miércoles, 6 de julio de 2011

A Brief History of the Chinese Martial Arts

Taiji Fighting Set
Taijiquan Fighting Set Practice
The beginning of Chinese martial arts probably started long before history was recorded. Martial techniques were discovered or created during the long epoch of continuous conflict between humanity and animals, or between different tribes of humans themselves. From these battles, experiences were accumulated and techniques discovered which were passed down generation to generation.

Later, with the invention of weapons, different types and shapes of weapons were invented, until eventually metal was discovered. Following the advancement of weapon fabrication, new fighting techniques were created. Different schools and styles originated and tested one another.

Many of these schools or styles created their forms by imitating different types of fighting techniques from animals (tiger, panther, monkey, snake, or bear), birds (eagle, crane, or chicken), or insects (praying mantis). The reason for imitating the animals’ fighting was that it was believed that, in order to survive in the harsh natural environment, all the animals still maintained a natural talent and skill for fighting. The best way to learn the fighting techniques was by studying and imitating these animals. For example, the sharp spirit of the eagle was adopted, the pouncing/fighting of the tiger and eagle’s strong claws was imitated, and the attacking motions of the crane’s beak and wings were copied.

Since the martial techniques first developed in very ancient times, gradually they became part of Chinese culture. The philosophy of these fighting arts and culture has in turn been influenced by other elements of Chinese culture. Therefore, the Yin/Yang Taiji theory was adopted into the techniques, and the Bagua (Eight Trigrams) concept was blended into the fighting strategy and skills.

The Shaolin Temple


Buddhism traveled to China from Nepal/India during the Eastern Han Ming emperor period (58-76 A.D.). Several hundred years after this, as several emperors became sincere Buddhists, Buddhism became very respected and popular in China. It is estimated that by 500 A.D., there probably existed more than 10 thousand Buddhist temples. In order to absorb more Buddhist philosophy during these five hundred years, some monks were sent to India to study Buddhism and bring back Buddhist classics. Naturally, some Indian monks were also invited to China for preaching.

According to one of the oldest books Deng Feng County Recording (Deng Feng Xian Zhi), a Buddhist monk name Batuo came to China for Buddhist preaching in 464 A.D. Deng Feng was the county where the Shaolin Temple was eventually located.

Thirty-one years later, the Shaolin Temple was built in 495 A.D., by the order of Wei Xiao Wen emperor (471-500 A.D.) for Batuo’s preaching. Therefore, Batuo can be considered the first chief monk of the Shaolin Temple. However, there is no record regarding how and what Batuo passed down by way of religious Qigong practice. There is also no record of how or when Batuo died.

However, the most influential person in this area was the Indian monk Da Mo (Pu Ti Ta Mo). Da Mo, whose last name was Sardili and who was also known as Bodhidarma, was once the prince of a small tribe in southern India. He was of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, and was considered by many to have been a bodhisattva, or an enlightened being who had renounced nirvana in order to save others. He is considered the 28th patriarch of Buddhism from India, and the 1st patriarch of Buddhism in China. From the fragments of historical records, it is believed that he was born about 483 A.D.

Da Mo was invited to China to preach by the Liang Wu emperor. He arrived in Canton, China in 527 A.D. during the reign of the Wei Xiao Ming emperor(516-528 A.D.) or the Liang Wu emperor (502-550 A.D.). When the emperor decided he did not like Da Mo’s Buddhist theory, the monk withdrew to the Shaolin Temple. When Da Mo arrived, he saw that the priests were weak and sickly, so he shut himself away to ponder the problem. When he emerged after nine years of seclusion, he wrote two classics: Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic) and Xi Sui Jin (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic).

The Yi Jin Jing taught the priests how to build their Qi to an abundant level and use it to improve health and change their physical bodies from weak to strong. After the priests practiced the Yi Jin Jing exercises, they found that not only did they improve their health, but they also greatly increased their strength. When this training was integrated into the martial arts forms, it increased the effectiveness of their martial techniques. This change marked one more step in the growth of the Chinese martial arts: Martial Arts Qigong.

The Xi Sui Jing taught the priests how to use Qi to clean their bone marrow and strengthen their immune system, as well as how to nourish and energize the brain, helping them to attain Buddhahood. Because the Xi Sui Jing was hard to understand and practice, the training methods were passed down secretly to only a very few disciples in each generation. Da Mo died in the Shaolin Temple in 536 A.D. and was buried on Xiong Er mountain. If you are interested in knowing more about Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing, please refer to the YMAA book, “Qigong - The Secret of Youth: Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/ Brain Washing”.

During the revolutionary period between the Sui dynasty and the Tang dynasty, in the 4th year of Tang Gao Zu Wu De (621 A.D., Qin King Li Shi-Ming had a serious battle with Zheng King Wang Shi-Chong ( ). When the situation was urgent for Qin King, 13 Shaolin monks assisted him against Zheng. Later, Li Shi-Ming became the first emperor of the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and he rewarded the Shaolin Temple with 40 Qing (about 600 acres) of land donated to the temple. He also permitted the Temple to own and train its own soldiers. At that time, in order to protect the wealthy property of the Shaolin Temple from bandits, martial arts training was a necessity for the monks. The priest martial artists in the temple were called “monk soldiers” (Seng Bing). Their responsibility, other than studying Buddhism, was training martial arts to protect the property of the Shaolin Temple.

For nearly three hundred years, the Shaolin Temple legally owned its own martial arts training organization, and continued to absorb martial skill from outside the temple into its training system.

During the Song dynasty (960-1278 A.D.) Shaolin continued to gather more martial skills from outside of the Temple. They blended these arts into the Shaolin training. During this period, one of the most famous Shaolin martial monks, Jueyuan traveled around the country in order to learn and absorb high levels of martial skill into Shaolin. He went to Lan Zhou to meet one of the most famous martial artists, Li Sou. From Li Sou, he meets Li Sou’s friend, Bai Yu-Feng and his son.

Later, all four returned to the Shaolin Temple and studied together. After ten years of mutual study and research, Li Sou left Shaolin; Bai Yu-Feng and his son decided to stay in Shaolin and became monks. Bai Yu-Feng’s monk name was Qiu Yue Chan Shi. Qiu Yue Chan Shi is known for his barehanded fighting and narrow blade sword techniques. According to the book Shaolin Temple Record, he developed the then existing 18 Buddha Hands techniques into 173 techniques. Not only that, he compiled the existing techniques contained within Shaolin and wrote the book, The Essence of Five Fist. This book included and discussed the practice methods and applications of the Five Fist (Animal) Patterns. The five animals included: Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Panther, and Crane. This record confirms that the Five Animal Patterns martial skills already existed for some time in the Shaolin Temple.

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