|“||Remember, Dragon Warrior: Anything is possible when you have inner peace.||”|
|—Shifu to Po, Kung Fu Panda 2|
Inner peace is a concept in the Kung Fu Panda universe used to describe a peaceful state of mind and spirit. In the words of Master Shifu, it is the ability to "harness the flow of the universe", enabling one to do the seemingly impossible. Shifu also indicates that inner peace must be achieved, which is possible through many various ways.
It was inner peace that allowed Po to defeat Lord Shen's cannon using a special kung fu technique involving gentle tai chi movements, which can only be accomplished by having inner peace. It additionally allowed Po to clearly recall his past at the Panda Village.
The concept of inner peace was presumably created along with kung fu by Master Oogway centuries ago. Through meditation, the power of inner peace was shown when Oogway's senses were heightened immeasurably (for example he could hear a butterfly's wing beat). Inner peace thus became one of Oogway's final teachings, according to Shifu, and every kung fu master was required to learn this concept in their own way (such as meditating in a cave for fifty years while fasting, or suffering through extreme emotional pain). This final teaching apparently comes in the form of catching a water drop and redirecting it into a pool or the ground without breaking it.
The concept of inner peace is first illustrated with the relationship of Shifu and Tai Lung. As revealed in a narrated flashback later in the film, Shifu had adopted and raised Tai Lung as if he were his own son, promising him a destiny full of greatness, which Tai Lung truly took to heart as he trained. But when Shifu finally presented his star pupil to Master Oogway to see if he was the prophesied Dragon Warrior, Oogway had seen darkness in the young leopard's heart and denied him the title. As a result, Tai Lung rampaged the Valley of Peace in a rage of anger and confusion, eventually returning to the palace to take the Dragon Scroll by force. Shifu was given the chance to stop him, but his love for his adopted son made him hesitate. Tai Lung, who did not hesitate, struck down his former father and master and then jumped for the scroll, but was stopped by Oogway with a nerve attack and sent to Chor-Ghom prison.
Shifu had been crippled both physically and spiritually ever since then. When future students (such as Tigress) eventually came, Shifu didn't treat them with the same love he did with Tai Lung. His broken spirit formed the stern personality that he used to treat his students with strict and vigorous training. The Furious Five were revealed to have trained in this way for ten years.
In the film's present time, Oogway shared with Shifu his vision of Tai Lung's return to the Valley of Peace. In response, Oogway decided to hold a tournament to find and select the only one who could stop him: the Dragon Warrior. On the day of the tournament, before officially starting the event, Oogway mentioned to Shifu, "Whomever I choose will not only bring peace to the valley, but also to you." Through a twisting turn of events, Po, a seemingly incompetent and hopeless panda, was chosen as the Dragon Warrior, seemingly by accident. Despite his disapproval, Shifu was forced to train him regardless, but he instead tried to give him the same kind of vigorous kung fu training he used with the Furious Five. Po had physically and emotionally suffered some, but still remained enthusiastic and stayed at the Jade Palace to train.
Shifu was later seen trying to meditate, but struggled to do so because of his spiritual imbalance. It was a moment later that he received word from his trusty messenger Zeng of Tai Lung's recent escape from prison. He asked for help from Oogway, but the old turtle told Shifu to believe in Po. Shifu made one last promise to him to try and believe in Po's potential, and then Oogway handed him his staff and turned into peach leaves which ascended into the Spirit Realm. Upon relaying this tragic news to his, Po loses his nerve and attempts to leave, but Shifu refuses to let him and demands to know why he didn't leave before. Po then reveals that the reason he chose to stay was because like the others, the panda also believed himself to be a useless slob and hoped that by staying under Shifu's tutelage, he could at least improve somewhat. Seeing that Po was just as spiritually burdened as himself, Shifu admits that he has no idea of how to help him.
