The Shaolin Bandwagon

Discussion in 'Other Styles' started by 47MartialMan, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Indeed. Which brings us back to the conundrum, how can any of it be truly "authentic"?

    Also, as I had stated, I think, Shaolin was the Chan study, how can someone be a "monk" of that order in teaching martial arts?

    Chan Information


    Site about Buddhism and Shaolin Mentioned In Talks:
    For a search use this link and type in the search bar "Shaolin"

    Diet Topic:

    Buddhism and Martial Arts:

    Which type of Buddhist tradition do Shaolin monks belong to?

    Sexual and physical abuse in religious institutions

    Becomeing a buddhist monk in china

    Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

    Hidden Truths and Secrets in Buddhism

    Other Subjects of Buddhism

    Self-Defense in Buddhism

    Gun and Buddhism
  2. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    Here is a video from the 1930's showing a variety of military and civilian martial arts practices with "Shaolin" elements that can be recognized from many related "northern/southern" systems. I don't think Bruce Lee invented anything new, simply discovered some basic truths. He most definitely did not introduce athleticism to Chinese martial arts!!!! Note that by 1930s China's martial arts at least the ones on display here had already been influenced (along with so many other things) by Russia, Japan, and European interaction. So what you see here is a mash up of old Shaolin-era practices and newer more modern looking forms of kung fu. These guys with the gloves on aren't flying around like a White Crane, they're BOXING :) But that's because what you're seeing is as refined as "kung fu" gets. By the 1930's in China fight training is refined and requires no access to traditional arts like Hung gar or Choy Li could certainly use those arts to learn boxing, but you had more options and didn't need to become a disciple and so on.

    That's the biggest difference between the traditional and new "kung fu" training in China, the reliance on family structure when learning the traditional methods, vs the more commoditized "shop" approach favored by China's contemporaries. That's my opinion, anyway.

    Full video:
    [ame=""]1930 年代 æ¹–å—æ*¦è¡“çŸ*片 1930s Hunam Kungfu Clips - YouTube[/ame]

    Fast forward to 1:40 for some San Shou sparring:

    "Shaolin Long Fist" as far as the renowned format out of Henan, had by the age of cinema practically vanished in it's "natural" form and sort of "blended in" with Chinese culture in so many ways, but certainly martial arts schools. But it was already a relic by then. The way you would have been trained if you'd attended the Temple in the late Ming or early Ching dynasties became a ghost after the Ching era demolitions occurred.

    Of course throughout all of this Chan Buddhism itself lived on and spread far and wide irregardless of what happened to Shaolin Si, whose role in military affairs effectively sealed its fate in the longer term. What exists today is a resurrection of all the practices and principles and if I had to guess I'd guess that many of the monks who claim "authentic" status do indeed have someone in their ancestry who was involved with or was known to Shaolin, in the same way the US Army Rangers today still trace their own lineage to colonial-era warriors like Benjamin Church, who taught expert and unconventional martial tactics. It's a way of saying "I follow this example" and pointing to a number of techniques, tactics and so on. Thus Army Rangers follow the example of Church, who in turn followed the example of Native American warriors when fighting.

    Likewise, someone studying Hung gar is studying a style that was developed by people studying Shaolin (and other) styles. Their "class notes" on Shaolin informed the subsequent generations on what Shaolin did/looked like once upon a time.

    Now, what's clearly different in the case of Shaolin is that the monks at the temple (Chan practicing or paid performer) are not really training for combat. It's not the current purpose of the Temple (neither is Buddhism, I'd argue which might be the source of MartialMan's grief).

    Combat is more or less just like in the US, either civilian competition or military training. It's not part of monastic life in the 21st century. In short, while it was very different in the past, China does not rely on Shaolin for any military purpose today other than income for the PRC. What really lives on as far as Shaolin combat art training is scattered across the many family schools and their modern descendents, and I doubt any one of those would actually be able to claim authentic lineage to Shaolin either. They can, however, say that what they teach is "Shaolin".
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  3. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    How do you know if that is "Actually Shaolin"?
  4. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    The same movements and postures are documented in places like the Yi jin jing, and Bubishi as old Shaolin practices. While video of old Shaolin practices are nearly impossible, written descriptions and illustrations are plentiful, because a great deal of it was documented by military commanders between 1700-1900, so there is good detail on what was done at least back to the Ming era (and of course Shaolin by the Ming had preserved over a thousand years of prior art, so at least some of what was documented could easily have been around for a millennia. Indeed some of the basic teachings at Shaolin go back to the early Taoist and even Vedic periods. Many Shaolin deities are Indian deities!).

