Six Self Defense Weapons You Can Find Almost Anywhere

women throwing an elbow to a man's face When I say “self-defense”, what do you think? An attacker on the street with an elbow to the face and a knee to the groin?

You are being attacked, and you look around for something you can use as a weapon.  Depending where the attack occurs, you might see several options, if you can get to them fast enough.

A good self-defense weapon should be something you can carry around with you and is easy to use, like a kobuton or a knife.

The problem with carrying a gun is it takes time to get it out of the holster and take off the safety before you can fire.  This may take precious seconds, and a distraction that your attacker will take advantage of. Unless you have hours at the practice range, most people don’t fire their gun often enough to be proficient at using it. An experienced fighter does know how to disarm someone with a gun, so your chances of your weapon being turned against you are quite high.

For this article, I opened my bag of tricks of common items that make handy weapons. You can have these scattered around the house, or carry them in your car, and they do not draw attention to the fact that you can use them as a weapon. Taking advantage of the element of surprise will take your attacker off guard long enough to do some damage and get the hell out of there. Who would think the straw in your cup can put out someone’s eye? Or how about a credit card?

a straw in a potato


While you are thinking about that, let me introduce you to six types of weapons you might find useful. These are just suggestions. Take a look around your house, your shop, your office. Use your imagination and see what you can do with some of the “weapons” that are right under your nose.

With Tomari-te, sometimes all it takes is one punch, properly placed.  In Hollywood movies, people fight to the death with butcher knives. It takes twenty minutes to put the other guy down. In real life, your goal is not to fight to the death, but disable your attacker and then run like the wind.



Household weapons for self defense  

1.  KUBOTAN – Read how to use a kubotan here.  There are several types of kubotans made out of metal or wood, some have a pointed end, some are flat.  The best way to carry this is with your keys.  It is easy to slip into your pocket and easy to find in your purse. However, no weapon does any good unless it is in your hand, so make it a habit to carry it with you.   It fits nicely in the palm of your hand, which lends to a great surprise when the attacker is struck in the temple with this.  Be sure to check out the blog on kubotans, because it shows the best points to strike to disable someone.


2.  SHARP OBJECTS – Orange sticks or cuticle sticks have nice shar points and can be used in many ways, as can a a bundle of orange sticksspoon, chop sticks, keys, your toothbrush.   As you see, size is not important.  The thinner the point, the sharper the penetration.  Use these in much the same way as a kubotan, but aim for soft tissue, like the eyes or temple.    



3.  CREDIT CARDS – A quick swipe across the eyes will stop any attacker for a moment or two.  The edges and credit cardscorners of the card can be used to jab just about any soft tissue – the top of the hand, across the face.    



4.  HOBBY TOOLS – This is a leather working tool.  Let your imagination take over and decide what you would do with this leather toolsharp-edge, seemingly harmless tool.  Look through your crafts, your wood shop, your sewing kit.  If you see a use for it, then it is a good weapon.    



5.  PEPPER SPRAY – This is one of the most sought-after self-defense tools on the market.  Once sprayed in the pepper sprayeyes, it pretty much disables your attacker.  However, this is one of my least favorite self defense weapons.  You don’t want a weapon that will harm you!  Because it is a spray, you cannot control the blowback.  Unless you have a high-powered tube that will spray 30 feet away, you take the chance of being blinded yourself.  If your attacker ias 30 feet away, he is not a threat because he hasn’t entered your red-zone.  There is also the problem with accessibility.  Where will you carry it?  Like a kobutan you can carry it in your hand, but you are sending signals that you are expecting trouble.  A kobutan and other household items are much less obtrusive.

6.  KNIVES –   Most self-defense is up close and personal, and a knife is held in the palm of your hand, easily knifeconcealed.  The knife in the picture has an assisted opening; simply push the lever and the blade pops out! 

