Yijin Jing is an ancient manual that contains series of exercises that is left behind by the great Zen master Bodhidharma at Shaolin temple. Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th– 6th century. It is said that he is the one who transmit Zen to China.
The word Yijin Jing in Chinese is a combination of the words YI (change), JIN (tendons and sinews), and JING (methods). As the name says Yijin Jing is a relatively intense form of exercise that will help to maintain a healthy body by strengthening the muscles and tendons. It is said that Bodhidharma created this exercise by combining the Indian Martial Art Kalarippayattu and Yoga and this exercise is said to be the key element of Shaolin’s physical conditioning.
Shaolin monks practice this exercise regularly to build their internal energy (QI) so the monks can improve their health by changing their bodies from weak to strong. This is the main reason Yijin Jing integrated into Shaolin martial arts so that the monks can improve their martial arts skills.
But it is believed that the true essence of Yijin Jing was lost in time because the manual was written in an Indian language which was not well understood by the monks in the temple. There is one legend that is one of the monks in the Shaolin temple decided to decipher the manual because he believed that the text contains valuable information more than simple self-defense technique. On his journey he finds an Indian monk named Pramati he examined the text but he can only able to partially translate the text.
Even no one knows the exact number of exercises in the manual most of them say that 18 should be the correct number of exercises in the manual (based on 18 arhats). Today most accepted routine contains only 12 exercises that were described in a book published in 1858 named “essential technique of guarding life”. The 12-posture moving exercise means 12 fists of Bodhidharma in many southern martial arts. The legend says that after 9 years of meditation and studying animal movements Bodhidharma developed this exercise.
There are five rules of Yijin Jing that are:
“Like lake water reflects the moon, a calm spirit allows energy to move inside the body.”
“In order to use and flex muscles deeply, to get a maximum extension and move QI and XUE, slow movements are required”.
“Each movement must be brought to the maximum”.
“Efficiency comes through waiting and keeping tension for a long time”.
“Limbs and trunks must be extended so that blood and energy can circulate, so we have flexibility”.