The origin of Shaolin Kung Fu is generally credited to an Indian monk named Tat Moh, who is also sometimes known as Boddhidharma. He began life as a prince in Southern India, but became a devoted Buddhist, renouncing his
royal heritage to take up the simple lifestyle of a monk. He traveled widely, spreading the teachings of Buddhism. Eventually he rose to become the 28th patriarch of India.
In those days, it was common for Indian monks to travel to China where Their Buddhist teachings were eagerly received. In the year 520 A.D. Tat Moh made just such a journey, right through India and China, finally
settling at the monastery called Shao Lin – which means ‘little forest’. He
was disappointed, however, to find the monks very weak and unable to
withstand the austere ways of Buddhism – a life which often consisted of
long fasts and frugal living.
Tat Moh therefore retired into a cave and meditated in isolation in order
to find a solution to the problem. When he emerged after nine years of hard
study, he had devised a set of exercises for the monks. These were similar
to some Indian exercises such as yoga and were intended to regulate and
strengthen the monks’ chi flow. Their intention was to strengthen the monks
and increase their health and vitality; and this they did, so successfully
that Tat Moh’s Chi Kung exercises are still practiced to this day. They
form the basis of the Shaolin Arts.
It seems that in China there was more than one temple named ‘Shaolin’. In
this history we will discuss only the Shaolin temple in Fukien Province,
since ours is a Fukienese art.
In the history of China there was much lawlessness. Bandits and villains
were widespread. Temples were vulnerable to attack, as were monks who
traveled the country teaching the ways of Buddhism. So as to protect
themselves, the monks developed a system of fighting based on the exercises
taught by the founder master – Tat Moh.
Buddhist monks are very gentle and good natured. Their fighting system was
developed only to defend themselves against harm. This system was called
the ‘Lohon’ style after the monks in the temple (Lohons) who developed it.
The Lohon style is a very basic form of Kung Fu which emphasizes low
stances and strong body posture. It proved very successful.
The monks of the Shaolin temple practiced diligently to increase their
martial arts skills and were constantly striving to improve their art. A
great step forward came with the evolution of the third Shaolin style,
called the Tiger style – Tai Chor in Chinese. This was developed by a
Chinese emperor, who had relinquished his royal position to adopt the
austere ways of Buddhism. He finally settled at the Shaolin temple where he
studied deeply in the martial arts, eventually developing the Tai Chor
style. For this reason, Tai Chor is sometimes also known as the emperor’s
style. Tai Chor uses the strong but mobile stance which we use in the
Tiger-Crane combination, and which we call the ‘walking stance’. It also
emphasizes a very strong twisting punch. In fact, the straight punch which
ends with a twist of the fist has become a hallmark of Shaolin Kung Fu. The
Tai Chor style develops great power and was, therefore, able to defeat the
Lohon style which it superseded.
No style is unbeatable. Every move has a counter. Inevitably, another style
was later developed which could counter the Tiger style. This was the
monkey style, known in Chinese as Tai Sheng. Monkey is a very fast,
deceptive style. The monkey tends to close in on his opponent, strike and
retreat all in one rapid sequence. Hence, the powerful Tiger may be unable
to hit his tricky, constantly moving opponent. If the monkey misses with a
strike, he will still move away from his opponent so as not to allow them
the chance to counter him. The monkey’s strikes are accurate, more than
powerful and are delivered with fingers or the open palm. Grabbing is also
a favorite monkey technique. The monkey likes to crouch and often attacks
the lower body. He especially favours targeting the groin. For male
opponents this can result in serious loss!
Indian Budha Academy
Because the monkey style consists of much crouching and rolling, it is best
suited to people who are short. It is often considered one of the most
entertaining styles to watch.
How can the techniques of the monkey possibly be countered? The answer is
by the techniques of the white crane! The white crane style was the last
and most technically advanced style to be developed in the Fukien Shaolin
Temple. Even to this day, the crane style is regarded with great respect
and is shrouded in secrecy by its masters. Hence it has been one of the
last Kung Fu styles which the Chinese have ‘let go’ to westerners.
What is this devastating secret possessed by the white crane? The crane
sticks. As soon as the crane is attacked it establishes touch contact. If
its opponent tries to land the attack, the crane deflects it: if the
opponent withdraws, the crane follows; never releasing its touch until it
finds a certain opportunity to strike – which it does with no mercy. What
use the tricky techniques of the monkey? As he tries to dart away the crane
will follow, sticking to him until the chance presents itself to strike.
The white crane style represents the pinnacle of the Shaolin martial arts.
Nellore Buddha Training Camp