When you take a knife to a gun fight, you must first disable your attacker by getting the gun out of his hand.  When you are fighting knife on knife, you still take out the knife hand in much the same way.


Any weapon can be taken away from you and used against you. Be sure you practice with your weapons of choice until you are comfortable using them.

Many people feel unsafe in their homes these days with home invasions are on the rise.  People are angry at just about everything and you never know when you will become a victim of their anger.  But an intruder into your home, or an attacker on the street, is not in his right mind, and will do anything to make sure you do not overcome his attacks.

That is why guns are not a good idea for the novice.  If you own a gun, you must become proficient in it.  If you have to use it, do not hesitate.  How does the saying go?  “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

Unless you are willing to deal with the consequences of shooting someone, you might rethink your options as to which weapon is best suited for you. Most martial art styles have some kind of weapon in their arsenal, and as an experienced martial artist, you must know how to defend yourself against various weapons, and how to use them proficiently.

These are simple weapons women and children can use without coming across as a victim.  The last thing you want your attacker to see is your fear.  If you feel confident in your self defense, then you will not exude the fear most attackers look for. 

That alone may be enough to send him down the road and not bother you. But you never know.  With illegal drugs that make people feel invincible, with the high degree of anger in our society, you never know what the other guy will do.

This is why awareness of your surroundings is the best defense.  The best block is not being there.  If you sense danger, get out of the woods! 

The martial arts is about protecting yourself, your family and your possessions.  Protection does not always mean confrontation.

I hope this short list will give you ideas on how common everyday  household items can be turned into weapons of self-defense.


Stay safe.


Sensei Carol  


Morality in the Martial Arts. The Ten Components of Conduct.

core values


It seems the only way this world is going to come out of this deep moral funk we are in is through the teachings of traditional martial arts.  People are at unrest.  We have defuncted all traditional ways of thinking and are searching for a compass to lead us out of this moral depravity.

What better way to teach morality and proper conduct than through the martial arts.  This article covers the ten components of conduct all martial artists should strive for.

Gichin Funakoshi, known as the “Father of Karate,” says it this way:

As a mirror’s polished surface reflects whatever stands before it,
and a quiet valley carries even small sounds,
so must the student of karate render of their mind empty of selfishness and wickedness
in an effort to react appropriately toward anything they might encounter. 
This is the meaning of the kara or “empty” of karate-do.”

It isn’t the technique as much as the attitude that makes a true practitioner of the martial arts.

Think back on all the great masters.  Do they exude arrogance and egotism?  Are they calm and wise?

This calmness and wisdom did not come about by boisterousness and conceit.  There is no room in the martial arts for an ego, however large or small.  The bully, the narcissist, the slouch, none of these types of personalities last long in a dojo.  Respect for oneself and others is the #1 requirement for exemplary conduct.  After all, the martial arts turns your body into one of fitness and strength, and the same happens to your mind.

When Da Mo came across the Buddhist monks that did nothing but sit around and meditate, he whipped them into shape because he believed the body and spirit were connected.  If you neglect one, you neglect the other.

With that in mind, read on about the importance of morality in the martial arts.

Respect.  One of the most important words in the martial arts.

Morality.  Why is it such an important component of the martial arts?


martial arts is good for kids

Respect, morality, and the martial arts go hand in hand.

The training of a child through martial arts in correct behavior and right-thinking forms lifelong good habits of mind and body.

However, the level of achievement of morality is directly dependent on how far a student advances in practice.

A boisterous and brazen person is limited in their achievement, narrow-minded and egotistical, thinks their style is the best and their main goal is to kick someone’s butt. This better-than, bullying mentality does not take one very far in life.

