SHAOLIN KUNG FU (Chinese : 少林功夫; pinyin : Shàolín gōng
fu), also called Shaolin Wushu (少林武術; Shàolín wǔshù) or
Shaolin quan (少林拳; Shàolín quán), is one of the oldest,
largest, and most famous styles of
Chinese martial arts . It combines
Zen Buddhism and martial arts and originated and was developed in the
Shaolin temple in
Henan province ,
* 1 History
* 1.1 Chinese martial arts before Shaolin
* 1.2 Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 AD)
* 1.2.1 Shaolin temple established * 1.2.2 Bodhidharma\'s influence
* 1.3 Sui and Tang dynasties (581–907 AD): Shaolin soldier monks
* 1.4 Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
* 2 Contents
* 2.2 Styles
* 2.2.1 List of known styles
* 2.3 Internal and external kung fu
* 3 Influence on other martial arts * 4 References
CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS BEFORE SHAOLIN
Chinese historical records, like Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and
Yue, the Bibliographies in the Book of the Han Dynasty, the Records of
the Grand Historian, and other sources document the existence of
martial arts in
SOUTHERN AND NORTHERN DYNASTIES (420–589 AD)
Shaolin Temple Established
In 495 AD, Shaolin temple was built in the Song mountain, Henan province. The first monk who preached Buddhism there was the Indian monk named Buddhabhadra (佛陀跋陀罗; Fótuóbátuóluó), simply called Batuo (跋陀) by the Chinese. There are historical records that Batuo's first Chinese disciples, Huiguang (慧光) and Sengchou (僧稠), both had exceptional martial skills. For example, Sengchou's skill with the tin staff is even documented in the Chinese Buddhist canon . After Buddhabadra, another Indian or Tamil monk, Bodhidharma (菩提达摩; Pútídámó), simply called Damo (达摩) by the Chinese, came to Shaolin in 527 AD. His Chinese disciple, Huike (慧可), was also a highly trained martial arts expert. There are implications that these first three Chinese Shaolin monks, Huiguang, Sengchou, and Huike, may have been military men before entering the monastic life.
Some popular stories consider Bodhidharma as the founder of Shaolin kung fu.
The idea of
Bodhidharma influencing Shaolin boxing is based on a
qigong manual written during the 17th century. This is when a Taoist
with the pen name "Purple Coagulation Man of the Way" wrote the Sinews
Changing Classic in 1624, but claimed to have discovered it. The first
of two prefaces of the manual traces this qigong style's succession
Bodhidharma to the Chinese general Li Jing via "a chain of
Buddhist saints and martial heroes." (p165) The work itself is full of
anachronistic mistakes and even includes a popular character from
Chinese fiction, the "Qiuran Ke" ("Bushy Bearded Hero)" (虬髯客),
as a lineage master. Literati as far back as the
Like other stories of Shaolin, this story has, after all, some basis in reality. Bodhidharma was the founder of Dhyana (Chinese : 禅; pinyin : chán; Japanese : zen) Buddhism .
SUI AND TANG DYNASTIES (581–907 AD): SHAOLIN SOLDIER MONKS
During the short period of the
Like most dynastic changes, the end of the Sui Dynasty was a time of
upheaval and contention for the throne. The oldest evidence of Shaolin
participation in combat is a stele from 728 that attests to two
occasions: a defense of the monastery from bandits around 610 and
their role in the defeat of
Wang Shichong at the
Battle of Hulao
The monks of Shaolin allied with Wang's enemy, Li Shimin, and took
back the Cypress Valley Estate, defeating Wang's troops and capturing
his nephew Renze. Without the fort at Cypress Valley, there was
nothing to keep Li Shimin from marching on
Luoyang after his defeat of
Wang's ally Dou Jiande at the
Battle of Hulao
MING DYNASTY (1368–1644)
From the 8th to the 15th centuries, no extant source documents Shaolin participation in combat; then the 16th and 17th centuries see at least forty extant sources attest that, not only did monks of Shaolin practice martial arts, but martial practice had become such an integral element of Shaolin monastic life that the monks felt the need to justify it by creating new Buddhist lore. References to Shaolin martial arts appear in various literary genres of the late Ming: the epitaphs of Shaolin warrior monks, martial-arts manuals, military encyclopedias, historical writings, travelogues, fiction, and even poetry.