    Technically however they are not only Shaolin, as the Yi jin jing is Taoist-influenced, so depending on your own background you think it looks "Taoist" in nature or "Shaolin". The truth is that by the age it was documented, it had formed from both.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  5. zombiekicker

    zombiekicker bagpuss

    A great read and food for thought about legitimacy of other arts
  6. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    But they could not be "Authentic Shaolin", as so-called fighters "of" Shaolin were actually military/rebels/fighters that were incognito in the sanctuary of the temple

    I wanted to escape the oppress government, which had a culture idea not to (at least openly) mess with a religious factor (Research China and Its Religions)

    If I was a martial artist going to Grand Puba Chan temple

    I will dress up like a monk and protect my hosts.

    Therefore, other people who didn't know any better, would say I practiced Grand Puba Martial Arts

    Then the oppress government trying to catch me, will hire one of my Grand Puba Greatest fighters known as Grey Unibrow (along with followers that the oppress governement could have sent in their own incognito monk spies) to kill all those inside, sack, and burn the temple

    And then the oppress government can claim they were not at fault, Grey Unibrow was

    So Grand Puba Martials Arts is really not "Authentic" because it did not follow the teaching of Grand Puba Temple and its intention of being built

    Grand Puba temple was built remote so not to be bothered by other social problems and activities.

    Fighting seems like a improbable method for such a temple
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  7. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    It seems improbable in most Buddhist contexts except Shaolin is special. Their oldest iconography is that of Vajrapani, the Great General of the Yaksha. So their patron saint is that of a warrior demigod and protector. Many Shaolin "hallmarks" come from the old Vajrapani imagery...the tiger, the snake, developing the "mind's eye", and so forth. And the job of that particular deity is to protect Buddha, fight demons, and generally help guard all of creation. So, there is a sort of militantism in the origin myths of Shaolin, in the terms of their devotion to the warrior arts from the very beginning, albeit in a Buddhist theme. Peace and nonviolence is at the core of the religion for sure, but there was once upon a time a great need for Buddhists to defend one another with weapons and fists and so they prepared for it every day. The monks had more time than most people with day jobs :D
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  8. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    Yes, that's what I had in mind - actually the part that begins about 2:23 with the military officer and his circular, flowing movements.

    Seems like I'd seen old footage of two Chinese fighters in a match but I've been unable to find it since. The thing that stuck in my mind was the stances - quite flat footed and plodding and the style of engagement seemed more of John Sullivan than Kung Fu - maybe it not representative of the era but it had made me to wonder if indeed many of the characteristics of the styles of CMA were of relatively modern origin.

    Excellent example - Church's rangers. Still have a copy of "Rodger's Standing Orders" somewhere - the first American (colonial) "guerrilla" Unit. First Order: "Don't forget nothing." lol.

  9. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    Technically the forms themselves are recent, the techniques in many cases are much older. Some "characteristics" are likely very, very old (wrestling styles and throwing and joint locking and things like that), whereas diverse and sophisticated fist boxing styles with varied hand patterns and so forth didn't become a notable development until just the last few hundred years, and the last century of that involved a lot of influence from outside the country. The Chinese have never abandoned their traditional martial art, even as they began to learn those of outsiders, particularly their military allies such as Russia.

    According to Shahar the empty handed Shaolin forms are a relatively recent construction compared to all the weapons the Shaolin were known to be effective with. The Shaolin didn't begin to focus on developing their empty handed training until the last 400 years or so. Prior to that (500AD-1500AD roughly) it was largely weapons they were known for, and a fearless calm in combat as well as good leadership qualities. According to accounts, they were known to be effective at leading groups of soldiers into combat and so on.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  10. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Yes, I read something like that long ago. But just because a deity or icon is worshiped, does not lend it to reason that a practice of fighting
  11. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Sorry, I missed the "edit window" to add to my previous post;

    Hi Iron Fist, with due and utmost respect, I truly appreciate your posts. They allow the thread to get a complete overview of the subject. So upon this, I Sincerely Thank You !.

    Moving Forward:

    Let’s look upon the “original purpose” of Shaolin Temple:

    Why was it built?

