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kung fu history

Many believe that kung fu all began at the Shaolin Temple back in 527 A.D. when an Indian Buddhist name Bodhidharma, Da Mo in Chinese, came to the temple and taught the monks a form of exercise routines that later became the base of where Shaolin kung fu was derived from.

The reality is that kung fu, or some form of Chinese martial arts, was in existence for hundreds if not thousands of years before Bodhidharma’s arrival to Shaolin.

Chinese archaeological discoveries show that Stone Age Chinese were well versed in some form of kung fu and used axes, spears and swords made from stones and bones to defend themselves against animals and each other.

During the metal age weapons were made from copper and bronze. There have been discoveries of early Chinese drawings on bones and tortoise shells displaying kung fu techniques.

By the turn of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 249 B.C.), kung fu had developed into sophisticated systems with profound philosophies and principals of yin-yang, the five elements and the baqua, symbol for the philosophy and principal of the eight directions.

During the Qin Dynasty (221- 207 B.C.) it was said that two contestants fought each other in enclosures. There are Han records that showed contesting boxers that were bare to the waist and wore shorts just like our modern boxers. During this time kung fu became so popular that the Emperor banned all kung fu practice because he was afraid that too many people were becoming experts in fighting.

In the three kingdoms (from 221 - 277 A.D.), each kingdom had its own kings and generals that were renowned in the history books for their sword, archery, and empty hand fighting techniques. During this time, the great General Kwan developed the Kwan Dao, a heavy weapon with a big blade (saber) attached to a long handled staff. This kwan dao is still used today in most kung fu styles as one of the more advanced weapons a student can learn.

In the Chin Dynasty (277 - 419 A.D.), there were books that recorded people throughout China practicing a kung fu style called Shuai Chiao (Grabbing & Throwing).

In the early Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 535 A.D.) the emperor ordered the building of the Henan Shaolin Temple for the Indian monk named Batuo, who had come to China to spread the teachings of Buddhism. He is most remembered today by his statue, the "Laughing or Happy Buddha."

Therefore, kung fu was in long existence before 527 A.D. when the legendary Bodhidharma arrived to the Shaolin Temple.

Unfortunately, there are no records indicating whether or not Bodhidharma ever knew any kung fu at all. There are also no records which state the first person to introduce kung fu to the Shaolin Temple or where their kung fu originated from. Since Bodhidharma is the father of Chinese Chan Buddhism, in his honor, later generations credited him as the originator of Shaolin kung fu.

The truth is that throughout the history of Shaolin, many experts sought spiritual sanctuary there; and in return they taught the monks how to defend themselves and strengthen their bodies through the practice of kung fu. Monks were also known to leave the temple in search of great masters in kung fu to learn from. These wandering monks would return to the temple with new styles of kung fu to share with their fellow monks and many times they returned with some great master that was willing to come to the temple to teach them kung fu.

Throughout the years Shaolin became known as the centre for all kung fu. That is why it is believed that all schools can be traced back to Shaolin in one way or another. Almost all styles of kung fu either came from Shaolin (their creation) or through the doors of Shaolin from some emperor or master during their stay at Shaolin. The Shaolin Temple played a huge role on the developing and spreading of kung fu as we know it today