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SHAOLIN QIAN

 

 

Shaolin Wushu is the traditional name for the art of hand-to-hand combat and weapons techniques that originated or developed in the Sunshan Shaolin Monastery located in Henan Province of China (administrative center - Zhengzhou) in Dengfeng County. Shaolin wushu is widespread in China and beyond, it is one of the oldest branches of wushu. According to legends, it dates back to the Indian Buddhist preacher Bodhidharma (in Chinese this name was transcribed as Putidamo, later he was simply called Damo). He arrived in the Northern Wei Kingdom around the sixth century and, not being understood by the authorities, he withdrew to this monastery, where he sat for nine years in a cave facing the wall (the cave still exists and is one of the tourist attractions). When he finally decided to ascend, it turned out that his legs had lost the ability to move. However, using a special set of exercises, Damo restored their activity, and instructed the monks to combine the practice of silent contemplation with physical exercise in the future. From him the monks allegedly learned the first set of Shaolin Wushu - the "18 Arhat Hands" (an arhat is a follower of Buddha who has reached the last, fourth stage of holiness on the path to nirvana - completely freed from earthly desires). There is no real evidence that Damo taught wushu, but it is a historical fact that the monks' prescribed "four acts" included "retribution for evil.

 

Another popular legend of the Shaolin Monastery is the story of how 13 monks saved the emperor. It was in the VII century, when Li Shimin - the second emperor of the Tang dynasty - escaping from the rebel Wang Shichun fell into the river flowing near the monastery and was saved by the monks. Thirteen monks decided to protect the emperor, and the monastic detachment defeated the rebels and took Wang Shichun prisoner. Upon returning to the throne, Li Shimin did not forget the services and granted the monastery land (about 250 hectares), he allowed the monks to drink wine and eat meat, and the monastery itself was allowed to maintain special monk troops.

 

This story served as the basis for the famous 1980 PRC film Shaolin Monastery, in which the monks and Shaolin mentors were played by Li Liang-ze, Qiu Jianguo, Yu Hai and other members of the PRC wushu team and Chinese champions (as they later said, "Bruce Lee showed the world that the Chinese can fight too, and Li Liang-ze showed how they really do it"). Li Lianjie became world famous after this movie, starred in a large number of kungfu fighters, and subsequently received an invitation to coach the US national wushu team, where he works at the present time. By the way, one of the generals Wang Shichun played in this film Pan Qingfu, head coach of the Hunan province, who later became famous among fans of oriental video clips as he played himself in the movie "Iron & Silk" ("Iron & Silk").

 

However, the first historically confirmed information that Shaolin Monastery has its own special style of wushu goes back only to the beginning of the Yuan dynasty in China. In the 13th century a monk named Jueyuan came to the monastery. He left his native land with the sole purpose of learning the secrets of the art of Shaolin fighters. However, despite studying with the best instructors, he came to the conclusion that the level of Shaolin wushu does not correspond to what the legends say. Determined to find real masters, he set out on a quest. He helped a certain Li Sou fend off bandits in Lanzhou. On learning the purpose of Jueyuan's wanderings, Li Sow said that in Luoyang (then the capital of China), there is a man named Bai Yunfeng, who knows the secret Shaolin traditions. Together with Li Sow's son (who later took the monastic name of Denghui) and Bai Yunfeng, all four returned to the monastery. There they spent many years revising the techniques available, adding to them everything that seemed rational and reasonable to them. So, on the basis of "18 Arhat Hands" Jiueyuan created the "72 Hands" complex (nowadays in Shaolin there is a "72 Jiueyuan techniques" paired complex), which was later expanded to 170 techniques. Bai Yongfeng developed a system of "five animal fighting" - tiger, leopard, dragon, snake and crane. The Shaolin monastery stood until 1928. The 1920s entered the history of China as the "reign of the militarists," when anyone with any military power (from a group of armies to a battalion) declared himself the absolute ruler of a territory (from several provinces to a single village). All of them fought a complex military-political struggle to increase their holdings and, in the long run, to control all of China, sometimes joining cliques, sometimes breaking treaties and alliances again. In 1928 the site of the monastery became a battlefield, and the monastery was destroyed by the worst fire in its centuries-long history. According to the chronicles, the fire raged for 40 days and burned the monastery to the ground. The monks scattered to the surrounding villages, some returned to the world. Some joined the army, where their knowledge of martial arts enabled them to quickly rise to commanding positions. During World War II, monks also had to fight in partisan units. His most dizzying career was probably that of Xu Shiyu (monk's name was Yunyang), who, having joined the Communist Party, rose to the rank of commander of the Guangzhou military district and became one of Mao Zedong's associates.

