Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shaolin Kung Fu

The Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is an important center in the development of Chinese martial arts. The monastery is situated in Henan Province, thirteen kilometers northwest of Dengfen County town at the western foot of Mt. Songshan. The name Shaolin comes from the fact that the monastery is nestled in the woods below the shady northern slope of Shaoshi Peak. Shaolin Monastery was built in 495 under the patronage of Emperor Xiaowen (reigned 471-500) of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Historical material suggests that almost immediately after its founding, self-defense or some other form of physical training was part of life in the monastery.

By the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), the outstanding combat skills of the Shaolin monks became well known. According to records, the wushu practiced at the monastery in different periods was varied in style and content. Among the unarmed combat styles were those resembling the fast and agile Chang Quan. Others were powerful, like Nan Quan, or emphasized the use of will and mind as well as breathing like Xingyi Quan (Will-Mind Boxing) and Rou Quan (Soft Boxing); still others imitated animal movements like Luohan Quan (Arhat Boxing) and Hou Quan (Monkey Boxing). Shaolin staff skills were especially famous, although all the eighteen military weapons were practiced.

Shaolin Kung Fu is extensive. It consists of 36 external exercises and 36 internal exercises. They are called in combination the 72 hand-combat arts of Shaolin. Each kind of exercise has a very close relation with Qigong. Many other forms of exercise evolved, such as the Standing Pole Exercise, Hard Skills, Light Skills.

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