and theories on healing, survival, and the prolongation of life. This book is barely able to scratch the surface of the depths of Shaolin kung fu.

Most of the information in this book came from hand-written manuscripts that have been passed down through generations of practitioners in the Northern Shaolin kung fu lineage. In older times, much of the information contained within this book comprised the secret skills of the style, and as such, was given to only a few superior pupils. Still fewer students had the chance to hear the master explain the fine points of the techniques and illustrate the details with specific movements.

In modern times, we are more open with martial arts knowledge. We need to share openly the valuable information that was once passed only to a select few students. Doing so will help those who want to improve their skills and understanding of the Shaolin style. In this way, the art of Shaolin kung fu will retain its essential and truly meaningful skills, thus enabling the tradition to be passed down to future generations of students.

I have been training and teaching the Northern Shaolin style of kung fu for nearly six decades. Over those years I have taught thousands of students, giving my understanding of the concepts that underlie the Northern Shaolin style, pinpointing faults and emphasizing the foundations, thus helping the students grow and improve more quickly.

Training in the Northern Shaolin style is multifaceted. It strengthens the body, increases agility of both mind and body, harmonizes the limbs, and develops martial skill to such a degree that victories can be gained in all forms of conflicts. In addition, Northern Shaolin training builds moral character. This in turn benefits society, for a good martial artist is more able to be a positive influence on those around them.

The aim of this book, and what I hope to inspire by my efforts, can be summarized in an ancient Shaolin saying, “Study Shaolin style in great depth, then absorb the special qualities of the other styles. Strive for the higher ideals. Study for wisdom, train the body, never fear evil, and always fight for justice.”

— Shifu Wing Lam

The book is now available to order here:

Young Forest, Traditional Skill

Hello everyone! While we have been quiet here on the blog-front, we have not been idle. Our newest book is now out! We bring you Grandmaster Wing Lam’s book on Northern Shaolin Kung Fu:

Shaolin Volume 1 Cover

As with our previous books, this tome is filled with the knowledge and insights that Sifu Lam has gained from historical texts and his decades of practice and teaching. Presented in clear and concise language, this manual is the first of a two volume series and begins with the core teachings and aspects of the art as well as fundamentals and training advice that is applicable to all martial arts styles. This is the complete Northern Shaolin book that you have been waiting for!

The book is now available to order here:

As a teaser, here is a look at the contents:

  • Preface
  • Lore and History
  • Concepts
  • Fundamentals
  • Training
  • Forms Training
  • Introductory Hand Forms
  • Core Weapons
  • Final Thoughts
  • Glossary of Terms

We hope you enjoy the book and that our enthusiasm and dedication to the art comes through in its pages.

The Salute: A Gesture of Respect -by Grandmaster Wing Lam

Martial artists commonly salute with a bow when they greet each other. This salute is a custom that is an intrinsic part of traditional Chinese Kung Fu. It is a mutual show of respect for each other’s skills and abilities.

The salute also had a practical application. Martial artists were always very cautious in the old days, and a hand shake was considered either too threatening or an invitation for attack. Warriors would try to avoid contact with unscrupulous people, leery of surprise attacks. Many Chin Na (joint splitting) techniques begin from a handshake.

The Hung Gar salute is a signature movement of the style. It takes two steps forward and two steps back, with the open hand forming a Tiger Claw. According to legend, the Hung Gar style arose from the monk Gee Sim Sum See, who fled the destruction of the Fukien Sil Lum (Shaolin) temple by the Manchus. The Hung Gar school developed out of a network of underground rebels who sought to overthrow the Ching Dynasty. Their motto was “Restore the Ming, Destroy the Ching”. The Ching Dynasty was considered by these rebels as non-Chinese. These rulers were tyrannical foreign invaders. This rebel spirit is evident throughout the Hung Gar practice. For example, the famous Kiu Sau technique is known as “Strong Finger Controls China”, symbolic of their rebellion.

In 1986, the People’s Republic of China standardized the salute for Wushu. This standard salute is basically the same as the salute used by Northern Shaolin. The right hand is clenched in a fist. The left hand thumb is bent, and the four fingers are stacked and straight. The palm of the left hand is placed over the fist. Both fist and palm are about 20 to 30 cm from the chest, with both elbows bent and the arms forming a circle. The hands are held at chest height. The feet are together with the knees straight. The posture is erect and the eyes are focused on the person who is being saluted.

