Northern Shaolin Kung Fu

“Soft as cotton, light as a swallow, hard as steel”

Ku Yu Cheung

Grandmaster Ku Yu Cheung

In Kung Fu the terms ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ are used to classify a style by its geographical location. The Yangtze River was the divide between the north and south and style originating from above the River where classified as ‘northern’ whereas styles originating below where ‘southern’

Northern Shaolin Kung Fu is not to be mistaken as merely an umbrella term for its origins but it is however a style in its own right amongst the other ‘northern’ styles of kung fu.

Northern Shaolin Kung Fu rose in popularity thanks to Master Ku Yu Cheung (1894-1962). Master Ku Yu Cheung was not only famous for his Northern Shaolin Kung Fu but also for his iron palm and iron body skills; you don’t have to look far to read about the famous story of Master Ku Yu Cheung and the war horse!

At the Liverpool Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Association we teach the traditional Northern Shaolin Kung Fu curriculum in its entirety. Northern Shaolin (Bak Si lum in Cantonese) consists of ten core hand forms, a large number of weapons forms and sparring forms.

Each one of the forms stresses a particular theme and teaches the practitioner techniques and strategies that relate to that theme. The basic theme of each form is clear to see from their respected names, but in time a student should learn to look past the obvious. The ten forms are as follows


  1. Hoy Moon (Open the Door)
  2. Leng Low (Lead the Way)
  3. Jo Ma (Sit on the Horse)
  4. Chuen Sum (Pierce the Heart)
  5. Mo Ngai (Martial Skill)
  6. Dun Da (Close Strike)
  7. Mui Fa (The Plum Flower)
  8. Bot Bo (Uprooting Step)
  9. Lien Wan (Continuous Links)
  10. Sik Fat (Posture Application)


Northern Shaolin Kung Fu focuses on speed, accuracy and agility in all of its techniques. When applied properly speed increases the power of a strike dramatically. An agile practitioner can not only change direction of movement quickly but can also attack multiple angels with ease opening up the range and spread of attack and defence. Accuracy plays a very large part in technique, it doesn’t matter how strong or fast a person is, if you can’t land a technique it is useless.


Practitioners are externally soft, but internally hard when applying techniques and forms are performed with a smooth flowing grace. Techniques often look soft but are actually powerful in application.


Northern Shaolin Kung Fu was developed as a ‘long fist’ style and so there is a large emphasis on kicking techniques and extending the limbs to their fullest without affecting balance or power. Northern Shaolin practitioners are noted for having long stances, fast evasive footwork, large circular movements and building power from momentum.


Master Yim Sheung Mo

Master Yim Sheung Mo

The four basic weapons of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu are the Staff, the Broadsword, the Straight Sword and the Spear. The following weapons are taught


  1. Eyebrow Height Staff
  2. Shaolin Broadsword
  3. Straight Sword
  4. Shaolin Spear
  5. Spring Autumn Long Handled Knife
  6. Double Daggers
  7. Walking Cane
  8. Tiger Hook Swords
  9. Nine Section Chain Whip
  10. Three Section Staff
  11. Double Broadswords
  12. Double Straight Swords
  13. Horse Knife
  14. Double Crescent Bladed Spear


Weapon forms teach a practitioner how use the weapon and allow them to become familiar with its movements and usage. Not only does this teach the student how to use the weapon but also how to defend against it. The use of weapons is also used as a way to build strength and ensure proper footwork is used.

Traditionally in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu two man fighting forms were used to train techniques, these forms allow both practitioners to train some of the more damaging techniques without fear of injuring each other and while giving each other a chance to practice the defence to those techniques in simulated combat. These forms allow both students to work on distance, timing and also footwork with a live opponent. The following sparring forms are taught in the curriculum:


  1. Two Man Empty Handed Sparring Form
  2. Staff V.s Staff
  3. Empty Hands V.s Double Daggers
  4. Broadsword V.s Spear
  5. Three Section Staff V.s Spear
  6. Double Daggers V.s Spear
  7. Spring Autumn Long Handled Knife V.s Spear