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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu History

By: Yoshi G

Chinese martial arts were first mentioned in literature dating back to the Chou Dynasty from 1122-255BC and but the Shaolin Kung Fu history begins with the building of the Shaoling Monastery in 495AD. This monastery which was built on the Sung Mountain in the Honen Province housed up to 2000 monks at one time and is noted as China's most famous monastery. Due to the fact that Shaolin Kung Fu was taught and passed down orally much of the story of its beginnings are a mixture of historical fact intermingled with legend.

Considered to be the father of
Shaolin Kung Fu and to Buddhists the founder of Zen, a lively monk named Tamo left his home in India in the 6th century AD and trekked eastward then north until he reached the Shaolin Monastery where he stopped and taught Zen meditation. Tamo realized that most of the monks were unable to handle the rigorous regime of the Zen mediation discipline so he created a series of exercises to build up their health and increase their stamina. Being very much like yoga in that these exercises were both psychological and physical, they are believed to have formed the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu.

It was during holy pilgrimages that martial arts really developed basically out of necessity as the monks were often robbed of their religious treasures by the many "pirates" or "bandits" of the time. Using the exercises and postures taught to them by Tamo and refining them into fighting movements, combined with the influence of Zen, a deadly form of martial art was born and they were well equipped to protect themselves and their treasures. Over the centuries this form of self-defense and spiritual lifestyle became legendary.

In 1736, the monastery was attacked by Manchu's battled troops and the monks were all but annihilated by the huge number of troops and the monastery was burnt to the ground. Thankfully, there were survivors who fled and this ensured that Shaolin Kung Fu history would be taught and indeed flourish. The monastery has been rebuilt several times and is always remembered as the birth place of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Although remnant writings have been found, one of the earliest extant references to Shaolin Fung Fu History was published in 1784 in the Boxing Classic: Essential Boxing Methods. The reference gives the first written documentation of the Monastery of Shaolin and the monks being the originators of Shaolin Kung Fu. Today, Kung Fu has a worldwide appeal and there are many forms practiced, one such style being Hung, which is named after Hung Hei Guen who was one of the Ten Tigers of Shaolin. He was taught by Gee Sin who was the abbot of Shaolin who escaped the fire and went on to teach and pass on the Shaolin Kung Fu History and methods throughout China, as it has been passed down to the famous art we still use today all around the world.

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