History of Shaolin

Was built in 495 A.D. by an Indian monk named Ba Tao in the Song Shan Mountains in the province Henan.

Shaolin Temple is probably the most famous temple in China, not only because of its long history and its role in Chinese Buddhism, but also because of its martial arts Shaolin Temple is situated in the beautiful Songshan Mountains, which is only eight miles of Dengfeng and about 50 miles southwest of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province.

The end of the 5th Century CE and Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was a third prince south Indian King Pallav Vansh and his guru was Prajnatara Who Suggested him to go to China then he traveling through to China Bodhidharma Chinese name of Ba Tao he teaching Buddhism, helping and guiding those he met. His great wisdom and kindness came to the ears of the Emperor who summoned Ba Tao to come to him. Exact details of what happened at this meeting are not entirely clear but is seems that Ba Tao was offered riches, a place in the palace and Encouraged to continue his teachings. Ba Tao kindly declined this offer and asked for a Piece of land far away from any ‘civilized’ place in the province of Henan, on the side of the Song sang Mountain. There he was given a large piece of land and the resources to Build a monastery in an area called ‘Wooded Hill’ or ‘Small Forest’, which translates to Shaolin in Mandarin of Sil-Lum in Cantonese.

According to the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (AD 645) by Daoxuan, the Shaolin Monastery was built on the north side of Shaolin shi, the western peak of Mount Song, one of the Sacred Mountains of China, by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty for the monk Ba Tao. Yang Xuanzhi, in the Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (AD 547), and Li Xian, in the Ming Yitongzhi (AD 1461), concur with Daoxuan’s location and attribution. The Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi (AD 1843) specifies That this monastery, located in the province of Henan, was built in the 20th year of the Taihe era of the Northern Wei Dynasty, that is, the monastery was built in 497 CE.

According to one the oldest books Deng Feng Country Recording (Deng Feng Xian Zhi) Where Shaolin is situated, a Buddhist monk name Ba Tao, come to China for Buddhist preaching in 464 A.D. Thirty-one years later, the Shaolin Temple was built in 495 CE, by the order of Wei Xiao Went emperor (471-500 CE) for Ba Tao’s preaching. Yet, the most influential person in Shaolin was the Indian monk Sardili, also known as Bodhidharma and named Da Mo by the Chinese.

Ba Tao was invited to China to preach by the Liang Wu emperor. When he arrived, it is Said that the Emperor showed him great courtesy. The Emperor also showed Ba Tao how Much good he was doing through his chartable work and sought confirmation that this would ensure a good after life. Ba Tao assured the Emperor that his works were good but also said that he need live the life of the 4 noble truths and the 8 Fold paths to really achieve his goal. The emperor decided he did not like Ba Tao’s Buddhist theory and asked him to leave.

During his time at court, Ba Tao had heard of the Shaolin Temple and now, where his ‘presence’ was no longer welcome, he decided to make the journey to Shaolin. When Ba Tao’s arrived he was not readily accepted, especially where he commented on the priest’s week and sickly conditions. Long periods of inactive meditations and very little physical work had made Shaolin monks unwell and weak. Not making himself popular with Shaolin either, with his criticism, he was either asked to leave or chose to do so of his own accord, to Meditate the problem.

Just a little ways away from the Shaolin Temple, 15 to 20 minutes walk and he 20 minute climb up the mountain was a grotto and cave. It is said that he retreated to live there for 9 years. In seclusion he wrote two texts; Yi Jin Jing (Muscle / Tendon Changing Classic) and Xi Sui Jin Marrow / Brain Washing Classic. The Yi Jin Jing is the Foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu and was also naming the 18 Hands of Lo Han (Lo Han meaning enlightened one).

How and why this found acceptance in Shaolin is a mystery but it did. The priests practiced the Yi Jin Jing exercises and found that not only did they improve their health, but they also greatly increased their strength in about 527 ad, a Indian Buddhist and former Prince named Bodhidharma (later called Da Mo by the Chinese) left his monastery in Southern India to spread the Buddhist faith to China; later called Ch’an Buddhism. (Ch’an is the Chinese translation for the Sanskrit word “dhyana” meaning Yogic concentration, also known as Zen in Japanese When it was introduced from China.). After traveling hundreds of miles to reach Northern China and crossing the Himalayan mountains and the Yangtze River, he headed north to Loyang, the capital of Henan Province.