    What was its in-depth purpose or goal?
    In others words, review a more thorough description of the goal

    Indeed, throughout Buddhism, there are the terms such as; Bodhisattva, The Dharma Clasped Hand, Vajramukti, Mukti, Quan fa, Arahant, Vajra fist, ksatreya, usnsia, nata, 18 subduings-astadasajacan, or astadasavijaya, or 18 arahants, 18 lohans. But is there any information/concise research, other than correlation to Shaolin on these?

    Is it a mistake to believe that Buddhism, especially monks, be a predominantly philosophical teaching that regards antagonistic physical manners/methods/fighting to not be accepted amongst the spiritual being?

    This previous question beckons another- Why would Buddhist Monks allow people, such as rebels with fighting abilities, stay in the sanctuary of a temple which had a specific purpose, that would seem against its overall principals?
  12. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    To keep it short and sweet the temple (which by the sixth century AD was not just the one but one of SIX Buddhist temples on Mount Song) was built for the same reason as the many other temples. It's location on Song Shan was largely due to the mountain range's significance to Taoist pilgrims, and it's religious potential to the growing Buddhist faithful. The mountain range itself was sacred long before the Temple was built, so it was natural choice for such a spiritual nexus.

    However again the Buddhist vinaya (monastic rules against fighting/killing) and bu shua sheng (the concept of not killing another living thing) was in practice difficult given the constant state of fighting around the temple, and conscription of monks by the military. Though the Buddhist records of that day "white wash" occurrences of monastic combat (a "poor" reflection on Buddhist values), Confucian records do not and clearly show monks engaging in fighting and taking active part in military campaigns by 700AD.

    Shaolin also survived the early centuries AD which were not friendly to Buddhism, indeed they a very anti-Buddhist time and many, many temples suffered. Monks from temples next to Shaolin Si such as Zhongyue Si who did not fight for the imperial rulers were imprisoned and tortured. Shaolin Si though, appeased the Emperor and in doing so secured their land and received official honorifics, titles, and land and government appointment, the standard way of feudal control in that age. They milked that support for over a thousand years :)

    You could say, in a way, the Shaolin were forced to become different kind of Buddhists due to circumstances beyond their control. While they were certainly put in a position where they had to fight, and the record shows they were good at it, and they were expected to fight for the Emperor when commanded, their historical path is still one that runs from more violent and militant to less so. The weapons training of the first millennium eventually gave way to empty handed practices of the second, as did the early focus on military campaigns to a latter day focus on training (both monks and laypeople) specifically at the temple, in the relatively "safety". And by the age of guns, obviously Shaolin's effectiveness as a fighting ground force would have come to an end, making their military significance questionable, and as we know the Ching eventually decided they had no use for the temple any longer and set it ablaze one last time, where it sat in ashes until its reconstruction in the modern age.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
  13. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter is it safe to say that what we think of 'Shaolin Kung Fu' fighting techniques - and maybe this applies to CMA in general - were fighting techniques (at least the base essentials) that were learned vis-à-vis, their service in the ancient Chinese military?
  14. The Iron Fist

    The Iron Fist Banned Banned

    It seems like a sharing between Shaolin and the military arts that was not unique (there were other miltarized temples) but Shaolin reigns supreme in this regard in the cultural history and martial arts legacy. The temple's history captured a lot of the martial arts of their era, which ran for a very long period of time. That is irregardless of the modern temple's appearance.
  15. Guitar Nado

    Guitar Nado Valued Member

    This relates to this discussion:

    From the above link:

    "Since last weekend, however, a self-identified Shaolin insider has posted a series of explosive allegations on Chinese social media, depicting Abbot Shi Yongxin as an embezzler and womanizer with illegitimate children."

    and further down:

    His seemingly singular focus on promoting the Shaolin brand and turning it to multimillion-dollar business, though, has attracted the fiercest criticism.

    After writing a $3 million check to an Australian town earlier this year to build a Shaolin branch there, Shi Yongxin defended himself to state-run Xinhua news agency.

    "If China can import Disney resorts, why can't other countries import the Shaolin Monastery?" he said in March. "Cultural promotion is a very dignified undertaking."
  16. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Good stuff...("references-resources?)

    Sunfish..yeah there has been articles time and time again about him

    In The Beginning of The Grand Puba Temple

    Emperor Me of the Yo Dynasty welcomed all religions. This is because he is looking for absolution and desire to make sure his afterlife will be covered by any faith in case one out of all is the correct and the remaining are not. This is in likeness of an indemnity. Buddhism (of different types) started gaining momentum in this period. Chan Buddhists approached Emperor Me for funds and other appropriations to build a temple, far away from population or other society. They needed to be remote so they can concentrate on their Silence of Knitting. The Chan Buddhist did not want non-practitioners around disturbing their solitude. Later they will be popular and desire attention. Huh?

