The Origin of Martial Arts
All martial arts practiced in the world today have their origins in Shaolin Kung Fu. It is the oldest form of martial art, having begun thousands of years ago. It’s name is a reference to the Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary in China that is still a place of learning Kung Fu to this day.
The Legend of Bodhidharma
In 527AD, an Indian warrior-prince left his wealth and belongings behind and started on a journey of self-discovery. Eventually he made his way to the Shaolin Temple, where he noticed the monks in poor physical health due to their constant meditiaton. The combination of his learnings of physical combat and the monk’s focus on meditiation produced Shaolin Kung Fu.
Bodhidharma became a Buddhist monk, and legend tells many interesting stories. One involves a would-be desciple who travelled to study under Bodhidharma. He was rejected for being still too attached to the material world. To show his readiness, the desciple cut off his left arm. Hence, the traditional one-handed Kung Fu bow was born.
The Evolution of Shaolin Kung Fu
The Shaolin monks would perfect these arts, including marrying them with the styles of the various animals they observed around them. Each style is marked by a fluidity and economy of motion that is a signature of Shaolin Kung Fu.
Eventually, the monks would leave to spread Buddhism and the art of Kung Fu to other countries, and would eventually reach nearly every corner of the Earth.
Kung Fu was made popular in modern times in large part to the charisma and wisdom of the actor Bruce Lee,whose writings on martial arts remain some of the most eloquent ever made. He famously said, when describing the need for the Kung Fu practitioner to be “formless”, like water, to take advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses and optimize his own position:
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it…
“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup… Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”