Within this history we will continually use the common English terms, such as,
boxing, kung fu, karate, martial arts, jujitsu, tai chi, mixed martial arts, etc. More formal terms will be defined
as we read, with the hope of a deeper more accurate understanding of what the Arts truly are. For example, Kung Fu
means to have skill in something, anything. It was largely Hollywood movies that gave the impression the term Kung
Fu only refers to Chinese fighting or martial arts.
With three different major written forms of the Chinese
language alone and over 400 different spoken, confusion can grow quickly. With the arts embracing many different
peoples and time periods languages did change. Our first goal here is to understand the meaning behind the Arts and
the results that have and can happen in practicing them. Languages and cultures can be beautiful, but they are just
tools to explain and feel what is really happening. To touch the substance within.
Understanding the past
helps one understand the present. If we do not learn from the past then we will repeat it - for good or for bad. The
idea is to have enough knowledge to have a choice.
dispute the saying, "The font of all martial arts is Shaolin." The Shaolin Temple (Shaolin means 'Little Pine
Forest' a description of the school's first location) was the spiritual and technical source of all modern martial
arts. The Shaolin Arts has a long and rich heritage going back to the beginning of modern civilization. This history
is a mixture of legend and fact. The common practice of each new ruling Chinese Dynasty was to destroy all
information of past rulers and what information could not be destroyed, other "politically correct" names were given
the credit. Therefore, documented information of many past periods is limited. In this brief summarized history we
will document the facts and point out the legends, or accounts, handed down through generations. Please note, the
storyteller usually tells the version of the story that is in his/her best interest.
Asian martial artists trace their
roots back 5,000 years to India and the Greek martial arts of Pankration. The invading armies of Alexander the Great
brought the arts of boxing and wrestling to India in 4 BC. Historians also credit the Greeks for organizing the
first professional boxing matches 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.
Chinese historians dispute India's
claim to being the cradle of Asian martial arts. The Chinese credit Chinese physician Dr. Hua T'o as the founder of
the first martial art style, and the first doctor to use anesthesia during surgery. Around 220 AD, T'o devised a
series of exercises modeled on the deer, bear, bird, tiger and monkey long before the Shaolin Temple began
instruction in the Arts. T'o designed these exercises to relieve stress, tone the body and provide a means of
Chinese historians point to military manuals and documents dated from 206 BC to 220 AD, which
prove that Han emperors actively funded the study and refinement of Kung Fu.
Records exist dating back to 5
BC crediting an Indian named Han Lo-Ming for creating Chi Hsuan Men, or 'Unusual Style'. This art used the defensive
scissors techniques of the White Jade Fan to trap swords and spears, and pressure point strikes with the fan's
Legend states that the Zen Buddhist patriarch Ta Mo, or Da Mo (Bodhidharma to the Chinese, and Daruma
Daishi to the Japanese), whose real last name was Sardilli was a prince of a small tribe in Southern India. Ta Mo
arrived in China after a brutal trek over Tibet's Himalaya Mountains surviving both the elements and bandits.
Ta Mo's name is recorded in China but has not been found in India.
Ta Mo, The Buddha, The Enlightened One,
made a vow that he would never be content with his achievements until he shared his wisdom with all beings.
Some historians dispute the date, but legend states Ta Mo settled in the Shaolin Temple of Songshan in Henan
Province in 526 AD. Records do show a Shaolin Temple of Songshan was built in 377 AD for Pan Jaco' "The First
Buddha," by the order of Emperor Wei on the Shao Shik Peak of Sonn Mountain in Teng Fon Hsien, Henan Province. The
Temple was for religious training and meditation only. Martial arts training is thought not to begin until the
arrival of Ta Mo in 526 AD. Whether this was the first such temple of training is unknown.
Ta Mo sought peace
and converts to help him spread Chan Buddhism, later known as Zen in Japan, throughout China. Legend states that Ta
Mo found that his meditation method caused sleepiness among the monks. The monks at that time also lacked stamina
and the ability to defend themselves against roving warlords and bandits.