In this day and age, the lack of morality is readily apparent in societies across the world.  People seem to forget that it takes community to survive, and community means getting along.  Getting along means respecting one another’s property and person.  Respecting oneself is the ultimate sign of getting along, because if you do not like yourself, you do not like anyone else.

cartoon kids
Respect for oneself and each other

It is not a surprise that Da Mo went to live with the monks, since he was a monk himself.  Under his guidance, the practices of the monks in the Shao Lin temple became the basis for Zen Buddhism.  The moral precepts of Buddhism were originally integrated into the training of the monks by the emperor because after Da Mo’s death, some of them took to the countryside, marauding and pillaging the villagers.

But just because the martial arts and Buddhism carry the same moral precepts, read on, and you will see morality has nothing to do with religion, but with a state of mind and attitude.

Buddhism is a way of life, just like martial arts becomes a way of life.  The two are directly related in the most unlikely place – the practice of morality.  Both lead to a way of exemplary living, a way of life.


never depart from the way of the martial arts


The Way – the path to an enriched and fulfilling life.

The way of morality in the martial arts is not an easy road.  Only the dedicated will survive, but the benefits are great.

Morality is a living a life of acting and thinking, of living present in every second in both thought and deed.  Morality, as described here, is not what you normally would think. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines morality as 1) principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, 2) a particular system of values and principles, 3) the extent in which an action is right or wrong.

For our purposes, a particular system of values and principles most easily describes the role morality plays in the martial arts.  If the monks had not learned to be humble with their art, it would not have survived for nearly 2000 years.  Violent acts eventually die down.  A true sign of an art is how it is preserved over the ages.

This “true art” is threatened.  Traditionalists keep the spirit going, but in today’s world, traditions of all kinds are fading fast, and the carrying on of traditional martial arts is no exception.

The rigid training of the Shao Lin monks, the life-and-death commitment of the samurai, and the struggles of the Okinawans to keep their fighting art alive; they all had moral principles to tame their weaponless defense.

The student learns ways to disable an attacker.  As the techniques increase in level, the ways of defense become more brutal.  Target points on the human body meant for disabling or killing are also target points that will heal.  The student must learn the difference between these two.  Within his two hands he holds the power to heal or kill.  With that comes a huge responsibility.  And that is why there is a system of values and principles that define the martial arts.

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming and Jeffery Bolt in their book on Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu wrote about the dual development between deed and thought:  Morality of Action and Morality of Mind.


morality in the martial arts

Morality of action.  How one behaves in society, in the outside world.

Humility gains and pride loses

1. Humility.  Humble people admit there is something greater than themselves, something beyond their reach.  This promotes continuous learning, and humility is the foundation for learning.  One must admit they know next to nothing to absorb the gap that is filled in by learning and practice.

“Humility gains” by reminding the martial artist that his training can always be improved upon.  There is always someone better than you.  For every day you don’t train, your opponent gains a day.  No matter how much you know, how perfect your techniques are, there is always more to learn and perfect.

“Pride loses” by creating a feeling of satisfaction and adequacy.  Pride gives the practitioner a false sense of achievement.  Why practice?  This thinking halts your growth in a heartbeat.  Remember the adage, “Pride goeth before a fall!”

Humility is the building block for the other four levels of morality of action, because if one isn’t humble, they certainly won’t be respectful.

2. Respect is intimately related to humility.  Both recognize the goodness in everything.  There is no “bad” style of the martial arts, most are closely related.  There is no reason for dojo wars or cock-of-the-walk mentality.  Each is in this for their own reasons, and each reason is valid.  Who are we to judge whether another person’s reasoning is good or bad, or our style is better than theirs.

Respect gives the martial arts the pure spirit it deserves.  In the dojo we show respect in many different ways; to other students by treating them well, to the dojo by keeping it clean and in repair, to oneself by wearing a clean gi and having a clean body.  And especially, respect to the master of your art, for this is the person that can guide you to the higher levels of ability.  Bowing shows respect to the sensei, the dojo, the other students, and to yourself.  These gestures are important because they help us acquire correct behavior.

