The Martial Art of the Shaolin Temple 少林拳法 (Shaolin Quan Fa)
The name of the Shaolin monastery 少林寺 became associated with martial arts after its legend was reborn in the 1980s by Chinese cinema. The monastery was initially built as a Buddhist cloister at the time when Buddhist teachings started spreading in China. The monastery went through periods of great splendour, as well as periods of great decline, and it has been burned to the ground several times.
The first Chinese emperor of Tan dynasty created a special autonomy for the monastery by giving it a special status and the right to have its own “army” of warrior monks who, at times, served as the emperor’s personal guard. This autonomy turned the monastery into a large centre for masters and martial arts (Wushu) 武術 practitioners. They gathered there to exchange combat experience and ideas, and to enrich and develop their fighting style. There they became acquainted with the philosophical and spiritually-meditative practice of the Buddhist teaching which enriched and rationalized their training systems. Amidst the fighting technique, the high ideal for reaching inner freedom gradually found its place, as well as the idea for cultivating inner strength and stability. This is how we got the unique and, at first glance, impossible fusion of the spiritual Chinese teaching of Chen 禅 (Japanese: Zen) Buddhism and military practice.
Shaolin 少林 is unique even in China itself, because it is a school which, for centuries, has been accumulating the experience of many extraordinary teachers and masters of martial arts. It developped different styles and combat methods based on the principle of a community, as opposed to a teaching and practice taught within the family, as was traditional for Chinese schools.
Today, it is incorrect to speak of a Shaolin Quan style 少林拳. There were many martial arts developed in the monastery, and there were many masters who practiced there. The basic course for the preparation of fighters consisted of about three years of intensive training in the basics of martial arts in general. After building this basis, the practitioners could specialize in a certain style or they could become monks, mainly by practicing exercises for cultivating energy and for the healthy strengthening of the body, also known as Chi gung 氣功.
Because of this, in China the Shaolin monastery is often called the “Mother of all martial arts”. It is the place where they reached an unprecedented perfection, and from there they began spreading, becoming popular in all of China, and the whole continent.
In Kung Fu Centre Xuangui 玄龜功夫中心, training in Shaolin Quan is associated with mastering the basic skills of the Eastern combat practice, regardless of the practiced styles, their characteristics and specific traits. The reason for this lies in the fact that mastering and understanding the basics is extremely important for mastering any martial arts style.