...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 15, 2003
Shaolin Temple and the Martial Arts
2. Martial Arts ...JapanZone
What does practicing religiously mean? ...by Sifu Robert
4. The Zen Way to the Martial Arts. ...By George Leonard
5. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
A Shaolin Monastery ...Photo Album
Book/Movie Review: The Shaolin Temple ...Movie- in
DVD & VHS
1. Shaolin Temple and the Martial Arts
Shaolin Temple is probably the most famous temple in China,
not only because of its long history and its role in Chinese
Buddhism, but also because of its martial arts or Wushu Chan.
Shaolin Temple is situated in the beautiful Songshan Mountains,
which is only eight miles of Dengfeng and about 50 miles southwest
of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province.
Temple was established in 495 during the Northern Wei Dynasty
(386-534). Batuo, an Indian monk, came to Luoyang, the ancient
capital, for spreading Buddhism at that period. Emperor Xiaowen
was a believer of Buddhism so he decided to build the temple
in the Songshan Mountains to house Batuo, who translated many
Buddhist works and had a few hundred followers there.
(Bodhidharma), the legendary Indian monk, came to Shaolin in
517, who was the creator of Chinese Zen. There are many legendary
stories about him. One of the well-known stories says he was
meditating in a cave for nine years. The cave is now called
Damo Cave. Many people believe he wrote the famous 'Yijinjing,'
the base of Shaolin martial arts or Gongfu. But there is no
record about the book before and during the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
so experts think Damo has little to do with Shaolin Gongfu.
Zongheng, a Taoist priest of Tiantai Mountain, wrote 'Yijinjing'
in 1624, but to add mystery to it, he made up a story saying
'Yijinjing' was originally written by Damo.
does have a long tradition of Chinese martial arts, as the saying
goes 'All martial arts (gongfu) are from Shaolin.' This is partly
because Shaolin was located in a strategic area so they had
to protect the temple themselves from wars or any invading,
and partly because of the support of most emperors from different
dynasties, which came after the 13 Shaolin monks once saved
Li Shimin, the emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Since
then Shaolin was allowed to have solider-monks. During the Ming
Dynasty (1368-1644), Shaolin housed over 1,000 solder-monks
at its peak and they were often used by the government to combat
rebellions and Japanese bandits. But martial arts were forbidden
during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Even with the protection
of solder-monks, Shaolin was severely damaged by fire a few
times. The largest fire set by the army of Shi Yousan in 1928
destroyed most of the buildings of Shaolin Temple.
are many noted relics at Shaolin. There are over 300 ancient
stone inscriptions, some of them by famous calligraphers. The
large mural of 500 arhats in the Qianfo Hall was from the Ming
Dynasty. There are 232 pagodas from different dynasties, known
as the forest of pagodas. The oldest one was from the Tang Dynasty.
The pagodas are the tombs of the celebrated Shaolin monks. The
Shaolin martial arts are an important part of the relics.
2. Martial Arts ...JapanZone
traditional sports generally grew out of the various fighting
techniques used by the samurai warrior class in feudal
Japan. While the samurai were highly important in feudal society,
after peace was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early
1600's, their fighting skills were diverted into more spiritual
activities. The fighting arts were combined with Confucianism,
Shinto and Zen Buddhism as a means of spiritual
as well as physical training. Over the years, the names changed
also: kenjutsu, for example, meaning Sword Technique
changed to kendo or the Way of the Sword to imply the
spiritual discipline inherent in these arts. After the Meiji
Restoration in 1868 and the subsequent collapse of the samurai
class, the martial arts went into a short period of decline
until they began to be introduced at schools across the country.
But prior to World War II, they were once again encouraged as
part of Japan's militarisation. And as a result, during the
Occupation, they were banned. But soon after, martial arts federations
were set up and once again they found their way back into the
literal meaning of Judo is the Way of Softness. The kanji character
for 'ju' is taken from a Chinese military saying that 'softness
defeats hardness'. The emphasis in this sport is not on physical
size or strength but on agility, balance and practise of waza,
or techniques. The never-ending, repetitive practise of these
waza or kata (forms) until they become as natural as
breathing is central to all martial arts and takes up most of
the time spent in the dojo.
the origin of judo, began in the Nara Period (710~794)
as a kind of entertainment for the Imperial court. As with other
martial arts, it underwent a transformation during the Tokugawa
Shogunate and went into decline after the Meiji Restoration.
