What is Kung Fu
The Kung fu was established in the year 525 BC by the arrival of a Hindu monk named Bodhidarma (the Enlightened One) or TAMO in Chinese.
Tamo had come to China to meet the Emperor who, at that time, had the Buddhist texts translated by monks of the region. His intention was to allow the practice of this religion to the whole population.
Although this project was noble, TAMO did not agree with the fact that the Emperor wanted, by this act, to reach Nirvana: one cannot reach this goal just by good deeds carried out, in his name, by others. From this disagreement, TAMO went to meet the monks in charge of the translation.
Arriving at the Shaolin Temple, Tamo was refused access. Rejected by the monks, TAMO began 9 years of meditation until the monks recognized his religious prowess and accepted him into the temple. Legend has it that he dug a hole through one of the walls of the cave with his constant gaze.
Having joined the monks, Tamo noticed that the monks were in a deplorable physical condition. Tamo taught them physical and breathing exercises. The physical exercises were invented by watching and imitating the movements of different animals (including the tiger, dragon, snake, leopard and crane).
Tamo selected the best that nature had to offer and combined them into a movement system that man can understand and practice. Breathing exercises were developed to strengthen the internal organs. For although physical exercises strengthened the body and limbs, Tamo knew that he needed to keep his organs healthy as they provided the energy necessary for the body to function.
As a person’s breathing progressed, his organs became stronger and he began to develop his “Chi”. Chi is the ability to draw and use the vital energy that circulates inside the body. This energy is concentrated at a point in the body located in the lower abdomen called the “Tan Tien”. Tamo developed these breathing exercises which are still used today in Tai Chi Chua, Yoga and other forms of meditation exercises, which evolved into a martial art.
These exercises evolved into a martial art for defense purposes. Indeed, the Shaolin Temple was located in a place where bandits and wild animals roamed. With time, the Shaolin Temple became more and more popular thanks to the martial art that was taught there. Not that Tamo had invented martial arts, which had existed for centuries before, but the Shaolin Temple had developed and codified these arts in its own style.
The Kung fu was transmitted from generation to generation. The monk was initiated to all the secrets of combat along with a Buddhist and Taoist teaching. To leave the temple, the monk had to overcome three tests. The first was religious and philosophical. The second placed the pupil in front of opponents where he had to prove his knowledge of combat.
When these two tests were brilliantly passed, the master allowed him to enter the third test. He had to cross a long corridor at the end of which was the exit, but along the way, 108 wooden and iron mannequins were put into action by ingenious systems. He had to face them one by one with precision and speed. Finally, a final test of will awaited him.
The monk had to move, hugging with his forearms, a two hundred kilogram, red-hot urn weighing two hundred kilograms that blocked the exit. He then engraved the shaolin seals on himself forever: the dragon and the tiger that inspired respect, because in the eyes of all, these indelible marks signified perfect self-control.
But isn’t there a contradiction between the Buddhist principle of non-violence and this legendary fighting technique? In fact, a Shaolin monk was never an attacker, and he never used the most devastating technique in any situation.
In 1644, China was the scene of a civil war which was triggered by the death of the Emperor. Revolt took over the country. A general named Wou San Kouei appealed to the Manchus to quell the revolt but once their task was accomplished, they decided to stay in China and found a new dynasty. The Shaolin Temple became the seat of resistance.
The Emperor decided to oppose in a definitive way to the winds of revolt, raised by the Shaolin monks and planned to destroy the temple. Thus, the monastery was the scene of a terrible battle where masters and disciples fought to the death. Few survived. Five masters fled in different directions and continued to teach the Shaolin heirloom.
Thus Kung Fu was at the origin of many styles of hand-to-hand combat such as karate, taekwando, aikido etc…