HooksPerhaps the most famous of all Asian martial arts is the style popularly known as Shaolin Kung Fu, which was propagated at the legendary Shaolin Temple located in Henan Province in Northern China. Much of what is true about the history of Shaolin Kung Fu has been obscured by myths and fables.

Legend tells us that Shaolin fighting skills originated with the Buddhist monk known as Bodhidharma (whose Chinese name was Damo), who supposedly brought the art from India around 526 A.D. The son of an Indian king, Bodhidharma received his Buddhist teachings from Prajinatara, who was the 27th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism. According to Buddhist tradition, it was Prajinatara who made Bodhidharma the 28th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism and asked him to transmit the teachings to China.

Although it is true that Bodhidharma settled at the Shaolin Temple and that he is regarded as the father of Chinese Buddhism (Chan), there is no evidence to suggest that he also introduced fighting arts to the Shaolin monks. Documented forms of fighting existed in China long before the arrival of Bodhidharma. So it is almost certain that fighting skills were introduced in the Shaolin Temple through other sources.

Shaolin Kung FuNotwithstanding its origins, the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province was made famous through the extraordinary skills and fighting ability of the Shaolin monks. The temple grounds became the fertile birthplace of countless different Kung Fu styles.

In China, many external systems are classified as Shaolin Kung Fu, even some methods that originated outside of its influence. Therefore, it is impossible to characterize any single system as original Shaolin Kung Fu. After all, more than 1500 years have passed in the evolution and transmission of the Shaolin martial arts. Thus, it is understandable that so many styles trace their roots to the famous temple.

In the West, Shaolin Kung Fu is often associated with the Five Animals. These are the Tiger, the Dragon, the Leopard, the Snake and the Crane. However, most Shaolin Kung Fu styles do not employ the five animal forms in their curriculum. Many Shaolin methods make little or no use of animal forms. The five animals are more common within Southern Kung Fu styles, particularly Hong Jia (Hung Gar in Cantonese).

The Shaolin Kung Fu taught at the Chinese Martial Arts Center is from the Northern school and is generally classified as Long Fist. This method emphasizes long-range fighting techniques that stress kicking, jumping, sweeping, and fully-extended hand strikes and punching techniques. Fighting strategy uses soft circular blocks followed by fast, powerful counterstrikes. Shaolin Kung Fu is also well known for its staff fighting techniques and its health building and maintenance exercises.

Shaolin Kung Fu is taught to beginning students who are enrolled in our external program to help build a solid foundation. It is a prerequisite before they move on to learning the more advanced Eagle Claw Kung Fu (Ying Zhao Fan Zi) and Mizong Luohan (My Jong Law Horn in Cantonese), which are the centerpiece of our external Chinese martial arts curriculum.