Brief History, The Birth of Chan Buddhism and Kung Fu


Asian martial artists trace their roots back 5,000 years to India and the Greek martial arts of Pankration. The armies of Alexander the Great brought this brutal art of boxing and wrestling to India in 4 BC.

Dr. Hua T’o, the first doctor to use anesthesia during surgery, is credited by the Chinese as the founder of the first martial art. Around 220 AD, T’o devised a series of exercises modeled on the deer, bear, bird, tiger and monkey. T’o designed these exercises to relieve stress, tone the body and provide a means of self-defense.


The Zen Buddhist patriarch Ta Mo, or Da Mo, was a prince of a small tribe in Southern India and arrived in China after a harrowing trek over Tibet’s Himalaya Mountains.

The Shaolin Temple of Songshan, in the Hunan province, was a sacred place used only for fervent religious study and deep meditation. Ta Mo arrived in 526 AD. and implimented the first system of martial arts study in the temple.

Ta Mo, was a member of the Indian Kshatriya warrior class and a master of staff fighting. He created a system of 18 dynamic tension exercises which found their way into print in 550 AD as the Yi Gin Ching, or Changing Muscle/Tendon Classic. We know this today as the Lohan (Priest-Scholar) 18 Hand Movements, the starting point for Shaolin Gongfu (Kung Fu).

Ta Mo’s introduction of the martial arts to the Shaolin Temple was purely self-interest. He saw the monks as solitary types content to live their lives within temple walls. He dreamed of developing mobile, fearless warrior missionaries able to spread Chan Buddhism throughout the world.

Shaolin Mural

Ta Mo died in 539 AD at the Shaolin Temple at age 57. However, he helped to establish the the basis of Chinese Gong Fu.  Which evolved over the years to be a complete martial art system and approach from which which countless other styles emerged.  Even influencing and providing the framework for the martial arts of others cultures, such as Karate, Kenpo, Akido, Judo, Shorinji Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Hapkido, Tang Soo Do, and Krav Maga to name a few.



This is a very brief overview and not a complete history by any means of all Chinese Martial Arts styles taught at Monk Wise Academy. At Monk Wise Academy we teach many different styles of Gong Fu (Kung Fu) or external styles of martial arts as well as many different styles of Internal Martial Arts.  Taijiquan (Tai Chi) just being one of them.

Living The Martial Way

Monk Wise Grand Master, Huang Lien-Shun

Monk Wise Grand Master, Huang Lien-Shun

What is living the martial way.  Well that is truly a tough question.  We would bet that if you asked the worlds martial arts population what living the martial way meant that each one of them would give you a different answer.  Hopefully, though, the answers would not be too different.  

Here are just a few thoughts to consider while you formulate your own answer to the question:  "What is living the martial way".

Let's consider your overall health as a starting point to living the martial way.  We must start here for our health is vital in so many ways.  Yet how do we define health.  Is one healthy if they are merely “in shape”, and what does being in shape mean.  There have been numerous studies done on this topic alone.  For example, in one study Sumo Wrestlers were found to be in greater health than individuals who were considered to be at their target weight.  Not many would agree that a Sumo Wrestler is at his target weight.  The study found that the Sumo wrestlers were in greater internal health due to their rigid lifestyle.  They were heavy yes, but they still trained as athletes.  They ate healthy foods and exercised consistently.  Their diet was merely adjusted to keep and gain weight.  However that didn't mean they weren't getting enough nutrients.  We bring this up only to open you to the idea of honest health and not a photo in an ad or a false belief system.  Believe it or not there are attractive, muscular, skinny people out there who have high cholesterol.

Monk Wise Summer Retreat 2010

Monk Wise Summer Retreat 2010

Correct martial training should do one thing and one thing only -It should improve your quality of life.  If that means losing or gaining weight then so be it.  Monk Wise Martial Arts Academy has worked with many individuals who have had various eating disorders for example.  Some view an improved quality of life as having more energy, vitality, sharpness, and strength.  In just one month of attending regular classes at Monk Wise Academy we guarantee that you will improve in each of those areas.  Others just don’t think they can or they don’t believe they deserve happiness, health, or even to be content with themselves.  All we can say to this type of attitude is that once you enroll in our programs and start down the path it will be a full time job trying to hold onto those beliefs.  You will be challenged in every class.  In every class, as much as some try to deny it to themselves, you will have success that is measurable.  Old attitudes and insecurities will begin to erode.

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere 

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere 

Living the martial way is about acknowledging what and who you are in the present moment and then having the courage to improve that single truth over time using discipline and perseverance.  No one ever achieved anything great without great effort.  How can we view our honest health any differently.  Living the martial way provides a vehicle which one can use to achieve an improved quality of life.  Amituofo