Shaolin Philosophy

Buddhism originated from Nepal 2500 years ago and was spread to India 400 years later. 1500 years ago, it appeared in China. The philosophy of Shaolin is based on the Chan Buddhism, which is said to have its roots at the Shaolin temple, founded by Ta Mo, Bodhidarma or Dharma. Its main characteristic is the rejection of a large part of the protocol associated with other sections of Buddhism and is focussed on the practice of meditation and self-examination. The preparation of the meditation is movement and the basis for movement is the way of breathing. Therefore, Shaolin meditation and Kung Fu are meant to calm the mind and strengthen the body.

By the Shaolin philosophy, martial arts is described as a non-aggressive act. It is about returning the aggression of the attacker energy to him and avoiding being injured by it. The Shaolin philosophy emphasis the integration and fluidity of energies. In the modern world, the monks continue to live by their strict discipline, purity, self-awareness and simplicity.

Shaolin Techniques

Ta Mo, who developed the Chan Buddhism, which became better known in Japan as the Zen Buddhism, thought the monks in the Shaolin Temple breathing techniques and exercises. He developed a series of 18 movements, known as the “18 Hands of Lo Han”:

1. Crane dance    10. Crane standing on one foot
2. Dragon dance   11. Elephant standing on the back legs
3. Pressing and lifting   12. Boy worshipping Avalokitesvara
4. Single phoenix dance  13. Circling
5. Drawing the bow   14. Body turning
6. Bear looking back   15. Tiger looking askance
7. Abrupt lifting    16. Fairy crossing palms
8. Welcoming a guest   17. Beauty sporting with lotus
9. Single pheasant dance  18. Advancing and retreating

These 18 movements are considered to be the foundations of martial arts, which Shaolin is famous for.

In the 16th century, a man named Zhue Yuen, entered to the Shaolin Temple. He developed the original 18 movements and expanded them to 72 movements. However he was an outstanding boxer, Zhue Yuen was not yet satisfied and started to travel through China in order to find martial arts practioners who he could learn from. On his journey he met Li Sou and Bai Yu Feng and the three of them changed the 72 movements into 170 movements and made a subdivided these movements into the Five Animal Styles, which are known as:

1. Tiger
2. Snake
3. Dragon
4. Leopard
5. Crane

Shaolin Kung Fu is divided into two schools, namely: the southern school, which concentrates on fist techniques and the northern school, which focuses on foot techniques. Both schools use the Five Animal Styles as their foundation. The northern school can be divided in three divisions. Hung emphasizes physical strength, Kung focuses on limberness and  the last division is Yue, where the students are being thought how to use the strength and limberness. The southern school, on the other hand, includes five elementary schools, which are: Ta Hung Men, Liu Chia Chuan, Tsai Chia Chuan, Li Chia Chuan and Mo Chia Chuan.

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