The first judo school was established at the Eishoji temple
in Tokyo by Kano Jigoro in 1882. Kano also introduced the system
of dan (ranks) and kyu (classes) used today. Shortly
after, judo was introduced in schools. Following the Occupation,
the All-Japan Judo Federation was set up in 1949, and judo was
re-introduced in schools. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, judo
made its first appearance as an Olympic sport. Japanese judoka
or judoists dominated the sport for many years at World and
Olympic levels. Yamashita Yasuhiro (1957~ ) won the All-Japan
Judo Championship nine times in a row and the Olympic gold medal
(open category) in 1984. The most famous Japanese judoka today
is Tamura Ryoko (1975~ ) who for more than 10 years has
dominated her under-48kg weight class at the national and World
Championship level but only managed to win an Olympic silver
medal until finally getting the gold at Sydney in 2000.
two types of waza used in competitive judo are nagewaza
(throwing techniques) and katamewaza (grappling techniques).
Following recent changes to competition rules, contest duration
is 5 minutes (senior men/women), 4 minutes (young men/women,
U20 years) and or 3 minutes (juniors, U16 years). Some national
bodies have even shorter contest durations for younger children.
A match can be won by ippon using either type of waza:
using nagewaza so that the opponent lands on their back or using
katamewaza to hold them for 25 seconds. If a match is tied after
the normal duration, a recent innovation is to have an additional
period of time where the first to score wins - referred to as
the 'golden score'.
fencing was probably introduced to Japan from 6th or 7th century
China. Kenjutsu grew out of the two-handed sword techniques
used by the samurai. In the late 1700's shinai or bamboo
swords and protective clothing were introduced to ensure safety.
After the collapse of the samurai class, kenjutsu went into
a decade of decline until the police started a course for their
trainees. Even today, kendo is an important part of police training
and police officers dominate the top levels of the sport. In
1952, the All Japan Kendo Federation was established and since
then kendo has been part of the middle school curriculum, particularly
shinai is made of four bamboo shafts, bound with a silk or nylon
cord and a leather thong. The length of the shinai depends on
the age group of the fencer. The protective clothing has many
parts, including a men or face mask, a do (chest)
protector, quilted tare or flaps to protect the thighs
and kote or fencing gloves.
strike zones are the head, throat, chest and forearms. The key
elements are stance, footwork, cuts, thrusts, parries and feints.
When training, fencers practise a series of offensive and defensive
waza. Competition consists of a match of up to 5 minutes with
the winner being the first to score 2 points. A clear hit to
the opponent's head, torso or forearm or a thrust to their throat
scores a point.
aikido is purely defensive, it is not really a sport but is
one of the martial arts. It was developed from jujutsu by Ueshiba
Morihei (1883~1969) who, mainly for religious reasons, wanted
to move the art away from its competitive elements. By 1922,
he had developed his own techniques which he called aiki
bujutsu, aiki meaning meeting of energies. He later renamed
it aikido. It consists essentially of using an attackers strength
and energy to defeat him. Twists and holds on the arm and leg
joints are used to throw or immobilize the attacker. The popularity
of aikido has grown in Japan and internationally since the 1960's.
many people from around the world, as well as Japan's own riot
police, train at the Yoshinkan Dojo in Tokyo.
(the Way of the Bow) is Japanese archery, which has been practised
since ancient times. There are several schools of kyudo, the
most prominent being the Ogasawara, Heki and Honda
schools. The Amateur Archery Federation of Japan was established
in 1949 and membership runs to about 300,000. Archery from horseback
is still part of several festivals held each year.
wear a traditional costume which includes a yugake (deerskin
glove) on the drawing hand and tabi (Japanese-style socks).
They stand with a stance equal to half their height. The 2.21
meter bow is held with two thirds of the bow above the grip.
As a martial art influenced by Zen Buddhism, the emphasis is
on form rather than accuracy. In competition, there are long-range
and short-range matches. In the former, the target is 100cm
in diameter and 60m from the archer while in the latter, there
is a 36cm target at a distance of 28m.
karatedo (Way of the Empty Hand), or simply karate, is usually
thought of as a native Japanese martial art in the West, in
Japan it is not. It started in the Ryukyu kingdom (modern-day
Okinawa) as a hybrid of indigenous fighting techniques
and the Chinese form of boxing known in the west as kung-fu.
After the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, Okinawa became a prefecture
of Japan and karate began to spread to the mainland. The sport
developed in Tokyo's universities after the Okinawan master
Funakoshi Gichin was invited by the Education Ministry
to give a demonstration at Keio University in the early 1920's.
Two main schools and many different styles have evolved over
the years. Following a postwar decline, the sport became increasingly
popular around the world.
uses three main techniques: uchi (arm strikes), tsuki
(thrusts) and keri (kicks). For each attacking technique,
there is a corresponding uke or defensive technique.
