Herbal medicine Martial Arts

the ancient health secrets of martial artists

How can it help me? Why would an athlete with an injury, a runner dealing with runner’s knee, your Grandpa with a bad back, your Aunt with shoulder pain, care about all this martial arts remedy mumbo jumbo?


Because they spent CENTURIES developing ways to:

  1. Strengthen themselves for training
  2. Prevent injuries
  3. Treat new injuries
  4. Care for chronic issues and ongoing pain


Martial arts are ancient. Sources suggest that they go as far back as 2000 BC in China. As knowledge, religion and culture transferred and traveled throughout the continent, countries like Korea and Japan were influenced by their origins in India and China.


Medical knowledge and their traditional systems of medicine were shared in a similar way, with knowledge flowing from the mainland to Korea and Japan who made them their own. It’s why, although you may hear it called Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, more people are starting to use the term Asian medicine because it is a far more extensive tradition.


Like martial arts, the doctors of these systems of medicine handed knowledge down through family lineage and students, sometimes not making this information available to everyone.


A very brief historical overview (I promise I’ll keep it short)

Bodhidharma, an Indian monk and spiritual leader, came to Shao Lin monastery which was built in 477 CE. The Shao Lin monastery was Buddhist and where, for the health of the students and monks, they began teaching them the exercises that became kung fu. (New world encyclopedia.org Shaolin Monastery)


Today, the tradition of teaching spiritual students martial arts continues. My favorite example are the Kung Fu Buddhist nuns of Nepal. (check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=305491hI558)


India, at least the southern part, had the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu

In Tamil, the word stands for “trained for the battlefield”

The training even includes yoga asana


Rishikulyogshala.org 10 benefits of kalaripayattu training you had no idea about article 


As the martial arts formed and grew over hundreds and thousands of years, so did the systems of medicine and healing in these cultures. They grew alongside each other, and this is how there came to be ‘fixes’ for martial artists and athletes rooted in these systems. Why there are acupuncture points and herbal formulas specific to martial arts. Along with Asian medicine (aka TCM) in Asian countries, there is also Ayurveda and the equally (some argue more) ancient traditions of martial arts in the subcontinent of India.


The formulas and such designed by and for martial arts schools, like the Shao lin tradition, aren’t limited to injury treatment. They realized long ago that to advance in the more challenging traditions and harder workouts, the body needed some help. They also knew that  “improper training may definitely lead to serious physical and mental problems”. So the ancient traditions developed herbal formulas- both internal and external- to help with these issues.


In the studio where I do kickboxing classes there is a refrigerator full of pre-and post- workout drinks. Believe it or not, but this isn’t original to modern sports marketing. Shao lin monks had herbal training formulas for before and after workouts! (isn’t that crazy? I was sure that it was a modern phenomenon. And I was wrong.)


And check out the fun names: an example of a pre-workout formula is Shaolin Good Luck Elixir, with a post-workout formula called Harvest the Training Powder.


For over-exercising or beginners: Soothing the Sinews Elixir is for “general fatigue, soreness, aches and pains caused by exercise in beginners.”


I have fun looking through the formulas that are no longer applicable, like “Spear Wound Powder”. If you have chest pain due to a hit to the chest, you’d probably (wisely) choose an ER over “Treatment of Chest Pain Due to Fist Injury”. (With no emergency rooms or urgent care, that formula would be lifesaving.)


There are also trainings and teachings that go beyond just the physical, to develop a well-rounded and balanced athlete or martial artist. Shao lin meditation, Sleeping meditation (a little like yoga nidra), Qi Gong and Tai Chi are slower, more meditative teachings and practices designed to balance the yang activities, give some rest and train the mind and spirit. (more on that coming soon!)



New world encyclopedia.org Shaolin Monastery

Rishikulyogshala.org 10 Benefits of Kalaripayattu Training You Had No Idea About  


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