Shaolin Kung Fu
Although martial arts have been documented in China since 2600 B.C., the source of today’s martial arts originate from A.D. 527, when Indian monk Ta Mo (Bodhidharma) arrived at Shaolin in Henan province. Before his arrival, the Shaolin monks practiced Taoism and meditation. Ta Mo found the monks to be lacking physical ability stating, “The body, mind and spirit are inseparable, and if you neglect one, the others will suffer.” Ta Mo spent nine years developing three skills to physically and mentally aid the monks: “muscle change classics”; “bone marrow washing course”; and the 18 lou han fists (18 Buddhist Fists), which became the foundation of Shaolin kung fu. Ta Mo synthesized Taoism with Indian Mahayana Buddhism to create Chan (Zen) Buddhism.
Several hundred external martial arts (styles that focus on physiological development rather than chi cultivation) with direct ties to Shaolin kung fu have proliferated from Ta Mo’s 18 Buddhist fists—the most famous being the Five Animal Styles of Shaolin. These styles were developed in the mid-1600s by Shaolin monk Zheu Yang and two other martial artists: Li Sou and Bai Yu-feng.