Natural Traditional Chinese Martial Arts articles by Sal Canzonieri
This was my twelveth column in Han Wei Wushu, it is about the Emergence of the Chinese Martial Arts - Part 3.
|Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
(June 1996 issues #25)
The Emergence of the Chinese Martial Arts - Han to Sui Dynasty eras
By Salvatore Canzonieri, New Jersey
After 520 AD, Dhayana Buddhism was introduced to Shaolin, supposedly by Damo / Buddhidharma. This Buddhism preached personal enlightenment rather than ritual was the only true means of salvation. Soon after this time period, various Buddhist Chi Gungs were introduced that allowed for not only health maintenance but spiritual cultivation. Many Taoist journeyed to Shaolin to understand what this teaching was all about and why they were gaining so many converts in the land. Within the next fifty years, Religious Taoism was developed by a Taoist scholar named Chang Tao-Ling. He combined the traditional scholarly Taoist philosophy with the Buddhist enlightenment cultivation theory to form "Tao Jiaw" - Religious Taoism.
In turn, Shaolin Buddhism was influenced soon enough by Taoism and the two fused into Ch'an Buddhism, a sect that was unique to Shaolin Temple. The main belief was of sudden enlightenment through personal insight. Toleration and the non-disturbance of the natural order of things were also preached. Ch'an Buddhists could also marry if they wished and do other things that were not part of traditional Mahayana Buddhism (such as engage in martial arts). Also, Tibetan Tantric Buddhist beliefs were incorporated into Shaolin's after contact with the Tibetan monks.
The main non-religious importance of Shaolin was the Chi Gungs and later, the martial arts they practiced there, and of which went on to later influence the whole world. By 500 BC, the monks of Shaolin were practicing a chi gung exercise called the I Jin Jing (Muscle Tendon Changing Classic) to promote their health and well being. The stretching movements allowed the body to move in two different directions, simultaneously, with the limbs moving up and down and the waist used as an axis that whirls left and right. Movements found in the I Jin Jing were already known since the Han Dynasty and were practiced by martial artists and Taoists alike. The stretching and retraction of the muscles promoted their elasticity. Once the tensed muscles are rotated to their full extent, the naturally squeeze both the acupuncture points and the lymph glands, accelerating the production of energy and lymph, and thus promoting health throughout the whole body (muscle, skeleton, circulation, nervous, immune systems, etc.) and increasing one's strength and power.
The monks also practiced a unique type of Chi Gung (perhaps coming from Dayian type Taoism), called the Shii Soei Jing (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic). This was a spiritual Chi Gung, as well as a health Chi Gung. The exercises involved moving the Chi to clean the bone marrow and strengthen the blood and immune system, as well as how to energize the brain, leading to enlightenment. The Chi Gung was taught and passed on secretly and only to the members of Shaolin. But, most documents that have been found that speak of these two Shaolin Chi Gungs come from Taoist and martial arts sources. It is thought that perhaps the founders of Religious Taoism introduced their use into Shaolin (and not Buddhidharma as is generally thought. There is speculation that Buddhidharma never existed and that the Religious Taoist made him up to hide their infiltration of Buddhism). Since the Taoist and Buddhists essentially shared the same goals and had many practices and philosophies in common, it was not unusual for the two systems to come together and develop in Ch'an Buddhism and Religious Taoism. The Taoists already know of martial art and their own Chi Gungs, besides that of the Traditional Buddhists. It was natural for them to share these and acquire more at Shaolin. Taoist' libraries contain many Buddhist training documents, and are the main way these documents have been preserved (since Shaolin was burned down many times). The Taoist organization, Harn Fen Lau (Tower of Fragrance), had documents that contained the most complete theory and training methods, including the I Jin Jing.
