The famous monks "invented" certain styles while a whole lot of others have been absorbed from an external source and got "shaolinized". The techniques that characterized a style were strung together into "Taolu" or fixed sequences that we could consider the encyclopedia of that style.You will learn these "Taolu" which is basically a type of shadowboxing with chinese martial arts techniques from Shaolin. You will also be shown how to use these move to defend yourselves.
The practice of Shaolin gongfu is an excellent way to
- get a complete and fun workout
- gain understanding of martial arts techniques
- improve posture, coordination, power, speed and flexibility
- train mental focus, concentration and memory.
- do cool stuff you see in the movies
To find out what you can learn check out the Shaolin Curriculum or check out the video section
Shaolin and its martial arts is very long, very interesting but very often told very incorrectly. Here we will present a very short version.
Usually the story starts with "Da Mo" (chinese name) or "Boddhidarma" (Indian name), a Indian Buddhist monk that travelled to Northern China. After meditating for nine years without eating, driking or sleeping in a cave on the Song Mountain he got up and invented every single martial arts movement known to man... . This story has some very dramatic elements such as a monk chopping of his own arm to become Damo's first disciple... later his warriors won every battle they ever fought and gongfu styles were born miraculously from observing monkeys, snakes or mantis...
Well some of the mysteries, magic and stories that cloud the history of chinese martial arts sometimes actually come straight out of fictionals novels as "shui hu zhuan" (The water Margin), and films and series.
You should know that another Indian monk named "Ba Tuo" founded the Buddhist monastery of Shaolin with the support of the emperor. Da Mo arrived later on the scene and probably did his meditating in a cave but with breaks for meals and resting. Later he entered the monastery where he taught a newer version of Buddhism that didn't adhere that much to copying manusscripts as Shaolin had been doing up until then and gave more importance to meditation. He basically taught excercises resembling or derived from yoga and very little or nothing on martial arts.
The martial art skills of the monks probably came from interchanges with travelling bodyguards and retired generals and soldiers who lived at the monastery. It was a continuous process with a lot of influences pre and post Da Mo. It seems that especially the military martial art Tong Bei had a big influence on the Shaolin martial art. Shaolin evolved and integrated filosophies and very diverse practices as Taoism, Buddhism, Wrestling, military systems, Family Styles...etc forming a mix called "Chan buddhism" that searches the union of Body, Mind and Breathing. Another better known name is the Japanese ZEN.
Originally two categories of Gong Fu were practiced at Shaolin, the first for the regular monks that practiced because of it health benefits. The second system was for the warrior monks that needed efficient techniques to fight off bandits that were out to rob the treasures of the monastery. These monks with the role of warriors or guards protected the gates and entry points to the monastery so that the rest of the regular monks could meditate and live peacefully. Every gate had its own guards using a particular style that had its own forms. This explains why Shaolin Gong Fu contains meditative as well as combative elements.