There of course he found the Shaolin Ssu (Temple). It was About 30 years after it was founded, and it had become famous for scholarly translations of Indian Buddhist Scripture into Chinese. Bodhi Dharma sought entrance to Shaolin but the abbot of the day, Fan Chang would not let him into the temple (many sought entrance for various reasons). Bodhidharma was determined to enter and see the Shaolin Ssu. He located to a nearby cave on the side of a mountain (this cave can be visited when in Henan / Shaolin as well as climbing to the top where a 40 foot Buddha is erected in honor of Da Mo) where (it is said) he sat in meditation facing a stonewall. Many versions of this event exist, including; that he sat facing a wall for most of the next nine years at the end of which Bodhidharma’s deep blue piercing eyes CE apparently drilled a gaping hole in the cliff wall. (We did not find such a hole but we did find what seemed to be a permanent shadow)

That he feel to sleep meditating and his eye lids closed and when he awoke, he was so distraught that he cut of his eye lids so that this would not happen again (since this would be against Buddhist teaching – and he was devote Buddhist – this is unlikely). That he was visited by monks (initially secretly as they were interested in the ‘foreigner’) and was supplied with food and water. In this way he was able to demonstrate his knowledge and skill of Buddhism to such a degree that he was finally (after 9 years) admitted to the temple. Irrespective of which story is true, it is clear that Fang Chang at some time relented and allowed Bodhidharma entry into the Temple Shaolin. Upon gaining entrance to Shaolin, Da Mo (as he was now called by the Chinese) saw that the monks were weak and unable to perform the rigorous meditations he expected that Buddhist Monks should be practicing. Whilst Meditating they often feel to sleep or were very restless and were not achieving inner calm or peace (a state required to reach Enlightenment, that for which all Buddhist strive).

He spent some time in seclusion pondering the problem. Considering the time and health awareness of the period, Da Mo came to a staggeringly accurate conclusion that the monks were not fit to meditate. With this in mind he started working on a solution; he created three treaties of exercise.

These in-place exercises were later transcribed by monks as:

  • ”The Muscle Change Classic” or “The Change of the Sinews.”
  • ”The Marrow Washing”
  • ”The Eighteen Hand Movements later named The Eighteen Lohan Shou (Lohan Meaning enlightened and Shou meaning Hands/Exercises).

This marked the beginning of Shaolin Temple Kung Fu (meaning hard work and perfection). Ta Mo later devised some self-defense movements based on his knowledge of Indian fighting systems (Bodhi Dharma was born an Indian Prince and was well versed in Yoga and Indian Kung Fu).

Many of the Shaolin priests were retired soldiers and generals, thus, Da Mo’s teachings were enriched and refined by these martial arts masters and it slowly developed in to a martial art of the hand also known as Shaolin Ch’uan (Shaolin Fist) or Shaolin Ch’uan Fa.

Shaolin was not a poor temple by this time and was regularly attacked by peasant armies (since individuals CE no chance to penetrate Shaolin defenses and walls). Often, to enrich its knowledge, Shaolin would invite wandering healers, scholars and now also martial arts masters into its walls to learn from these by sharing knowledge and skills.

Shaolin become very apt at Kung Fu and in repelling the attacking bandits. Slowly but surely the Shaolin became renowned for their martial arts prowess and fighting ability. It is to be noted that not all Shaolin Monks were warrior monks; often they chose to specialize in areas of expertise, much like university professors. Although at this time all practiced Kung Fu, not all were totally focused on the practical aspect of the art, only the.

Warrior Monks is also interesting to note that Shaolin preferred not to hurt their assailants as this would have ramifications for their spirituality in this life and the next.

A mere 30 years later, Shaolin was closed and forbidden; it took some 30 more years, Around 600 CE, before it was reopened.