Ta Mo, a member of the Indian
Kshatriya warrior class and a master of staff fighting, created a system of 18 dynamic tension exercises. These
movements found their way into print in 550 AD as the Yi Gin Ching, or Changing Muscle/Tendon Classic. We know this
today as the Lohan (Priest-Scholar) 18 Hand Movements, the basis of Chinese Temple Boxing and the arts of
It should be noted here, Shaolin Kung Fu, martial arts, was not a Chinese Martial Art. Rather, a
Martial Art organized and practiced in an area we now call China by both Chinese and non-Chinese. More on this will
Ta Mo's introduction of the martial arts to the Shaolin Temple was purely self-interest. He saw the
monks as solitary types content to live their lives within temple walls. He dreamed of developing mobile, fearless
warrior missionaries able to defend themselves and the innocent from the many bandits while spreading the peaceful
ideas of Chan Buddhism throughout the world. (Travel had became so dangerous that Shaolin Monks would commonly carry
shovels, the famous Kung Fu fighting Monk Spade, to burry the dead found along the roads they traveled).
According to legend, Ta Mo developed a simple self defense system to train Japanese Shorinji (Shaolin) Monks who
traveled between Shaolin Temples in China, Formosa, Japan and India. Yamabushi (Ascetic Hermits), referred to this
art of the staff, spear and empty hand as Goshin-Jutsu, the basis of Aikido, Judo, Jujitsu and Ninjutsu.
Mo died in 539 AD at the Shaolin Temple, before the completion of his life's mission. However, Ta Mo created the
basis of Shaolin Chuan Fa, an art that evolved into Sil Lum Kung-Fu, , Chung-Kuo Chuan, Shorinji Kempo (Japan), and
Shaolin 5 Animals Styles.
Shaolin, philosphy and the Arts were both ideals. They walked a thin line between self defense and non-violence.
Many Monks were vegetarian and would not even ride a horse for concern of burdening the animal. On pilgrimages'
monks carried staffs tipped with jingling metal rings to scare away insects in their path they might harm. However,
a monk would defend his life or protect the weak. Death being the least desired outcome because it was an injury
that could not be undone. As Buddhists, and [T]Daoist Shaolin Monks did not value material things, but life was
Anciently, Shaolin practitioners were healers, educators, a source of knowledge for an entire
community. The systems of Shaolin did become world famous in violent times due to fighting skills, yet they were
equally respected for their wisdom and services performed. They became sources of truth, knowledge and skills for
entire communities and countries, whether it be healing or protecting.
It wasn't until bandits and invading
armies discovered they could not easily defeat the Shaolin Monks that Shaolin became known as a martial art and
revered in all the known world. So great was its reputation that martial artists from other countries traveled great
distances to study this system. Shaolin monks realized that there was great power inherent in these teachings and
they were very reluctant to permit the teaching outside of the temple walls. With the fall of the Ming dynasty,
greater numbers of outsiders entered the temple to learn the Shaolin arts in order to drive out the invading
Manchurians. Portions of this highly evolved Art spread to Okinawa where it was called Shaolin Ryu, meaning Shaolin
fighting style. In Japan it was called Karate, meaning Chinese empty hands. Even Jujitsu was based upon a style of
Chinese boxing called Chin Na which emphasized locks and flips. The Arts of Shaolin was the mother system which gave
birth to the other martial arts in Asia even if many of these 'other styles' only took part of the knowledge Shaolin
Kung Fu had to offer.
At times, by royal decree, only the Chinese Emperor and Masters of Shaolin Temples
could possess complete martial arts systems. The martial arts flourished due to the efforts of revolutionaries and
rebels who resisted the invading Manchus. Many sought asylum in Shaolin monasteries. Eager to protect, secret
societies created a network of martial art schools in Chinese monasteries and villages, the goal to drive out the
Shaolin monks Gok Yuen, Lee Sau and Bak Juk Fung enlarged the original 'Lohan 18 Hands' to 170
movements to make Sil Lum (Shaolin) Kung Fu a more effective fighting system. A student began the study of the light
staff before tackling a series of progressively heavier staffs. This strengthened the muscles and loosened the
In 1662, the Manchus gained complete control of China. The Manchus both feared and admired the
Shaolin priests. The Shaolin priests were valuable to the Manchu Ching Court as advisors and healers, and harming
the priests would make them martyrs and cause the people to fight harder to dethrone the tyrannical Manchu
In separating fact from legend a letter written by Zheng, a 16-century military analyst,
urging the government to make regular use of monastic armies is here noted: In todays martial arts, there is no one
in the land who does not yield to Shaolin. Funiu Monks should be ranked as second, for these monks seeking to
protect themselves studied Shaolin. together, these Buddhist centers comprise hundreds of monasteries and countless
monks. Our land is beset by bandits inside and barbarians outside. If the government issues an order for these monks
recruitment it will win every battle.
