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Our philosophy as an art. Personal Development. Dedication.
 Our Philosophy

Ch'an Buddhism

We do not demand or expect that practitioners of Nam Pai Chuan subscribe to any particular school of thought, and our students and teachers come from all walks of life and from a variety of religious and philosophical persuasions.

When discussing our philosophy one might be understood to be referring to either our philosophy of teaching as an organisation, or of the philosophical insights one gains by practicing our art.

Shaolin Gaocan Mun Nam Pai Chuan is not a sport but a martial art with all the etiquette and behaviour that practice of a true martial art entails. The student must not use his or her skills offensively or in unjustified situations, whether inside or outside of the training centre

Teaching Philosophy

After spending many years training in the most traditional of manners, Sigung Lai was well placed to understand the significant gains of following a rigorous, indeed arduous, training regime of traditional Shaolin art. Through his exposure to contemporary teaching methods he also came to realise that many of these benefits could be shared with a wider cross-section of people.

Sigung Lai's determination that traditional Chinese kung fu should be enjoyed by a variety of practitioners, as were the better-organised Japanese and Korean styles at the time, set him on a new teaching path.

Sigung Lai's meditations led him to formulate a new way of propagating his own Sifu's art, and as Sigung Lai was preparing to move to Europe Daisigung Quek bestowed the name Nam Pai Chuan on this school.

When Sigung Lai settled in the UK in 1979 he established Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan and immediately set about teaching his Sifu's art. Over his decades in Europe he has continued to refine his teaching methods to ensure that Nam Pai Chuan's root in tradition is expressed in a most appropriate way.

Our philosophy of teaching is apparent to anyone who attends our classes:

We have a consistent structure to our general classes

We have an organised syllabus of material of increasing complexity that students acquire through time

We use a system of gradings and coloured belts at junior levels to allow students to easily measure their progress

We employ modern fitness training techniques to prevent injury and optimise physical performance

All students are engaged in guiding their juniors through their learning, allowing us to maintain the chain of knowledge for future generations

Our learning environment is refreshingly free of ego or machismo

Sigung Lai

We believe the best way to assess whether a martial art is right for you is to attend a class, whether only to watch or to join in. You should feel comfortable with your fellow practitioners, inspired to learn from them, and inspired to share what you have learned. We like to believe we have achieved this balance.

Personal Development and Dedication

We do not wish to indoctrinate our students with any particular set of beliefs, nor do our instructors necessarily subscribe to identical views, but it is helpful to examine the origins of Shaolin Gaocan Mun Nam Pai Chuan to put the art in its proper context.

We tend not to articulate our philosophical foundations in words. This is not because we are being evasive, or because we have anything to hide, but because Shaolin kung fu was developed in the Ch'an Buddhist temples of China and there is something to be gained from adopting the traditional experiential methods of learning kung fu.

Ch'an Buddhism was the result of the cross-fertilisation of Indian Buddhism with China's indigenous Taoism in the Buddhist temples of China, including Shaolin.

Ch'an Buddhism may be viewed as anti-intellectual by those familiar with mainstream Western philosophical traditions, emphasising as it does direct experience and transmission of knowledge at the expense of lengthy debate and an attempt to objectify knowledge.

We believe that progress in any endeavour in life is best achieved through hard work ("kung fu" is sometimes translated as "man's effort"), dedication and reflection. The harder the work, the more profound the reflection, the deeper the insight.

This direct transmission of knowledge is well illustrated by the following exchange:

CH'AN STUDENT: Master, who am I?
[The Master slaps the student violently around the face.]

CH'AN MASTER: Who is hurting?

The paradoxical need to use some words to guide those seeking meaning starts with the opening line of the foundational text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, which are often rendered: "The Way that can be expressed is not the true Way." The same book then has dozens of short chapters attempting to illustrate the Way with words, despite saying that it is not possible to do so.

The Ch'an sect of Buddhism of course has a rich and very specific set of religious beliefs and rites, though we believe many elements of its "culture" are relevant to the proper learning of kung fu without the need to subscribe to the religious views and practices.

Among the cultural elements we adopt are the supremacy of direct experience as a substitute for "book learning", a desire to suppress one's ego, the respect for all life, the value of physical effort, and the desire to achieve harmony with other people and one's environment.

One can practice Nam Pai Chuan purely as an absorbing physical activity with great benefits, and a large proportion of our students do just that. For those seeking deeper insight there is much food for thought in our techniques, and our teaching methods, that serve to act as a direct illustration of these underlying principles.

Self defense class


Shaolin Gaocan Mun

Nam Pai Chuan



Precepts and Tenets



Revere your ancestor


Respect your guide重道


Train with your mind 练之以恒


Strengthen the will 百折不


Centre your energy 意守丹田


Focus on reality |务实寻道


Act with earnestness 守教挚诚


Covet nothing 虚心得道


Subdue the I 矢志不渝


Behave with fortitude 刚毅不挠


Approach with innocence | 凛然


Ever hope 寄予希望


Life is death 生既是死


Death is life 死既是生


Teach the deserving 教之以道


Teach with passion 持之以恒


Learn always 学海无涯


Assume nothing 四大皆空