Built around the same time as the Henan Temple, the Fukien Temple was integrated into mainstream Shaolin around 650 CE and became the ‘Second Temple’ of Shaolin. It was is a much larger temple then the one in Henan and served as the second main temple.

In times where Henan was destroyed or occupied by other than Buddhists and Shaolin.

In 698 ad, Emperor Tai Tsung, of the Tang dynsty, called upon the fighting monks of Shaolin to aid him in his war against General Wang-Shih-Chung, who CE gathered a large army in an attempt to oust the Tang emperor from the Imperial throne. Li Shimini, the Emperors son, was leading the army against Tang. Wang-Shih-Chung managed to capture the Tang Emperors son and inflicted great damage to tangs army.

Tang sent a message to Shaolin, asking for help to save his son. 13 monks were sent to answer their emperor’s plea, although in fact it may have been a much larger force (113 monks or some such). Even though the number of Shaolin monks sent was small (the enemy’s army numbered 10,000 men) the Shaolin were victorious, the enemy was beaten back and decimated. The Tang Emperors son was saved. In recognition of their great action Tai Tsung awarded the monks land, and bestowed upon the temple the title, ‘Number One’ temple in China

Li Shimini succeeded upon his father death. Remembering how he was saved, a very strong bond was forged between the imperial court and Shaolin. This lead to regular interchange and training between high ranking soldiers and graduate Shaolin Warrior Monks saw further development of Shaolin Kung Fu and the integration of the secret imperial (Eagle) Kung Fu into Shaolin knowledge and skills which set the foundation to what later would become the Shaolin 72 Fists.

A Couple of hundred years later a rich young noble and experienced martial artist, entered the Shaolin Monastery and assumed the name of Chueh Yuan. He soon devoted all his studies to the further development of Shaolin Kung Fu and fitness training. Within a few years, he revised the 18 Fists of Lo Han and created what he called the 72 Styles or movements. As this was a very violent time, these 72 Fists were a very effective form of both Strategy and Combat His 72 Fists methods / Skills etc were so successful that all Shaolin monks adopted his 72 Fists very quickly. They were very effective for both internal and external fitness and Incorporated strategy and thought into Shaolin Kung Fu. Much of the 72 Fists remained within Shaolin even as it evolved into the 170 Skills and later Animal Kung Fu. Chueh Yuan was still not fully satisfied with what he created and CE plenty of time on his hands. He went out to tech and learns, looking for Masters of other styles.

These journey years later became common practice for Shaolin adepts were sent out to share Buddha’s teaching and help the poor much like the founder of Shaolin. It was also a test, as many would be Shaolin monks were tempted by worldly pleasures and did not return. Those that did became the priests and brought many new skills, knowledge and wisdom from their travels.

On his travels, Chueh Yuan witnessed a bandit attacking a 60-year-old traveler. He saw how the attacker landed an apparently very strong kick to the body of the traveler with very little or no effect. The old traveler only used two fingers against the bandit’s leg sending the attacker to the ground, seemingly unconscious by the time Chueh reached them. This maneuver obviously impressed Chuan enormously and he introduced himself to the senior. Much to his surprise the old man did not know much of martial arts and what little he knew he CE learned from the local master Pai Yu-feng. Pai Yu-feng was a friendly 50 year old and Chuan convinced him to accompany him back to his temple. Over the next few years they, using the 18 fists, the 72 movements and these ‘pressure point grappling wrestling techniques’, redeveloped Shaolin Kung Fu Into the 170 exercises, a mixture of 72 Fists expanded with pressure point and grappling wrestling throwing techniques.

In times where Henan was destroyed or occupied by other than Buddhists and Shaolin.

