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Thread: Shaolin Kung Fu a spectacle or martial art?

  1. #1

    Shaolin Kung Fu a spectacle or martial art?

    Seems like Shaolin has become something other than a martial arts to many of its practitioners. What's your opinion on this subject?

  2. #2
    I remember long ago before Shaolin became mainstream. Even Jet Li movie brought attention to Shaolin but mainly in China back then. I don't think it will happen to my brothers on the mountain and I hope not! I don't have high opinion of abbot of Shaolin but I guess he does what he thinks is good for the temple. I just form opinion on what I hear so second hand information. How is your life in N.Y. going?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mengfei View Post
    I remember long ago before Shaolin became mainstream. Even Jet Li movie brought attention to Shaolin but mainly in China back then. I don't think it will happen to my brothers on the mountain and I hope not! I don't have high opinion of abbot of Shaolin but I guess he does what he thinks is good for the temple. I just form opinion on what I hear so second hand information. How is your life in N.Y. going?
    Doing ok thanks Mengfei. Back in the states for a year now. Based out in VA these days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wiz cool c View Post
    Seems like Shaolin has become something other than a martial arts to many of its practitioners. What's your opinion on this subject?
    it would depend on the individual and why they practice. to pure kung fu or wugong practitioner, I imagine "Shaolin Gong Fu" (WuGong), as is, retains it's essence, people still train northern and southern Shaolin styles vigorously (at least around here in CA).

    when you say "Shaolin", however, you have to remember its a Buddhist temple first, and the root of the Ch'an school/practice of Buddha's teachings, which is pretty intense without adding any martial art to it already. So to some, they still practice "Shaolin teachings" and way of life, just in practicing Zen (Ch'an) way of life.

    As a spectacle it will always remain and hold that wonder, to the outsider, who practice neither Shaolin rooted wugong/qigong, nor Zen/Ch'an Buddhist teachings. Some see it as a fancy performance troupe who travels the world with dazzling kung fu stunts, some prefer it as a tourist attraction, so hold it as an historical object/subject of study to the greater Buddhist community, and some just like the movies.

    Personally, I see it all as intertwined. I'm an avid practitioner of Shaolin Wugong/QiGong and will always be. Added to that, I practice Ch'an in my daily life, and utilize the teachings of Dharma as a moral compass. So to me personally, Shaolin always represented the balance of ChanWuYi, even before that was a popular term, I held Shaolin in that regard. The thing with that is, I am not a monk, only a student, so to the martial artist on the outside looking in, Shaolin Martial art (Wu) might be all and all, and me applying the teachings of Dharma and so on, might be seen as unnecessary to someone who is looking to Shaolin for only martial art, for me, Ch'an and Wu go hand n hand.
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
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    it could be said Shaolin is totally more than martial art easily, "Ch'an Wu Yi" suggests this. In practicing Shaolin Wu, you will start to reach Ch'an. if this is not the case, then your practice is no different than lifting weights, and some can even reach some "Zen" through that type of exercise. After thinking about it, I feel that all martial art should eventually give you more than just the brute physical side of the training, especially if its anything like Shaolin training, if not its pretty shallow you know? I have a post about this topic somewhere, I'll have to find it and share here. link the threads.

    other than that , spectacles are for spectators!!!! LOL if you want to know "Shaolin" , get in there and experience it! its the only way!!

    Amituofo!
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

  6. #6
    I practice Shaolin Kung Fu and lived in China for twelve years,three of those in Songshan Shaolin. For me it is a martial arts first. For me what a martial arts is a physical and mental exercise that can cross over to combat. I personally practice Hinduism so it's not a religion for me. I have seen a side of Shaolin today that most haven't. I prefer to keep it to myself however. I just will say the Chinese government plays a big role in it. That and that foreigners perception of what goes on in Shaolin and Songshan and what it really is, is different . Again these are just my personal experiences and opinions. Shaolin and martial arts are different for each individual.
    Last edited by wiz cool c; 03-21-2020 at 01:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wiz cool c View Post
    I practice Shaolin Kung Fu and lived in China for twelve years,three of those in Songshan Shaolin. For me it is a martial arts first. For me what a martial arts is a physical and mental exercise that can cross over to combat. I personally practice Hinduism so it's not a religion for me. I have seen a side of Shaolin today that most haven't. I prefer to keep it to myself however. I just will say the Chinese government plays a big role in it. That and that foreigners perception of what goes on in Shaolin and Songshan and what it really is, is different . Again these are just my personal experiences and opinions. Shaolin and martial arts are different for each individual.
    The individual definitely defines what the martial art means to them. Some practice for health, some practice for combat, some for mental clarity, and some for therapy.
    So, to that extent, no person on the outside of you, can define Shaolin (martial art) to you. (and my statement about "go practice", was aimed to the spectators or outsiders, not you, or any person actually practicing. )

    As a Temple, Shaolin has a turbulent story, and we know the government takes advantage of the temple in recent times. Its always had a harsh road with politics, dating back centuries. The fact is, it's still a Buddhist temple before a martial art center, historically and literally speaking. So for me personally, I draw from both sides, the martial and the spiritual, thought I don't use the term Buddhist to define myself at all, I definitely practice the teachings of the Buddha(s).