What the Chi Gungs promoted was a state of being (or heightened awareness) by which body movements, under the control of the will and in close coordination with breathing methods, can induce Chi, which in turn exerts force. Thus, Jing (essence of the body), Chi (vital energy), Shen (mind), and the limbs, etc., are augmented by the Yi Shi (human will) and Chi Xi (respiration). Thus, Chi Gung exercise coordinates the whole being into one integrated and focused force, which promotes automatically the internal and external; health of the body and mind. These types of Chi Gungs are considered to be "moving meditations". Another Chi Gung exercise that focused exclusively on moving energy was developed at Shaolin and was called the Shi Ba Lo Han Gung or the 18 Enlightened Ones Exercises. These exercises featured moving postures of aerobic routines.
Besides these health promoting Chi Gungs, Shaolin also practiced traditional Buddhist Chi Gungs that involved not the body but the spirit. These practices were meant to help produce enlightened states and cleanse the soul of past life karmic debris and emotional attachments. These Chi Gungs were called Nei Gung, which meant "internal works". They involved both natural and controlled breathing and standing, sitting, or lying meditation in static postures. Taoists generally practiced natural breathing, and when breathing in the diaphragm contracted and when breathing out the diaphragm expanded. Buddhists generally practiced controlled breathing, and when breathing in the diaphragm expanded and when breathing out the diaphragm contracted. Taoists were interested in the still mediation of the Buddhists, because it was found that Taoist Nei Gung was quicker for achieving health results and Buddhist Chi Gung was quicker for achieving spiritual results, once the Taoist Chi Gungs were mastered, but equally effective. They modified the Buddhist Chi Gungs to suit their own needs, and often practiced the Shii Soei Jing more widely than the Buddhists did.
Taoist Nei Gung by this time period (about 500 AD) were trained in basically three ways:
For the next 100 years, these Chi and Nei Gungs were practiced at Shaolin by both Buddhists and Taoists and visiting martial artists. During this time, the fighting techniques of martial arts such as Shou Ba and Jiao Di were combined with the Chi work in one system, the result was a group of techniques and forms that were called the Shaolin Lohan or Luohan style. This was the first Shaolin created martial art and the source and foundation for all later Shaolin derived arts now in existence. The Lohan style has its roots in the Shuai Chiao-like Xiang Pu/Jiao Di styles (which emphasized manipulating Yin/Yang forces, redirection, and balance) and the Shou Bo style (which emphasized hard striking military-like boxing), which were popular throughout the land. These were combined with Gung work to make a complete martial art system. The forms of the Lohan style can be examined and the throws of Shuai Chiao are seen to be implied as hidden applications of the Shaou Bo movements. (See Part One of this series for more information).
During the 500s AD, Taoists that returned to their own temples and areas (Wu-Tang, etc.), also built upon the internal/external movements of Jiao Di, Xiang Pu, and Shou Bo and combined these with their own Chi and Nei Gungs to begin developing their own styles of martial arts practice, rather than using that of others, as they had done in the past (See Part One of this series).
During the Tang Dynasty, a struggle erupted over the selection of the 6th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism. Sheng Hui declared himself the 6th Patriarch and emphasized orthodox Buddhism with a strong dash of Confucian orientation in Northern China. The 5th Patriarch’s choice for successor, Hui Neng, fled to the South where his more Taoist influenced form of Budhhism flourished. Ultimately, a subsequent Tang emperor declaring the Southern lineage as the rightful Patriarchy later served political purposes. With this declaration, Chan Buddhism’s roots had left Northern China. Journeys from North to South were to be expected. The nature of Chan Buddhism seen today is fundamentally a fusion of Taoist and Buddhist thought and culture.
Later Chi/Nei Gung Martial Art Development
Outside of the Temples and Monasteries, the Jiao Di, Xiang Pu, and Shou Bo arts continued
to be practiced by the people and grow in popularity. The practice of non-religious Chi
Gungs also continued during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581 to 907 AD). Many books were
written describing Chi circulation, treatment of diseases, massage, herbal therapies, and the like.
Also, during the Sung, Gin, and Yuan dynasties (960 to 1368 AD),' many more
books were written that discussed Chi Gung practices. From then until the end of
the Ching Dynasty (1911 AD), many other Chi Gung styles were developed, especially
among the Taoists.
(c) 1996 / 2007 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri