The Shaolin Way Book Review

The Shaolin Way Book Review

10 Modern Secrets of Survival From a Shaolin Kung Fu Grandmaster

If you are extremely familiar with Shaolin precepts or the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk, the book “The Shaolin Way” might not be for you. However, if you are looking for practical examples of how discipline and detachment can make us stronger people in the struggles of our lives, it may be worth picking up this book. Steve DeMasco, an American Shaolin Master and instructor, describes his life from poverty and hardship to success. He also relates how his urge to fight became a journey of traditional martial arts and self-discovery.

In The Shaolin Way, over a series of examples from his own life from childhood to adulthood, DeMasco presents different Shaolin beliefs and demonstrates how they applied in each situation. He shares his experience with Shaolin as a student, instructor, and special guest at the monastery itself. DeMasco explains how simple, yet profound, principles from the Shaolin school of thinking can help navigate our lives. These ideas apply to the tumult of career, relationships, anger, confidence, and self-esteem.

Not Your Cliche Shaolin

Honestly, The Shaolin way is an interesting read. If you have had any experience with the popular David Carradine style of Shaolin monk, you envision a humble, reserved, demure individual. Steve DeMasco reads off as having none of these qualities. His language is brash, direct, and macho, all while he explains and transmits many intricacies of the Shaolin monastic lifestyle.

Shaolin Monks
Monks lined up for a demonstration, y’know, what you normally expect

His voice wasn’t the voice I expected. It is, perhaps, the voice that is necessary. Sometimes the subdued voices of an Eckhart Tolle or Thich Nhat Hanh can feel patronizing or condescending. DeMasco’s language helps him fluidly describe how Shaolin Concepts can be effective for your average contemporary life. Also, the monks of the Kung Fu school don’t need to wrestle with office promotions, cheating spouses, or the like. DeMasco goes out of his way to make the content accessible to relatable problems.

You Have Much to Learn, Grasshopper…

DeMasco litters the book with a series of rules he has developed. 80/20 rules for happiness. The Asshole Theory. Several more. These nuggets of coarse wisdom sit in chapters that each surround problematic life events and how he reflects on them through a Shaolin principle. In Chapter 1 we learn that “Survival is not Enough” and are reminded to pursue joy and contentment in living. This provides a brief but effective nod to Buddhist non-attachment freedom from suffering in every day situations. In 4 we are told that “Even in Weakness, There is Strength” as we explore how DeMasco handled violent bullies in childhood.

The true value of the book is how open and vulnerable the author makes his own personal trauma and weakness. From his own masculine ego to his violently and sexually abusive father, Steve DeMasco creates a real feeling that these lessons aren’t just fluff. He’s not exactly what I expect from an author on a book on Shaolin, and that’s perfect. He’s human. Just like the rest of us. He struggled and understands what a hard knock life is and how to triple reverse flying spin kick it in the teeth. Whatever you’re going through, you can survive, and you don’t need to become a monk to find peace.

Pagoda at a Shaolin temple
If you feel like becoming a monk, though, the scenery is pretty nice

Finishing Moves

I was hesitant at first because of several biases but found myself enjoying The Shaolin Way. In truth, Steve Demaso sounds like a big talker, something I’m familiar with as a martial artist myself. He, however, cites a genuine pedigree as a student of Shaolin and balances his bragging with earnest vulnerability. His story sounds authentic and his successes well earned.

The book is a very easy read and sends a strong message that we can win the tournament battle against life’s problems. That we even deserve to. I suggest giving it a read if you are interested in bringing martial arts principles to your everyday life, suffer from significant traumas and need something relatable, or if you’re simply a self-help nut. You certainly won’t learn how to throw punches, but you might learn how to roll with them.

Buy “The Shaolin Way” By Steve DeMasco