Dengfeng County records also show interesting information: During the
Jiajing (1522) reign, the Liu bandits, Wang Tang, Japanese pirates and others created violent disturbances. Shaolin
fighting [kung fu] monks (wu seng) were repeatedly called upon to suppress them. They courageously defeated the
bandits and many earned the merit of putting their lives on the line. Thus this Shaolin monasterys monks have relied
upon culture (wen) and warfare (wu) alike to protect the state and strengthen its army. They are not like monks in
other monasteries throughout the land, who merely conduct rituals, read the Sutras, and pray for the emperors long
As recorded by Dato' P'ng Khim, a second Shaolin Temple at Chuan Chow in Fukien province in South China
is also recorded in Chinese legends. A Buddhist priest named Ta Tsun-shen is believed to have founded it. This
temple, too, eventually became a center for combative activity, and consequently is said to have played an important
role in the political histories of various dynasties.
Both temples, the one at Henan in the north and that at
Chuan Chow in the south, were, during years of warring, frequently razed on the grounds of alleged sedition against
the ever changing governments. Only a few of the occupants of these temples managed to escape the wrath of the
countless imperial troops sent to destroy them. These Monks avoided detection by going their separate ways to other
areas of China and countries round about, where they continued their study and practice of the arts.
of the Fukien Province monastery which contained the 36 chambers or levels of martial arts' instruction and the
infamous Lohan Hall (also known as Priest-Scholar Hall and Den of the Wooden Men). Upon entering the Lohan Hall, the
graduate student fought 108 mechanical wooden dummies armed with knives, spears and clubs triggered by the student's
body movements. If the student survived, they had to make their way through an opening blocked by a 5OO-pound metal
urn containing red-hot coals. Gripping the urn in their forearms, the student had to slide the urn to create an
exit. In the process, he branded his forearms with the badges of the Shaolin master, the Dragon and the Tiger.
The fame of the Henan Shaolin Temple became particularly widespread as exponents of combative arts converged there to
further their skills. The Ch'ing (Manchu) government (1644-1911) was grateful to this temple when, during the reign
of Emperor K'ang Hsi (1672), 128 Shaolin Temple monks volunteered for military service against the marauding bands
of barbarians who were massing on China's western borders and destroying everything in their path.
monks displayed skill and heroism in expelling the Invaders. Later, when governing overlords became more oppressive
and feared the Monks, the Ch'ing ordered the destruction of the Fukien Shaolin Temple. Five monks: Wu Mei, Chi Shan,
Bok Mei. Feng Daode and Miao Chian, later honored as the Five Early Founding Fathers, escaped and were taken into
hiding by five brave men who were subsequently referred to as the Five Middle Founding Fathers. In turn, these ten
were joined by five other monks, the Five Later Founding Fathers, and together with the priest Wan Yun-Ioong
(Ten-Thousand-Cloud Dragon) and Ch'en Chin-nan (Great Ancestor), did battle against the Manchu forces in the
northern province of Hopei. The spirit of their uprising spread rapidly southward and inspired others to join in the
fight against the Manchu invaders. Each of the five original monks from the Fukien Shaolin Temple is believed to
have established his own particular kind of Shaolin, and collectively these five kinds of Shaolin are traditionally
held to be the prototypes of Shaolin as we know it today.
Both Shaolin Temples naturally became the center
for secret societies during the time when the Sung dynasty (960-1279) was invaded by barbarians from the north. Two
broad movements established the relationship between the Shaolin Temple and secret societies: the White Lotus
Society which had influence in North and West China, and the Hung Society with its sphere of activity in West,
Central, and South China. Members of these movements are known to have frequented the Shaolin Temples. Generations
later, these secret societies would oppress the very people they were created to protect. Though the Shaolin Temples
were once essentially religious centers, with the overthrow of the Ming dynasty (1662) by the Ch'ing these temples
became politically oriented.
Today most Chinese Shaolin Temples stand as inactive and lonely relics of the
past. The current Chinese Shaolin Temple, supervised by the Chinese government, is more famous for its history,
gymnastic type performance arts and a shrine to the past. Chinese mainland Shaolin Temples are, however, venerated
by all exponents martial arts, kung fu, tai chi chuan, karate, and self defense experts who acknowledge the
historical importance of these temples. It has only been within the last 30 years a functioning Shaolin Temple has
been open. This current Shaolin Temple is largely controlled by a government who seem to set their own interests
first. The Arts of shaolin kung fu, wushu, tai chi, have been kept alive through family or gar systems with its
teachings being placed down from family member to family member and very close associates.
efforts of the early survivors of the Shaolin Temple, Shaolin techniques were widely dispersed. This, in turn,
created favorable opportunities for the passing down of these teachings to others. Because many thousands of Chinese
peoples subsequently migrated to lands such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore,
Malaysia and the British Common Wealth nations of Australia and Canada, we of the present generation are able to
receive these teachings.
