It is known that Shifu departed his family to dedicate himself entirely to the duties of kung fu. However, in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Shifu explained that he and his father had traveled to other villages to sell fake amulets ever since he was a young boy. One day, his father dropped him off at the Jade Palace, promising to return in five minutes. Shifu waited for him until nightfall, when eventually Master Oogway found him and took him in, making him a student at the Jade Palace.

Shifu underwent kung fu training under Oogway's instruction as a member of the former Furious Five—alongside Fenghuang the owl, Rooster, Elephant, and Snow Leopard. It is presumed that the Five eventually disbanded and went their separate ways some time after Fenghuang turned to evil and fled after failing to defeat Oogway.

After becoming a master, Shifu became overwhelmed by the mass of new responsibilities that was placed upon him. As a result, Shifu became internally unbalanced (or, as Shifu himself stated, "trapped in transition"), and at one point, this resulted in him getting beaten up by a dummy on a rope. The stress soon became too much for Shifu and he removed his master's robe, preparing to quit kung fu and return to his old life. However, Oogway stopped him and kindly proceeded to teach him "hing kung", a discipline aimed at balance. Shifu succeeded in this training and learned an important lesson: true balance is attained not by allowing the weight of the world to control you, but by becoming weightless and taking control of the world. Shifu would then go on to teach this discipline to his future student Po.