    After decades had past, a Chan Buddhist by the name of Bodi-Hulkama traveled from India to China and arrived at The Grand Puba Temple. He found the temple monks/disciples falling asleep after long hours of knitting. He taught them some sets of exercises so that their bodies can stay fit thus enabling them to practice their Silent Knitting longer. Other historians claim he taught them a martial art named Kung Fool because fighting was a better/excited study than Chan Silent Knitting-Huh?

    There would be many stories and parables about Bodi-Hulkama. One extremely obsessed disciple named He-musta-cra-z wanted Bodi-Hulkama to give him special or personal instruction. When Bodi-Hulkama refused, He-musta-cra-z cut of his left arm. It was then that Bodi-Hulkama started to personally instruct him. After that, the other monks/disciples started to walk around and greet each other with a hand mudra. This was the right hand inches away from the chest, with the fingertips pointing up, and the palm facing the left side, towards were the left upper arm/shoulder. Upon holding this hand/arm this way, each monk/disciple would then say the word-greeting; “ima-fool-to’.

    Kind and generous Emperor Me had passed, and another Emperor, named Him-wan-mo ruled. Ruthless Emperor Him-wan-mo oppressed his people so much, that some of his own military became rebels. But they were outlaws with a death sentence. Where can an outlaw hide? Not in a remote, temple, far away from population or other society where even Emperor Him-wan-mo dare not disturb in fear of religious backlash. Huh? Could these outlaws, who were fighters, teach the calm Silent Knitting Grand Puba Monks fighting instead of knitting? Or did the outlaws forget about fighting. And forget about their schemes to overthrow Emperor Him-wan-mo. Instead, they shaved their heads, wore monk clothes, and took up the study of Chan Silent Knitting. Huh?

    Other historians claim Grand Puba monks/disciples took the sets of exercises from Bodi-Hulkama, expanded them to the 18 LocoHands. Why 18? Why not 15? Why not 12? Oh yeah-right, Christianity already had 12 Disciples. And along with watching some animals, they invented the martial art; Kung Fool. (Story changes from Bodhi-Hulkama teaching them this martial art. Huh?) Also, Grand Puba monks/disciples had to fight because they were getting robbed. How can a remote temple, that because of its location, far away from population or other society had to be self-sufficient, be in need of money-huh? How or why would they venture far away in dangerous areas, from the temple. Huh? Years after, Grand Puba Kung Fool fighting was the best in land, beating all military arts no matter how battle proven those were. Huh?

    Soon the fighting monks/disciples, now known as “monk warriors” (whatever happened to Chan Silent Knitting?) left the temple because they were bored. Observing a few of them, the scholar/historian/writer known as He-don’t-kno asked them where they had learned to fight. They told him The Grand Puba Temple (Forget that the temple was built for the study of Chan Silent knitting-this would not have been interesting enough. Huh?). He-don’t-kno told stories as he was a village raconteur because there wasn’t any radio, television, heck no electricity. There was nothing as exciting to entertain but Grand Puba monk stories. After all, people have to believe everything that is written in “ancient times”, to be 100% correct. Huh?

    All Grand Puba Monks were persecuted and many massacred. And any remaining would remove and destroy their monk robes, wear hats or wigs until their hair grew back. Does it seem anomalous that the rebel/outlaws, who sought refuge in a remote temple, far away from population or other society, be the cause of its destruction and onslaught of the temple’s authentic/original monks-huh?

    According to some scholars the last destruction of the temple was about____. And from that time until 195/ when Communism started in China, people of certain beliefs, including religion, fled. Between last desttruction-195/ communist china, there aren’t any accountable documented records or activity at Grand Puba Temple. It remained decrepit and abandoned during that long span of time. Around the late 60;’s-70’s, Grand Puba became popular because of a misunderstanding that it was the birth place of Kung Fool. And as obtuse as this seems, Kung Fool is not an actual martial art. As the popularity of Kung fool and its association with grand Puba grew, china realized a commercial value.

    Restoring and preparing the temple buildings and surrounding grounds alone were not going enough to entice people to visit. The Chinese governemnt had to add some astounding, outrageous, and anecdotal elements. Government Official: “Hey you, poor old fat guy, put on this robe, shave your head, and take these so-called documents of monk hood.”. “We need you to be the Head Abbot of Grand Puba Temple.” “And not only do you get a nice expensive robe, a car, travel, but you get paid well.” (Forget that Chan Buddhist are mayahna chk to see if these monks retain material things.