These sources, in contrast to those from the
Yú Dàyóu travelled to
Shaolin Monastery to see for
himself its monks' fighting techniques, but found them disappointing.
Yú returned to the south with two monks, Zongqing and Pucong, whom he
taught the use of the staff over the next three years, after which
Zongqing and Pucong returned to
Shaolin Monastery and taught their
brother monks what they had learned.
The earliest extant manual on Shaolin kung fu, the Exposition of the Original Shaolin Staff Method was written in around 1610 and published in 1621 from what its author Chéng Zōngyóu learned during a more than ten-year stay at the monastery.
Conditions of lawlessness in
Henan —where the
Shaolin Monastery is
located—and surrounding provinces during the late
Ming Dynasty and
all of the
See also: Jiajing wokou raids
From the 1540s to the 1560s, pirates known as wokou raided
The geographer Zheng Ruoceng provides the most detailed of the 16th
century sources which confirm that, in 1553, Wan Biao, Vice
Commissioner in Chief of the Nanjing Chief Military Commission,
initiated the conscription of monks—including some from
Shaolin—against the pirates. Warrior monks participated in at least
four battles: at the Gulf of Hangzhou in spring 1553 and in the
The monks suffered their greatest defeat at Taozhai, where four of
them fell in battle; their remains were buried under the Stūpa of the
Four Heroic Monks (Si yi seng ta) at Mount She near
The monks won their greatest victory at Wengjiagang. On 21 July 1553, 120 warrior monks led by the Shaolin monk Tianyuan defeated a group of pirates and chased the survivors over ten days and twenty miles. The pirates suffered over one hundred casualties and the monks only four.
Not all of the monks who fought at Wengjiagang were from Shaolin, and
rivalries developed among them. Zheng chronicles Tianyuan’s defeat
of eight rival monks from Hangzhou who challenged his command. Zheng
ranked Shaolin first of the top three Buddhist centers of martial
arts. Zheng ranked
Henan second and
Shaolin monks demonstrate kung fu.
Shaolin temple has two main legacies: Chan (禅), which refers to Chan Buddhism , the religion of Shaolin, and Quan (拳), which refers to the martial arts of Shaolin. In Shaolin, these are not separate disciplines and monks have always pursued the philosophy of the unification of Chan and Quan (禅拳合一; chan quan he yi). In a deeper point of view, Quan is considered part of Chan. As late Shaolin monk Suxi said in the last moments of his life, "Shaolin is Chan, not Quan."
On the Quan (martial) side, the contents are abundant. A usual classification of contents are:
* BASIC SKILLS (基本功; jīběn gōng): These include stamina, flexibility, and balance, which improve the body abilities in doing martial maneuvers. In Shaolin kung fu, flexibility and balance skills are known as "childish skills" (童子功; tóngzǐ gōng), which have been classified into 18 postures.
* POWER SKILLS (气功; qìgōng ): These include:
* Qigong meditation: Qigong meditation itself has two types, internal (内; nèi), which is stationary meditation, and external (外; wài), which is dynamic meditation methods like Shaolin four-part exercise (si duan gong), eight-section brocade (八段锦; bā duàn jǐn), Shaolin muscle-changing scripture (易筋经; yì jīn jīng), and others. * The 72 arts: These Include 36 soft and 36 hard exercises, which are known as soft and hard qigong.
* COMBAT SKILLS (拳法; quánfǎ) SKILLS: These include various barehanded, weapon, and barehanded vs. weapon routines (styles ) and their combat (散打; sàndǎ) methods.
