The History of Shaolin Kung Fu
2,500 years ago Buddhism was founded in Nepal. About 2,100
years ago Buddhism spread to India. 1,500 years ago an Indian
Monk called Bodhidharma traveled to China and he developed
the teachings of Chan Buddhism.
495 A.D. - The Founding of Shaolin
The Shaolin Monastery was built in the Henan Province. The
first abbot was "Ba Tuo". Ba Tuo received the land
at the foot of the Shao She mountain from the Chinese emperor
to build the monastery. The name Shaolin comes from the Shao
She Mountain and from the forest that surrounds it. The Chinese
word for forest is "Lin" and for temple it is "Su".
Shao Lin Su = Shaolin Temple
The Three Lineages of Shaolin
The Shaolin Temple has had three distinct lineages (successions
of abbots) in its history:
Ba Tuo's Lineage
The first lineage was very short. It consisted solely of Ba
Tuo, the founder of the Shaolin Temple. Ba Tuo's lineage was
short because he taught Xiao Xing Buddhism. This narrow, restrictive
form of Buddhism had so many rules (250 for men, 500 for women)
that it was impractical for most people. As a result, Ba Tuo
had few disciples. However, the two former generals Qui Wong
& Sheng Tsu became his students and brought martial arts
to the temple. His lineage ended when Da Mo became abbot of
the Shaolin Temple.
527 A.D. - Da Mo's Lineage
1) Bodhidharma (his Indian name) or Da Mo as he is called
in Chinese, arrived in China. Da Mo was very influential as
he brought the teachings of Ch’an Buddhism to the Shaolin
Temple. Ch’an is known in the West mostly through its
Japanese form of Zen Buddhism. Ch’an and Zen have the
same roots but they developed into different philosophies
over the centuries. Upon becoming abbot of the Shaolin Temple,
Da Mo made a sort of prophecy. He tied six knots in the belt
of his robe and stated that his lineage would end upon the
fifth abbot following him. After Da Mo, his disciple Hui Ke
was named abbot of the Shaolin Temple. After Hui Ke; Sheng
San, Gao Xing, Hung Jen and Hui Neng were each appointed abbot
Each received the robe of Da Mo upon becoming abbot. During
the six generations of Da Mo's lineage, the teaching of Ch'an
Buddhism was done using a mind to mind, heart to heart philosophy,
avoiding unnecessary verbal instruction. Hui Neng changed
this philosophy by writing down the teachings of Ch'an. These
writings allowed Ch'an to spread outside the Shaolin Temple,
but they also signalled the end of Da Mo's lineage.
Da Mo found the monks at the temple in poor health. He introduced
4 forms to improve their health:
1. Yi Jin Jing (Qi Gung): muscle and tendon washing form
2. Xi Xue Jing (Qi Gung): bone marrow washing form
3. Lohan Shi Ba Shou (Kung Fu): 18 Lohan movements from which
develop the 18 Lohan forms. Later the 54 Lohan forms and then
the 108 Lohan forms developed from the original 18 movements.
4. Wu Xing Shou (Five Animal Kung Fu Forms): Dragon, Tiger,
Leopard, Crane and Snake forms.
The following are the five abbots of the Shaolin Temple that
followed Da Mo.
2) Hui Ke (487- 594)
3) Sheng San (520-612) : very little written known about him,
probably due to the persecution of Buddhism during his lifetime.
4) Gao Xing (580-651) ; leader of the "East Mountain
5) Hung Jen (600-674)
6) Hui Neng (638-713) : the illiterate wood cutter; hugely
influencial; his own life story is considered a sutra; first
abbot who wrote down the principles of Ch’an Buddhism.
With the death of Hui Neng a new lineage of monks started
at the Shaolin Temple. The first generation of this lineage
was Fu Yu.
Fu Yu's Lineage - 1st Generation Warrior
Fu Yu became abbot at the beginning of the Sung Dynasty. This
was a very warlike period in China's history and people everywhere
were in danger from brigands and armies. Fu Yu invited the
best martial artists to come and share their knowledge while
training at the Shaolin Temple. Three times, for a period
of three years each time, martial artists from many places
came to the Shaolin Temple to share their knowledge. The Shaolin
monks recorded the forms and techniques which they observed
into a library which was kept at Shaolin. It is for this reason
that the Shaolin Temple is often considered the birthplace
of martial arts. However this is incorrect. The Shaolin Temple
can be seen more as a modern day University that simply studied
martial arts and then combined the useful techniques into
a new system. This system is now known as Shaolin Kung Fu.
Fu Yu's lineage continues unbroken to this day.
Grandmaster Shi Yan Ming (Sigong) - 34th Generation
Grandmaster Shi Yan Ming was born in the year of the dragon
and was raised in the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, China.
He is the founder and abbot of the USA Shaolin Temple in New
York. Grandmaster Shi Yan Ming teaches authentic Shaolin Kung
Fu, Qi Gung, Tai Ji, Meditation and Ch’an Buddhism.
Master Jurgens (Sifu) - 35th Generation Shaolin Layman
Born in 1971 Sifu Jurgens has dedicated his life to studying
and teaching the art of Shaolin Kung Fu. His Shaolin knowledge,
attained directly from his teacher Grandmaster Shi Yan Ming,
originates from the Shaolin Temple in China. Sifu Jurgens
bears the Shaolin name Shi Heng Tong, a name bestowed upon
him by his master when he was inducted as a 35th generation
Shaolin Layman Disciple in 1998.
Before the Qing dynasty in China, disciples of the Shaolin
Temple who wished to leave had to pass through five tests
in order to be permitted departure. The first was to defeat
the Lohan Tang. A Lohan is a kind of bodyguard and the Lohan
Tang were the 18 best fighters from the 5 Shaolin Ch'an families.
The departing disciple would have to face and defeat each
of these 18 fighters.
Upon defeating the Lohan Tang, the departee would then face
the Da Mo Yuan. These were four fighting monks charged with
protecting the abbot. After defeating the Da Mo Yuan, the
departee would face the San Jing Gung. These were three fighting
monks chosen to defend the library of manuscripts preserved
at Shaolin. After defeating the San Jing Gung, the departee
would face the Mu Yi Xiang.
This was a hall of wooden dummies which were set to react
to hair triggers. If triggered, each dummy would strike with
enough force to knock a man unconscious. If the departee could
navigate to the end of the hallway of wooden dummies, his
last trial was to carry a cauldron full of hot coals outside
by pressing his forearms against the sides of the cauldron.
The cauldron had a dragon on one side and a tiger on the other.
These images would be branded onto the forearms of the Shaolin
disciple, who was then free to go.