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Shaolin Gung Fu (Shaolin Kung Fu)

Martial artist performing Shaolin Kung Fu

“Weak mind, weak fist; strong mind, no need for fist.”
— Shaolin saying

It is generally believed that Bodhidharma (Tamo, his Chinese given name), a travelling Buddhist monk, when in China, initiated a concept of fitness for the monks (the 18 Lohan movements, a series of postures with yoga breathing) and self-defence techniques. These initiations were due to circumstantial and existential situations. Historically, evidence shows that fighting, like kalarippayattu, Indian wrestling, and Chinese boxing, existed much before Buddha was born (the birth of Siddhartha Gautama of the Shakya clan was in 563 BC). Bodhidharma (Tamo) did not invent a martial art style called Gung Fu. Tamo’s true claim rests in being the first patriarch of the Buddhist practice known in China as Chan and in Japan and the rest of the world as Zen.

Shaolin Gung Fu

Shaolin Gung Fu is made up of two words:

1. Shaolin (Sil Lun in southern China) is a sect or a school of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. It encourages a practical interpretation of a spiritual path, avoiding religious and scriptural trappings, but believes in a life based on meditation.

2. Gung Fu means hard work or skilled effort and was originally used in reference to the gruelling years of practice that were necessary to achieve mastery of a style. Over the years, this martial art has been known as Chuan Fa (fist arts), Kuoshu (pronounced Gwo-Shoo), which means ‘national art’, Chung-Kuo Chuan (Chinese boxing), Wu Kung (effective use of martial force), Chuan Shu (fist art), and Wushu.

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