By Sita Allard- Gregg.
Shaolin Kung Fu was developed in a Buddhist Temple in Henan, China, by a monk named Bodhidharma. It is considered to be one of the oldest styles of Chinese martial arts. Even though the monks were Buddhists and preached non violence, Shaolin Kung Fu was created in order to protect the Monastery from thieves and bandits and later even aided the Emperors of the time by fighting in the wars.
In the 1970’s, due to the conflicts and wars in China, the temple was almost completely abandoned and destroyed. Seeing it’s state, the Chinese government brought new monks in to revive the special fighting style. By then, most of the sacred and spiritual aspects were lost.
Just like many other ancient art forms, the traditions of Kung fu continued to change over the years. As a result, Kung fu has mostly gained popularity for competitive and entertainment purposes, but luckily, not all the information was lost.
In the past, monks would leave the monastery. Because they had dedicated there lives to training in the art of Kung Fu, they didn’t easily disregard it. They would often educate people that they met on their path, and in that way the teachings lived on.
Kung fu has 5 main animal styles:
The first style is Tiger. Like a tiger, this style is powerful and attacks head on. This style requires speed, strength and strong stances. It uses a lot of circular motions in the arms and lower kicks.
The second is Leopard. In Leopard the strikes are quick, accurate and painful. Unlike the Tiger, which targets any part of the body, Leopard targets vital areas such as the neck, temples and groin. Like most Kung fu, it consists of mostly palm and hand techniques.
The third is Crane. It is one of the more elegant and graceful styles. The users usually have a long reach and excellent balance. This style is used more from a distance and is rarely used for offensive attacks.
Snake style is fourth. This style relies on awareness, speed and accuracy. It mostly targets the face, eyes and throat. There are weapons that are designed for this particular style of Kung Fu, such as the Snake Sword and Snake Spear.
The last one is Dragon style. It has a particular zig zagging footwork, similar to the legendary Chinese Dragon. This style can be good in both offensive and defensive attacks. It also works well for close-range and wide-range combat.
One of the points that Kung fu is known for is the extreme force the users body can withstand. In order to do that, the user must channel their chi or bodily energy into the part of the body that will be hit or struck. To harness one’s chi can take many years of meditating and training.
In present day, the knowledge of Kung fu is not only in China, but is now spread throughout the entire world. You can now find many schools teaching the various styles. Even though it might not be as authentic as it used to be or people might not spend all their time training in Kung fu, it will always be honoured and practiced whether it’s for self-defense or to stay in shape.