11 November 2007

Shaolin KungFu is not true WuShu without Buddhism (and Taoism)!

What does Shaolin mean?

It is a place of cultivation for yourself and to yourself only. The art of Martial Arts arises from the idea and philosophy that a healthy mind requires a healthy body.

Before the body can be strengthened, one has to realise that Shaolin upholds Buddhism because it is an education systems from which modern post-graduate and continuous education originates from.

Buddhism in itself is not [just] a religion. It is a form of education. Over the centuries, due to the influence of taoism, when Buddhism was introduced, many followers have a habit of offerings to the Heavens that they find hard to abandon...so they adopt it.

In Shaolin, people may enter as outside disciples or Reverends. the reverends cannot marry, eat meat, etc. They will have 6 eyes burned to their scalp. One for every text of rules.

The ones without the eyes on the scalp are probationary monks who are there to learn the art of Martial Arts and nothing else. they are not interested in the cultivation aspects of it. If they are, there is available another group in the Temple that they may enroll into for further education.

A small history first...

What does 'Kung Fu' mean? Like many other terms used in connection with the Martial Arts today, the term 'Kung fu' is often mis-applied. Translated literally, kung fu means 'excellence through hard work' or 'skilled achievement'. Therefore one could be said to display 'kung fu' at cooking or at computer programming.

There is nothing inherently martial about the term, but in the 1950s, the Hong Kong film industry started using the two characters 'Kung Fu' for their martial arts action movies and the phrase has been closely associated with Chinese Martial Arts ever since - particularly in the West.

Professionals refer to the practice of Chinese martial arts as 'Wu Kung' or 'Wu Shu' which connote the specific martial (Wu) development of skill (Kung) or art (Shu).

What's the difference between Traditional Chinese Martial Arts and Karate/Judo/Taekwondo?

Chinese martial arts were formalised over two thousand years ago, and were developed primarily by Buddhist and Taoist monks. Thus, the Chinese are universally acknowledged to have have the oldest, best-proven systems - almost all other legitimate systems will acknowledge the debt they owe to the Chinese systems, which spread throughout Asia. Methods such as Karate, Judo or Taekwondo were developed hundreds of years after the formalisation of the Chinese systems, and as such, owed much of their development to Chinese martial arts systems - Karate, as first taught by Southern Chinese monks and practised on Okinawa, was originally called 'Tang Te' which translates as 'Chinese Hand'. The characters were later changed to 'Kara Te' ('Empty Hand') during a period of strong Japanese nationalism.

What are Traditional Chinese Martial Arts?

In Chinese culture, there are the so-called 'five excellences.' These are: Calligraphy, Poetry, Painting, Music and Martial Arts. The objective in mastering any of these arts is to achieve a state of calmness and equilibrium which the Chinese refer to as 'enlightenment'.

Mastery of any of the excellences would grant this state of peace and balance; traditional martial arts grant further benefits as well - health, fitness and the ability to defend one's self or others.

In trying to understand these arts, it is important to realise that in China, they were developed primarily by Buddhist and Taoist monks whose goal was to prolong their lives. The key for these aesthetes was to enrich themselves spiritually - self-defence was of secondary concern. However, when monks were sent out from the temples to gather alms, the harsh reality of having to defend themselves arose and the techniques that they had developed and practised purely for health reasons had to be adapted to deal with the threats of the outside world.

The systems that these holy men developed spread throughout China and across Asia, some being adapted for purely combative use, some strictly for health development, some for theatrical performance while others retained the essence of the original arts - to prolong and enrich the life of the practitioner, with the added benefit of providing an effective system of self-defence, should the need arise.

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