Shaolin training for reflexes

An ancient exercise to improve reflexes

A big part of the 6 Dragons Kung Fu workout is dedicated to optimizing the innate functions of our mind and body.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

To start to wake-up our reflexes exists an ancient Shaolin method that today is worth to be recovered. The exercise is very simple and does not require any physical effort.

We have chosen this practice because it improves one of the most common body’s natural defense; this automation drives us, in an risk of damage situation, to save one of the most delicate and important parts of our face: the eyes.

Close our eyes or even turn our entire head is an instinctive reaction that for a normal person is critical in any ordinary situation but very dangerous in a real fight. A good fighter must manage in a more detailed way the relationship between time and space (read The most important skill in combat).

To close our eyes in a combat situation of imminent impact “relatively” defends us but exposes us to much more serious dangers (first of all, the risk of being hit again and again without possibilities to react, read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons).

For a good practitioner, it’s fundamental to replace this rough reaction with a more appropriate and manual one (always instantaneous but voluntary).

How to perform the exercise

What we need to start:

  • Let’s take a small chain, a wire, a thread or a small rope (with a very small diameter, similar to a necklace)
  • Let’s tie to the cord a small weight, something clean, flat and larger than the human eye (the monks used perforated coins)

The preparation:

  • Let’s position ourselves in a standing or sitting position
  • Oscillating, the pendant must arrive exactly at the height of our right eye
  • Let’s cut the cord as to reach a favorable length
  • Let’s hang the string in front to us (we can also keep the cord with our hands)

The exercise:

  • Our body must remain completely static
  • Let’s swing (cyclically) the pendant in the direction of our ey
  • The oscillation direction is perpendicular to the line of our eyes
  • We must try to focus the pendant without looking anywhere else
  • The pendant must arrive (almost) to touch the pupil (let’s be careful to do not touch it)
  • What we need to do is keep our eye open when the pendant is near us
  • We can perform this simple task 5 minutes with one eye and 5 with the other


  • Acquired a certain familiarity, we can approach the pendant moving dynamically our head and / or full body (the goal is to always keep our eyes open, near to the object but sure from being not touched)
  • The same exercise can be performed in a more interactive way with the hanging speedballs (read Basic tools: the Hanging Speedball)

Notes and safety:

  • The ideal moment to perform this type of exercises is at the end of a meditation session
  • Let’s pay attention to speed, weight and form of the object to which we expose our eyes (once again the gradualness is essential)

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Can you resist without closing your eyes?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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