3.  Righteousness.  Steadfast and upright.  Doing the right thing.  

Just like the monks of old, fighting for the old reign, for the life they lost to the Manchus, you find yourself standing up for justice, compelled to fight the evils in the world.  It is not an easy torch to carry.  This is what it means to be righteous – morally good and virtuous.  Live a clean life because others are looking up to you and they trust you.

4. Trust – If you are respectful and humble, and stand up for what is right, then people learn to trust you.  They know your word is good and you do what you say.  To be dependable shows honesty and good character, and it shows you are loyal.

5. Loyal – to be faithful to the ideals that one believes in – ideals of family, culture, country, and the martial arts.  A student may be called on to teach, which he must honor.

If your master has taken the time to reach you to the level of achievement where he feels comfortable allowing you to teach, then he deserves your loyalty and respect by passing on what he has taught you.

This is the ultimate compliment to the masters before you.  Without you, your art dies.

Morality of thought.  If a man is a ship, then the will is the rudder.

Can you spend three hours a day training?  If the will is strong, if the desire is there, you can.  It takes long hours to become proficient at your art, it has been said after you throw 10,000 kicks and 10,000 punches you are well on your way to perfection.

That’s a lot of kicks and punches.  How many do you throw in an hour’s practice?  It all adds up.  Without the will to succeed, you quit before the 10,000 is close.

1. Will is the heart of the matter.  The will is the force that gets us through, not only the 10,000 punches and kicks, but through life’s challenges.  In times of personal trouble, sadness, grief, loss, laziness, self-doubt, it is your will to overcome, to survive, that gets you to the other side.

2. Endurance supports the will; it is the will’s physical fuel or energy source.  You may want to succeed, but not have the endurance.  Can you endure those 10,000 kicks over the course of many years?

3 & 4. Perseverance and patience are the will’s mental sources of energy.  Endurance is physical energy, perseverance and patience are the mental energy that gives you the right mindset.  Those long years of practice can only be endured with perseverance and patience.

5. Bravery is the principal action for the will; the spiritual courage to fight truth.  This is not an easy task, fighting truth.  People do not want to see it; they do not want to hear there is a better, more peaceful way to live.  It takes great strength and bravery to endure the onslaught that goes along with standing up for what is right.  Sometimes it means physically defending yourself or your family; sometimes it means speaking out when you see someone wronged; sometimes it means just getting through your day!

As you can see, the five components of morality in action: Humility, respect, righteousness, loyalty, and truthfulness are intimately tied to the five components of morality of mind: Will, endurance, perseverance, patience and bravery.  Perhaps you can also see how these ten components are necessary to advance in the martial arts.  As these qualities are practiced, they become a part of one’s character.  Just like learning respect in the dojo transfers to treating others with respect in the community.


Humility is indeed the building block, the foundation for moral character.



“Once humility becomes a living ideal the thought of showing off or boisterous disappears.”
Master Yang

Whether you are a practitioner or an instructor, it is important to carry these precepts with you.  These are not just for the dojo, but a way of conduct throughout your life.  Your training as a martial artist sets you off from the others.  People look to you to see if you are a bad-ass or if you are someone they can trust.  You are a reflection of your dojo and of your art.  Just like the mirror looking back, you are the mirror for your art.

Promote kindness and goodwill in your world.  It only takes one or two to start the momentum.  Advertise your dojo by putting your best foot forward and being helpful and kind.  Practice humility.  It is practice because understanding what it takes to be humble doesn’t happen overnight.  Perhaps that is why the old masters are calm and wise.  It took a lifetime to get there.


Sensei Carol

Rules for the Dojo

Mushin Kenpo Karate is based on mutual respect for all people in class or out.  As martial artists in a class, the people around you are your brothers and sisters.  Treat each other well.

Rules are not made to be broken, but to be followed.  Showing respect for one another is the most important aspect in a dojo. It is important to show respect to the dojo itself, the instructors, past and present, other students, your parents, friends, and anyone else that comes into your life.