There are two types of karate competition: in a kata competition,
the participants demonstrate a choreographed series of kata,
both offensive and defensive; in a kumite (sparring)
match, the aim is to be the first to score 3 points within 3
minutes, with a point for each punch, thrust or kick executed
3. What does practicing religiously mean?
...by Sifu Robert Brown
to the editor of Martial Arts Professional Magazine
enjoyed the column and offer my perspective on it.
can teach martial sport or martial science, but to teach martial
arts, we must first acknowledge the origin of martial arts.
Most practitioners agree that China, more specifically the Shaolin
Temple in the Hunan Province, is the birthplace of martial arts.
Bodidharma, the founder of martial arts, incorporated a physical
discipline into a spiritual path. martial techniques and meditation
as a path to higher states of awareness and understanding is
the deepest purpose of martial arts. Like it or not, our practice
has spiritual roots. Spiritual development is as much a part
of martial arts as holding your breath is to going under water.
the question is, why would we decide not to teach the real goal
of martial arts? The answer is that teaching punches and kicks
is less offensive. Customers come to us for self-defense and
to get into shape. They workout and get in shape, as well as
learn how to fight. When we play it safe, no one is offended,
and we make money. The problem is that our customers never become
students of the martial arts. A real student of the martial
arts must see their practice as more than simply punches and
found it interesting that in the same issue of Martial Arts
Professional Billy Blanks was quoted as saying, "Jesus
Christ was a perfect person and they crucified him. I'm a man
born into sin. What do you think they're going to do to me?"
It seems that a "Christian" religious overtone is
acceptable, but an eastern overtone is immediately questioned.
The martial arts do not have "Christian" roots, but
they do have spiritual roots.
feel that it may be necessary to make a distinction between
spiritual development and religion. My students work on spiritual
development but they practice many different religions. They
are encouraged to study what they believe, and then to follow
that faith to the best of their ability. With over 400 students,
the largest percentage of our students are Christian, but many
are Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, and a handful
of agnostics and atheists. Historically, we have seen great
martial artists from many disciplines that all followed different
religious beliefs. Bodidharma, Chang San- Feng, Ueshiba, Funakoshi,
Kano-Judo. All of these great masters were believed to be in
their prime in their later years of life. Usually, no athlete
is in his or her physical prime after the age of sixty or more.
However, each of these great masters clearly understood that
the practice of martial arts is a mental and spiritual discipline
as well as a physical discipline. Each master achieved greatness
within their art, because they mastered their minds and their
bodies. All of these great masters viewed the art as sacred,
although they had different religious convictions.
we teach the truth, there will be certain individuals that will
be offended. People have quit our programs because we bow, meditate,
and the most ridiculous, because we count in a foreign language.
On the other hand, so many others have had their lives influenced
and improved because I teach the deepest philosophical and spiritual
aspects of the practice. Society is starving for a deeper reason
to practice, and I believe that they want and deserve the truth.
4. From the Book: The Zen Way to the Martial Arts. ...By
must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each
day, as though a fire were raging in your hair."
words of instruction to a medieval samurai might be said to
contain the essence of what Zen master Taisen Deshimaru would
tell his Western reader. To practice Zen or the martial arts,
you must live intensely, wholeheartedly, without reserves, as
if you might die in the next instant. Lacking this sort of commitment,
Zen becomes mere ritual and the martial arts devolve into mere
show the unbreakable connection between Zen and the martial
arts, Deshimaru goes back to samurai times. Most samurai followed
Japan's national religion of Shinto, an extremely sophisticated
form of animism, in which all of nature is imbued with spirit
(shin). But they were also deeply attracted to Buddhism as expressed
in Zen practice. The Zen emphasis on simplicity and selfcontrol,
full awareness at every moment, and tranquility in the face
of death set well with the samurai way of life, in which a duel
was always possible and the difference between life and death
lay in one swift stroke of the sword. Better yet for the samurai
was the fact that Zen offered a specific daily practice: through
zazen, an unadorned form of sitting meditation, the samurai
could effectively still the restless mind, perceive the ultimate
harmony beneath seeming discord, and achieve the oneness of
intuition and action so necessary for kenjutsu (swordfighting).
Indeed, as Deshimaru points out, Zen became known as "the
religion of the samurai."
martial arts such as kendo, karate, judo, and aikido go back
directly to the marriage of Zen and Bushido, the medieval chivalry
code of the samurai. At best, they are Budo. To translate these
two Japanese words is difficult. Literally, Bushido means "the
way of the warrior" (bushi, "warrior"; do, "path"
or "way"). Budo means "the way of war" (bu,
"war"). But the Japanese character bu, as Deshimaru
points out, also means to cease the struggle, to sheathe the
sword. So the emphasis in Budo is not on bu but on do.
