Shaolin Kung Fu

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Shaolin Kung Fu refers to a collection of Chinese martial arts that claim affiliation with the Shaolin Temple. Of the ten of thousands of kung fu wu su styles, several hundred do, in fact, have some relationship to Shaolin, however, aside from a few very well known systems, such as Shaolin Five Animal, the 108 Movements of the Wooden Man Hall, Enchanted Staff, White Eyebrow, etc., it would be almost impossible to establish a verifiable connection to the Temple for any one particular art.

The Myth of Internal versus External Arts

Huang Zongxi described Chinese martial arts in terms of Shaolin or external arts versus Wudang or internal arts in 1669. [1] Although in error, it has been since then that Shaolin has been synonymous for what are considered the external Chinese martial arts, regardless of whether or not the particular style in question has any connection to the Shaolin Monastery. In point of fact, there is no differentiation between the so-called internal and external systems of the Chinese martial arts.[2][3]

In 1784 the Boxing Classic: Essential Boxing Methods made the earliest extant reference to the Shaolin Monastery as Chinese boxing's place of origin.[4][5] Again, this is a misconception, as Chinese martial arts pre-date the construction of the Shaolin Temple by several hundred years. [3][6] One glaring example of this is Tán Tuǐ, commonly referred to as Springing Leg or Guardsmans Kung Fu. This art has been the standard of weaponless practice by the Imperial Guard of the Forbidden City for several thousand years.


  1. Henning, Stanley (Autumn/Winter 1994). "Ignorance, Legend and Taijiquan". Journal of the Chenstyle Taijiquan Research Association of Hawaii 2 (3): 1–7.
  2. Francis, B.K. (1998). Power of Internal Martial Arts: Combat Secrets of Ba Gua, Tai Chi, and Hsing-I. North Atlantic Books.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kit, W.K. (2002). Art of Shaolin Kung Fu: The Secrets of Kung Fu for Self-Defense Health and Enlightenment. Tuttle.
  4. Zhāng Kǒngzhāo 張孔昭 [c. 1784]. Boxing Classic: Essential Boxing Methods 拳經拳法備要 Quánjīng Quánfǎ Bèiyào (in Chinese). 
  5. Henning, Stanley E. (Fall 1999). "Academia Encounters the Chinese Martial arts". China Review International 6 (2): 319–332. ISSN 1069-5834.
  6. Order of the Shaolin Ch'an (2004, 2006). The Shaolin Grandmaster's Text: History, Philosophy, and Gung Fu of Shaolin Ch'an. Oregon.