January 31, 2002



On Thursday, January 31st 2002, Columbus, OH played host to a touring troupe of Shaolin students and teachers. The VTM paid a visit to the Capa theater in Columbus to see a presentation of Shaolin Warriors.

It was a very impressive demonstration of the artistic skills of the Shaolin monks of China. The athletic ability of these monks seems to go against the laws of physics. The introduction had a young monk playing chess with his Sifu.

 
Opening Scene:
 
Boy: Master?
Master: Yes?
Boy: What is Shaolin Kung Fu?
Master: Shaolin Kung Fu is the unity of Chan (Zen) and the martial arts.
Boy: How does one achieve this unity?
Master: By dedicating yourself fully to the practice.
 
Boy: Master?
Master: Yes?
Boy: Will you take me to the Shaolin Temple to watch the training?

Master: Of Course?
 

He asked his Sifu "what is Shaolin kung fu?" His Sifu answers "Shaolin is what you feel in your heart." With this statement, the curtain rose to an active stage depicting the everyday life of the monks' meditation, training, cleaning, cooking, etc. The first act began as a representation of summer; the monks demonstrated different traditional Shaolin styles like White ape boxing, Nan chaun, Drunken and group fighting. The second act depicted Spring time with the animal forms such as Tiger, Eagle, Duck, Scorpion, Monkey, Snake and more. Every animal was very clear and evident from each performer's body movements. The second act closed with acts of Qi Gong - breaking staffs over various body parts including legs, arms, and stomach. This was followed by a demonstrator that broke metal bars over his head! The third act shows the most about the daily life of the monks. This act was finished with weapons demonstrations. The first the most famous Shaolin weapon - the wooden staff. This was quickly followed by the drunken straight sword, the broad sword single, the double sword and finally two-man weapon forms. The fourth act represented autumn. In this act, several Qi Gong exercises and group staff fighting were demonstrated. This act ended with Iron whip form. The final act, representing winter, had more drunken boxing and a Qi Gong demonstration. In the Qi Gong demonstration, several monks made a "layer cake." One monk laid down on sharpen swords and a bed of nails on top of him. A second monk laid on top of the bed of nails and was covered with a concrete slab. This slab was broken with a sledgehammer. The grand finale brought all the monks at once, filling the stage with a host of different demonstrations of artistic martial arts expressions. The curtain closed with the young monk and his Sifu sitting on the steps of the Temple.

 
Boy: Master?
Master: Yes?
Boy: I think I understand now.
Master: Yes?
Boy: Shaolin Kung Fu builds moral character, strengthens the body, and celebrates life.
Master: Yes. You need only practice with all of your heart and all of your mind.
 

This was a very good demonstration of the artistic side of martial arts. This demonstrated the value of training a style that will fall in the art category. It was very entertaining inspirational.

The two-hour show was presented as an example of one year's training at the Shaolin Temple in two acts - Spring and Summer in Act I and Autumn and Winter in Act II. With exciting movements and quick techniques, the Shaolin monks exploded onto the stage, demonstrating animal forms including: snake, crane, eagle, toad, scorpion, duck, mantis, and tiger. Many weapons forms were also displayed in addition to iron stomach and iron head skills. Ranging in age from pre-adolescent to adult, each student demonstrated some special skill for the audience. Also demonstrated was a Zen ceremony. During scene changes, different performers walked across the front of the main curtain to entertain the crowd. At one point, several children from the audience were invited up on stage and taught some basic wushu movements.

 
Shaolin tour events
 
Student and Master's discussion of Chan(Zen) and Martial Arts
Shaolin Yoga
Buddhist Ceremony
Animal Forms
Drunken Monks
Fist
Staff
Sword
Qigong
    bowl on stomach
Iron Skin
    stomach
    head
    bed of nails, breaking slabs of stones
Shaolin daily activities
    sweeping / weapon form
    practice of kung fu using daily tools
Tong Sigong - Shaolin Youth Postures training
Iron Qigong
    log smash
Group Staff form
Traditional Shaolin forms
Children's basic movements (during set change)
Fans and Flag Kung Fu
Mountain training - teacher and two young students
Story of Three Monks wanting to leave the temple
 

There are over 20 weapons, equally divided between short and long, used by the Shaolin monks today. They include the common axe, cudgel, spear, halberd, sword and broadsword, 3-section staff, dart, dagger, black tiger hammer, plum blossom broadsword, Bodhidharma staff, tiger hooks, and many others. Among all these weapons, the cudgel, spear, sword, broadsword, are known as the four main weapons of Shaolin, although traditionally, Shaolin monks weren't just commonly armed with the major four. They had many short weapons hidden on the body such as the dart, iron fan and flute, Bodhidharma staff, and many others that re unique to Shaolin practices. The use of these hidden weapons traditionally gave the Shaolin monks additional power over their enemies. In addition to actual weapons, a Shaolin monk can utilize virtually any common, everyday object as a weapon.

Each monk is required to achieve an extraordinarily high level of proficiency in each of the temple's traditional weapons and to become a master of one. Below are some of the weapons demonstrated:
 
Broadsword
Double Broadsword
Straight Sword
Steel Whip
Double Headed Spear
Staff
Spear vs. Empty Hand
Shaolin Fork
Kwando
Spear
Double Hook
Steel Whip with Broadsword
Kwando vs. Staff

 

The Shaolin Monastery is the headquarters of a Buddhist sect that became known across Asia for it's disciplined Chan (Zen) philosophy and deadly martial arts prowess. Nearly 1,500 years after the monastery was created, the monks of Shaolin are still held in great reverence while demonstrating their remarkable skill to audiences throughout modern-day China and around the world.

With a need to protect themselves in a battle-torn, feudal China, the Shaolin monks embarked on a long process to develop a system of defense by meditating on the attack and defense movements of animals. The Shaolin monks called their system of fighting wushu, and after a few centuries, their order was famous for being a brand of Buddhists that one should not provoke.

Even with all of their remarkable fighting abilities, it is a commonly held understanding that Buddhist monks espouse a philosophy of non-violence. It would be incorrect to associate demonstrations of Shaolin fighting techniques as acts of aggression. They fight mostly in silence, exhibiting what can be described as "stillness in movement" - a direct result of a serene mind cultivated through the practice of meditation. The only exception being a group of wayward monks who formed a secret organization known as the White Lotus in 1620.

The Shaolin monks train in martial arts for several hours every day - perfecting the art of hand-to-hand and weapons combat. It is the daily practice of seated meditation that enables the individual monk to sustain a demanding physical regimen. Through the practice known as Chan (Zen), the monks calm the body and focus the mind to a single collected point in order to attain the mental state known as Samadhi (complete mental absorption). It is in this quiet yet highly focused state of mind that the monk is able to endure extreme physical discomfort and pain, as well as being able to undergo the intense daily training required to achieve and maintain the level of adeptness for which they are so highly praised.

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