Kung Fu beyond combat: the series – Shaolin Chan

20 01 2011

It was cold, empty and very fogging on the road at 5:00 am. This Sunday being my only day off this week, I needed a change , a balancing, something positive, maybe even some time to kick back or sleep in. Yet I still was out there heading to Monterey, Ca. This would be positive, but did not fill the sleep in part of the need, some times it is worth it to miss a little sleep. Did I  mention it was foggy, really fogging. I have been in worse but …anyway There I was with two hours drive a head of me.

I had not really planned on doing this post, this way, but after giving it some thought and a comment from a reader. It seemed to be needed and should go here before the spiritual warriors. The Chan retreat timing offered a perfect opportunity to speak on Chan and Shaolin for this series.  Perhaps some clarification of Shaolin and it’s brand of Buddhism called Chan or Zen in Japan. Also on my family style of Shaolin Chan, perhaps even explain why I say Kyudo is Zen, same as Kung fu is Chan, not just a hand to hand combat system as one Kyudo Dan put it. This is in my mind and my clan at least.

“Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century and is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Zen (Chinese: Chán, Sanskrit: Dhyāna) to China.

Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend, but most accounts agree that he was from Tamil Nadu, the southern region of India, born as a prince in Pallava dynasty. After becoming a Buddhist monk Bodhidharma left his kingdom and traveled through Southeast Asia into Southern China, and then went north. The accounts differ on the date of his arrival, with one early account claiming that he arrived during the Liú Sòng Dynasty (420–479) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liáng Dynasty (502–557). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the lands of the Northern Wèi Dynasty (386–534). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century.”…wikipedia

Bodhidharma or Damo in Chinese, came to China to teach a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The rest of the story can be looked up in any Buddhist text, or anywhere, so no need for me to re-write. The other part of the story goes, he was so disappointed, with the physical condition of the monks that he gave them a set of exercises to do so they could handle their mediation, ( sitting – zazen). Sometimes these drills are called the Lohan exercises. These the legends says formed into at some point the 18 Lohan fighting forms, and grew from there.

The location area of the Shaolin temple was remote high in the mountains and dangerous. One could be attacked and beaten or eaten by Tigers. Self -defense was needed, to do the right thing, have the right calmness and “Mushin” to reject the violence of the  attack. Do the correct thing to save lives, the correct moves, weapon, response, state of mind. This would fall under the eightfold path, it contains eight aspects: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.

The specific martial aspects of Shaolin are subordinate to Buddhist ideals. The “art” of our martial arts and the immediacy of combat provide the medium through which we strive to exist fully in the present, live in that moment – without planning for the future or reflecting upon the past. In this way, Kung fu provides an ideal meditation and an excellent means for practicing Right Mindfulness.

The “Mushin” one needed when sitting in meditation was the same that one needed to survive the conflict. Meditation under chaos is of stronger quality than one do in the forest quiet. The same instinct to react when and how would need to be clear as the instinct to solve a Koan. The same calmness of mind and detachment as well as strength of spirit was needed to overcome the violence of the world, as to over come trails of sitting mediation. The training of one will supported the quality of the other.  It is a basic philosophy of Chan all is one, everything is connected, there is no duality.
At the retreat gathering I keep getting one main theme, all is Chan. Chan is one.

The retreat in Monterey had a fairly large turn out. The fog lifted later in the day and it was quite nice out. We had members come from the S.F. Bay Area, Monterey and LA to join together for a day of sharing, sitting and growth.

The retreat was suppose to be a silent gathering. For the most part it was, other than the introductions. However with the camaraderie present made up of several faiths, Christian, Buddhist, Morman it did not last until the end 🙂

Chan itself does not belong to any particular religion.  But the spirituality it cultivates can be applied to any religious dogma… Chan is One.

There were many people during their introduction to the retreat group, who spoke of the healing they had received from their practice of Chan. Some where large, some were small. Both large and small to the receiver where a blessing. Our Senpai introduced us to 5 new health drills, which were developed or add via the Acupuncture Doctors which are in the group. These drills are in keeping with principles written in the Yellow Emperor Medicine Book. This is very ancient Chinese book on healing and “wellness”. These were added to the several motion Chan drills already in our system. It is said these Motion Chan drills ( forms of Kung Fu /Qi Gong to my eyes and background) are what were passed down from Damo to the Monks of Shaolin. Some of these drills were ones I was already using in my Kung Fu class for many years past as part of my efforts to bring balance to the Martial training. Part of the original Shaolin Philosophy was one should be able to heal as well as hurt. One helped the person found injured or one who in order to defend one’s self had to injure another person or an injured fellow monk. Whatever the case, one needed to show compassion and do healing when needed to friend or foe.

This health and healing aspect of Chan is from the Taoist Philosophy of health and long life, via things such as movement drills and Chi Gong Drill. In the Taoist Mind, all things are connected in the Universe. All is based on the Yin, Yang principles of balances and the five elements.  This is another part that sets our Shaolin Chan apart from the other Buddhist sects. The Health, Healing, Meditation, support is part of the whole, that is the Shaolin Legacy.

My Linage of Shaolin Chan as taught by Miao Tian Shifu, current vice abbot of the Shaolin temple traces back through history via Lin Ji Buddhism, which is called Rinshi in Japan. I am more familiar with the Soto branch of Japanese Zen. However I do know a few things of  the Rinshi sect, they meditate, as does the Soto linage, yet ours is the only one to make use of the Body Chakra’s in meditation. Similar to the Indian Chakra used in Yoga to help gain a spiritual connection, awakening to the oneness of the Universe. Our Shaolin Chan does this as well, using the Taoist influence.

This activation of the Chakra’s is used to Heal, connect to the Universal via Chi/Ki, Calm our mind, raise our Spirit, Power our movements, Raise our consciousnesses. This use of Chi/Ki is another difference of the “Zen” of Shaolin from that of Japan, India, and Tibet. Shaolin’s Ch’an Buddhism is unlike any other Buddhist sect.  There are striking similarities between Shaolin and various Tibetan, Korean, and Japanese sects; and tremendous dissimilarities between Shaolin and most Chinese schools.

As we know, this Chi is highly pursued in the arts of Shaolin and WuDang Martial Studies. Yet, in the study of Chan this Chi/Ki is considered of more importance in the pursuit of connection to the “Tao”, the Universal Life force, the Oneness of Chan. The pursuit of good “Kung Fu” in Shaolin is not just Fighting, Kicking, Punching. Even there in Kung fu the compassionate principles of Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill reside. Because all life is precious nor can any be replaced, this comes into Shaolin’s use of martial Kung Fu. Shaolin is about balance and compassion, of oneness of Mind, Body and Spirit. The oneness of everything…Chan is one

Kung Fu is not just about fighting, and Chan is not just about sitting. The term Kung Fu in Chinese means, skill obtained via training. Anything done well is Kung Fu, A master Carpenter has good Kung Fu, A skilled musician has good Kung Fu, a healer, a Bodhisattva ( may need to protect their temple, family, friends from the violence of others), Skilled IT person, Artist, Kyudoka, and Meditator, all can have good and do Kung Fu. All training is Kung Fu training, All things are connected, Chan is one. Chan is Kung Fu, Chan is Life, Chan is Swimming, Chan is Kyudo, Chan is Meditation, Chan is healing, Chan is the Universe. This is Kung Fu beyond combat.

coming in Feb, the spiritual warriors, part I

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