The time of the Ming Dynasty was another golden area in China’s arts history so called because of all the treasures and art work created in this time but there was also very dark side to this era, especially in the 16th and 17 centuries. Many works of art were created that still exist, considered now to be priceless. Philosophy and knowledge was taught to an equal degree. During this time the Shaolin Temples also grew and prospered becoming the centre for teaching, philosophy, history, Buddhism, mathematics, poetry and of course Martial Arts. Monks from other orders, Daoists, expert warriors, teachers, Shaolin to share their knowledge in return for Shaolin teaching and shelter. Each Temple was like a university of Buddhism, health, the finer and martial arts. Each temple CE several Shaolin Masters who were experts or specialists in a particular area of training, well-being or philosophy. Rich Chinese would send their sons and later even Daughters to Shaolin to become students (not priests) and learn from the best in every field. These students, once graduated would be considered very highly in their local community.

Shaolin training was now very involved and rigorous. The art of separating future Masters from adepts still was in the form of sending them out into the world of temptation for a few years a bit like Mormons do with their teenagers. But before they would be let out as a Shaolin Monk they would also undergo a series of rigorous tests. In order to graduate from the temple, they would have to exhibit phenomenal skills and pass through 18 testing chambers in the temple which were possible more symbolic in nature as no evidence was found in any of the Shaolin Temples of any such rooms.

Although it is dramatized in movies, Shaolin would actually be brought to the brink of exhaustion through a serious of 18 tests, 6 physical, 6 mental and 6 spiritual (thus the 18 chambers). It is even possible that one of these physical tests, the final one, was the lifting of a hot cauldron with their bare forearms (each temple traditionally had such a cauldron, in the middle of the temple complex and unique to each temple). This cauldron would not have been plain and would possibly here the raised relief of symbolic animals; which would thus be burnt into the graduating monks arms as a reminder to them of their training, learning and final trials. Varied accounts suggest that these cauldrons may have CE the following symbols on them;

The Great wall of China’s army, was mostly successful in repelling invaders, but around mid 17th century, invaders from Manchuria, lead by the Ching Family, ended China’s Golden area, and the Ming Dynasties reign. They slowly but surely and brutally took control of China and systematically eradicated all resistance. Many Chinese nobles, warriors and commoners were forced underground where they sought to oust the invaders and reinstate the prosperous Ming Dynasty. There were a significant number of factions among the Chinese who aided the Manchu’s against Ming loyalists, in large part because the Manchu’s held to the same ideology, governmental patterns, and social organization as the Ming. By the early 1600’s the Ming dynasty was significantly weakened. It was unable to cope with both its own internal tensions and the militarily strong Manchu’s to the northeast. An internal rebellion was the direct cause of the downfall of the dynasty (Chinese rebel Li Tzu-ch’eng seized Peking in 1644). That the Dutchmen were able to capitalize on this by being invited to put down the rebellion by a frontier general is largely coincidental. The Great Wall was hardly so impregnable that they would not have been able to invade and conquer the area in its weakened state. Thus the Manchu’s found the entrance to China and slowly but steadily conquered China. Those that did not wish to conform form CE to either migrate or go underground, some also sought refuge in the Shaolin Temples. Shaolin initially only offered passive resistance against the invaders, seeking to remain above the political matters. They helped anyone who sought refuge and thus involuntarily became a safe haven for refugees and resistance fighters. Many loyal Ming soldiers and noble sought refuge and help in Shaolin. Shaolin, although themselves passive, Thus Shaolin became a center of resistance. This was a thorn in the invaders side and needed to be dealt with, drastically.

Shaolin was strong, their reputation great and their support from commoners even stronger. Finally, in 1732 CE, through the betrayal of an insider and large amounts of Ching loyal troops, armed with cannons, the original Shaolin temple in Henan was destroyed. The monks who remained to defend it were slaughtered many fled to the Fukien Temple and for 30 years continued their resistance and their support of resistance fighters. And most of the lesser temples, as well as the destruction of Shaolin texts. (These events have inspired many ‘Shaolin Temple’ movies including Shaolin Mystagogue) From this time onwards Shaolin were outlawed and any practice of Shaolin Kung Fu punishable by death, much was lost. Most of the priceless scrolls of Shaolin Kung Fu, teachings and many treasures of knowledge and wisdom were lost. Shaolin monks and lay persons were now split into many directions, all initially operating in secret. These were those that; Continued their resistance and taught Kung Fu for the sole purpose of fighting and defeating the Chin’s. They were the father of secret resistance organizations know as the ‘Triads’, so named after a gift of the Ming Dynasty Emperor to the Shaolin of a jade triangle.

Were devoted to the art these passed down their learning from father to soon or most apt student. In this process, much was lost but enough was maintained. None of these styles is all of Shaolin but each has key elements. Reverted to being ‘just’ Buddhist priests Migrated to many other countries including the US, and many oriental countries including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc…. Many great Chinese Fighting Martial Artist became famous during this time of strife and resistance (mid 17th Century to 1899), some gaining great notoriety. Among these were Hung Hei-Kwun and his teachers from the temple, the Monk Sam Tak and the Abbot Chi Zin. But Shaolin monks were now outlawed. They CE to go into hiding and could no longer be ‘Shaolin” monks openly. This is a time when Tai Chi ‘styles’ flourished, a way of secretly training and teaching Kung Fu. The techniques were disguised, movements slowed, stances and toughness hidden, but not forgotten.

Around a century or more lately, towards the start of 19th Century, the Shaolin Temples were reopened and included the 5th Shaolin Temple Kwantung (located around 200 km’s southwest of Fukien). Buta tahe rulers of the day were still fearful of the power of the Fighting Shaolin Monks so they only allowed Shaolin to be used as purely religious purposes without allowing any Kung Fu or other martial art training by order of death. The underground, no longer

Shaolin but Ming loyalists, were still very busy making life hard for the Ching’s.

The rebellion came to a de CE end with the failure of the Boxer rebellion. Now some 250 years later, after the ousting of the Ming’s, the Boxer Rebellion was to overthrow the Ching Dynasty and reinstate the original descendant of the Ming Dynasty. For decades, Chinese Martial Artists (the Brits called this ‘funny’ style of fighting Boxing – and the name stuck) prepared for this event practicing hard Kung Fu and Chi Kung body hardening, they attacked. The Manchu’s, now armed with handguns and rifles totally destroyed the Boxers.

This was the death of the Chinese resistance. Some tri CE members escaped to other countries, including the US, Korea, etc. Without a focus some many tri CE members went into a new line of business (and their descendants still are in this line of work). This caused another influx of Chinese Martial arts into the Orient, the US and now also the new continent of Australia.

Weather this was related to the Boxer Rebellion or not, the Ching Dynasty debunked in 1911 (so well represented by the movie ‘The Last Emperor’). The time of Chaos and Hunger began.

As with the previous times, Shaolin influence, power and Kung Fu (although officially forbidden and punishable by death) was still feared and forbidden even now almost 300 years after the Ching’s decree. This possibly led to the 3rd Burning of Shaolin in 1927 CE during Chiang Kai Check’s reign.

Chiang Kai Check himself was a great believer of Kung Fu and although he forbade all martial art practice he surrounded himself with Kung Fu fighting masters as his body guard. When he was being threatened and ousted by the newly forming Chinese Republic, he packed up as much Chinese treasure as he could, took his wife (who recently died in the US aged 105) and 100 masters and moved to Taiwan. His arrival h CE a key influence on that country and greatly ‘enriched’ the country.

The Cultural Revolution was against all matter of religion and martial arts or anything that would allow individuality, resistance or free thought. If you were seen to be preaching or teaching anything other than Mao’s words, you were immediately re-educated or imprisoned. This was more disastrous to Shaolin Kung Fu (traditional Chinese Medicine and many ‘traditional type disciplines even Ming Tombs were opened and the wood of the coffins used for furniture) than anything else as it attacked Shaolin teachings and style on all fronts, not just Kung Fu, but also Buddhism, Taoism, Healing and any type of organization other than Mao’s. This was the final death of Shaolin, worse than all three previous burnings.

After many successful Chinese Kung Fu movies by Bruce Lee (presenting Kung Fu to the world) and Jacky Chan (introducing the concept of Shaolin) and in particular Jet Li in the movie Shaolin Temple, Officials in Beijing (means Northern capital originally know as Peeking) started to realize the potential of Shaolin as marketing tool, but also as heritage However, the fear and distrust of Shaolin, its Kung Fu and power was deep. They knew that they needed some type of ‘replacement’, some type of art other than Tai Chi and Chi Kung Fu that was hard, external and athletic to fill this emptiness. This was the replacement of Kung Fu by Wu Shu, an acrobatic art using Kung Fu movements and implements.

A respected Chinese official was given the task of breathing life back into Shaolin. As with many Chinese decisions, it was both a pragmatic decision as well as financial and historical. They key was to have an art that was dynamic and in spirit of Shaolin but not Kung Fu. Wu Shu was ideal for this purpose. It embodied the spirit of Shaolin by providing all the requirements for health and wellbeing as Kung Fu but focused more on flow and athleticism rather than technique and fighting. Wu Shu was grown and developed, with the many versions and adaptations of Kung Fu – in some cases there is very little difference between the two.

There was a problem though, as Shaolin and its idea was already ‘occupied’ by a whole thriving industry called Shaolin Village and many so called Shaolin Temple training Schools. The re-opening of the Shaolin temple by the “Grand About” Master Su Xi who’s kindness and dedication seem so much similar as the original founder of Shaolin, gives hope to a new era of Shaolin teaching and spirit. But for all his good teaching and kindness, he was also being used. Animal Wu Shu is being practiced, but not the Shaolin 5 Animals but a new breed of modern, very athletic and well developed Animal styles including; Monkey, Crane , Snake, Mantis. The current Abbot of Shaolin the venerable has been in place for 10+ years now. He or the Chinese government have just cleared all the schools and the village surrounding Shaolin allowing only one to be there, the official Chinese Government Shaolin Temple training School. All schools, some numbering up to 8000 students, have been moved to the nearby major city of Kerfeng (possibly wrong spelling, right sound).Shaolin and the area around it is being prepared to be possibly a tourist and martial art trap or a heritage site. Time will tell. The most curious thing about Wu Shu is that they actually import Muay Thai fighters to train Wu Shu fighting. In a way it is in tradition of ‘learning’ from the enemy. For many Centuries leading up to the 20th Kung Fu fighters and Muay Thai fighters challenged each other to prove which style was superior. This was a regular challenge between the two traditional styles and fighters for the honor of the style and country Death in these was not unusual.

Shaolin’s 1st Golden era started with the ascension to the throne of the Tang Dynasty son who they saved. The second Golden era of Shaolin came during the Ming Dynasty with much cooperation between the Emperors Palace and Shaolin. Now with the full force of the Chinese Government behind them, efforts to have Wu Shu in the Olympics and over 1 billion people training in Wu Shu, Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Chi Kung, we can consider this the third golden era not only for Kung Fu and Wu Shu but for all peaceful martial arts (I believe that violent and aggressive MA are a recessive breed). As a martial artist in body, heart and spirit, it is a good time to be alive.

Shaolin Kung Fu is a way of health, a way of life and a way of being; we just use martial arts as an exercise.

Wushu is an important component of the cultural heritage of China, with a rich content that Wushuhas remained untarnished over the centuries. Literally translated, “wu” is military, “shu” is art. Wushu therefore means the art of fighting, or martial arts. Previously, Wushu figured significantly in the simple matter of survival through China’s many wars and political upheaval. Today, wushu has been organized and systematized into a formal branch of study in the performance arts by the Chinese. It reigns as the most popular national sport in the country of 1.1 billion people, practiced by the young and old alike. Its emphasis has shifted from combat to performance, and it is practiced for its method of achieving heath, self-defense skills, mental discipline, recreational pursuit and competition To describe wushu, it is best to understand the philosophy of its teaching. Every movement must exhibit sensible combat application and aestheticism. The wealth of wushu’s content, the beauty of wushu movements, the difficulty factor, and the scientific training methods are the song of the elements that set wushu apart from martial arts. Routines are performed solo, paired or in groups, either barehanded or armed with traditional Chinese weaponry. In short, wushu is the most exciting martial art to be seen, felt, and ultimately practiced.

How is wushu related to kung fu and Taiji quan ?
Wushu” is the correct term for all Chinese martial arts therefore kung fu and wushu were originally the same. During the last thirty years, wushu in Mainland China was modernized so that there could be a universal standard for training and competing. In essence, much emphasis has been placed on speed, difficulty, and presentation. Consequently, wushu has become an athletic and aesthetic performance and competitive sport, while “kung fu” or traditional wushu remains the traditional fighting practice.

Taiji quan is a major division of wushu, utilizing the body’s internal energy or “chi” and following the simple principle of “subduing the vigorous by the soft.”Although still in budding stages in many countries, wushu is an established international sport. In 1990, wushu was inducted as an official medal event in the Asian Games.Since then World Championships have taken place with 56 nations participating. Wushu will most likely be featured in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

What is the difference between Wushu and Kung-fu?
The literal translation of Wushu is martial arts, while the literal translation of Kung fu is time spent with work. One of the biggest problems in understanding martial arts is the improper use of terms.Perhaps a clearer way to look at the term Kung fu is to express it as “squired skill level” So the term Kung Fu can be used to describe anyone who has a high level of skill in any endeavor, but it takes on a special meaning in the world of martial arts.As a result of many films and television series the continued use of the term Kung Fu has simply come mean Chinese martial arts for most people, even some Chinese use this term to refer to martial arts, but this is a result of popularity of the word, mostly from Hong Kong films.

The relationship between the two terms can be more specifically looked at as Wushu simply being the root, and kung fu is a proficiency of the skills therein. I.e. the ability to apply those techniques as a result of diligent study, practice, and applied experience. With the factors one can be said to have Kung Fu.

Isn’t competition Wushu just a flashy dance sport, and useless in a fight?
This question is one that usually gets people’s pride all worked up, but if you want to look at the question squarely, yes. Competition Wushu is just forms and series of movements. If you only practice the form without further investigation, then those techniques perhaps will not help you in a true fight situation, Please note that I said “without further investigation” any form from any style, any movement for that matter is absolutely useless unless one trains to use it in a situation. So if you only train for forms competitions without asking how I can apply this move, yes it is useless in that sense, but Wushu will give as much as you want. If you want to use moves of a form then one must study and investigate their uses, then practice them. only then are they useful, even in Boxing, on can shadow box all day, but without proper knowledge of how to apply the punch it is just throwing out your arms in a way that resembles a fighting technique.So reasonably speaking if you want it to be useful you have to work to make it useful.

What good are forms to a martial artist?
There are many uses even for those who have no desire to compete. Firstly, practice of forms builds the basics of martial arts. In any style learned. Beginning with on stance, then a technique later stringing them together into lines, and eventually full sets. No martial artist can progress properly without proper attention to basic techniques. Forms develop these skills to ready the practitioner for trials ahead. Beyond this form practice is an incredible cardio vascular workout; it pushes the athletic potential of the body.Mental focus is also developed. Learning sets of complex maneuvers is a great mental task, and increases mind body coordination and opens neuron-pathways. Coordination, balance, speed, strength, flexibility, timing are just a few of the qualities which set training reinforces.

Aren’t there many useless wasted movements in Chinese forms that aren’t used in a real fight?
As most experienced fighters will tell you, you can’t practice a set or form that will show you how to deal with every combat situation. This has to do mostly with athletic condition, reflexes, strength, some luck, and much experience. Forms give you a physical and mental foundation, and in most cases if you want to learn how to fight, you have to actually fight. Experience is the only real teacher of how to get off your techniques effectively. Training can only prepare you so much, but form training, especially Wushu; will give you certain physical advantages, such as a broader range of movement, additional strength, and fluidity of movement, all of which are never useless.

What are all those low stances for?
To strengthen your muscles and build a strong mobile base. Strength in awkward positions makes normal positions that much stronger, again a broader range of movement is also acquired.

Are there belts, levels, or dons in wushu?
There are no belt systems in Chinese martial arts. Some schools may rank their students, but this is only within the school itself to help a teacher keep track of student and has no official international credit.