It is common for non-Chinese
peoples to refer to any and all Chinese martial arts as Chinese boxing. This convenient but old-fashioned expression
appears to have been coined by the British, but it has never been accepted by the Chinese people. To equate Chinese
hand-to-hand arts with boxing methods is to leave untold a substantial portion of the intrinsic nature of the arts.
It is true that sparring tactics do exist, and make up a considerable portion of many of the Chinese hand-to-hand
systems, but if it becomes necessary to refer to such tactics, the terms Chung-Kuo Chuan (Chinese fist), FA-Fa (fist
method), or Shu-Shu (fist art) should be used.
The facts that sparring tactics never exist alone in any
Chinese hand-to-hand art but are coupled with those of a grappling nature, Chin Na and that sparring and grappling
tactics are always used in conjunction with a wide range of weapons make it necessary to use a more appropriate term
when speaking of Chinese hand-to-hand arts.
Wushu (martial arts) is used by most modern Chinese people to
categorize all the arts of a hand-to-hand nature. But it can be properly argued that even this expression is
inappropriate when one speaks of the entire spectrum of Chinese hand-to-hand arts, for there is really very little
that is truly martial in the majority of the systems in vogue today. Modern hand-to-hand arts are, at best, methods
of scuffling developed by civilians such as merchants and shopkeepers; these arts are not the martial methods of
professional warriors or fighting men. Most of the modern systems are geared more toward the promotion of public
health, recreation, physical education, and theatrical performances for the entertainment of an audience, rather
than toward real self-defense. Thus the problem of finding an accurate and acceptable definition that includes all
forms of Chinese hand-to-hand arts, whatever their purposes, is by no means solved. Perhaps the use of the
expression Kuo Shu (national art), which is used by the mainland Chinese, is one good way to categorize all Chinese
hand-to-hand arts; Wu Shu, under this definition, is but a subdivision of those arts, and relates to systems that
are devoted to combat Wu Kung, which specifically refers to a combative endeavor.
exponents of Chinese martial arts know of the Wat Chta and Net Chta, the external and internal families or systems.
These terms are traditional ones, but are often grossly misinterpreted, even by exponents of the Chinese
hand-to-hand arts. Those people who mistakenly divide Chinese arts into absolute categories and see the arts as
either external or internal systems draw a clear line between such forms as Shaolin which represents the external,
and other systems such as 'Tai Chi Chuan, Pa-Kua, and Hsing-I, which represent the internal category.
original definitions of external and internal systems must be added the fact that Shaolin has, since its beginning,
been regarded by many as an external system simply because of the legend that makes Ta Mo its originator. Ta Mo was
an outsider, a person external to the Chinese family of peoples, while internal systems were so named because they
were developed by persons of Chinese blood, not because one was a hard style and another a soft style.
few experienced exponents of Chinese martial arts subscribe to the idea that external systems are wholly hard or
resistive in nature, and internal systems are totally soft or pliable systems. At this point in history, it is
evident to those who have studied both the external and internal arts that the differences between the arts are
small ones indeed. Numerous examples exist to prove that internal systems contain rigorous hardness, that of a kind
unparalleled in any of the so-called hard external systems, and that the reverse is also true.
Pai are special organizations founded by Chinese exponents of the Chinese arts for
the purpose of providing systematic quality control of their arts.
According to some orthodox beliefs,
Shaolin Pai often fall into two major divisions: those that support Northern Shaolin, and those that make Southern
Shaolin the center of their activity. Northern Shaolin is believed to have originated at the Henan Shaolin Temple,
while Southern Shaolin is believed to have come from the Fukien Shaolin Temple. In their basic technique patterns,
both northern and southern brands of Shaolin make use of five animal forms: dragon, snake, crane, tiger, and
leopard. Northern Shaolin is traditionally subdivided into three main branches: Hung, which stresses physical
prowess and the use of strength in a hard or resistive manner; Kung, in which clever tactics of a soft or pliable
nature offset strength; and Yue, in which both hard and soft actions combine to produce technique. From the Yue
branch of Northern Shaolin there developed systems that depend on the actions of other animals, and even on those of
human and supernatural beings.
Lands Rice fields
Southern Shaolin consists of five main branches: Ta-hung Men, Ltu-chla Chuan, Ts'al-chla Chuan,
Li-chla Chuan, and Mo-chla Chuan.