 

The monastery was in ruins until 1970, when a Japanese man, So Doshin, announced his intention to visit the famous temple. He declared himself the successor of the Shaolin tradition, which some monks had allegedly passed on to him shortly before the war in China (to be honest, the story is very, very doubtful, but for political reasons in China they usually prefer to call what the "Japanese Shorinji Kempo Union" does, the Japanese version of Shaolin wushu). The government then promptly allocated a large sum of money to rebuild the monastery and gathered the surviving monks (or rather those who wanted to return to the monastery).

 

Nowadays Sunshan Shaolin Monastery is primarily a major tourist center. A large number of wushu schools feed around it that have nothing to do with the monastery. They usually make money off gullible foreigners who are seriously willing to pay $20 a day to get a certificate that they "studied real Shaolin wushu" after two weeks of training.

 

One of the best known institutions of this kind is the International Shaolin Wushu Academy. It is headed by Wang Changqing (who usually prefers to sign his name with the monk's name Deqian), who used to study traditional medicine - ps wushu - in Shaolin for some years! He then began publishing the materials of the 11 Julyin archives on his own behalf, without even taking the slightest care to put the disparate texts into some sort of order or system (by comparison, people who really learned true Shaolin wushu in their entire lives published two or three or at most five books, while Deqian in the last 15 years has published something like 30 or 40 books). There is also a Shaolin Wushu Sports Institute near the monastery, whose graduates travel around the world in monk's robes, giving demonstrative performances. Under these conditions many true masters leave the monastery, preferring to open their own Shaolin wushu institutes in other cities and even in other provinces of China (for example, the successor of Degen, the keeper of the Shaolin lohan-quan (Shaolin fist of arhats) style, opened his institute in Kaifeng; currently no one in Shaolin knows this one of the classic monastic styles). However, this does not mean that there are no masters left in the monastery itself - there are still masters. Of the modern ones, the most famous is Deyan. Some of the old men are alive too - Dechan, for example, whose efforts led to the restoration of the monastery in the early '70s (and whom A.A.Maslov, for some reason, persistently calls "dead in 1982"). For many years there has been a problem with the abbot, who, according to tradition, should be good at Wushu and understand Buddhism. It has been a long time since such a person was found. Of course, someone runs the monastery all the time (currently Susi), but he is not called abbot, he is "acting" so to speak.

 

In Shaolin Wushu there are both styles of inner work, where the main thing is gentleness, and styles of outer work, filled with hard power. By now, styles of external work are the vast majority. Internal and external work are distinguished by the specifics of the art, regardless of the school. If one mainly trains "muscles, skin and bones," this is external work; if one trains "ching, qi and shen," this is internal work.

 

It is very difficult to decide which styles should be referred to Shaolin, because in different parts of China there are styles which practitioners are absolutely convinced that the style comes almost from Bodhidharma himself (for example, in Dengfeng (the administrative center of the same name county) you will be offered the complex Lao Hongquan (old Hongquan), which is absolutely unknown in Shaolin). Nowadays Shaolin styles usually include (1) the styles practiced and still practiced at the monastery (like huonquan, which is a common starting point of Shaolin learning) and (2) the styles whose bearers of tradition are currently living outside the monastery, But their Shaolin origin is undoubted (it is the previously mentioned lo-han-quan, or Shaolin qanjia-quan (Shaolin home style), the custodian of which was Sufa, who later passed into the world.

 

At present, the taolu of Shaolin fist art can be confidently attributed (in addition to the above-mentioned) to the following: xiao hongquan (small hongquan), da hongquan (large hongquan - 3 complexes), paoquan (cannon fist), zhaoyangquan (fist facing the sun), Meihuatquan (Meihua plum fist), Tunbiquan (piercing hand fist), Jinggangquan (diamond fist), Xinyiba (heart and thought grip) and a number of others. Paired taolu include luhequan (fist of six joints), wuhequan (fist of five joints), "72priem Jueyuan" and others. The main types of weapons are: pole, spear, broad sword-dao, straight sword-jian, firnach, tiger's head hook, grass sickle, crescent shovel, nine-link whip, three-section chain, dagger, halberd-ji, trident. Mixed taolu include "bare-handed vs. broad sword", "bare-handed vs. spear", "bare-handed vs. dagger", "halberd vs. spear", "broad sword vs. spear", "pole vs. spear", "grass sickle vs. spear", "a pair of broad swords against a spear", "an eyebrow-high pole against a spear", "a crutch against a spear", "a crutch against an eyebrow-high pole", "a nine-link whip against a pole", "a pernach with a whip against a spear", "a chain against a spear" and many others.

