The Eight Pieces of Brocade or Ba Duan Jin are the first eight first exercises of the Eighteen Lohan Hands taught by Bodhidharma in Shaolin Monastery in the 6th century. It was probably during the Song Dynasty that the first eight exercises of the Eighteen Lohan Hands were practiced as Ba Duan Jin or the Eight Pieces of Brocade. Interestingly, the Eight Pieces of Brocade were popular among Taoist cultivators to the extent that it is now regarded as a Taoist art.
The famous Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands were taught by the great Bodhidharma in 527 CE to monks at the Shaolin Monastery in China when this First Patriarch of the Shaolin arts found the monks weak and often sleepy during mediation, which is the essential path towards enlightenment.
The Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands are fundamental Qigong exercises that can bring tremendous benefits if they are practiced as Qigong. Over the years, we have successfully used selections from the Eighteen Lohan Hands to help many people overcome illness, including so-called incurable diseases.
But if they are practiced as physical exercise, which is often the case nowadays, naturally the practitioner will only get the benefits of physical exercise. The crucial difference between Qigong exercise and physical exercise lies not in the outward form (which can be the same for both types of exercise), but in the internal dimensions of energy and mind. If one does not know what these internal dimensions are, it is unlikely that he (or she) has practiced Qigong, although he may have performed the outward form for years.
At the Shaolin Monastery, these Eighteen Lohan Hands evolved into a Kungfu set called Eighteen Lohan Fist, which forms the prototype of Shaolin Kungfu today. Nevertheless, the Eighteen Lohan Hands continued to be practiced as Qigong exercises.
Because of its long history, there are many versions of the Eighteen Lohan Hands being taught today. Shown are the Eight Pieces of Brocade or Ba Duan Jin which are the first eight exercises of the Eighteen Lohan Hands taught in our school Shaolin Wahnam Institute.
Unless you are already well versed in Qigong, even if you can perform these eighteen sets of movements correctly but without affecting the internal dimensions of mind and energy, you will only get the benefits of physical exercise. The illustrations, therefore, are not meant for self practice, but for satisfying curiosity, and perhaps as a means for preserving for future generations what the Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands look like.
You will be mistaken if you think that the mind and energy dimensions are not explained here because we want to keep them as secrets. Even if we explain them here, many people may not believe the explanation. Even if they believe it and follow the instructions, they may not get the desired result. Worse still, and this is a main reason why many masters keep the secrets, practicing advanced Qigong without a Master's supervision may bring serious adverse effects.
You will appreciate the warning better if you remember that what is involved is mind and energy, the two most powerful things in the Universe. As an analogy, learning how to swim or drive a car is safe with proper supervision. But one would not, and should not, go swimming or driving merely after reading some swimming or driving instructions.