“There was no martial arts taught at this temple, and my Chan master would wake me in the early hours of the morning and ask me to come and chant with him. I told him I couldn’t concentrate. He asked me what I could concentrate on, and I told him: my training. He then instructed me to let my training be my meditation.
That one sentence changed my life forever. Suddenly I understood why the Shaolin arts are linked with Buddhism. I realized that the true purpose of training the body was to train the mind. It didn’t matter what we did – meditation, forms, calligraphy, fighting, chanting – it was about the motivation behind what we did and how we did it.” –Shi Yan Lei
As I progress further into my own training, I see more and more how the training is more about expanding the mind. Certainly, the training still develops the body: conditioning, body control, neural efficiency, etc. But the baseline level of physical ability can be acquired relatively quickly. After that, the limitations in skill come from the inability of the mind to stay in the moment and perceive the conditions of the present. I liked the above quote (from an article in Kungfu Magazine) from Shi Yan Lei not because I have a particular affinity for Shaolin, but because it cuts to the heart of the training process. While you train to achieve skill, the training process is intertwined with training the mind.