 

In addition to all this, Shaolin Wushu has methods of Qin (painful grasping, crushing, choking, etc.), special methods of short-distance fighting, the tractate "Yijin Ching" ("Canon of Muscle Changes") and many methods of hard and soft training.

 

The specific manner of Shaolin Wushu is that the ups and downs, advances and retreats occur in one line, the ups are transverse - the downs are longitudinal. Since Shaolin Wushu was established in combat, they believe that the attack and defense should occur from the front or from the side, there is no need to waste effort and go in circles. There is a saying: "The fist hits the space where a cow can lie down. This means that in the battle offensive and retreat are made by two or three steps, so when practicing Shaolin Wushu there are no restrictions on the area and equipment.

 

In addition, in Shaolin Wushu the arm is bent at the elbow - and at the same time is not bent, straightened - and at the same time is not straightened, this is also caused by the necessities of real combat. The arm is too straight - there is no strength left to return, and if a strong opponent grabs it, he can do harm; if the arm is too bent - it may not reach the target. Shaolin fisting requires the coordinated use of the three inner coordinations (heart and thought, thought and qi, qi and strength) and the three outer coordinations (hands and feet, elbows and knees, shoulders and hips). The manner of Sha-olin fist techniques is as follows: you move like the wind, you stand like a driven nail, you are heavy like iron, light like a leaf, you defend yourself like a virgin, you attack like a fierce tiger. There is a saying, "a fist has form, a punch has no form." Its meaning is that you can see the fist when training taolu, but in a real fight because of the lightning speed it is difficult to discern its shape. The rule of fist art is: "no holds and blocks - there will be only one punch, appeared holds and blocks - there will be several dozens of blows".

 

Applied methods also include the rules of "outwardly fierce - inside calm", "raise a fuss in the east and attack from the west", "point up and hit down", "empty and full are used in parallel", "there are methods for yin, there are methods for yang". The movements are powerful and dexterous, the meaning is profound - and expressed simply. Strength is used deftly, and contains reactivity in abundance, soft meets soft, hard meets soft, hard and soft help each other.

 

Shaolin chuan is characterized by six characters: work-in, match, bravery, quickness, ferocity, and authenticity.

 

"Working out" means that the mastery must be perfect. As the saying goes, "the fist strikes a thousand times and the body moves naturally." In the action of the fists it is necessary that penetration reaches supernaturalness, that there should be lively agility, it is necessary to demonstrate "one technique per position," in attack there is defense, in defense there is attack. "Conformity": the qi must move in accordance with what is being done, defenses must coordinate with attacks helping strength and following form, no need to enter head-on with an impending reception, four lan can extract a thousand jin. "Courage is determination. An opportunity presents itself, and you attack without hesitation. "Quickness" is speed. When you move, you are like a fleeing hare; when you look around, it's like a flying swan. "Fierceness" means that there must be strength in the movements. "Authenticity" means not to train beautiful empty movements; technique after technique, form after form. If not a punch, then a defense, but a defense has a punch, a punch has a defense.

 

At the same time in Shaolin Wushu pay great attention to the transformation of the empty and full, in the strategy they work through the principle of "meet hard with a soft transformation, meet soft with a hard offensive". In hardening, the main method is "pillar insistence," which includes pillar insistence in the matsu position, on the pillars of the signs "chi" and "wu," and on the pillars of the meihua plum. "Pillar insistence" is the base of Shaolin fist art, the most important way to train leg strength and regulate breathing. Once you practice "Pillar Insistence" you will be as steady in your movements as Tai Shan Mountain.

 

The features of the Shaolin Quan style are summarized in the following lines: "move like a shaft of water; be as calm as a mountaintop; jump up like a monkey; fall like a magpie; stand like a rooster; be as slender as a pine tree; spin like a wheel; bend like a bow; be swift like the wind; steadfast like a falcon; light like a leaf; heavy like iron; beware like a virgin; attack like a fierce tiger."