The History of the Shaolin Martial Arts
Most people say the Martial Arts
came from the Shaolin Temple.
the Shaolin Temple is a big influencer.
my own theory is slightly different.
I wrote a short column about ‘Og and Bog.’
Og steals Bog’s apples by conking him on the head,
Bog imagines a defense for getting conked on the head,
and we have a technique
and the birth of the martial arts.
Which is to say
from the very first time
one man raised his fist to another,
martial arts have been developing.
not a reliable thing,
says that Bodhidharma came to Shaolin from the east,
trained the monks in meditation,
and when they proved too weak to meditate properly,
he gave them the martial arts.
But when you look at the exercises credited to Bodhidharma
they look like calisthenics.
So how do simple calisthenics
become martial arts?
Let’s create a possible scenario
to present my theory.
they conscripted peasants,
and taught them how to fight.
How to use the spear,
how to do basic ‘boxing’ (kung fu).
The peasants who survived the battles
might retire to home,
and go to a temple to pray,
maybe even feel a bit of remorse
about the deaths they caused
and join a temple.
At the temple they want to stay in shape
so they use the basic calisthenics they used in the military.
They even use some of the fighting routines.
But the essence of the temple isn’t in fighting,
and if one is in daily meditation
and begins a regimen in fitness,
it is conceivable that the exercises they did
begin to take on the form of meditation.
No, not every monk is a warrior,
but if even one soldier takes refuge at the temple
translates his military exercises
that might have great influence.
So we have a sort of a criss cross here
between meditation and physical combat.
It’s a maybe,
but a logical sort of a maybe.
Now let’s talk about what happens if a person
practices a routine for years,
and especially in conjunction with meditation.
He becomes aware through meditation,
and as he focuses his meditation on his calisthenics,
he achieves a different type of awareness in his calisthenics.
He starts to feel this thing called chi,
a ‘breath energy’ circulating through the body.
He finds this thing called chi is difficult to explain,
but if a person is dedicated to motion,
and to the calm and breathing techniques of meditation…
he can achieve a certain degree of awareness of,
and control over this somewhat invisible energy called chi.
And all this backs up various religious theories.
The interesting thing is that Shaolin happened,
and it is so far back
that all we’ve got is theories.
But we have another art that isn’t thousands of years old.
It is influenced by Shaolin, but…
back in the 1800s
apparently knew some kung fu.
He went into the mountains,
met some monks,
and they taught him how to meditate by walking the circle.
Tung Haichuan supposedly combined
the circle walking and the kung fu
to make Pa Kua Chang.
People immediately invested PKC
with all sorts of religious theories.
The eight trigrams,
all that sort of thing.
A good example of a ‘calisthenic’ being adapted to kung fu,
and kung fu becoming more meditative,
just as what probably happened
thousands of years ago at the Shaolin Temple.
If you look at Karate,
it was a martial art designed by and for palace guards.
Heavy duty self defense
and hard core fighting.
In just a bit over a hundred years it has become
heavily infused with zen concepts.
A martial art expanding awareness
through dedicated and repetitious motion,
until it becomes,
in its purest form,
a source of enlightenment
and spiritual development.
A good question here is
could MMA become spiritual?
I would guess probably not,
and this simply because the techniques are
more dedicated to destruction than control.
The practitioners might even laugh if
a student wanted to find the zen
behind an arm bar.
it may have taken MANY generations
for Shaolin to become more than
a physical calisthenic for ex-warriors,
and to become a method of awareness and control
and not simply an excuse for destruction.
So that’s my theory,
if you feel it is full of holes,
or you feel some other possibility is probable,
I do want to say that when I developed the
The Last Martial Arts Book: Nine Square Diagram Boxing
I was trying to create movements
that would have meditative aspects
as in Tai Chi Chuan and Pa Kua Chang.
I wanted to create a degree of spiritual awareness,
and yet have the art be totally workable on the street.
I want the meditation, the control, the spirituality,
but not at the cost of losing the destructive potential of the art.
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make sure you…
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How to Fix Karate:
A Karate Training and Workout Book