The most common explanation of the symbolism of the salute is that the fist shows martial ability and the hand covers the fist to show civility. The modern PRC definition states that the right fist demonstrates that you are pledged to the cultivation of the martial arts, and are using martial arts to make friends. The left hand thumb is bent out of humility. Chinese people will point to themselves with their thumb instead of their index finger, as westerners do. A straightened thumb, like the western thumb’s up gesture means “I’m number one!” to a Chinese. Therefore, the bent thumb means that that you are not number one. Even if you are, proper martial etiquette would demand that you be too humble to admit it. The four fingers symbolize uniting Wushu across the four seas (or directions).

Salute when you greet and take leave of your Sifu. This shows your respect for his (or her) teachings. Salute your instructors for the same reason. Salute when you enter and exit the Kwoon, to show respect for the school’s ancestral tablets, which represent the sacrifices that your grandteachers made for the discipline. Salute your fellow classmates, to show that you will work together to hone each other’s skills. You should salute your teacher before he salutes you. Once your have developed the habit of saluting, it is a gesture that must come automatically whenever appropriate, without being requested.

Training While Not Training: The Bak Sil Lum Verse

Having just finished a brief overview of the character of Bak Sil Lum (BSL) a couple of weeks ago, this post briefly continues on the topic of BSL to explore an oft-cited adage found in various materials on Northern Shaolin kung fu.  Translated, it says “Sleep Like a Bow, Walk Like the Wind, Sit Like a Bell, Stand Like a Pine”.  This adage came up while I was speaking with Sifu Lam for the blog and he expounded on what it means.

Sleep Like a Bow

This refers to the sleeping position that puts the body in a natural shape with correct spine curvature (reference to a bow refers to this curvature).  One should sleep on their right side, with knees bent and arms in comfortable position.  Basically, one should sleep in the fetal position on their right side.  There are two main reasons why it is important that one sleeps on their right side as opposed to their left:  First, the heart is located slightly to the left of center.  Because of this, it is believed that sleeping on the left side places more pressure on the heart, while sleeping on your back or stomach disrupts the natural curvature of the spine.  Sleeping on the right side places the spine in correct alignment while putting less pressure on the heart than the left side.  The second reason is the shape of the stomach.  The stomach has a slight curve from left to right, so sleeping on the right side is believed to be more conducive to the stomach’s shape and allows for gravity to aid in any digestive processes.

This sleeping position also preserves the “jing”, or essence, and keeps the mind more alert and aware of the surroundings.  In sleep, jing is sometimes lost through “wet dreams”.  On your side with your legs curled it is not possible to lose jing this way, as bending the legs reduces tension and sensitivity in the groin area and sleeping on your side prevents contact with the area.

Walk Like the Wind

This if a fairly straightforward idea.  “Walk like the wind” refers to one keeping their stepping light and controlled, while maintaining “floating” energy.  This means that one does not “set” their foot down while stepping and sink their weight onto it; instead, one maintains light and swift stepping that allows one to quickly react and move in any direction at any time.  Maintaining this posture serves not only to provide for the physical ability to react and move quickly, but is conducive to the mental state of alert awareness.

Sit Like a Bell

Another rather simple one, this saying has to do with one’s posture while sitting.  One should sit erect with the top of the head gently pressing up and the shoulders relaxed.  “Sit Like a Bell” is a reference to maintaining the natural curves of the spine, similar to the curves of a bell.  Maintaining the correct posture keeps one’s energy up and circulating, keeping one alert, aware, and able to react quickly to outside stimuli.  Another reason for keeping this posture is the promotion of healthy organs.  When you sit slouched or hunched over, it compresses your organs and causes them to sit stacked on top of each other.  By keeping your body straight with the natural curve of the spine, the organs maintain their optimal alignments and the qi is allowed to flow freely throughout the body.

Stand Like a Pine

At first glance, this adage seems a bit more obvious than it is.  “Stand Like a Pine” just means stand like a tree, right?  Stand straight and erect with good posture.  This is a fair point and certainly good advice, but there’s a reason why the saying goes “Stand Like a Pine” and not “Stand Like a Tree”.  Pine trees don’t have leaves, they have needles.  These needles grow in dense bunches and jut out in every direction.  Just as a Pine’s needles grow outward in every direction, one should stand with the intent of projecting their energy much the same way.  By standing with this intent of pushing their energy out in all directions, one keeps their energy readily available, allowing them to physically react quickly to stimuli from any direction.  Also, this intent (once again) keeps one mentally alert and aware.

Common Thread

You may have noticed quite a bit of repetition in the descriptions and reasons for each phrase.  All four of the concepts that are mentioned have to do with maintaining a ready supply of live energy, as well as keeping a certain level of alertness.  The idea is to be training even when you are not actually training; to maintain a state of readiness and correct structure at all times, keeping your energy fresh and preventing it from going stale.  This carries both martial benefits and health benefits, further reflecting Shaolin’s combined history in martial arts, medicine, and philosophy.