Even do has a flavor, a deeper meaning, that is hard
for the Westerner to grasp; for do, the way, is essentially
goalless, and we of the West have long been seduced by goals,
by getting ahead, by winning.
difficulty in translating do is reflected in a question
that sometimes comes up during my own workshop sessions with
non-martial artists. When I speak of my practice of aikido,
I am asked, "What are you practicing for?" I answer
that, at the heart of it, I'm practicing because I'm practicing.
Yes, I gain certain things: physical conditioning and grace,
confidence, comradeship, a sense of harmony. But even these
fade beside the simple and compelling power of do, the
way. Aikido is my path, my way.
Deshimaru emphasizes that the true martial arts take their spirit
from Budo rather than from sports:
have nothing against sports, they train the body and develop
and endurance. But the spirit of competition and power
presides over them is not good, it reflects a distorted vision
life. The root of the martial arts is not there....
the spirit of Zen and Budo everyday life becomes the contest.
must be awareness at every moment: getting up in the morning,
working, eating, going to bed.
is the place for the mastery of self.
people these days come to the martial arts as if to a sport
or, worse, as if seeking an effective instrument of aggression
and domination. And, unhappily, there are studios that cater
to this clientele. Violent and exploitative martial arts movies
contribute to the corruption of Budo, and we are offered, as
well, the fiction of some cinematic James Bond going offwith
a "master" for two weeks during which time he will
become totally proficient in some particularly lethal form of
the martial arts.
all this, I shouldn't be surprised when a newcomer to our school
asks, "How long will it take me to master aikido?"
Still, the question leaves me speechless. I have practiced aikido
for more than twelve years, during six of which I have also
taught, and I feel considerably further from "mastering"
the art than I did after my first six months. Perhaps I should
simply respond as Master Deshimaru did when he was asked a similar
many years do I have to practice zazen?"
I have discovered from my own practice is that Zen and the martial
arts are not things that you learn or do. They are what you
our Western impatience rises again and again. We pursue instant
accomplishment, automatic reward. The commercials on television
promise us Captain Cook's travels at the drop of a credit card.
During a recent evening class, I noticed a new student who was
red of face and furious of countenance.
going to get this technique right," this muscular young
man told me, "if I have to stay here all night."
told him, as gently as I could, that he would be better off
giving up all such ideas of quick perfection. I tried to think
of a single technique that I'd ever done absolutely "right."
I recalled moments of grace, certain throws that seemed to build
and break as if in rhythm with an ocean wave, revealing the
inner perfection of all movement, all existence. But I could
bring to mind no forced, external "perfection" based
entirely on technique.
is a blessing of the martial arts and of Zen that they permit
us a mitigation if not a transformation of time. "Yesterday"
and "tomorrow" become less important. We turn more
of our attention to "the present moment" and "a
lifetime." Thus we are relieved of undue concern with certain
urgencies of this culture: fast food, quick results, fast temporary
relief, ten easy lessons .
Deshimaru tells us of three stages that are common to Zen and
the martial arts. The first, shojin, is the period of
training in which the will and conscious effort are involved,
and which generally takes some three to five years of diligent
practice. In Zen, this first period culminates with the shiho
second stage is the period of concentration without consciousness,
after the shiho. The disciple is at peace. He can truly
become an assistant to the master, and later he can become a
master himself and teach others in his turn.
the third stage, the spirit achieves true freedom.
a free spirit, a free world. "...
three stages are identical in Zen and in Budo.
this lifelong process, there is an inexorable shift in emphasis
in the martial arts: from technique and strength of body in
the beginning to exquisite intuition and a realization of spirit
in the end. Master Morihei Uyeshiba, the founder of modern aikido,
realized the true potential of his art only after he turned
seventy, when he could no longer count on the power of his body.
Most of the films which show his seemingly miraculous feats
were made in the 1960s, when he was between eighty and eighty-four-years-old.
miraculous feats are only side effects, and "the mysteries
of the East" are chimeras unworthy of the attention of
dedicated students of Zen or the martial arts. What Master Deshimaru
says about zazen is also true for Budo at its best:
does not mean ecstasy or the arousal of emotion or any particular
condition of body and mind. It means returning, completely,
to the pure, normal human condition. That condition is not something
reserved for great masters and saints, there is nothing mysterious
about it, it is within everyone's reach.
means becoming intimate with oneself, finding the exact taste
of inner unity, and harmonizing with universal life.
be fully awake and alive, to return completely to the pure,
normal human condition, might be easy, but, in this culture,
it is also quite difficult. Perhaps only a few of us can attain
such a condition all the time or most of the time. But Taisen
Deshimaru, using simple language and a richness of story and
lore, has raised a glowing picture before our eyes, an ideal
that can illuminate every life.
