Seriously, though. Despite its specific definition in China, the term is widely used to describe a significant portion of the Chinese martial arts. Therefore, when we speak about Shaolin KungFu, we're really talking about the Chinese martial arts styles that started with and continue to be tied to the Shaolin monks and monastery.

The Shaolin Temple

     It is believed that a Buddhist monk from India named Buddhabhadra, or Ba Tuo in Chinese, came to China during the Northern Wei Dynasty period in 495 A.D. There he met Emperor Xiaowen and gained his favor. Though Ba Tuo turned down the emperor's offer to teach Buddhism at the court, he was still given land to build a temple on. This land was located at Mt. Song. And that's exactly where he built Shaolin, which translates to "small forest."

The Early History of Shaolin KungFu

     During the years between 58-76 A.D., Indian and Chinese relations began to grow. In accordance with this, the concept of Buddhism became more popular in China as monks were sent to and fro between India and China. An Indian monk by the name of Bodhidharma may have played a significant role in the development of the Chinese martial arts. You see, it is believed by that he eventually preached to the monks at the newly formed Shaolin Temple in China (see 'The Shaolin Temple' above for when this was built). While there, it appears that he may have actually taught the monks martial arts movements, which served as the basis of Chinese and therefore Shaolin Kung Fu. Though Bodhidharma's role in martial arts history is disputed, the fact remains that after his legendary arrival the monks became famous martial arts practitioners that worked extremely hard at their style of fighting.

Famous Use of Shaolin KungFu In History

     The Tang Dynasty (618-907) saw thirteen warrior monks help the Tang emperor rescue his son, Li Shimin, from an army of soldiers looking to overthrow the ruling party. When Li Shimin was eventually named emperor, he called Shaolin the "Supreme Temple" in China and fostered learning exchanges between the imperial court, armies, and the Shaolin monks as a result.

Destruction Of Shaolin Temple and Its Effect On Shaolin KungFu

     Qing rulers had the Shaolin Temple burned to the ground due to the Ming loyalists residing there. Along with this, as seems to be the case with nearly all historical martial arts texts in Asia from that general time period, a lot of history and treasures were lost. Further, the practice of Shaolin KungFu was deemed illegal.

     The effect of this was interesting, however, because it caused monks to disperse amongst the world. And when the art was again allowed to be practiced and made its comeback, though valuable historical texts were lost, the mingling with other martial arts styles may have, in some cases, added to the style.

Shaolin KungFu Today

     Shaolin KungFu is practiced by the monks today. In fact, they have become world famous entertainers, as their art is beautiful to watch. Interestingly, as the Shaolin style has morphed and taken on many different substyles/names, many believe that its hardcore self-defense core has lost out, to an extent, to the more showy styles like Wushu.

     Many believe that the original KungFu devised by the monks was much more powerful, though perhaps less aesthetically pleasing, than the majority of Shaolin KungFu practiced today.

A History and Style Guide of Shaolin KungFu. (n.d.). Retrieved Feburary 25, 2014, from