Shaolin Kung Fu, from Choy Lee Fut to the Butterfly

Shaolin Kung Fu Spreads a New Set of Wings!

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest of the Martial Arts. It was started over two thousand years ago, endured through many changes, and is still important and powerful. The question we ask here is: can anything new be added to Shaolin Kung Fu?

The original Shaolin Kung Fu was started during the time of Buddha. Buddha came to the Shaolin Temple and began to instruct the Shaolin Monks in sacred texts. Unfortunately, the monks were of weak constitution. They fell asleep, they were easy targets for bandits, they just couldn’t cut it.

shaolin kung fu

Emblem of the Shaolin Butterfly

Buddha began instructing the monks in traditional exercises to help strengthen them. These were chi building exercises, and the things he was teaching them bears strong resemblance to martial arts drills. Thus, the exercises slowly transformed into forms and techniques that has come to be known as Shaolin Kung Fu. The bad guys in the area around the Shaolin Temple began to finding that the monks were no longer easy targets,and  began to depart the area.

Years passed, and Shaolin endured through many changes. Emperors came and emperors went, but Shaolin lasted, and people who learned the traditional Shaolin Kung Fu lessons came to be in great demand. They would leave the temple and teach the peasants how to protect themselves, train bodyguards how to fend off bandits, and even became involved in training warriors for war.

At last, the emperor had had enough, these Shaolin monks were causing too much trouble, and he ordered the temple destroyed.

Five monks managed to escape the destruction of the temple, and they began to teach martial arts on a broader level. Some of the styles that came about as a result of these monks were Northern Shaolin, Hung Gar, Wing Chun, and so on.

That brings us to the modern era, and the condition of modern Shaolin Kung Fu. While the art is alive and well in some areas, under the hands of dedicated instructors, all too often it has been transformed into tournament arts, flowery systems that mean little, and, of course, the Wu shu of the PRC, which is not true to the original Shaolin Kung Fu. This kung fu was made up by physical education coaches after the Great Revolution, and spread for the glory of the state; not because of a desire for understanding the spiritual teachings originally taught at the Shaolin Temple.

One of the modern systems of Shaolin, a trim and tight system that yet embraces the majority of the original teachings, is the Shaolin Butterfly. This martial art holds to the original principles, such as animal modes of fighting like the tiger, the dragon, the crane, and so on.

It is started with a study of six basic steps, which steps take on a twining, mixing personality, and which are then done upon standing bricks. Thus, the student has to keep balance, all while learning how to kick and strike, how to cling to an attacker, how to entrap and take down with a variety of locks and throws.

There is a science to this approach, a blessing of western culture, that augments the eastern origins, yet enables the student to learn much faster.

That is the history of Shaolin Kung Fu to present times, and while it is a rich history, it manages to sidestep the corruption of art due to influences such as tournaments, commercial interests, and so on.

Here’s a good bit of writing on Shaolin Kung Fu. If you would like to actually take lessons in this incredible art, check out the course at Monster Martial Arts.

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