I put a discussion forward to the G+ Martial Artist community back in 2013 May asking about the basic training done in their various arts. I opened the discussion with the following remarks:
Hey folks, I’ve been having a lot of conversations this past week about basic training and applications. In your arts and schools, what do students practice to get basic application and sparring skills at the most basic level? What sorts of skills are students expected to get down before moving on to more specialized or advanced skills and sets?
When my grandmaster first began teaching in the 1980’s, the first set his students learnt was Cross-Road at Four Gates. At the student level, Four Gates offers techniques for force training (the part at the beginning on the horse stance), practice in basic Shaolin kung fu techniques and footwork, trains solid stances and powerful hand movements (the hallmark of Southern Shaolin kung fu), and enables the student to practice flow, breath control and endurance.
Some students practice this set with dumb-bells to further enhance their martial arts skills. An interesting specialized skill gained from this set is being able to handle all manner of attacks with just one hand. My grandmaster jokes that someone skilled in this set can handle an opponent with one hand and drink tea with the other.
Some video clips from my grandmaster teaching this set, its principles, and its applications can be seen here: http://www.shaolin.org/video-clips-4/four-gates/four-gates-01/four-gates01.html
A video from the 1980’s showing some of my grandmaster’s first students practicing this set can be seen here: http://www.shaolin.org/video-clips-2/four-gates01.html