The Shaolin order dates to about 540 A.D., when an Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese), traveled to China to see the Emperor. At that time, the Emperor had stated local Buddhist monks translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. The intent was to allow the general populace the ability to practice this religion. This was a noble project, but when the Emperor believed this to be his path to Nirvana, Tamo disagreed. Tamo's view on Buddhism was that you could not achieve your goal just through good actions performed by others in your name. At this point the Emperor and Tamo parted ways and Tamo traveled to the nearby Buddhist temple to meet with the monks who were translating these Buddhist texts. The temple had been built years before in the remains of a forest that had been cleared or burned down. At the time of the building of the temple, the emperor's gardeners had also planted new trees. Thus the temple was named "young (or new) forest", (Shaolin in Mandarin, Sil Lum in Cantonese). When Tamo arrived at the temple, he was refused admittance, probably being thought of as an upstart or foreign meddler by the head abbot (Fang Chang). Rejected by the monks, Tamo went to a nearby cave and meditated until the monks recognized his religious prowess and admitted him. Legend has it that he bored a hole through one side of the cave with his constant gaze; in fact, the accomplishment that earned his recognition is lost to history. When Tamo joined the monks, he observed that they were not in good physical condition. Most of their routine paralleled that of the Irish monks of the Middle Ages, who spent hours each day hunched over tables where they transcribed handwritten texts. Consequently, the Shaolin monks lacked the physical and mental stamina needed to perform even the most basic of Buddhist meditation practices. Tamo countered this weakness by teaching them moving exercises, designed to both enhance chi flow and build strength. These sets, modified from Indian yogas (mainly hatha, and raja) were based on the movements of the 18 main animals in Indo-Chinese iconography (e.g., tiger, deer, leopard, cobra, snake, dragon, etc.), were the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu. It is hard to say just when the exercises became "martial arts". The Shaolin temple was in a secluded area where bandits would have traveled and wild animals were an occasional problem, so the martial side of the temple probably started out to fulfill self-defense needs. After a while, these movements were codified into a system of self-defense. As time went on, this Buddhist sect became more and more distinct because of the martial arts being studied. This is not to say that Tamo "invented" martial arts. Martial arts had existed in China for centuries. But within confines of the temple, it was possible to develop and codify these martial arts into the new and different styles that would become distinctly Shaolin. One of the problems faced by many western historians is the supposed contraindication of Buddhist principles of non-violence coupled with Shaolin's legendary martial skills. In fact, the Shaolin practitioner is never an attacker, nor does he or she dispatch the most devastating defenses in any situation. Rather, the study of kung fu leads to better understanding of violence, and consequently how to avoid conflict. Failing that, a Buddhist who refuses to accept an offering of violence (i.e., and attack) merely returns it to the sender. Initially, the kung fu expert may choose to parry an attack, but if an assailant is both skilled and determined to cause harm, a more definitive and concluding solution may be required, from a joint-lock hold to a knockout, to death. The more sophisticated and violent an assault, the more devastating the return of the attack to the attacker. Buddhists are not, therefore, hurting anyone; they merely refuse delivery of intended harm.

The Shaolin Temple is situated in the Songshan mountains in the province Henan of the People's Republic of China. Henan means "south of the yellow river" and Henan enjoys being called "cradle of the Chinese civilization". The capital of Henan is the industrial city Zhengzhou which represents one of the two most important junctions of the Chinese railroad line in southern central China. 65km southwest from Zhengzhou lies the town Dengfeng. Dengfeng is with approx. 60,000 inhabitants the nearest village to Shaolin and offers some purchase possibilities. From there, 15 km further, lies Shaolin temple.

Wushu is an important component of the cultural heritage of China, with a rich content that has remained untarnished over the centuries. Literally translated, "wu" is martial, "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 poular national sport in the country,practiced by the young and old alike. It's 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.
Wushu is the Chinese word for all the styles of Chinese Martial Arts. These arts can be Tai Chi, Shaolin Boxing, Wing Chun, and many other martial styles.

"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.

Karate was originally an Okinawan method of combat that almost completely dispenses with throws. Its blocks are hard and it is a power oriented style. Judo is a sport that involves primarily throwing and grappling. It is very similar to western wrestling and was invented in the late 1800’s by Jigoro Kano, in Japan. Tae Kwon Do is a Korean art, similar to karate, that emphasizes the feet as weapons and is also very power oriented.
Wushu, more commonly known as Kung Fu, is a Chinese self defense system that is comprised of both hard and soft styles. The Shaolin curriculum consists of many styles of Wushu that teach the use of throws, grappling holds, weapons, and self defense. It is therefore a more broad and complex system of combat than many other styles. Similar non-Chinese martial arts include Jiu Jitsu (Japanese) and Hapkido (Korean).

This is yet another result of western linguists confusing both eastern and western speakers. In the once near-universal Wade-Giles spelling, a Chinese "G" sound was written in English as "K", while what the Chinese pronounced as "K" was transcribed as "K' ". Thus if kung fu were supposed to be pronounced with a "k" sound, it would have been written as "k'ung fu." When Bruce Lee introduced American audiences to his martial arts, he both spoke and wrote the American "G", hence "gung fu." Confused? Don't worry about it.


Free Blogger Templates | Created by Adam Every