There are many of different schools of Shaolin kung fu with different approaches. Even at the Shaolin temple, considered as its birthplace, training schedules have varied from era to era, and it also varies from lineage to lineage among the monks. Besides, different practitioners have different priorities and so they have different exercises and different timings. There is no single defined schedule. However, the main streamline of daily activities in Shaolin temple is well defined. Since the ancient times, daily life of the monks at Shaolin temple has included studying and practicing Chan Buddhism, studying and practicing kung fu, and engaging in temple affairs, such as cleaning the temple, working on the farms, guarding the area, etc. The typical daily training schedule is:
5:00: Rising from bed
5:15–5:30: Sitting qigong
5:30–7:30: Morning run and kung fu practice
7:30-8:30: Morning meal
9:00–11:30: Performing temple tasks, like working at farms, chopping wood, and tending to commercial affairs; monks who are elders or children attend Buddhist classes
12:30–5:00: Afternoon kung fu practice: martial exercises and combat skills
5:10–6:40: Evening Buddhist lessons
9:00–10:00: Personal Time
10:00: Going to bed
At the morning training session, basic skills are practiced. Morning training begins with empty stomach, by warming up, which includes loosening up the body via rotating the joints and then by stamina training via endurance exercises such as various kinds of running, jumping, push-ups, etc., for 15–30 minutes. Then the "child skills" such as flexibility and balance are practiced for about a half-hour. Flexibility training is done via stretching exercises, and balance training is done via keeping the body balanced in different childish skills postures for a while. Usually, morning training takes 1 hour, but monks may train themselves by doing more basic exercises and other exercises such as practicing combat drills and routines, etc.
Afternoon training session usually begins at about 2:00-2:30, and may even begin at 3:00 on hot summer days. At this session, mostly the combat skills are practiced. These are usually practiced for 1–2 hours. In between, they may have a few 15-20-minute rest times, and may do other kinds of exercises at this session, which make the session to last for 2–3 hours.
Like the usual system of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin combat methods are taught via forms (套路; tàolù). Forms that are technically closely related are coupled together and are considered of the same style (sub-style is a better choice for the word). These are usually called the small and the big forms, like the small and big hong quan, which altogether make the Shaolin hong quan style, and the small and big pao quan, etc. There are also some styles with one form, like taizu chang quan. Indeed, these styles are not complete or stand-alone, this is just a classification of different forms of Shaolin kung fu based on their technical contents.
Shaolin kung fu has more than hundreds of extant styles. There is
recorded documentation of more than a thousand extant forms, which
makes Shaolin the biggest school of martial art in the world. In the
List Of Known Styles
* Arhat\'s 18 hands (罗汉十八手; luóhàn shíbā shǒu): known
as the oldest style.
* Flood style (洪拳; hóngquán): with the small form (小洪拳;
xiǎo hóngquán) known as the son of the styles, and the big form
(大洪拳; dà hóngquán) known as the mother of the styles,
* Explosive style (炮拳; pàoquán): known as the king of the
* Penetrating-Arms style (通臂拳; tōngbìquán),
* 7-star & Long Guard the Heart and Mind Gate style (七星 qī
* Facing&Bright Sun style (朝 cháo luóhànquán): known as the
most representative style,
and many other styles.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL KUNG FU
Those who practice Shaolinquan leap about with strength and force;
people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath
and are exhausted.
INFLUENCE ON OTHER MARTIAL ARTS
Some lineages of karate have oral traditions that claim Shaolin
Recent developments in the 20th century such as Shorinji Kempo (少林寺拳法) practised in Japan's Sohonzan Shorinji (金剛禅総本山少林寺) still maintains close ties with China's Song Shan Shaolin Temple due to historic links. Japanese Shorinji Kempo Group financial contributions to the maintenance of the historic edifice of the Song Shan Shaolin Temple in 2003 received China's recognition.
* ^ Canzonieri, Salvatore. "The Emergence of the Chinese Martial
arts". Han Wei Wushu (23).
* ^ Henning, Stanley (1999b). "
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