Shifu despaired until he saw Po was searching around the temple grounds for food while demonstrating his unique strength and skill. Seeing the actual potential in Po, Shifu spent the next several days training him in constant, but less vigorous ways. But despite Po's major improvement at the end of their training, Shifu still didn't believe that Po was ready to defeat Tai Lung. While he, the Furious Five, and the rest of the valley evacuated, he waited at the palace for Tai Lung. The leopard eventually arrived and began to fight with Shifu in both a physical and emotional battle. Even though Shifu was able to hold back most of Tai Lung's punches and throws, Shifu was eventually defeated. The red panda then tried apologizing to the snow leopard, admitting his shame failing as a master, hoping he could reach what little good was left in his old student and adopted son. But Tai Lung didn't care and still wanted what he thought was rightfully his. He began to strangle the life out of Shifu, but before he could finish the task, Po came to Shifu's aid and faced off with Tai Lung, eventually defeating him with the Wuxi Finger Hold. Po returned to the weakened Master Shifu to report his victory, and Shifu was immensely relieved. Through his constant pain and suffering, Shifu had finally found inner peace.
In the sequel, Shifu shows new abilities acquired through the power of inner peace. He can do seemingly impossible things, like appearing to teleport and using tai chi movements to catch a drop of water and redirect its movement without breaking it. Shifu also expounds on the subject of inner peace further when teaching Po. Inner peace was one of Master Oogway's final teachings and can be gained many various ways depending on the person. He gives an example of one way being to meditate for fifty years without eating or drinking. Another way, he specified, is to endure pain and suffering, which Shifu did in the first film. Before Po sets out for Gongmen City with the Furious Five, Shifu's last words to him are, "Anything is possible when you have inner peace."
Without his master to guide him, Po has to find inner peace on his own. After much pain and suffering through his encounters with Lord Shen and his own repressed memories, he eventually finds it in the remains of the village where he was born. With the encouragement of the Soothsayer, Po allows himself to experience his lost memories, accepting the pain of his past and move on. By coming to terms with his inner conflict, Po achieves inner peace, signified by Po performing the same technique with a raindrop that Shifu had shown him before. Later, he's able to apply this same skill in combat to stop Shen and his armada. When he and his fellow kung fu warriors, the Furious Five, Master Ox and Master Croc (and even Master Shifu) are all beaten, Po stands up to the enemy forces alone. To the amazement of everyone watching, he catches and redirects the cannon balls being fired at him.
After destroying Shen's cannons, Po faces him and tries to share the wisdom of inner peace, encouraging Shen to let go of his pain from the past. Unfortunately, Shen rejects this (though agreeing to what he chooses to be now) and lashes out at Po in a desperate last stand, only to be crushed by one of his own cannons and it explodes right on impact, killing Shen. Later, Shifu congratulates Po at achieving inner peace "at such a young age". Po replies that he had a good teacher and tries to hug him, but Shifu vanishes and reappears behind him.
In the third installment, Master Oogway can be seen meditating and continuing to master inner peace. A cherry blossom gets in his nose, but despite that, he soon recovers his inner and eternal peace. However, he is interrupted by Kai, with whom he had battled and defeated 500 years prior. After an epic battle, Oogway’s chi is taken by Kai, who uses his chi to return to the Mortal Realm.
Shifu reveals to Po that Oogway spent 30 years alone in a cave trying to master who he is, which is how he mastered inner peace and chi. Through an ancient scroll, written in Oogway’s hand, Po, Li Shan, Mr. Ping and the others learn that Oogway had defeated Kai, after learning that chi could be taken. Oogway had mastered chi after finding the Panda Village.
After Po defeats Kai, he is reunited with Oogway. Oogway revealed that given that pandas once knew chi, and when they forgot, Po reminded them, therefore reuniting the future with the past. Po returns to the Mortal Realm to spread his teachings through his new responsibilities as teacher.
- Early in the development of the movie script for Kung Fu Panda, Po's final training "test" was to catch a single droplet of water as it fell off a mystical root found growing down into a sacred chamber underneath the Jade Palace. This idea was later used in Kung Fu Panda 2 to help explain the concept of inner peace.