Day After Ragnarok
Shaolin Kung Fu
Huang Zongxi described martial arts in terms of Shaolin or “external” arts versus Wudang or internal arts in 1669. It has been since then that Shaolin has been popularly synonymous for what are considered the external Chinese martial arts, regardless of whether or not the particular style in question has any connection to the Shaolin Monastery. Some say that there is no differentiation between the so-called internal and external systems of the Chinese martial arts, while other well-known teachers have expressed differing opinions. For example, the Taijiquan teacher Wu Jianquan:
Those who practice Shaolinquan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and are exhausted. Taijiquan is unlike this. Strive for quiescence of body, mind and intention.
In 1784 the Boxing Classic: Essential Boxing Methods made the earliest extant reference to the Shaolin Monastery as Chinese boxing’s place of origin. Again, this is a misconception, as Chinese martial arts pre-date the construction of the Shaolin Temple by at least several hundred years.
In 1934, Jin Jing Zhong published a book variously known in English as Shaolin 72 Shaolin Arts Practice Method or Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin. This work lists what are alleged to be authentic Shaolin training methods that can produce extraordinary skills and abilities; examples of these skills include iron body techniques (both offensive and defensive), jumping and wall scaling techniques, pole-top leaping dexterity training, pressure-point and nerve manipulation, and a host of other feats. Most of these skills require anywhere from three to ten years to master, according to the author. Jin claims to have witnessed many of these skills himself or to have learned of them from a scroll given to him by Shaolin Abbot Miao Xing, though the work tends to exaggerate and embellish.
While most warrior monks tend to be focused on performance geared toward the touring troupes, a smaller cadre of Shaolin warrior monks seek the traditional route that focuses somewhat more on self-defense and authenticity of techniques. In many ways, the contemporary performing warrior monks are comparable to contemporary wushu artists who focus on beautiful, elaborately dazzling form rather than original martial application and fighting prowess. The 72 Shaolin arts are more indicative of the older, original Shaolin temple fighting system and theory. Also, performing monks are not pressured to practice or study Zen, while inside the temple, at least a show of deference for the Shaolin customs is expected by the masters of their chosen warrior monk disciples.