    Government Official: “We need more than a restored temple and head abbot, we need warrior monks!” “Hey you, young adult males with athleticism and gymnastics, put on these robes and shave your heads” “You will travel and get paid well.” “We also need you to teach other young males-boys so they can take over someday”
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
  17. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    But the questions remain;

    Is it a mistake to believe that Buddhism, especially monks, be a predominantly philosophical teaching that regards antagonistic physical manners/methods/fighting to not be accepted amongst the spiritual being?

    This previous question beckons another- Why would Buddhist Monks allow people, such as rebels with fighting abilities, stay in the sanctuary of a temple which had a specific purpose, that would seem against its overall principals?

    Perhaps these were not "authentic" Chan Buddhist Monks (as such will go against principals)
  18. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    I can see your point with respects to the idea that the Shaolin were originally a Buddhist sect - a religion that is strongly non-violent in its core principals - and contrasting that against the imagery of these same Buddhist monks not only engaging in warfare but becoming multi-generational, multi-era, trans-nationally famous as a result of their profound skill in combat leaves one scratching their heads at the dichotomy - the sheer divarication of the two images.

    I don't have an answer for that and I can certainly see why some would suggest that the fighting shaolin monk to be such an oxymoron that it cancels itself out - the one element precluding the existence of the other within the same person, entity.

    Unfortunately, I know very little of Buddhism nor its history or folklore otherwise I'd look to see if similar patterns have existed in its history - I do know that great religions, as well as great societies and great individuals are more often than not amalgams of seemingly diametrically opposed elements, when seen in their entirety - Germany still at the height of their educational, cultural, scientific preeminence just as Nazism began to spread being an example.

    To say that the images of unfathomable numbers of humans - entire families reduced to skeletal remains meeting their fate in the death camps of Belsen and Auschwitz are in such marked contrast with the wildly popular Jazz music from America playing on German radio, Berlin - the world's fertile crescent of intellectual and artistic culture, etc., etc.

    Yet both of these quite real images are of the same place, the same society and but a few short years apart.

    We understand that what is obvious to us in hindsight (the real face of what Nazism is, for example) is not obvious at'tall when these movements and events are just beginning and that it takes time for the proverbial snowball to find its destiny in an avalanche.

    But in 500 years, will it be so clear? If, for some hypothetical reason, 95% of the records were destroyed or lost, would we find reason to believe that it would be impossible for a society of Germany's standing in the late 1920's to send million's to starvation and death?

    Probably a poor example but it came to mind for some reason.

    There's also - I don't know the term - the idea of a people from a certain region dramatically changing or altering religious, social and economic systems to suit their own cultural backdrops.

    Chinese, in particular, are known for modifiying its imports - cultural as much as industrial - to suit. Can we really say that Communist China was ever truly "communist" if we define communism, even loosely, via the Marxist-Leninist definition?

    But that threatens to grow the thread completely out of proportion - even for belltoller. :D

    I dont know - I could readily accept either way - BTW, what's the time period we are talking about - the period between what's generally accepted as the Shaolin being comprised of authentic Chan Buddhist Monks and the period where we see a group of highly skilled combat mercenaries commonly referred to as Shaolin Monks fighting in and for the Chinese Imperial armies?
  19. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Are Christians who serve as soldiers not "authentic" Christians because they violate "thou shalt not kill?"

    I think you're confusing idealism with pragmatism. Just because a doctrine is non-violent doesn't mean it's pacifist. Just because people follow an ideology does not mean they will ignore pragmatics needs. I think more than anything this conflict is arising out of people's idealizing and romanticizing.
  20. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    I think where some of the confusion may lie is we are debating what are actually two issues - one that often comes up here on MAP being the legitimacy of the Kung Fu schools whose founders are strongly associated with the Modern, present day Shaolin Temple in the PRC - an issue that I brought up a while back on account of some surprising things my Mainland Chinese in-laws had said about that ( I'd previously just assumed the be-robed figures running the schools to be the "real-deal" - after all, they'd the backing from THE Shaolin Temple and did the flashy Wushu moves, right? )

    That comes up here all the time.

    The other issue, which may not be quite so obvious, being the more purist definition of Shaolin Monk - who they were in antiquity, and who they were not - a more complex, if not debatable, issue.

    Maybe the issue(s) should be separated - if that's even the case here.

Share This Page