When people treat each other well, there is a sense of comradery and teamwork.  Everyone in the dojo has the same goal; to learn to protect themselves and the ones they love.  The instructors of Mushin Dojo do not tolerate bullying of any kind, inside or outside the dojo.

Students are expected to conduct themselves with utmost decorum.  You are representatives of Mushin Dojo, and if you are out on the streets picking fights and showing off your stuff, you are not a representative of the art.

Below are the rules of Mushin Dojo.  They are simple and straightforward.  Act responsibly and the rules are easy to follow.

When to Bow:

  • Upon entering or leaving the dojo.
  • Upon formal opening and closing of class.
  • Before engaging in a workout with a training partner (bow to each other).  This expresses to your training partner that you are there to work out and not to hurt or damage each other.
  • Whenever you wish to address an instructor directly.  (Bow and wait for the instructor to return bow before enering into instructors area or training plan)
  • When entering a mat or ring.
  • Bowing upon entering a dojo shows respect for the past masters that had spent their lives training and developing the martial arts.
  • Bowing to your instructor shows respect and to thank the instructor for taking the time to teach you.

Other Mushin Dojo Rules:

  • No gum chewing during work outs.
  • No smoking in class.
  • Never interrupt the instructor – wait for questions.
  • Wait for permission before leaving the dojo floor. 
  • Never walk away from a workout.
  • No swearing in the dojo.
  • No eating in the dojo.
  • Keep the dojo immaculate.
  • Always wear clean uniform and have a clean body.

Show Respect for Others in the Dojo

  • Refrain from losing your temper.
  • Never make fun other other’s mistakes.
  • Immediately move away from an injured person.
  • Never put down another person’s art.
  • By loyal to your own art.
  • Seek approval of your instructor before entering a tournament or giving a demonstration.
  • Never handle weapons that you are not qualified to.
  • Apply yourself fully to periods of meditation.

Traditional Okinawan Karate is not a sport!  Do not refer to it as a sport. It is a martial art.



Posi-talk: The Breakfast of Champions

two boxes of wheaties with michael jordan pictured
Wheaties. The breakfast of Champions. Click here to learn more.

Oh, wait, I got that wrong.  It is Wheaties that is the “Breakfast of Champions!”  Long advertised as the cereal star athletes eat every morning.

Although what you eat is of prime importance in developing a healthy, athletic body, unless you have the drive and the will to power through the rough moments of your training, what you eat will not help you in the least.


When a student began lagging after endless pushups, my sensei would say,

“You need to eat more Wheaties!”

If you are plagued by self-doubt about your training, if you are not sure you can take the rigors of the martial art world and are thinking about giving up, read on and learn about the 12-posi-talk habits of champions.  Perhaps what holds you back is not your breakfast but your mindset.

You, too, can be a Champion

Champions are made, not born.  Anyone can be a champion if they put their mind to it.  In this case, we are talking about how a martial arts champion is made.  Sure, people are born with various athletic abilities, some have to work harder than others to get to where they want to go.  It seems some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and anything they touch turns into success!

Positive self-talk is something we have all heard about.  The world is full of abundance gurus who are telling us we are as we think.  Actually, this type of thinking is not something new.  As far back as the Proverbs, we are told our thoughts lead us.  This is a hard concept to figure out, especially when stuck in the doldrums of self-doubt.

The purpose of posi-talk is to eliminate the negative self-talk.  Did you know, scientists have discovered we think in words, pictures and emotions at a rate of 300-400 words a waking minute?  Our minds are busily filtering out what we need to know in this instant, and the rest is information our minds store for later.  If you catch your mind racing, too many thoughts, maybe this is why.

Here is how negative talk works.  “Oh, man, I hope I don’t forget my kata.  I will be so embarrassed!”  You forget your kata and you are embarrassed.  Then you say, “I knew that was going to happen!”  The next time, you forget it even more.  Eventually you become discouraged, and feeling like a failure, you quit going to class.