Leonard ...holds a nidan (second-degree black belt)
in aikido, and teaches at Aikido of Tamalpais in Mill Valley,
California. He is the author of Education and Ecstasy, The Transformation,
The UltimateAthlete, and The Silent Pulse. He has served as
president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology.
5. A Shaolin Monastery ...Photo
of Luoyang and Zhengzhou, nestled in the foothills of Song Shan,
lies the Shaolin Monastery. According to a 1,000-year-old tradition,
it was at Shaolin that the founder of Zen Buddhism, the 6th-century
monk Boddhidharma, preached and meditated until his death. The
monastery grew larger and richer during the Sui, Tang and later
dynasties. Its monks, threatened by bandits and other enemies,
developed a system of self-defense that became known throughout
the world as kung fu. The tradition of meditation and martial
arts has continued; at this writing, it is being forwarded by
nine aged monks and three young novices. A recent film based
on the monastery inspired hundreds of young Chinese to apply
there for kung fu training, but all were predictably turned
buying a ticket you can enter many of the exhibits at the Shaolin
Temple. One of which is the Monastery. At the Monastery the
first main Hall is a library containing Zen texts. After the
main hall is a Forest of Steles. Beyond this at the back is
the small chapel dedicated to Boddhidharma the founder of the
Monastery. At the back is the main Hall of a 1,000 Buddha Temple,
used as a martial arts practice hall. Inside are ancient but
lively frescos of Buddha's disciples and the stone lingam in
front of which Boddhidharma is said to have sat motionless for
nine years. Kung fu blows allegedly made the depressions in
the stone floor. On the right of the gymnasium is a smaller
temple whose wall paintings depict incidents from the history
of the monastery. Kung fu battles are so realistically portrayed
that experts can recognize the different holds. In the small
hall opposite, a monk will bless a souvenir for 50 fen. Outside
the monastery (turn right when leaving) is a forest of 200 stone
cenotaphs to early abbots. Out in back is the Da Mo Cave.
6. The Shaolin Temple ...Movie-
in DVD & VHS
Reviewer: from Newington, Connecticut USA ...The Shaolin Temple
was the first Chinese martial arts film to use real gongfu practitioners
as actors (Bruce Lee's films are exempt because he did not use
Chinese gongfu in his films; his style, which died with him,
was primarily western martial arts with Asian kicking). These
actors were the best martial artists in China. The film was
funded by Japanese investors and took about two years to film
due to the injuries the cast received doing their own stunts
(the contact was real). According to the credits, Pan Qingfu
choreographed the film. This is not so. All the actors choreographed
their own parts. It is also not true that Jet Li was the reigning
Chinese National Versatile Champion at the time this film was
made (although he did hold the title for five years). That honor
goes to Hu Jianqiang, who played the leader of the young monks.
He is one of the few masters of both Northern and Southern styles,
and Jet Li's friend and senior. This film is leaps and bounds
above the earlier Hong Kong films.
Reviewer: from Bakersfield, California ...This is a Jet
Li classic. If you enjoy watching martial arts this is the movie
for you. There is great kung-fu action. Better that Lethal Weapons!
Jet Li launched his career with this movie. Yea it's plot is
kinda old but it goes past the plot. You watch how traditional
kung-fu is done in the Shoalin Temples. Not many movie contain
Reviewer: from Houston, Texas United States... World Video
has released this on dvd AND vhs, and- for no apparent reason-
put the widescreen print on the VHS edition and the fullscreen
edition on DVD. Same holds true for "Kids from Shaolin",
which is part two in the trilogy completed by "Martial
Arts of Shaolin". These were Jet Li's first films and are
stellar in their representation of the arts and the actors'
talents, but the fullscreen format- in my humble opinion- compresses
the picture and you don't get to see the range of action afforded
in the widescreen format. The quality of the film transfer between
the DVD and VHS editions is comparable, same for sound, so if
you're a widescreen [fan] you might go ahead and hunt down a
copy on tape AND dvd. If you can ascertain that the edition
you are buying IS in fact manufactured by World Vision, then
the tape should be widescreen, per any copies I've seen for
sale and rent on a store shelf.
don't work for World Vision, but I own the two formats and was
miffed to find the dvd in FULLSCREEN- alone and as part of the
"Jet Li Action 3-pak". Picky viewers be warned!!!
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