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Kung fu disciples really pack a punch

JIA Jinyan and his 30 students from Shaolin Temple, known as the home of Chinese martial arts, amazed visitors with special moves like "iron skin," "animal-like boxing" and "qigong" at the World Expo during the Henan Province Culture week, which ended at the weekend.

Although Jia and his students have lived and learned kung fu in the temple, they are not monks. They are known as disciples of Shaolin as they went to the temple only to learn martial arts. Since they are not monks they are free to eat meat and get married.

The disciples of Shaolin Temple originated during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). Li Shimin, or Emperor Taizong, the first emperor of the dynasty asked the Shaolin Temple, which helped Li become the emperor, to recruit disciples and train them to be generals for his army.

Jia, 32, was the leader of the disciples and he joked that he would be appointed a marshal if he were in the Tang Dynasty.

Jia's parents sent him to the temple to study kung fu when he was a child because he was sick frequently and had a weak body. He has remained at the temple and now teaches kung fu to newly recruited disciples.

The disciples at the Expo were about 18 years old. They studied with Jia for five years and he said their kung fu skills rate above average among all disciples and monks at Shaolin.

Some disciples at the Expo have learned some of the "Shaolin 72 Skills" that include using their fists and palms to break wooden boards or stone blocks.

One disciple can stretch himself out on five sharp spears - two against his chest, one on each leg and one on his stomach. This "iron skin" move apparently makes a human invulnerable to sword or spear. Another student can throw a needle into a glass from five steps away.

Jia said these top level skills require both talent and hard training.

Most disciples leave the temple once they reach 20 years of age. Some take jobs as security guards, others begin teaching kung fu while others go to school for further study, he said.

To make it easier for disciples to earn a living after leaving the temple, Jia added some modern combat skills into the ancient Shaolin kung fu.


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