    Guatama was also from a family and country that practice what is now called Hinduism. Yet, that also, is not historically a religion, more a way of life, and applied science where nature is divine and divine is nature. Some say the two paths ('Buddhism/Hinduism') are inseparable for this reason. I'm saying that to say, Hindu patrons are usually depicted seated in Dhyana (Ch'an, Zen, Meditation), so wether you add that to (by title) to define your Shaolin practice, you actually practice Chan and Wu, presuming you meditate, you just title it differently.

    In essence none of these things matter. A real monk in the tradition of Buddha, and a real Sadhu, or Guru, in the tradition of Vishnu/Shiva/Bramha, will tell you the same thing, "prepare your body to handle the energy" and then "sit your a## in meditation".

    The thing with Songshan Shaolin is just a matter of exploitation, like the Great Pyramids of Giza. The men that built and established Songshan Shaolin, originally, are not the men in charge of it now, nor is the government the same, obviously lol so the government exploits certain places in China, Shaolin being one of them. Its uup to the students who have Shaolin Chan and Wu in their hearts to look past that and practice genuinely. Same with the Great Pyramids, the government in the land of the Nile valley is for certain, exploiting every temple tomb and pyramid of that land as a tourist attraction or selling/leasing the artifacts to other nations, it doesnt mean the buildings have no historical value or essence beyond the surface.

    Shaolin is even more so like this because the traditions practiced are actually still learnable, where as Pyramid building is not so much, the modern 'Egyptian' cant even read the walls on the old buildings. Ancient writings in Shaolin can still be read, so this leaves the heart of the teachings up to the student. If there were no sutras, pagodas, murals, or historical records left about and in Shaolin, maybe I could agree its become a spectacle and government cesspool however, theres still much to learn and unravel within and about Shaolin, and Ch'an, and the martial art of the temple, so it's entirely up to the student who's interested in Shaolin "kung fu", what they get out of it.

    at this point, in 2020, if you let the tourist version of Shaolin fool you, you deserve to be fooled, because information is virtually at our fingertips, all you have to do dig deep enough with a genuine heart, you'll find the truth you seek for sure. and again, when I say "you", it's a generalization, not personally aimed at anyone specifically.

    Amituofo
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

  8. #8
    Hare Krishna devotee to be exact I love Shaolin Kung Fu.It wasn't my first choice of arts once I moved from Beijing to Shenzhen but fell into it and glad I did. Whether the masses follow trends or not doesn't really concern me too much. I'll be teaching my own interpretation of the art in the States that I like to call Shaolin applied. I have been fortunate to be able to accumulate a great curriculum that I feel can benefit it's students greatly. I'm not really the historian type personally. I feel I live the art no need to fit into a preconceived box. To each his own in this martial art journey.
    Last edited by wiz cool c; 03-22-2020 at 05:05 AM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Djuan View Post
    The thing with Songshan Shaolin is just a matter of exploitation, like the Great Pyramids of Giza. The men that built and established Songshan Shaolin, originally, are not the men in charge of it now, nor is the government the same, obviously lol so the government exploits certain places in China, Shaolin being one of them. Its uup to the students who have Shaolin Chan and Wu in their hearts to look past that and practice genuinely. Same with the Great Pyramids, the government in the land of the Nile valley is for certain, exploiting every temple tomb and pyramid of that land as a tourist attraction or selling/leasing the artifacts to other nations, it doesnt mean the buildings have no historical value or essence beyond the surface.

    Shaolin is even more so like this because the traditions practiced are actually still learnable, where as Pyramid building is not so much, the modern 'Egyptian' cant even read the walls on the old buildings. Ancient writings in Shaolin can still be read, so this leaves the heart of the teachings up to the student. If there were no sutras, pagodas, murals, or historical records left about and in Shaolin, maybe I could agree its become a spectacle and government cesspool however, theres still much to learn and unravel within and about Shaolin, and Ch'an, and the martial art of the temple, so it's entirely up to the student who's interested in Shaolin "kung fu", what they get out of it.

    Well said.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by wiz cool c View Post
    Doing ok thanks Mengfei. Back in the states for a year now. Based out in VA these days.
    Hey wcc! Nice you are not in NYC anymore! How is Virginia? Do you know the Winchester area? Stay safe and have fun!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by mengfei View Post
    Hey wcc! Nice you are not in NYC anymore! How is Virginia? Do you know the Winchester area? Stay safe and have fun!
    It's nice area. I like shooting theses days. It's easy here to get a permit. Working with a gun, shooting at the range even got a concealed permit. It's interesting how Shaolin Kung Fu skills can cross over to so many other areas. After not have driven for two decades then taking a driving course again picked it up easily. Then taking the gun test having no prior experience getting the best score out of 7 people in my class.