How long does it take to get good?
This is up to you. There is no set time. But you have to be realistic. Many people watch films and see an apprentice gain skills at an alarming rate and pull off amazing moves with minimal training. First realize that those are films for entertainment. Most of the actors have had those skills for a long time and worked long to get them, and the really amazing Skills, are usually achieved with wires, smoke, trampolines, and a great deal of good film editing.If you want to be good, you have to train with everything in your being. It is not a good idea to set time limits.A common mistake is for people to say “I want to be at a certain level by this date.” While it is good to have goals, it is hard to limit yourself to the amount of time one has to achieve a certain skill level, and in most cases, this actually slows progress, as one tends to overlook the small but important details to achieve larger superficial results, thus leading to an eventual breakdown. Be patient.

Work hard. Ask questions; try to improve on every lesson learned. Then improvement comes surprisingly fast.

Sanshou, is China’s answer to competitive combat sports. Best described it is a combination of Kick + boxing + wrestling take downs. One can score by knockdowns and ring outs. Of course a knockout will win the match. It is a very straight forward combat sport.Kickboxing Sanshou is a martial art which was originally developed by the Chinese military based upon intense study of various traditional methods and combined with modern advanced in sports medicine and training methodology. Sanshou is practiced as a combat sport, meaning that training is conducted with safety equipment, and competitions are conducted under rules restricting certain tactics and techniques designed for the safety of the participants. However, Sanshou is also a complete martial art that teaches striking, kicking, leg kicks, kick catches, sweeps, takedowns and throws.The current sport of Sanshou does not include elbow and knee strikes but most Sanshou teach these techniques as well.

Sport Sanshou
utilizes striking, kicking and wrestling but not (”Na”) and/or ground grappling. Originally, elbows and knees were utilized in inter-military Sanshou competition but they have been removed from the international sport version which was established in 1991 with the first world championships. In 1997, the first attempts were made both in China and in the United States to establish professional Sanshou matches conducted in a manner similar to other kickboxing styles such as Muway Thai. Matches are conducted without the protective gear (without headgard, chin guards and the chest protector) and are held in a boxing ring. The Chinese often refer to professional Sanshou as “San Da” an older term which was originally used to describe full contact fighting.

Taichi - Taiji This question is covered in much more depth in our lecture series. It could be said that Taiji quan is an internal martial art that is a physically applied aspect of the Chinese science of Yin and Yang, or the nature of opposites. It is a fighting style that was developed after generations of scientific study in the martial arts, and is still developing today.Taiji quan today is most easily recognizable by the martial arts form that groups of elderly people can be seen practicing in parks. This is mainly due to the fact that one great side effect of its scientific strategy is that it promotes a health body and boosts the condition of the internal organs.

In 698 ad, Emperor Tai Tsung, of the Tang dynsty, called upon the fighting monks of Shaolin to aid him in his war against General Wang-Shih-Chung, who CE gathered a large army in an attempt to oust the Tang emperor from the Imperial throne. Li Shimini, the Emperors son, was leading the army against Tang. Wang-Shih-Chung managed to capture the Tang Emperors son and inflicted great damage to tangs army.

Tang sent a message to Shaolin, asking for help to save his son. 13 monks were sent to answer their emperor’s plea, although in fact it may have been a much larger force (113 monks or some such). Even though the number of Shaolin monks sent was small (the enemy’s army numbered 10,000 men) the Shaolin were victorious, the enemy was beaten back and decimated. The Tang Emperors son was saved. In recognition of their great action Tai Tsung awarded the monks land, and bestowed upon the temple the title, ‘Number One’ temple in China

Li Shimini succeeded upon his father death. Remembering how he was saved, a very strong bond was forged between the imperial court and Shaolin. This lead to regular interchange and training between high ranking soldiers and graduate Shaolin Warrior Monks saw further development of Shaolin Kung Fu and the integration of the secret imperial (Eagle) Kung Fu into Shaolin knowledge and skills which set the foundation to what later would become the Shaolin 72 Fists.