At the foot of Sung Shan (Sung Mountain), built approximately 495 AD, lies Shaolin Ssu (Young Forest Temple), the Shaolin Temple. It was once the largest Buddhist monastery in all of China. It’s red brick walls surround large pagodas and other buildings consisting of training halls, meditation halls, libraries, dormitories, kitchens, and other buildings used for everyday life. At the time, only priests or the wealthy were allowed to become educated. The monks were well trained in reading, writing, medicine, the sciences, and philosophy. Being Buddhist, and respecting all life, they also had a peculiar understanding of nature and how it survived.

The Legend Begins

It was in the sixth century (approximately 520 AD) that Ta Mo, known as Bodhidharma in India, crossed the Himalayas and made his way to the Shao-Lin Temple. He was an Indian prince that gave up all his wealth to travel, spreading the knowledge of Ch’an Buddhism. When h
e came to the Shao-Lin temple he was not well received by the head abbot and was not allowed to enter. So he took shelter in a near by cave behind the temple in Sung Mountain. There he lived for 9 years. Legend states that he meditated for those 9 years until the abbot allowed him entry to the temple.

When Bodhidharma walked through the temple he was amazed at how frail and unfit the monks were. There was no way he was going to be able to teach them the way of Ch’an meditation in the condition they were in. So he created a set of 49 exercises called the “I (ee) Chin Ching”, (Muscle Tendon Change). These exercises are very similar to yoga in which they strengthen the body and help it become more flexible by placing more emphasis on the dynamic tension and deep breathing with each movement. At first, the monks didn’t take to kindly to Bodhidharma and his exercise. But overtime they started seeing the benefits and had under gone a change, both physically and mentally. They had more energy and their bodies became stronger. Soon after, they started seeking other way to exercise. They found a great benefit in learning how to defend themselves. For many years the temple had been an easy mark for bandits and thieves. So the monks, being educated, looked to nature and how animals would survive. Legend also states that the Shaolin monks hired instructors to teach them self defense skills. Many of these were retired military that were willing to train the monks for a place to live in peace. With determination and focus the monks grew stronger. Learning, collecting and developing different forms and styles of fighting arts. Thus, the legend of the Shaolin Fighting Monks was born!

Throughout history, the Temple became more of a way of life than it was a collection of buildings. The Temple had been burned and rebuilt many times, but the idea never died. It lives on through the lives of each practitioner whom it has influenced.

It is important to understand that Shao-Lin Kung Fu is not a religious practice. It did originate in Buddhist and Taoist temples, but the religious aspects were divorced from the martial arts at the temples. The Buddhist or Taoist teachings brought together a moral code of ethics to the martial arts. The use of force should always be considered a last resort, to be used only in the defense of oneself or of another.

Shao-Lin Kung Fu still exists today, over fifteen hundred years after Ta Mo’s arrival at the Shao-Lin Ssu. His 49 postures of the I Chin Ching and much of the subsequent material has survived. The Shao-Lin Art has prevailed despite various attempts to eradicate it. The Shao-Lin Monastery is still standing and allows visitors, as does the cave where Ta Mo meditated for nine years.

Our Lineage

Grandmaster Sin Kwang The honored at the Shao-Lin Temple

Many traditional martial art schools claim to be true and authentic. Through Grandmaster The’ (pronounced “Tay”), the Shaolin Centers are able to trace the lineage of this classical Shaolin material to the Fukien Shaolin Temple in China where the last two Grandmasters (Chang Men Ren) were Su Kong Tai Jin (1849-1928) and Ie Chang Ming (1880-1976). Knowledge of the art is preserved and passed down as a sacred trust from Grandmaster to Grandmaster. In accordance with tradition, only one person can possess this title at any given time. Since the burning of the Fukien temple only three have done so. Each Chang Men Ren, in his time, has been the ultimate martial arts warrior, the supreme Wu Sen.

 

Great Great Grandmaster Su Kong Tai Jin

Su Kong Tai Jin was born in Fukien province in 1849 and abandoned as an infant because of the genetic condition called Hypertrichosis Languinosa, a rare affliction which causes the entire body to grow hair. Ostracized outside the temple walls, he rarely left the compound and devoted his life to mastering all the Shaolin Arts. Excelling in all his training he eventually became the Grandmaster of Shaolin, the Chang Men Ren.

When the Wu Sen of the Fukien temple learned that the Ch’ing Government had sent an army led by a traitorous monk to destroy their temple, Grandmaster Su and the council decided to take drastic action. They burned down the temple themselves and, taking their priceless knowledge with them, went their separate ways in hopes of one day returning to rebuild it. Grandmaster Su took refuge in the mountains of Fukien province where he became a teacher of the Shaolin Martial Arts. There he passed the knowledge, training and title of Grandmaster to Ie Chang Ming before his death in 1928.

 

Great Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming

Ie Chang Ming was born in Fukien province in 1880. Ie was so impressed with Grandmaster Su’s skill that he joined the old Master in the mountains to study. Eventually, Ie became the Grandmaster and carried on the Chang Men Ren mission of preserving and spreading the Shaolin Fighting Arts.

After the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, Chinese warlords struggled for power. One of Grandmaster Ie’s encounters with a warlord’s enforcers left a mountain of dead soldiers. With a price on his head, Grandmaster Ie fled China and settled in Bandung, Indonesia, where he eventually opened a school for Martial Arts.

Grandmaster Ie died in 1976, but not before passing all his knowledge on to the current Chang Men Ren, Grandmaster Sin Kwang The’.

 

Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé

Sin Kwang The’ was born in 1943 in Indonesia. After an exhaustive six-month selection process which tested patience, endurance, dedication, and temperament, Grandmaster Ie accepted the six year old as a student. At age twelve, after attaining the rank of black belt, Sin dedicated eight hours a day to private instruction with Grandmaster E before and after his regular school hours. Seven days a week, Sin studied many empty hand, animal, and weapon styles as well as meditation techniques. Mastering more than 900 forms from over 100 fighting systems, Grandmaster The’ became the youngest Grandmaster in 1500 years of the Shaolin history.