The Chinese martial arts originated in the Buddhist monastery built in 377 A.D. in the Shao Shih Mountains Deng Fon Hsien, Huo Nan province, by order of the Emperor Wei. There were no martial arts being done in the temple at this time, but the monks were doing meditation and exercises.
In 527 A.D. during the Liang dynasty, a Buddhist prince by the name of Da Mo from India came to the monastery and found that the monks were not strong in body, so he taught them ways to strengthen their bodies and also taught them Buddhism. Legend has it that Da Mo spent nine years in a cave meditating, before he gave the Shaolin monks this information on what is called “Shi Sui Jing” (marrow washing classic) and the Yi Chin Jing (muscle change classic). From these teachings, and others, sprang forth a martial arts system that would later become legendary. The symbol of the Shaolin monks became the “Wan” symbol, an Indian mystic symbol meaning good fortune and virtue which is attributed to Da Mo.
Thirty years after Da Mo's death the Chou dynasty Emperor had the temple closed down in 570 A.D. This was due to some renegade monks who, after leaving the temple, went robbing and killing people who were defenseless against them because of their power.
In the Sui dynasty 600 A.D. the temple was allowed to reopen with emphases on martial arts morality for the code of monks. In 650 A.D. the Fukien Temple was built. Many styles and systems flourished in this temple including the Five Family Fists of Choy, Li, Fut, Mok, and Hung which became the standard style for the Shaolin temples for its completeness along with its formidable internal and external power.
From 600 A.D. to 1600 A.D. the Shaolin martial arts grew to become very famous. The system of “Wu Su” became complete with internal and external power and meditation and many secret skills that have been lost, due to secrecy and other reasons. The Shaolin monks became known as agents of justice, helping people everywhere they went.
In 1644, the Manchurians successfully invaded China. In 1760, a massive attack was made against the Shaolin monks and their temple because it was a bastion for martial arts. The Manchu, or Chin dynasty, killed many monks and burned many temples. Because of this some of the monks fled to Korea and Japan. Others went into hiding among the common people teaching their martial arts to the people and organizing underground societies, such as the “Triads”. The re-establishment of the former Ming dynasty was the goal of many Chinese.
Around the 1800's, the temple began to resume some activity, due to internal strife and corruption of the Chin dynasty and the western powers that were trying to invade China. Because the Chin was spending so much time trying to fight the western powers it gave the Shaolin temple some freedom. However, during one of several attempts to destroy Shaolin, The Manchu's burned the temple to the ground. Only eighteen monks escaped, and of those only five masters survived to carry on the teachings of the Shaolin Temple.
In 1836 there was a monk from Shaolin who was one of the five masters that had survived the burning of the temple named Choi Fok, who taught a monk named Chan Heung. Chan Heung then founded the “Hung Sing” Shaolin Choi Li Fut Guan in the South China in Guangdong province. The meaning of “Hung Sing” (Hsiung Sheng in Mandarin) is Brave Victory and there are two different Hung Sing schools in China, The other Hung Sing means Vast Hero or Victory but both are pronounced “Hung Sing” in Cantonese dialect. There is also the Buc Sing (Bei Sheng) style, which means Northern Victory. Chan Heung was the founder of the southern system he developed from the teachings of the monk Choi Fok and he called his new style the “Choi Li Fut” system, named after his teachers monk Choi Fok and Li Yau Shan and gave the system the Buddhist name of Fut. He created the Choi Li Fut system in order to create a system that was simple and yet formidable. This system was then used to teach rebels in order to finally get the Manchu out of China. This was in 1836 in south China.
In 1911 the Chinese people were able to end the Chin dynasty with the revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. After the revolution there was civil war and the warlords ruled much of the country.
The final tragedy of Shaolin began in 1926. In that year Chiang Ka-Shek launched the famous “Northern expedition” (1926-1928), to rid the country of warlords and develop a united China. The head master of the Shaolin temple Meaw Shing gave protection to the warlord Farn Chiung Shiou and ordered the monks to fight against the troops of Shih Yeow Shan who was the lieutenant of General Fong Yu-Siang, who was appointed by Chiang Kai-Shek to fight the warlord Farn. The soldiers were so angry that they burnt the Shaolin temple. This burning of the temple was in 1927.
There was also another young man named Wong Ark-Yuey (1898-1987), who studied from the Shaolin temple Abbot Pang. Abbot Pang was the Chief Monk of the Guangdong Branch in the early 1900's. Wong Ark-Yuey migrated to Hong Kong then the United States in 1919 at the end of the “Boxer rebellion”.
Later, the famous “Chin Woo Association was formed by Master Huo Yuan-Jia in 1909. The Japanese in Shanghai poisoned Huo to death. The Chin Woo Association was closed down during the World War II, but was reopened after the war, with branches worldwide.
Once the country was united, the government began an active program to reorganize the martial arts on a massive scale. In 1928 in Nan King, the Nan King Central Guo Su Institute was founded for the purpose of consolidating martial arts by bringing together many famous masters under one formal organization. The first director was Chang Chih-Chiang. Since that time “Wu Su” (also Wu Shu) or martial arts has been referred to as “Kuo Su” by the Republic of China, a term used for all traditional Chinese martial arts. The Jin Shi Kuo Su Association is headed by Sifu D.E. Wei Kash, D.D. International 10th Duan, in the USA and is authorized by the Republic of China.
The masters who were invited to join this Association were such notables as the famous Iron Palm master Ku Yu-Cheng, who was one of the “Five Northern Tigers”. Others included Won Lai-shen, who recently died on Mainland China in 1993; there was Fu Chen-Song, Wong's Hao-Chou, Li Shan-Wu,Tan San of the Choi Li Fut system, and Lin Shi-zon of the Hung Gar style. The five northern tigers went south to Canton to open other Kuo Su Institutes to help General Li Zen-Chao to organize. In 1937 the central Kuo Su Institute was closed down because of invasion of the Japanese starting World War II. Many masters and students were killed and as a result the communists took over Mainland China. Many masters fled China for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia and the United States.
In the United States Grandmaster Ark-Wong Yuey was the first Chinese Master to openly teach non-Chinese starting in 1965, thus making him the pioneer of the Chinese martial arts in the western hemisphere for whom we owe our thanks. Sifu David Kash began training with Master Wong in 1967 and eventually became an inheritor of the system along with Se Ming Ma, Ralph Shun (deceased), John Leoning (deceased) and John Davidson (deceased). Grandmaster Wong Ark-Yuey passed away in 1987 at the age of 88.