On the basis of the traditional beliefs just summarized, some exponents of
Shaolin say that there are vast differences between Northern and Southern Shaolin. Exponents of the former type are
said to make more use of long-punching actions and to exhibit a higher order of agility, mobility, suppleness, and
fluidity of action in the performance of technique than do the exponents of Southern Shaolin. An old adage also
states that "Northern Shaolin is 70 percent use of the legs, and 30 percent use of the hands," and assumes that the
reverse ratio is true for southern types of Shaolin. Here again, as in the case of defining external and internal
systems, modern exponents of hand-to-hand arts find it difficult to support such beliefs. It is, of course, possible
that the stated differences did once exist during isolated time periods when travel was limited to a northern cold
mountain terrain or a southern marshy hot climate, but such differences do not exist today. Many Shaolin Monks, more
than the local population, traveled, therefore needed skills for different terrains and environments of both
southern and northern land mass and peoples.
Today, Dato Png Khim holds a position of Master Instructor in
the Arts of Shaolin, is a Chinese Physician and Acupuncturist in Penang State, Malaysia. Master Png has trained in
Shaolin styles for 40 years from Patriarch Sik Koh Sum, of the Siang Kheng Si Temple.
The real origins of Tai Chi Chuan are obscure. The more romantic and mystical accounts date the beginnings of Tai
Chi as far back as the 15th, 12th or even the 8th century, the preferred version attributing it to a famous 15th
century Taoist priest, Chang Shanfeng. An obscure Taoist priest, Chang Sanfeng, is believed to have been the creator
of the satisfying exercise system and gentle Art of Tai Chi Chuan. Chuan translates to mean control or fist,
therefore Tai Chi Chuan can mean Supreme Ultimate Self Control or supreme Ultimate Fist, depending on your interests
and orientation for Tai Chi Chuan. Chang stated, My own destiny depends upon myself and not upon the heaven. He led
a life of active responsibility for his own successes and failures. Tai Chi Chuan may be considered as the first
physical therapy program specifically conceived to promote a sound body for a longer life. Self defense cannot be
considered at this point because Chang had made it quite clear that in his determination to find the secrets of
immortality, Tai Chi Chuan was not created for the purpose of fighting. It was aimed at preserving and prolonging
lifenot to imply one could physically live forever, but it was designed to supplement the pursuit of longevity.
Chang Shanfengs Tai Chi creation was described as Poetry In Motion. A less romantic, but more reliable account dates
the development of Tai Chi Chuan back to Chen Wangting, a 16th century Royal Guard of the Chen village in Wenxian
County, Henan Province. After he retired from the army, influenced by Taoism, he led a simple life of farming, and
studying and teaching the martial arts. In the 1670s Chen Wangting developed several Tai Chi routines, which
included the old frame form still practiced today. He was greatly influenced by a famous general of the Imperial
army, Qi Jiguang, who wrote an important textbook on military training, Boxing in 32 Forms, but was also influenced
by other schools of boxing in existence at that time. His goal was to create a system of exercises to keep fit and
maintain health for his soldiers during times of peace. In some cases he took movements his soldiers knew and added
the principles of Chi to them. Chen Wangting assimilated into his martial art routines the ancient philosophical
techniques of Daoyin and Tuna, together with the use of clarity of consciousness as developed in the practice of
Taoism. Daoyin is the concentrated exertion of inner force, while Tuna is a set of deep breathing exercises which in
more recent times has been developed into the popular Chi Kung deep breathing exercises. By combining the martial
arts exercises with the practice of Daoyin and Tuna, shadow boxing became a complete system of exercise in which the
practitioners mental concentration, breathing and actions were closely connected, thus paving the way for its use in
future times as an ideal form of exercise for all aspects of health care. Tai Chi was passed on to and refined by
further generations of the Chen family but deliberately kept within the area of Chens village until the early 19th
century when Yang Luchan learned Chen style Tai Chi while employed in the Chen household. Yang Luchan soon became a
highly skilled and enthusiastic practitioner, developing his own particular simplified style of Tai Chi, which he
taught to a great number of people, including the members of the Imperial Court. The simpler Yang style of Tai Chi,
although lacking the depth of Chen style, was easier to teach, and thus became very popular in modern times. All the
other major schools of Tai Chi in practice today, including the Sun and Wu schools, originate from Chens style. Chen
Xin, a member of the 16th generation of the Chen family, in his later years wrote and illustrated an immensely
detailed book about the Chen school of Tai Chi that describes the correct postures and movements and explains the
philosophical and medical background to the routines. This was not however, published until 1932 after Chen Fake, a
great grandson of the celebrated Chen Changxing, had popularized the Chen style of Tai Chi. Chen Fake, who was of
the 17th generation of the Chen family, was one of the most highly achieved and possibly the greatest leader of the
Chen school of Tai Chi. There have been many stories told about his amazing prowess in Tai Chi and also about his
near perfect disposition: he was universally well-liked, making no enemies whatsoever during the 29 years he lived
and taught in Beijing up until his death in 1957.
