What is the 18 Lohan Qigong?

Bodhidarma (left) passing the knowledge of the Buddha onto the Shaolin Monks (right) 9th century fresco, Bezeklik caves, Xinjang, China. 

Bodhidarma (left) passing the knowledge of the Buddha onto the Shaolin Monks (right) 9th century fresco, Bezeklik caves, Xinjang, China. 

Q. What is Qigong?

A. Qigong means: “Life Energy Cultivation” using movement, breathing, and meditation used for health and spirituality training. With roots in Chinese medicine, and philosophy qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance life energy (Qi). According to Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian philosophy, qigong allows access to higher realms of awareness, awakens one’s “true nature", and helps develop human potential. Dating back over four centuries, a diverse spectrum of qigong forms developed in different segments of Chinese society.

Most widely known forms of Qigong were created by the Bodhidarma they are: Yijin Jing (Tendon
Changing), Wuxíng (Five Animals) and Baduanjin (Eight Pieces of Brocade). All of which are variations of the original Eighteen Lohan Qigong. The term used for the complete Qigong teachings of the Bodhidarma is Lohan Qigong. Niel learnt the complete Lohan Qigong system from his teacher the last keeper of the most direct lineage of Lohan Qigong Chan Sun-Chiu. After Chan Sun-Chiu passed away Niel renamed our organisation to Lohan, dedicating it to his late teaches wish that Niel spread the complete Lohan Qigong system and to give it a modern context.

Q. What is Lohan?

A. Lohan is the name given to the Buddha’s original eighteen disciples enlightened masters. In Hindi they are called Arhat. Wikipedia is a good source of knowledge on this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Eighteen_Arhats

Q. Why is this form called the 18 Lohan?

A. Created 3000 years ago and used originally as the Buddhas own yoga practice and later taught in 300AD and renamed 18 Lohan after the Buddhist prophecy of (Maitreya) the future buddha. The prophecy goes like this: The original eighteen (Lohan) disciples of the Buddha are waiting outside of the terrestrial world for the future Buddha (Maitreya) to find enlightenment. Many millennia after the first Buddha the world will be trapped in selfish ways and a person will become enlightened and pass on the original teaching of the Buddha again. Many people of the time believe the Bodhidarma to be Maitreya, because of this he renamed the form the 18 Lohan to dispel the idea of him being the future buddha.

Q. What is Sifu Niel’s personal history with the 18 Lohan?

A. The lineage of Niel’s knowledge can be directly traced back over 3000 years to the Buddha, although our organisation is not religious we still keep many of the Buddhist traditions and etiquette. After the Buddha passed away the next leader of buddhism was chosen and given the title of Patriarch. After 27 generations of buddhist Patriarchs the title went to the Bodhidharma. The Bodhidarma created Zen Buddhism and Lohan Qigong. The Lohan physical training program led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu. At the temple the full system of Lohan was reserved for the most advanced monks. The knowledge was passed from Abbot to Abbot over the next 1200 years. From the first Abbot to Choy Fook 1835AD the last Abbot, after the fall of the Shoaling temple the inheritance was passed to Chan Heung who studied in hiding with the last Abbot. Chan Heung created the Choy Li Fut style and only taught the Lohan Qigong to his most dedicated students. The line stayed in King Mui village with in the linage of the King Mui Choy Li Fut until Chan Heung’s great grand son Chan Sun-Chiu. Chan Sun-Chiu known as the Keeper passed this knowledge onto his only living student Niel Willcott, the founder of our school Lohan in Norwich. Niel has had many teachers of Lohan Qigong his linage can be seen in this chart. Click here.

For Niel Lohan Qigong is much more than a fitness program it’s a way of living. Each day Niel dedicates one hour to practicing the Eighteen Lohan hands, first ceremonially he completes the form in the traditional way. Then Niel without restraint deconstructs the form, spontaneously adding and changing moves. This ad-lib unplanned time gives Niel deep insight, making Lohan an art form or as Niel jokingly calls it “ Zen made Flesh”

In the early 6th century the Bodhidharma who was the leader of Buddhism at the time made a change in the way Buddhism was taught. He created Zen (Chán) which gave the student the option of two paths to follow. The first path was reading the stories of the Buddha and meditating. The second is to live your life and find enlightenment through your body and mind. Thus he created LOHAN to teach the Zen path of mind & body. You don’t need a written or spoken language to convey knowledge onto others. You only need that which is common to all people, the body.