Martial Arts from Sacred Mountains
Editorial Note: There are 2 English spelling renditions of Chinese words, Wade-Giles and pinyin. A mix is inevitable.
Chinese martial arts, commonly referred to as kung fu in America, has origins at both Buddhist and Taoist temples. The combat grappling and weapon techniques were developed over hundreds, even thousands of years. The primary purpose of kung fu was to protect the temples from marauders, invaders, thieves, and even imperial soldiers.
Focusing on four primary mountain monasteries that played key roles in the evolution of martial arts, there were a variety of styles that came from each one. There was much cross-pollination throughout the ages, as monks traveled and challenged each other’s skills. It is interesting to study the individual contributions that originated from each mountain sanctuary. The topography and indigenous animals of the temple regions influenced martial forms. The monks studied animal movements and combat techniques with other animals, which resulted in fighting styles, which mimicked animal behavior.
This mountain in Henan Province is the home of the original Shaolin Temple, (少林寺). In the 5th century AD, Buddhism was introduced to the Song Mountain region. The most influential Buddhist monk was Damo 達摩(Ta Mo, Daruma, Bodhidarma). Legend suggests that in order to keep the Shaolin monks awake during long periods of meditation, Damo taught them 49 isometric postures, I Chin Ching, (Yijinjing ), The Muscle Change Classics.
As the patriarch of the Shaolin Temple, Damo greatly influenced the development of kung fu. Martial forms attributed to Songshan include:
- Xi Sui Jing (Bone Marrow Washing)
- Lohan Shou (Fists of Lohan)
- Chin Na (capture and escape techniques)
- Numerous animal styles: tiger, crane, leopard, dragon, snake, monkey, praying mantis
- Classical weapon forms: Staff/bo, nunchaku, broadsword, tiger hook swords, chain whip, double-edged/straight sword, 3-sectional staff, daggers, axes, butterfly knives.
Martial forms attributed to Huashan include:
- Dr. Hua Tuo’s 5 Animal Play
- 5 Roads of Hua Fist
- 8 Immortals
Significant martial artist: Bai Mei Taosin / White Eye-browed Monk
Martial forms attributed to Omeishan include:
- White Crane
- Eagle Claw
- Golden Rooster/Pheasant
- White Swan
Significant martial artist: Zhang Sanfeng / Tai Chi Master
Martial forms attributed to Wudangshan include:
- Tai Chi Chuan (Grand Ultimate Fist)
- Pa Kua Chang (Eight Changes of the Palm)
- Hsing I Chuan (Fist of the Will)
- Liu Hsing Chuan (Meteor fist)
- Tai Chi Sword, broadsword, spear
- Damo Sword and Cane
- Green Dragon Sword and Spear
- Seven Star Sword