The Martial Arts of Japan and Okinawa were largely brought to North America by military service personal at the close
of the Second World War.
During the years 906 AD to 1911, Chinese masters had a tremendous influence on the
martial arts of Japan and Okinawa. Many warrior monks, or Yamabushi, lived on the slopes of Mt. Hiei near Kyoto.
They often visited the Shaolin temples of Songshan and Fukien to study Zen and refine their martial art of Shaolin
Chuan Fa. These Japanese Buddhist monks honored Ta Mo, or Daruma Daishi as the Japanese call him, as their spiritual
Some Yamabushi renegades developed mystical powers through the practice of Tibetan-inspired Mikkyo
Buddhism at a monastery on China's Mt. T'ien T'ai. These warrior priests formed the basis of Ninjutsu.
Shaolin-trained martial artists called Vagabonds often traveled the Far East as performers in circus-like acting
troupes to conceal their identities on secret missions. The first Ninja were actually Shaolin priests. Many Shaolin
monks excelled in guerrilla warfare tactics. They were the first to use blinding powders, smoke bombs, booby traps
and hidden weapons. They excelled in the art of invisibility, so well that some Chinese today believe that a Shaolin
Monk can walk through walls!
Chin Gempin, a legendary 16th Century Chinese Kung Fu Master had untold
influence on Japanese and Okinawan martial arts. A Chinese mystic and wandering Yamabushi monk, Gempin fell in love
with a Japanese woman. Forced to change his Chinese name (Chin Cen Pinh) to become a Japanese citizen and stay in
Japan, Gempin kept his total Chinese Kung Fu art a secret. He supported himself by teaching his grappling arts of
Kumiai-Jutsu ("The Tackling Art") and Atemi-Waza ("Nerve Striking Techniques") to Ronin (Master less Samurai).
Gempin also founded the art of Yawara Jutsu, a short rod self-defense system on which the modern Kubotan is
In 1532, Takenouchi, a master of "Combat Sumo," challenged Gempin and was soundly beaten. Takenouchi
became Gempin's student, learning 5 secret "arresting techniques" and the short rod method called Yawara. Takenouchi
went on to establish the first official Ryu or School of Jujitsu near Kyoto. Many Japanese historians, not wanting
to credit a Chinese Kung Fu Master for helping to create their beloved Jujitsu or influencing the arts of Judo,
Aikido and Yawara-Jutsu, merely refer to Chin Gempin as an "ascetic hermit and teacher of Takenouchi."
the arts taught:
The Okinawan Islands benefited by being near China, Korea and Japan. The area's turbulent weather and tricky
ocean currents swept many travelers - pirates, soldiers, scholars, and Buddhist monks - to Okinawan shores. In 1372,
Okinawa's King Satto pledged his islands to the Chinese Ming emperor and Shaolin Buddhist ideals. Peasants and
farmers mastered martial arts that were once the exclusive domain of the military and upper classes.
Okinawan King Shohashi viewed his people's fighting ability as a threat and confiscated their weapons. Left to their
own devices, Okinawan's developed the crude combat arts of Te ("hand") and Tode ("closed fist"), a mixed bag of
Asian fighting styles. Practitioners hardened their natural weapons against fence posts and trees to punch through
Samurai armor, the "One Punch, One Kill" concept.
In need of ways to increase their empty-hand fighting
abilities, Okinawan's sent fighters to China and Taiwan to learn Chuan shu ("The Artful Use of One's Fists") Kento
(Fist Fighting) from top Chuan Fa Masters.
In 1609, the armies of the Japanese Satsuma Clan conquered Okinawa
and again banned all weapons. The Okinawan's were ready for the Japanese, having mastered Okinawa-te Karate,
Chugo-ku Karate and Kobudo, simple farm tools to thresh and harvest grain were readily at hand in the field for use
The Okinawan's kept Kobudo from outsiders for more than 300 years, grudgingly introducing the Bo
staff, Kama sickle, Sai, Nunchaku and spinning Tonfa to Japan in the early 1940s.