Posi-talk works the same way, but in the opposite direction.  “Oh, man, I’ve got this down.  I am going to blow the judges away and take home that glittering, shiny first place trophy!”  Chances are you win the trophy.  And if you get second place, you say, “I did my best, we were so close.  I’ll get first place next time!”  You go back into the dojo and work on your techniques even harder than before.

The following steps are taken from the November 1990, Black Belt magazine, Posi-talk.  The Secret of Champions.

Bruce Lee on cover of Black Belt magazine November 1990
Black Belt, November 1990, Vol 28, No. 11

The 12-step Posi-talk Program

  1.  Talk to yourself in the present tense:  I am…, I can…, I enjoy…
  2.  Use complete sentences in the present tense:  I am the best.  I am grateful.
  3. Be specific with your thoughts:  I will win the first-place trophy.
  4. Keep the statements brief, easy to remember.
  5. Use words that are colorful and emotionally charged.  I’m going to blow the judges away and take home that glittering, shiny first place trophy!
  6. Say your statements like you mean them!  I am so proud and pleased with my accomplishments.
  7. Say them with emotion.  See your success, taste the feeling of victory, hear the roar of the crowd.
  8. Write ten to twelve of your statements on note cards, one on each card.
  9. Read your cards twice a day – before going to sleep and immediately upon waking.
  10. Softly play music while reading your cards.  The best for this is instrumental music that is played at 60 beats per minute.  Scientists recommend Baroque music.
  11. If you want, record yourself speaking your statements.  This is another way of cementing your posi-talk into your subconscious.
  12. Do this every day for 30 days.  You are well on your way to being a champion!

Note:  Please avoid using words like “should, will, need to, have to, must” and other such words that sound positive but have negative connotations.

Posi-talk Instructions for Instructors

  1. Remove the negative thoughts from your life.
  2. When you hear a student talking bad about himself, stop his talk with positive reinforcement.  Have the 12 steps handy to give to your doubting-Thomas students.
  3. Correct and praise. Correct and praise.  This cannot be said enough.  Find positive ways to change their habits.  Remember to bring your hand back to chamber, Johnny.  You’ll get more power that way.  Great job, by the way.
  4. Make a list of uplifting movies, books and videos to give to your students.
  5. Put up slogans around your dojo.  Here are a few to get you started:

Belief in limits creates limited people.  (Tony Robbins)

If you are afraid of failure, give attention to success.  (Dr. Joseph Murphy)

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right!  (Henry Ford)

You are just about as happy as you make your mind up to be.  (Abraham Lincoln)

You are what you think about all day.  (Emerson)

The Men at the Top

These techniques are used by champions across the board.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a martial artist or going for the Olympic Gold, talking negative will not get you there.  This isn’t reserved for champions.  You can reach the heights you want to reach by changing how you talk to yourself.  But there is more to success than saying you are the greatest.  Only hard work and dedication – and passion – will get you to the finish line.

An example of passion, hard work and dedication is how Bruce Lee approached his training.  In the same Black Belt magazine is an article called What makes Bruce Lee so Good?  A special birthday commemorative.  His dedication and spirit are what made him a great martial artist.  Few men are remembered so well 50 years after their death.

He was driven, always looking for ways to perfection.  He regarded his body as a work of art, “a piece of granite that needs to be sculptured.”  And sculpture it he did.  Tirelessly training.  He kept on improving because he wanted to “go where no man has gone before.”  I would say he met that goal.  He was never satisfied, always striving for something better.

There were other American greats in the martial arts from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Chuck Norris, world champion full contact fighter is only one of his accomplishments;  Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, known for his lightening-quick left round kick that gets you every time.  Watch this video of Joe Lewis and Bruce Lee.  One punch says it all.

