are subtle variations on the history of the advent of martial arts,
all agree in the following basic history of the development of the
systems of martial arts.
A Brief History of Martial Arts
In the history of kung fu one finds myth, legend and fact. Myths
are tales, which weave colorful stories with powerful messages about
the human condition. Indeed the history of kung fu begins with a
Many years ago at the dawn of human civilization there was a land
called the Middle Kingdom. Life there was idyllic. There was peace,
harmony and freedom. Men and women followed the Tao, or Way, which
is living simply and in harmony with nature and the universe. One
moon a hideous beast appeared, twelve feet tall, with scales and
horns, and deadly strength. The beast enslaved the inhabitants of
Middle Kingdom. Peace and harmony and freedom were lost. The legend
tells of a young man so sensitive he could feel the collective pains
of humanity. At night while asleep he would dream and in this dream
his body would move in strange and different ways. While awake he
would practice these movements and soon realized they made his body
strong, generated power, unified mind and body and protected life.
Using these movements, he engaged the beast in battle and defeated
it, and thus discovered kung fu. The inhabitants of Middle Kingdom
would again enjoy peace, harmony and freedom.
The peace would last one thousand years until another beast began
rearing its ugly head. This beast was more subtle, expressing itself
as greed for power to dominate and control others. The kung fu that
was used to preserve life was now used to take life. Armies were
formed. There was slaughter and brutality unlike anything ever seen.
Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. In 221 BC the army of
Chin defeated all others and China as a nation was formed. It was
not until seven hundred years later when the Shaolin Sanctuary was
built that the essence of kung fu was again discovered. The Shaolin
Sanctuary was built at the end of the fifth century AD, to serve
as a location to translate Buddhist scriptures from India into Chinese.
Construction began in the year 495 AD and took twenty-five years
There are many schools of Buddhism which are classified according
to two main groups called Theradava and Mahayana. In the year 525
a missionary from India named Bodhidharma traveled to China. He
had an audience with the emperor. Their exchange is famous. The
emperor was proud of his accomplishments. He then asked Bodhidharma
what all his good works did to merit enlightenment. Bodhidharma's
reply was, "Absolutely nothing", then walked away. The
emperor sat for a while, then felt insulted and asked his soldiers
to find Bodhidharma and bring him back. They pursued him to the
banks of the Yellow River where legend says Bodhidharma walked across
the river leaving the soldiers dumbfounded. To this day Bodhidharma
walking across the river is a common theme in east Asian art.
Bodhidharma then went to the Shaolin Sanctuary and sat in meditation
for nine years in a cave on a hill behind the temple. After emerging
from the cave he began teaching. But he found the monks too weak
to endure the strenuous meditations he taught. Bodhidharma developed
two sets of exercises which were called the "muscle and sinew
change" and "the eighteen lohans" Bodhidharma incorporated
his understanding of Buddhism with the Taoist philosophy of natural
harmony and created a new philosophical school call Chan. Most people
are familiar with the Japanese translation of Chan which is Zen.
Because this is Hiniyana or "early" Buddhist teaching,
and was refuted by the Buddha himself in his last eight years of
teaching of the Lotus Sutra, we of the Threefold Lotus Kwoon simply
use this as reference for the training of the mind. Our goal at
the Kwoon however, is to develop fully our enlightened nature through
the practice of the Lotus Sutra. To continue:
The muscle and sinew change, and the eighteen lohans combined with
the kung fu which already existed and became the foundation of modern
kung fu. These exercises underwent continual refinement for many
centuries. By the thirteenth century Shaolin Kung Fu was recognized
by five subsystems called tiger, dragon, leopard, crane and snake.
These five animals each possess distinct forms while serving as
metaphors for self-development, tiger for strength, dragon to spirit
or passion, leopard to speed and strength, crane to connective tissue
and fluidity, and snake to qi (chi).
During the seventeenth century China was a invaded by Manchurians
from the north. The five Shaolin Systems were further refined with
the addition of grabbing techniques. This became known as the Mantis
System and Wong Long is credited with its development. In the nineteenth
century a Shaolin master named Dong Hai Chuan began teaching an
entirely different system called Ba Gua Zhang which is based on
the philosophy of the Yi Ching, or Book of Changes. The principles
of Ba Gua Zhang are motion and stillness and the underlying principle
states that the only constant in this universe is change.
more information, continue reading the definition of Modern day
Quanshu or Quanfa.