Short History of Chinese Martial Arts
Wushu - Chinese Martial Arts (Kung-fu) is an Art of Self-defence, Philosophy, Healing Practice and a Way of Life. It is also Spiritual Practice With a history of several thousand years.
Wushu developed through the centuries by(Chinese) people struggling for survival but also for understanding the deeper meaning of Life. It was happening in the Monasteries, villages, in the Army at known and unknown places.
Development of Martial Arts went hand in hand together with hunting and survival between the tribes. When mankind becomes more skilful in hunting and warfare, they also gradually developed Dance techniques, which were connected with Martial Arts skills. Dances were for rituals, relaxation or just entertainment. Often dance was an imitation of various animal movements. (Monkey Dance, Bear Dance)
In addition, there were created War Dances (also with weapons like Shield and Battle-Axe). There was a strong relationship between Dance and Fighting skills.
- The Rise of this Art started in the Bronze Age.
- Before Qin and Han dynasties; According to the ´Book of Zhuang Zi´, unarmed combat and fencing were highly developed skills by the end of the period of the Warring States between 770 and 221 B.C.
- During the Han Dynasty Wushu was developed further as an Art and Dance. Many Martial Dances appeared, such as the Rapier Dance, the Broad-Sword dance, the Twin Halberd Dance and the Battle-Axe Dance. These dances contained elements of attack and defence and historical records tell how people came from far distances, to see contests during different feasts.
- Fencing dances became increasingly popular during the Sui and Tang dynasties (518-907). Among well know masters were also women.
During this period system was inaugurated for selecting military officers by examination. This selection system stimulated the practice of wushu all through society.
As result, Wushu routines developed rapidly. New forms of single or group dance exercises were designed. Boxing also appeared.
- During Song dynasty (960-1279) Wushu associations were organized among the people. There are records of archery, crossbow and wrestling societies.
Traditional tales such as ´Outlaws of the Marsh´ about the rebellion of peasant heroes against the Song government officials give a vivid picture of wushu in that period.
- By the Ming dynasty (1369-1644) Wushu had gradually crystallized into many different schools.
Theoretical works were written summarizing the development of the many styles, f.e. ´A New Work on the Effect of Martial Arts´. The author Qi Jiajing, renowned general, highly skilled in almost all weapons, regarded unarmed combat as the most important aspect of Wushu, as the foundation of all fighting skills and beginners door to all other skills.
- Qing dynasty (1644-1911) - secret Wushu societies were common. This period saw the rapid development of many styles of wushu, as well as appearenceof such styles as Taiji Quan (great Ultimate Boxing), Bagua Quan (Eight trigram boxing), Xyngyi Quan (Imitation Boxing).
- After the revolution at the beginning of 20. Century, a lot of monasteries were ruined and spiritual tradition damaged. Wushu becomes more national sport and touristic attraction than Spiritual journey.
SHAOLIN MONASTERY – Brief History and Mythology
Shaolin Quan is one of the most known traditional styles of Wushu. It´s name originating from the Shaolin Monastery, an important centre in the development of Chinese Martial arts. The Monastery is situated in Henan Province. The name Shaolin comes from the fact, that monastery is nestled in the woods (lin) below the shady northern slope of Shaoshi Peak.
Shaolin monastery was built in 495 during Wei Dynasty, to accommodate a visiting Indian monk. During 1500 years of its history, it has gone through many ups and downs.
In 573 Emperor Wudi prohibited Buddhist and Taoist religion. Shaolin was abandoned. Emperor Wendi (Sui Dynasty) revived Buddhism. Not long after, however wide spray uprisings and wars resulted in the monastery being razed to the grand. Emperor Taizong from Tang Dynasty had supported a flourish once again. (more the 5000 rooms, over 1000 monks, its own army…) And so on - Ups and Downs…
Till 1928, during a battle monastery was burned. The fire raged for more than 40 days. Nowadays, Shaolin is fully restored. And full of tourist taking Picture and learning Shaolin style.
Mythology describes Shaolin beginnings to the Indian Monk Bodhidharma. It is said, he developed a set of exercises for the monks, so they don´t fall into the sleep during long period of meditation. And these formed the basis of Shaolin Quan.