At advanced levels of
Okinawa-te Karate, students learned Shaolin animal forms. Shaolin-inspired arts such as Pakua Chang Kung Fu and
Chuan Fa influenced Okinawa's Goju-ryu Karate, as founder, Chojun Miyagi had traveled to China's Fukien Province to
study these arts. Major Okinawan arts have strong Chinese roots. Kobayashi-ryu's founder learned two styles from a
Buddhist priest in Northern China. Uechi-ryu Karate is an Okinawan term to describe the Cantonese Poongai Kung Fu
forms as learned by founder Kanbum Uechi, who traveled to China in 1901 to study martial arts.
steadily increased their martial arts know-how. Legend states an Okinawan, Sakugawa, left for China in 1794, and was
not heard from again for many years. He reappeared in Shuri, Okinawa, demonstrating advanced Shaolin Kung Fu
techniques that attracted hundreds of pupils. Sakagawa's success and influence inspired the Okinawan's to stylize
their arts under a Karate banner.
Credit must also be given to Shionja, an Okinawan master, who along with
Chinese friend Kushanku, returned to Okinawa from China in 1784 to spread their "new" style of Chinese Arts. They
succeeded in creating so many martial art students, Japanese authorities could not stop the spread of the art.
In the late 1800's a Chinese monk named Kosohun brought Shaolin Kung Fu to Japan. The Japanese soon threatened his
life and deported him, since his Kung Fu art was far superior to existing Japanese Karate and he had attracted too
many followers. Kosokun decided to fragment his total Chinese martial art system to prevent the Japanese from
copying it. In Okinawa, he taught only fist techniques; in Taiwan, thrusting with the fingers; in China, hand and
Before 1936, Japanese calligraphy represented Karate as Kara-te, or Tang Dynasty Hands. Thus
Karate was The Art of Chinese Hands. The Koreans also acknowledged the Chinese influence on their martial arts. One
example is Tang Soo Do, The Way of Chinese Hands, a forerunner of Tae Kwon Do.
Gichi Funakoshi, the founder
of Shotokan who brought Karate to Japan from Okinawa, wanted to limit the credit the Okinawan's gave the Chinese for
their martial arts. He felt that a Chinese name would hamper the spread of Karate among the nationalistic Japanese
who disliked anything Chinese. Funakoshi petitioned the Japanese government to change the ideograph for Kara from
Tang to Ku, a Zen term meaning "nothingness". Thus Kara-te became Karate-do, The Way of Empty Hands instead of The
Way of Chinese hands. This change angered the Okinawan's, but they later agreed to change their Kara ideograph to
conform to the Japanese version.
Hawaii was the place where Kung Fu masters found an environment to develop
and refine their arts. Chinese coolies, restricted from marrying or owning property, fled the harsh treatment in
Hawaii for California. Here they found dangerous work in gold mines and building America's Transcontinental
Railroad. This is the period in which the popular Kung Fu television series, featuring the Shaolin monk Caine, was
William Pitt stated, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The history of the
martial arts had similar problems. Chinese clans whos members spoke the same dialect created Hui Kuan, or
associations for protection. Hui Kuan and secret Chinese societies clashed in a struggle for total supremacy.
Americans dubbed these blood purges, 'Tong Wars.' Tong is American slang for Tang, the Chinese word for hall, or
meeting hall of a Hui Kuan association.
Tang enforcers were given the name 'Hatchet Men' for their skill with
meat cleavers. Unfortunately, they became the oppressors of the people they were sworn to protect. Law abiding
Chinese found it necessary to import Chinese Martial Art masters to strengthen their Tang clans as teachers and
bodyguards. Traditional weapons played a part in many Tang battles. American blacksmiths in Trinity County,
California, had a booming business manufacturing tridents, spears, pike poles, scythes, swords and shields for Tang
At the turn of the century, the generic terms Chinese Boxing, Boxing and Chinese Temple Boxing
became popular with Westerners after news reports of kung Fu fighters using bare feet, fists and bladed weapons
against firearms during the bloody "55 Days at Peking" English called The Boxer Rebellion.