The commentator calls this a 6-inch punch, but it is actually his famous 1-inch punch.  His hand is only an inch away from Joe’s chest when he sends him flying back.  Watch closely, and you will see it is only a flick of the wrist.

Never rest on your laurels

This striving for something better is a mark of humility, and a behavior all successful martial artists must have.  Having humility simply means admitting there is always something, someone, bigger, better and stronger than you.  There is always something to learn.  If you think you’ve reached the end of the road, your ego has taken you for a ride.

People who reach the top do not always have the genetic ability to get there.  Bruce was born with athletic abilities, but if he hadn’t pursued his art as he had, and developed the discipline to become the best, where would he be?  Certainly not on the cover of Black Belt magazine!

Genetic ability is less than half the battle.  Anyone can be successful.  Just follow the 12-step program outlined above.  You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you lack the desire to succeed, you will go nowhere in life.  You don’t have to be a great karate master.  You can be you.  Whatever you want to be.

Remember, only limited people believe in limits.  Nothing is impossible.  Impossible means I’m possible, I am possible. 

I Am Possible

Write this down on your notecard and read it twice a day.  Say it every time you feel down in the dumps.  Change your negi-talk to posi-talk with just three simple words.  I am possible.

Give it a shot.  Take 30 days for a little bit of posi-talk.  Good luck to you.

Oh, and… remember to eat your Wheaties!


Sensei Carol





The Story of the Happy Buddha, the Shao Lin Temple, and Qigong


The Happy Buddha

In Ancient Beginnings of the Martial Arts, we talked about how Da Mo crossed a great expanse of sea and land to finally end up at the Shao Lin Temple in Henen Province.  Did you ever wonder how the Temple came to be?  Here is a wonderful story about the founding of the Shao l]Lin Temple.

Batuo, an Indian monk, preceded Da Mo’s entrance into the Shao Lin Temple by one-hundred and fifty years.

The first temple was built in 377 AD in the Songshan Mountain range, in the Chinese province of Henan. There is something magical about these mountains, and here is one story of how this famous monastery came to be.

Songshan consists of two major ranges, the Taishi Mountain in the east and the Shaoshi Mountain in the West.  Songshan has been described as a “pretty damsel having an afternoon nap in the spring.” 

There is brilliant history and legend surrounding this area, which was the heart of the beginning of the Chinese culture thousands of years ago. Master Yong tells the legend in The Complete Book of Shaolin of three travelers who climbed Shaoshi Mountain on an auspicious day in 495.  The traveler from the south was a Taoist priest, from the north was a Buddhist monk, and a rich landlord climbed up the western face of the mountain.

A Heavenly Vision

They reached the top, clouds gathered and mingled with a heavy mist.  All three sat on a large round rock, but none knew of the other’s existence.  Suddenly, the clouds parted, and a vision of heaven appeared.  Written across this celestial majestic monastery were the characters ZHU LIN SI, which means “Monastery of the Bamboo Forest.”

The men saw the vision of a young monk talking to his master. The boy asked his master that since Zhulin Monastery had risen to heaven, would there be a monastery on earth?  The master pointed toward the southeast. “At the northern side of Shaoshi foothill – with the nine lotus pinnacles in front and the five bosom peaks behind, and with a majestic waterfall on the west supplying a crystal-clear stream flowing towards the east.”

The three mortals looked in the direction pointed out by the older monk, and they saw the vision of a magnificent monastery built with red bricks and jade-colored tiles, and in gold, the characters across the entrance spelled “SHAO LIN SI.”


The three men uttered a sigh of disbelief, the vision was shattered.  Suddenly aware of one another.  They hurried down the mountain in their separate ways, plotting to themselves how they could secure this glorious piece of property.

The landlord thought he would build a most magnificent house and soon be the richest man on earth.

The priest thought if he moved his family grave there his descendants would gain power and prestige.

The monk thought, “What a lovely, sacred spot. If I build a temple there, I can help many people achieve enlightenment.”

