THE BLOG
05/31/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Transformative Powers of Kung Fu

Kung fu is one of the many ways to enlightenment. It incorporates inner and outer training designed for mind expansion, spiritual growth, healing, strengthening and excellent health. By health, meaning not just only being free from illness, but the ability to sleep soundly, to work energetically, to think clearly, and to be calm yet alert. By fitness, meaning not just physical strength, but the ability to react quickly, to endure hard work, and to concentrate without mental fatigue

After many years of practicing Kung Fu, I have come to realize that in addition to self-defense and maintaining physical fitness, it helps channel my energy and restore my focus while empowering me in my everyday life.

In my teenage years my father remarried and I had an instant wicked step-family. My older step-sisters and step-mom were always ganging up on me and my little sister. They always let us know we were not good enough. At the time, I didn't have the tools to stand up for myself. Their constant emotional abuse made it feel like my light was stomped out. After each confrontation with them, I would cry uncontrollably for hours, feeling helpless and beaten down.

Wanting to heal from the painful step-family experience is part of what drew me to the strength of Kung fu. When I grew older, I went on a mission to train with all the best kung fu masters I could find, but I found that to really progress rapidly I had to study privately.

My self-esteem started to come back and I was able to claim the abandoned parts of myself that wanted to come back home. My light came on again brighter than before. I realized I never had to be a victim again on any level.

Even though I am blessed to make a living through martial arts, the more one learns, the more you realize that you don't know much.... most of us are not dropped off at the Shaolin Temple at 3 years old, but it is wonderful to be committed to life-long learning. Each day you can strive to be better than the day before.

The history of Kung Fu is fascinating . The legend of the Shaolin temple and its Shaolin martial monks was first born around the year 540 AD, when the Indian monk Bodhidarma travelled to China to see the emperor. He noticed the monks were much like European monks in that they were constantly hunched over tables reading and although they were spiritually and mentally superior than most, they were physically very frail. Bodhidharma would catch the monks falling asleep while in meditation...Bodhidarma introduced to the Shaolin monks eighteen movements derived from traditional Indian Yoga. This was designed to increase their physical and mental strength as well as the flow of Chi energy. It was these eighteen movements that would become kung fu as we know it today, after being perfected and expanded for nearly 1,500 years.

The concept of qì or ch'i , the inner energy or "life force" that is said to animate living beings, is encountered in almost all styles of Chinese martial arts.

There are many applications regarding controlling one's qi energy to such an extent that it can be used for healing oneself and others. Some styles believe in focusing qi into a single point when attacking and aim at specific areas of the human body (similar to the study of acupressure ), to cause maximum damage or disable certain functions of the body. At the highest advanced level it is possible to cause harm without even touching the opponent, a popular concept in Chinese martial arts movies.

Kung fu incorporates not only Buddhist philosophy, but also the philosophy of Taoism (pronounced "Daoism"). The teachings of the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu and his manuscript the "Tao Te Ching" have been incorporated into the teachings of kung fu, teaching us how to live in harmony with nature and within ourselves.

These techniques promoted physical health and spiritual development and the "martial virtues (wudi)" of discipline, humility, self-restraint, and respect for life. These exercises helped the monks gain stamina to withstand the long meditation sessions. His philosophy emphasized meditation, training and included Bodhidharma's Five Commandments. These commandments condemned killing, robbery, obscenity, telling lies, eating flesh and drinking wine. Silence is also highly regarded and to be strived for.

Kung fu doesn't just help us with our physical fitness, but it can act as an emotional vent to relieve us of stress and bring a feeling of empowerment.Knowing you can defend yourself physically, builds a confidence that changes the way you carry yourself and how the world responds back. However, Kung fu teaches one to be peaceful and avoid fighting at all costs, unless you or your loved ones are in true danger. Most true martial artist are the least likely to fight, because they have learned the art of self-control.

Shaolin and Buddhists believe that causing harm to any sentient or living being puts a weight on your spirit that is difficult or even sometimes impossible to lift. They refrain from any activities that are rooted in any emotion as emotions usually lead to foolish actions. Especially emotions of anger, revenge, hate and fear. These are guaranteed to cause lasting spiritual baggage.

In the Shaolin way of using Kung Fu, the practitioner requires high degrees of control and dedication to master the art to such a degree that they do not have to hurt an attacker. As a Buddhist they would rather be hurt themselves than to cause hurt on others. Thus, they learn to be so good at their Kung Fu that they can effectively disarm, stop and placate an opponent without the need of hurting or harming them. they practice Chi Kung to protect their organs and be able to take the occasional blow, even from a Weapon, without being injured.

To quote Wong Kiew Kit-"The depth of Shaolin wisdom is bewildering, and is hard for some martial artists to comprehend or believe. At the relatively lower mundane level, Shaolin philosophy explains how we are responsible for our own lives, and why the phenomenal world is a creation of mind.

At the highest level in Zen, its wisdom surpasses the intellect, for its accomplishment depends not on verbalization and speculation but on direct experience, and the highest attainment is the direct experience of enlightenment, called variously by different people because of historical, linguistic, cultural and other differences, such as return to God or unity with the Divine.

You will be in for a surprise if you think that the philosophy of Shaolin spirituality is merely theoretical. All Shaolin philosophy is geared to practical benefits. Spiritual cultivation in the Shaolin teaching may operate at one or more of the following three levels, depending on the student's developmental stage.

• Leading a morally upright and happy life.
• Enjoying heavenly bliss in the after-life.
• Attaining enlightenment in Zen. "

Kung Fu also has an anti-aging component. It promotes the flow of chi, the dynamic and natural energy that is innately within us. As one grows older, chi flows less and less in the body. Posture, strength, focus, and vigor begin to decline. However, Kung Fu enhances chi, because it is more than physical exercise it involves meditation and techniques to develop the body's inner harmony, vitality, and mental acuity. Kung Fu has great transforming power and balances the mind, body and spirit.

It is the mastery of an art, and an accomplishment of a difficult task through concentrated effort. With dedication and practice, one can acquire the discipline and "inner and outer" balance enabling you to master your own life.

To see these other-worldly superhuman feats get the DVD "Shaolin- Wheel of Life" It's features Buddhist Monks from the Shaolin Temple and the shows and tells their story and history beautifully!

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