persisted in their refusal to teach Kung Fu to anyone who was not Chinese. In 1957, T.C. Lee, a naturalized citizen
from China, gave the first public demonstration of Tai Chi Chuan. This allowed other Chinese masters to come forth
and reveal their martial arts secrets to anyone regardless of race. Although Kung Fu arts flourished in Hawaii among
the Chinese community, it was confined to Oriental inner circles that referred to it as Shu-shu and taught it in
Shaolin Kung Fu at
Shaolin Arts is a complete system composed of circular blocks, direct strikes, grabbing, sweeping, throwing, joint
locking, pressure point techniques, and chi (qi) development and use. There are many types of kicks and hand
positions, stances and movements used, the choice being dependent upon the results desired. In this system, the
strike is the block and the block is the strike. Shaolin Chuan Fa is neither an exclusively hard nor soft style, but
a well-balanced system of both. A key is fluidity and continuous motion with no loss of focus. The applications of
this system are as many as they are ancient: self-defense, fitness, chi development and personal development being
In North America, over the past 60 years, Shaolin Kung Fu Chuan Fa and Tai Chi Chuan, was
taught to family members and select friends. It is a Gar system, or family system, led by heads of families. Other
Martial Arts organizations were involved from time to time but all lacked depth and unity resulting in the
organization known as Shaolin Arts. A name designed to give credit where credit was due: To the great history of the
Arts and the many Masters who have honored it, both past and present. To promote the best the Arts have, that is, to
develop the best in each of us that we may all have the personal development desired and be an asset to our own
The traditional Shaolin Kung Fu Five Animal System: Tiger, Leopard, Snake, Dragon and Crane
represented the most complete system of Martial Arts for self defense, fitness and health. Some mimic this system
but few have embraced it to it's full complete potential.
The martial art Dragon is used to show the strength
of the mind and spirit. The dragon uses the mind to outwit his opponent or to solve a problem. It whips and whirls
the body, using whatever tool necessary to complete its task. Hidden strikes are common. The dragon carries its
energy high, always thinking. The strength of the dragon was its intelligence and its weakness was its wisdom. By
nature, all dragons were intelligent but not all were wise enough to use it successfully. Some in fact would "outfox
themselves" in combat - getting too close to the tiger to be dragged down to earth, becoming too acrobatic or caught
up in their own beauty.
The martial art Leopard is known for its speed. Pound for pound it is stronger than
the tiger. Its energy is often described as a lightning bolt. Once it attacks, its goal is to do as much damage as
possible in the shortest amount of time. It can fight like a tiger when the opponent is smaller than itself but will
not stand its ground if not to its advantage. Its weakness is its dependence on speed if put in an environment where
speed is restricted. The leopard has the life and enthusiasm of a youth. It will sometimes leap before it looks
relying on its speed to escape any problems. Leopards do not always live long but they also do not die of
The martial art Crane is conservative. It would rather avoid than confront. Its main body is weaker
than the other animals and therefore prefers to keep back while striking out with its long wings and beak. It
dislikes grappling preferring to keep distance between itself and others. The classic story is of the crane and ape
meeting and a frustrated ape leaving with one eye. Of course the weakness of the crane is just one solid hit from a
tiger and its life is usually over. Once a crane does decide to fight it can be very aggressive towards an exposed
target. There is a degree of deception in the crane as it leaps away just to return in again if defenses drop.
Likewise the wings and long feathers will often mask or hide a strike.
The martial art Snake is known for its
strikes to vital areas and wrapping movements. Thus it uses pressure points and grappling. The weakness of the snake
is it basically has one strike and then must recoil, climb a tree, etc. Therefore the aggressive snake usually waits
to allow another to come to it. It is common for cranes to beat snakes if the snake's first strike misses. Many
snakes are very defensive in personality. They will leave at the first sign of trouble. If that is not possible they
will hide and after that they will coil up and even warn you by rattling.
The martial art Tiger is strength
or shear power. It is strong and massive. In its purest form the tiger never retreats. It is like an advancing wall
of energy. Thus the saying, "When two tigers meet one is dead, the other dying." Its strength is its simplicity, its
weakness is it can be "outfoxed." It is common to see both the tiger and the dragon in murals depicting opposite
The I Ching states: "The Town may be changed, but the well cannot be changed".
The martial arts
is like a well with archetypal springs feeding it from deep within the unconscious mind of it's people. Many have
and will be involved in the Martial Arts.
This short poem may summarize their level of involvement:
Those who know the truth are not so great as those who love it;
those who love the truth are not so great as
those who live it.
There have been many good and great instructors of the Martial Arts Kung Fu, Karate,and
Tai chi, and some not so good. An educated consumer is always in the best interest of an honest school. Each of us
has the opportunity to embrace all the good the Arts have to offer. We need not be corrupted by the power it holds
if we follow the traditions, search out a worthy teacher and system, dedicating ourselves to enjoy the freedom and
self discovery it offers.
The modern history of the martial arts, kung fu, and tai chi chuan, is still being
written ...perhaps one day your name will be remembered when a student reflects, "if I could be like my