The legend of Bodhidharma and Shaolin kungfu is accepted on faith by the general public and this has lead to some confusion and many controversies. The approach advocated by the Ottawa Chinese Martial Arts Association is to recognize that the popular legend represents a cultural information and not necessary a historical truth. We feel that it is more important to understand the implications of those legends rather then argue on the unnecessary and unverifiable details. The following represents our views on some of the more controversial subjects.
1. Is Bodhidharma the founder of Chinese martial arts? If so, does that mean that Chinese martial arts have a foreign origin?
Ans. No. Bodhidharma is the legendary founder of Shaolin Martial Arts. Shaolin is just one type of Chinese martial art. There are many others with longer histories. Therefore, Chinese martial arts are a unique product of Chinese culture.
2. How can Monks fight and use martial arts? Will it be against the tenets of Buddhism?
Ans. Generally, Monks do not fight. According to legend, Bodhidharma contributed the idea of Internal training to strengthen the body of the monks and later, those Internal training was incorporated into martial arts training. As a result, their martial arts became better. Martial art techniques were introduced by layman through their interactions of the monastery. Shaolin tradition incorporated martial arts training with their Buddhist practice as a way to master them-selves not as a means of combat.
3. Is there really a Southern Shaolin temple?
Ans. The exact location of Southern Shaolin temple has never be identified. The Five elders remain legends describe through oral histories. There are many Kung Fu styles in the South that attribute their origins to a Southern Shaolin temple.
4. The Shaolin Temple is now too commercial and they no longer teach authentic Shaolin kung fu.
Ans. There was great turmoil for the Shaolin temple during the Republican period, the Chinese Civil War and the scourge of the Cultural Revolution. Much history and knowledge was lost. The Chinese government has been trying actively to restore this tradition by including the site as a UNESCO world heritage site. So they are trying their best.