When I first started practicing Chinese martial arts, I practiced Shaolin quan or Shaolin boxing. I began to learn from master Walter Toch in ’97. I got the most wonderful base of traditional Shaolin, next to the chance to learn from Chinese coaches from Zhengzhou. Because of this and the inspiration I got from master Toch, who was the first western graduate at ‘Songshan Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Training Centre’ aka ‘Shaolin Wushuguan’ in China, grew the motivation to travel to China and train over there.
In 2004 I visited Dengfeng for the first time and started training in the Dengfeng Songyang Shaolin Academy led by Shi Deqiang (18 Basics, Wubuquan, Tong’bi quan, Lien Huang quan, Xiao Hongquan, Da Hongquan…). In 2006 I proceeded my training at Songshan Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Training Centre led by Jiao Hongbo (Technical Director) or Shi Deding (18 basics, Luohan or Arhat quan, Yin Shou and Jingsai gun, Jingsai dao, Damo Jian, Ba Duan Jin, Qin-na…). Afterwards I kept returning to ‘Wushuguan’ to continue my studies in Shaolin quan. That’s how I came to know and study with Chen Junjie or Shi Deqi and Han Xinqiang (18 basics, Qi’Qing quan and Tai’Zhu Chan quan).
In July 2018 I was granted the title of deputy for ‘Songshan Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Training Centre’ and encouraged to open my own school for Shaolin boxing together with my already longtime existing organization ‘Health is Happiness’.
Next to self-defense Shaolin is a lot more, the training often hard and heavy toggles with the mind of the individual. Shaolin doesn’t mean finding your limits, it means going beyond your limits. Stamina, flexibility, power and speed are all as important as inner calmness. Therefore it is important to learn this in a proper environment. And this is where our school ‘Health is Happiness’ puts its concentration. There are 2 groups with different levels. We have the youngest group with ages 8 to 12 year and the group of 12+ and adults. Depending how our school grows within the groups might grow levels of students. Shaolin is best to be learned from a young age such as 8 years. There is also possibility to get private lessons at ‘Health is Happiness’.
The environment where the classes are given is in open air, surrounded by green. This provides an optimal presence of oxygen which is crucial when training this ancient martial art. We do this season through season which provides a stronger immune system. Shaolin also uses Qi or bio electricity, an energy present in all that surrounds us, but an energy that can be amplified by the human body, and creates an inner warmth, however it could even create a cool down of the body seen to proper breathing. This is where we find the link between external and internal.
Since ‘Health is Happiness’ has founded a bound with ‘Shaolin Wushuguan’ there will be possibilities created for teachers from there to come and teach over here and students from our school to go and travel and learn Shaolin Kungfu in ‘Shaolin Wushuguan’ in Songshan, China. We are also permitted by the International Shaolin federation to certificate the Shaolin Duans in our school, but this of course will always be combined with visits of Shaolin teachers from China and official ceremonies. So the students can fully enjoy martial arts training up to Chinese standards and get to know this wonderful culture and where it came from.
MEANING ‘SHAOLINSI’ or ‘ 少林寺 ‘
The shào ( 少 ) in “Shao’lin” refers to the Shaoshi mountain ( 少室山 ), one of the seven mountains forming the Song mountains or Songshan; It is on this particular mountain that the monastery is build. The word ‘lín’ ( 林 ) means “forest”. The word ‘sì’ of ’shao’ ( 寺 ) means “monastary/temple”.
The taijiquan master Zhang Zuyao translated the word “Shaolin” incorrect by calling it “young” or “small” forest. The first Shaolin Temple was built in 495aD in Dengfeng and is one of China’s oldest temples. They suppose it was used by the Indian monk Batuo as shelter during 30 years of preaching Hinayana Buddhism in China.
Traditionally Shaolin monks developed their expertise in self-defense and martial arts as an answer to protect themselves from bandits, a way of preserving human strength and create a physical and mental discipline. Shaolin monks often travelled through rugged terrain to reach the most secluded places to preach their Buddhism. On these roads they were often robbed or violated.
The temple knew its bloom during the early Tang dynasty (618-907aD), of which is written in history books, that the Shaolin monks saved the life of upcoming emperor Li Shimin and stood by him during the battle against rebel forces. When he mounted the throne, the grateful emperor rewarded Shaolin by increasing their property and gave permission to some of them to continue their training in martial arts. The arts of Shaolin reached their top during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when hundreds of monks acquired the status of military and personal campaigns were led against rebels end Japanese bandits. At that time Shaolin had acquired its own specific style of self-defense which was known to be an example for Chinese martial arts.
The original Shaolin temple was destroyed and plundered many times as it was rebuilt: The Mantsjoes destroyed the original buildings in 1647 and killed almost every monk present. Only in 1800 the temple was rebuilt. The big fire lit by warlord Shi Yousan destroyed many invaluable
manuscripts of the temples library. And only parts of what was protected in these books was reconstructed by surviving monks and masters.
Through the ages there were several side branches created from Shaolin in buildings and temples across the country. One of the most famous ones is the temple of Fujian, aka the “Southern Shaolin Temple”. As a consequence thousands of secular movements where created, whom all are dedicated to spread the martial art, not only in China , but in all regions where there is appreciation for this culture!
De Shaolinmonniken hingen het Chan-boeddhisme aan (dat later in Japan het zenboeddhisme werd) en Zuiver Land-boeddhisme. De bekendste naam die met Shaolin wordt geassocieerd is misschien die van Bodhidharma of Tamo. Van hem wordt gezegd dat hij een Indiase leraar van het boeddhisme was in de 5e en 6e eeuw. Volgens het verhaal werd Bodhidharma aanvankelijk de toegang tot de Shaolintempel geweigerd, en werd hij pas toegelaten, nadat hij negen jaren lang tegenover een muur in de buurt had zitten mediteren, waardoor er uiteindelijk gaten in de muur brandden. Na de tempel binnen te zijn gegaan, trof Bodhidharma de monniken in slechte conditie aan omdat zij hun leven lang enkel hadden gestudeerd in geschriften. Om deze reden introduceerde hij een regime van oefeningen in de zelfverdedigingskunsten, waaruit later de kungfu werd ontwikkeld.
Hoewel hem traditioneel toegeschreven wordt, voor het eerst het Chan-boeddhisme in China te hebben onderwezen, worden Bodhidharma's bijdragen aan de zelfverdedigingskunsten recent in twijfel getrokken. Sommigen zeggen dat elementen van de spirituele inhoud van de zelfverdedigingskunsten die aan hem worden toegeschreven terug te vinden zijn in de leer van de boeddhistische tradities van de esoterische (Mi Tsung) en Yogacara (Wei Shih). Ondanks deze vragen heeft Bodhidharma zich de status van een culturele held verworven in de verbeelding van het volk, eerst in China en later ook internationaal.
Diverse moderne schrijvers hebben gepoogd het gegeven dat de Shaolintempel de geboorteplaats was van de Shaolin Chan in diskrediet te brengen, maar deze pogingen zijn bekritiseerd omdat ze uit zouden gaan van speculatieve tekstkritiek en het uitsluiten van boeddhistische teksten en manuscripten.