Shaolin Kung Fu

Thiếu Lâm Thất Sơn Võ Đạo

The History of Shaolin Kung Fu

Around 520 AD, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma (Da Mo) came to the Shaolin monastery at the foot of the Songshan mountains in north-central China. To help the monks withstand the long periods of meditation he introduced from his Chan (Zen) school of Buddhism, Bodhidharma taught the monks special breathing techniques and exercises to develop both their inner strength and their ability to defend themselves in the remote and often dangerous mountainous area in which they lived. Bodhidharma himself was said to have sat meditating facing a cave wall near the temple for nine years “listening to the ants scream.” Based on these exercises introduced by Bodhidharma, the Shaolin monks gradually developed a sophisticated fighting system known as Shaolin Martial Arts.

Two related concepts separate Shaolin arts from most other styles. One is the use of “internal” abilities derrived from the meditative based training and the other is how its fighting techniques are largely based on the movements of animals. Related to the Taoist backgrounds of many of the monks at the time, observing nature and living in harmony with the world was an important concept to go hand-in-hand with the Zen Buddhist concepts introduced by Bodhidharma. The combination of internal exercises with philosophies based on the forces at work in the natural world are the basis for the development of Shaolin martial arts.