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    theres a book by Agnes Chan, on the topic of Shaolin Chan Wu Yi (Shaolin ChanWuYi amazon link), and in the book it highlights the perspective and path of Master Shi De Jian, I'll share a portion of it here in this thread, and post a pdf link to a portion of the book in the Chan Wu Yi thread once I can find it.
    Sharing this first page of the book because it's relative to the discussion and also because it was published nearly 10 years ago, and I'm positive Shi De Jian shared the sentiments expressed decades before the book was written. ( this topic is also covered in Gene's book Shaolin Trips thread as well, extensively and from a first hand perspective.)

    heres a screen shot of the first page. one page in and its already going in to the ideas discussed here.
    Name:  Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 12.07.20 AM.jpg
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    worthy to note Shi De Jian STILL practices and teaches on Song mountain in San Huang Zhai Monastery which is sort of what you (Wiz) expressed earlier in the thread about finding other places to practice aside from the busy Songshan Temple. Fawang Temple is also a nice place to train, so I've heard. The interesting thing about traveling to train is the buy in (@ certain Temples). To study Buddhas teaching is totally free, so there is a paradox. If you go to a temple, are you going to learn/train kung fu, or become a monk? If you go to become a monk, should there be an offering made to the Temple?

    Amituofo
    Last edited by Djuan; 03-29-2020 at 03:26 AM.
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

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    It depends what spectacle means for certain people. It can be good or bad. I found real shaolin Kung fu around 1998. I found a songshan shaolin school and thought I had discovered gold. Before 1998 my interest in shaolin was pure tv and movies about shaolin monks. There have been some eye opening developments along the way with modern shaolin.

    Now in my mid 40s, my body isnít as agile and limber as it use to be but I still do enjoy training. The Chan side of shaolin also interests me. So I will agree with what you put in it is what you get out of it. I have met many students that even trained and visited Shaolin in China only to be disappointed or let down. Then there are the ones that say itís all fake Wushu and a tourist trap. There is so much more to Shaolin than the surface that a lot of people get stuck at. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the real treasures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Songshan View Post
    It depends what spectacle means for certain people. It can be good or bad. I found real shaolin Kung fu around 1998. I found a songshan shaolin school and thought I had discovered gold. Before 1998 my interest in shaolin was pure tv and movies about shaolin monks. There have been some eye opening developments along the way with modern shaolin.

    Now in my mid 40s, my body isn’t as agile and limber as it use to be but I still do enjoy training. The Chan side of shaolin also interests me. So I will agree with what you put in it is what you get out of it. I have met many students that even trained and visited Shaolin in China only to be disappointed or let down. Then there are the ones that say it’s all fake Wushu and a tourist trap. There is so much more to Shaolin than the surface that a lot of people get stuck at. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the real treasures.
    its totally up to the student in introspect. there is still a great example by many eminent monks in the past and present which can be somewhat of a ruler to measure your progress and study by if you enter a certain level of discipline with Shaolin. Popular culture and media can be confusing and misleading in this regard, especially for those who go looking for something they were marketed or saw in a movie. For example, a Buddhist civilian who wants to go pray at Shaolin on a certain day, basically using the temple for temple functions, would never be let down, but a grown adult looking for magic monks to divulge the secret of Shaolin he heard about in some movie, will be largely let down. Kung fu, particularly Shaolin Wugong in the area of Songshan Temple, is rich, and is practical in its practice, meaning theres no secret method to find and unlock other than some brutal training, time and effort alone. Any Ch'an attained will come naturally if you align with it in your practice. other than that, its like going to learn any art, if you want to be a master at any art its gonna take a lot of hard work. Shaolin is probably the epitome of hard work in Martial Arts. not performance, training to fight, the body bending, sculpting, stabilizing, and vitalizing takes a lot of hard work and time to cultivate, its worth it. if someone told me they went all the way to Shaolin and was let down, I would shake my head in sadness, and then ask them what were they looking for? because the way I see it that has to be the LAST place that can let you down lol. I feel like you can learn more there in a day well spent, than anywhere else.
    Last edited by Djuan; 05-14-2020 at 05:24 PM.
    "色即是空 , 空即是色 " ~ Buddha via Avalokitesvara
    Shaolin Meditator

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    My take, on never actually being at Shaolin, but seeing Songshan Shaolin around me as it spread, is that there are "Historical" reenactors, theatrical performance players, certainly the Chinese version of professional wrestling...and buried in there, off on the sidelines away from all of that, you still have small pockets of the real art. You may find them in the Sanda/San Shou community, because fighters like to fight. But I have serious doubts that you would find them at Shaolin itself.
    Those that are the most sucessful are also the biggest failures. The difference between them and the rest of the failures is they keep getting up over and over again, until they finally succeed.


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