Situated in Honan Province, the Shaolin Temple has the distinction of being the grandfather of modern kung fu. Founded in 495 AD by Tianjin monks by imperial dictate to preach Buddhism, the monks' main martial arts concern had initially been only to fend off wild animals from the forests surrounding the Shaolin Temple.
In 527AD, legend has it that Damo, a high monk from India, arrived at the Shaolin Temple to teach Zen Buddhism. In addition, he taught the monks breathing exercises to keep fit. It is probable that this was some form of yoga. Around this time, the monks also began to practice martial arts in a systematic manner.
During the period of the Warring States in China, imperial authority receded, and there were much civil unrest. Due to its vast holdings of land and wealth from imperial grants throughout its history, the Shaolin Temple came under threat, and thus High Abbott organised the best warrior monks into a vigilante "Monk Army" to safeguard the Shaolin Temple's interests - The legend of the Shaolin warrior monk was born.
The Shaolin Temple then lend its weight to the First Emperor of the Tang Dynasty to quell peasant uprisings, enabling the Emperor to secure the throne. Of course, the Shaolin Temple was richly rewarded for this and its fame grew greater.
Since the Tang Dynasty, the ranks of the monks were organised into "martial monks" and "literary monks". Whereas the later focused on the study of Buddhism, the former devoted their time to improving the quality of Shaolin Kung Fu.
Following the Tang Dynasty, a High Abbott by the name of of Fu Jue invited eighteen skilled martial artists to the Shaolin Temple to exchange ideas as to how Shaolin Kung Fu could be improved. Over a three year period, they refined Shaolin Kung Fu into a distinctive style that formed the basis of modern Shaolin Kung Fu.
The Shaolin Temple's reputation grew further when the First Emperor of the Song Dynasty, a master of the Shaolin arts, ascended the throne. Shaolin Kung Fu remains in a state of continuous improvement to this day.
Why you should learn Tai Chi
Of the many styles of Tai Chi, Yang Family Tai Chi is the most modern interpretation of Tai Chi and is designed to deliver the traditional benefits of Tai Chi in a more easy to learn manner than Chen Family Tai Chi.
Yang Family Tai Chi was founded around the turn of the 20th Century, and was designed from the ground up to be easy to pick up for both young and old. In fact, it was designed so that officials and aristocrats of the Imperial Dynasty Court in China could practice it as a health exercise without the hard stances and high kicks of traditional Chen Family Tai Chi. Yet at the highest levels, Yang Family Tai Chi remains useful and potent as a martial art.
Yang was recruited to teach his style of Tai Chi to the Imperial Guard by the Manchu Dynasty. From there, Yang Family Tai Chi truly flourished as a style in its own right.
Yang Family Tai Chi removes the need for energetic bursts of power prevalent in Chen Family Tai Chi. It focuses on soft flowing movements – The essence being that the technique is driven by the mind or soul, rather than sheer power. Because of this, Yang Family Tai Chi is also suited as a health exercise for people of all ages and well being, and has today grown to become the most popular Tai Chi style in the world.
Tai Chi is about turning the opponent's force against them. Tai Chi leverages on the impetus and weight of the enemy's attack to strike. This concept is especially powerful if the opponent is considerably larger in size or strength, as the natural advantage of the enemy is used against them.
A typical Tai Chi technique would seemingly yield to the initial inertia of the enemy's attack, and then counter-attack by pulling or pushing the enemy into a strike. You never meet your enemy head on with hard blocks. At the center of Tai Chi lies a profound appreciation of body-weight balance and how it can be coordinated and shifted.
Tai Chi means the “Supreme Singularity” in Chinese, a Taoism concept. Taoism sees all things as divided between Yin (soft, feminine, dark) and Yang (hard, masculine, light), and each balances out the other. In such terms, Tai Chi first nullifies the "Yang" of your enemy's attack with passive "Yin" techniques, before leveraging on the enemy's inertia to counter-attack. The concept of neutralizing the "Yang" of your enemy's attack with the "Yin" is symbolized by the the Tai Chi diagram. This consists of a sphere where Yin continuously flows to become Yang, and Yang flows back to become Yin.
Tai Chi is founded on circular motion. You move in a range of large circles, small circles, semi circles, arcs and spirals. The enemy's force is dissipated and redirected using circular parries. Their guard is opened using circular action of the hands and arms. Finally, they are thrown off-balance and/or hit using a blend of circular action involving all of the feet, legs, waist, upper body and hands. From the first move to the end of the form, all the moves are closely linked, flowing smoothly from one into another like the harmony of Yin and Yang.
The eight forms of the Eight Drunken Immortals are:
The Six Openings Form is a beginner level form and trains the practitioner in the following six fundamental concepts of Baji Quan:
- Ding – This is the concept of going against, of applying pressure or pushing upward against the enemy using the fist, elbow or shoulders