The Shaolin Temple in Henan province, China, was founded by a humble Indian Buddhist monk called Batuo around 495 BC. In 517 BC the Bodhidharma travelled from India to the Shaolin Temple, where he founded Ch’an Buddhism or what is more commonly known as Zen. The legend is that when he arrived at the temple, he discovered the monks were weak from practicing sitting meditation all day, so he conceived and taught them a series of internal and external exercises to increase their health, strength, and vitality. These later developed into what we now call Shaolin Kung Fu and Shaolin Qi (Chi) Gong.

Throughout the history of the temple, there has been a steady stream of monks bringing the best skills from the Asian world, combining them with ancient Shaolin skills, and then refining these modified skills for optimal effectiveness. The Shaolin Temple Fighting techniques are not pages from a history book but are something that are as alive and relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Bringing Shaolin martial arts to the West is another chapter in the Shaolin book, and as a 34th generation fighting disciple from the Shaolin Temple, I continue with this tradition today.


At the Shaolin Temple, as well as studying the art of meditation and Qi Gong, we also study the art of war. Long before guns, tanks, and bombs were invented, Shaolin martial arts were used in war. The monks had to find ways to change their body from vulnerable flesh, blood, and sinew into powerful invincible weapons. Not just their legs, arms, torso, and head, but also their internal organs, and most importantly their mind.
The Chinese character for mind is the same as it is for heart. In China we do not split them into two like you do in the West. Wherever your heart is so your mind will be. It is your heart or mind, which makes your world, everything comes from it. So when you train in the fighting arts, you must practice your heart at the same time as you practice your body. You need to understand yourself and be brutally honest. What are you good at? Improve this skill. What are you no good at? If you think you are good at everything then you don’t know yourself. Only when you know your own strengths and weaknesses can you control yourself. Only when you know your own strengths and weaknesses can you then go on to study your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and ultimately control them. This is the way to win a fight. This is also the way to win a war. But in war we are fighting with an enemy, in martial arts we are fighting with our own ego and our own inner enemy. We come up against this enemy continually in our training - when we feel tired, impatient, lazy, or we lose faith in ourselves or what we are learning. We especially come up against this when we are a new student.

Next week, in part 2 I show you how to become the best martial artist you can be.

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