Shaolin Kung Fu, thank you for taking the time. Is it correct to call you this?
My original name is Shaolinquan or “Shaolin Fist” in English. Figuratively it means “martial art from Shaolin”.
The name “Shaolin Kung Fu” has been established in the West. “Kung Fu” meaning a “skill acquired through continuous effort” or simply an art.
How old are you?
[laughs] Well, I can't remember exactly. I’ve been around for many centuries.
Shaolin Kung Fu prefers to stay in the background.
Would you tell us a bit about you and your family?
I don't know who my parents are. That's why I was raised in a monastery, the Shaolin temple in Henan, China.
Some say I was created by the Venerable Bodhidharma who came to the temple more than 1,500 years ago. I remember that he was spending a lot of time with my sister Qi Gong and my brother Zen. Although Bodhidharma (or “Da Mo” as the Chinese used to say) surely learned to defend himself in his early life as an Indian prince. But as a peaceful successor of the Buddha, he wasn't so interested in martial arts.
However, he advocated to keep the body strong and healthy, so that the mind can develop to a high degree. This paved the way for my rise, when great generals chose to spend their retirement at the temple. Over time I became stronger and more versatile. The Shaolin monks used me to defend the temple and also themselves when they were on their travels. Sometimes the various emperors asked them for help and I’m glad that I could be of good service in protecting against evil forces, though I prefer to make people happy and healthy.
While I have many different forms on my own to suit the diverse needs and aspirations of students, I'm proud to have many children. Some of my offspring are Tai Chi Chuan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang.
When I later moved to the second Shaolin temple in Fujian province in South China, I especially improved on the animal styles. My son Hung Gar and my daughter Wing Chun were born there too. I'm very proud of them. They are the most well-known styles from the South and some schools still keep their original fighting spirit.
Today, many people know about you. They love your shows on stages around the world and visit you at the Shaolin temple.
Well, people often mistake me for my stepson, Wushu. [laughs] He was named after our family name that means “martial art” in general. Nowadays the name refers to its modernized version that focuses on beautiful performance in competitions, films and theatres.
I don't live at the Shaolin temple anymore. I left many centuries ago. When the destroyed temple was rebuilt by the government in the mid-20th century, I was invited back but I didn't want to stay as they tried to tell me how I should behave and what to do to please spectators and tourists.
You know, I'm quite old and all my improvements came from the evolutionary process performed by the greatest masters in Chinese history. I didn't want some officials to re-design me according to their whims and fancies. So I left again.
I was never eager to stand in the spotlight. While many people knew of me, I was always secretive and only few had a chance to learn and practice me. Practicing Shaolin Kung Fu was always elite, reserved for Shaolin monks and carefully selected lay students.
My young stepson was more excited to become famous. Modernized Wushu is now very popular. It is enjoyable to watch its performance, but it is bitter that its practitioners injure and wear out their bodies long before their time by using cruel training methods just to win competitions. That shows a lack of mental clarity, insight and understanding of training Qi that is meant to make you healthier.
The few fighting scenes they perform show that they also lack traditional training methods to use Kung Fu techniques in combat. While the performances look spectacular, you don’t see any genuine combat skill, principles and applications. It’s a pity and many of the old masters would probably feel insulted to hear this is what most people expect Kung Fu to be.
The Shows of Wuhsu practitioners dressed as monks look impressive but does a backflip aid combat efficiency?
How come that people forgot about combat application and internal force?
These two aspects form the legs I’m standing on. They’re an essential part of me. Without them I wouldn’t consider myself a martial art.
While combat efficiency and genuine training of energy are hard to find nowadays, I’m glad that they’re not completely gone.
You see, with the upcoming of firearms, the importance of hand combat decreased, and the world has generally become more civilized. Fortunately, the times when the fist ruled the streets are now gone in most places.
Today it is more likely to die of a degenerative disease at an old age than in a sword fight. The good news is that my practice promotes good health just like my sister Qi Gong does. I’d say that my practice is even more powerful and can help you reach your full potential and peak performance, besides learning how to defend yourself if you train correctly.
At the time when Kung Fu lost its combative significance, rich people paid Kung Fu masters to teach their children. Naturally, the children of the wealthy landlords were not interested in the demanding process of developing internal force and combat efficiency. So the masters taught them a lot of beautiful techniques they could demonstrate when guests were coming. The guests were amused, the landlord was proud, the children were happy and the teacher earned his living.
When the Chinese government later re-installed martial arts at the Shaolin temple, I guess they were not interested in making everyone a good fighter and to develop their energy and mind to a high degree. Individual self-actualization is something the Chinese government is not eager to promote. So the essence was kept away from popular Kung Fu practice in favour of a low-level exercise for the masses.
Genuine Kung Fu combat application is hard to find nowadays.
How can people learn from you in your genuine form?
It is quite unlikely that you will find me at the Kung Fu school around the corner.
The few genuine masters prefer to practice on their own and teach to exclusive disciples only. They may not want to take on new students.
I’m glad that Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit follows the order of his master to spread the methods and benefits of genuine Shaolin Kung Fu and his students continue his mission.
“Sifu Wong” realized that I would become extinct within one or two generations (some parts of me already are) if the real masters would hold back their secrets and let them die with them.
That’s why his school, the Shaolin Wahnam Institute, teaches principles and secrets so openly and generously to deserving students. Grandmaster Wong travelled the world to spread the genuine Shaolin arts and is still offering a few intensive courses in his home country Malaysia, where his parents moved to from China.
Nowadays, it’s even more comfortable to learn the methods of genuine Shaolin training. The virtual “Entrance to the Chamber of Shaolin Kung Fu” is a good starting point.
But first you need to spend some time at its Entrance, where you learn the basics because basics are most important.
I was never meant to be learnt quickly. It takes time to develop skills and internalize my principles. Not everyone is patient enough to walk the long road but you will be rewarded with extraordinary results and become an elite practitioner if you follow through.
Whilst fighting is fortunately no longer as important as it used to in the old days, you should not leave this defining aspect aside. Skills like fast reaction, intuitive decision-making and quick correction of mistakes can only be trained in combat exercises and you will benefit a lot by their use in daily life too.
In recent times, people struggle with their work-life balance, lack movement and suffer from a lot of stress.
I’d say I’m the most effective means to train your body, energy, mind and soul all at once. So, I can save you a lot of time and prepare you to meet the challenges of the modern world.
But you have to train me consistently and correctly in all my aspects to gain all my benefits.
What advice do you have for our readers?
Choose your master wisely.
Check if they teach combat application and, if so, be sure that it doesn’t look like kickboxing.
Don’t submit yourself to the “No pain, no gain” paradigm. Your practice should be serious but enjoyable.
The main philosophy of Kung Fu is “Safety first”. Instead of punching and kicking wildly whilst getting hit a lot of times, you should come out of a battle unhurt.
If you find a true master willing to teach you, treasure them like your parents.
May you benefit through your practice and enjoy a healthy and long life.
Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring story!
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