Securing the Claim

High cliffs of Songshan Mountain, China
Songshan Mountain – how could you not be happy with that view!

Late that night, the monk went to the mountain and buried his shoe to mark his claim.  Early the next morning, the priest went to the same spot and thought he was lucky no one had claimed the land yet, so he put a stick in the ground.  The landlord came by later that day.  He looked for a place to hang his hat and saw the stake, on which he hung his hat, marking his claim!

Several days later, each man, at the same time, brought their workmen to begin building their dream.  They began to argue over who had the claim.  Emperor Xiao Wen and his imperial entourage was passing by, and he stopped and asked the men what the argument was about.

They told him.  Wise King Wen determined that the hat was on top of the pole and the pole was on top of the shoe, so the person that placed the shoe was the rightful owner.

The monk was thrilled. His name was Batuo, an Indian monk who had come from India to spread Buddhism.  Emperor Wei built the Shao Lin Temple for Batuo so that he could teach people the way to enlightenment.  There was no practice of the martial arts, just long hours of meditation.

Today Batuo is immortalized as the “Happy Buddha.”

Buddist Monk
Da Mo

Da Mo shows up 150 years later…

When Da Mo arrived at the Shao Lin temple in 527, he found the monks spiritually enlightened, happy with their life, and accustomed to the rigid discipline of the monastery.

But he also found them physically weak and unhealthy.  Their physical states did not bother the monks, though, because they regarded their bodies as Chou Pi Nang, or “notorious skin bag”.  They felt if they spent their time in attaining Buddhahood, why spend time on the physical body?

Da Mo believed the body and spirit were connected, and to maintain one, you had to maintain the other.  The man was fit.  He trained in martial arts from a young boy, he was a soldier, he was a Buddhist monk.  Think of the many miles he traveled from his home in India to Henan Province.  Did he travel by foot, chariot, camel, horse?  Imagine the journey from India to China in the 6th century, and you will have an idea of the stamina it took.

Da Mo whipped the monks into shape.  He taught them his fighting art and his spiritual art.  He got them moving and active.  In a short time, the monks became healthy, and as their training increased, they became the root of the greatest fighting force in the world – the martial arts.

Qigong – “Moving Meditation”

Qigong dates back long before Da Mo went to China, but the eight moves of The Eight Pieces of Brocade, a popular and very effect set of Qigong movements, are the first eight moves of the 18 Hands of Lohan, which are attributed to Da Mo.

If you have not tried Qigong, check it out.  If this simple art turned out-of-shape Buddhist monks into healthy, robust monks 1800 years ago, think what it can do for you.  Qigong taps into your qi, your life force.  It can heal your body and calm your mind.  They call it “moving meditation,” and is great for those of us who find sitting on a cushion for any length of time to meditate a real challenge.

By concentrating on your movements and your breathing, you are keeping your mind clear of your thoughts and worries.  As you push those thoughts away with your breath, you will find an amazing release of tension throughout your body.

The idea of meditation is to give your mind a break from thinking.  As in any martial art, you are so busy concentrating on your movements you forget about your troubles and your woes.  Practiced properly, all styles of martial arts have components of Qigong.

Qigong teaches you to properly use your breath – and your qi – to obtain ultimate power.  Adding a few minutes of daily Qigong practice will maximize strength and flexibility.  The slow, mindful movements, coupled with imagery and breathing, are better than a cup of coffee to start your day.

Be a Happy Buddha, but at the same time, take care of your “notorious skin bag.”  It will serve you well.


Lifting the Sky – the first move of 18 hands of Lohan

Three excellent resources of Qigong:

Dr. Yang, Jing-Ming Eight Simple Qigong Exercises for Health.  The Eight Pieces of Brocade.

Wong Kiew Kit,  The Complete Book of Shaolin:  Comprehensive Programme for Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Development

If you prefer a video, Lee Holden has a great collection of videos that are easy to follow.