The Chinese Influence


The most widespread account of the origin of Chinese Martial Arts is credited to the 28th East Indian Patriarch of the Buddhist Faith named Tamo. He was also called Bodhidharma and was known to the Japanese as Daruma Daishi. His arrival in China is dated about 515-530 A.D. Upon Bodhidarma's arrival in China, he found that the Canton Warlords had disarmed the general public which left them completely defenceless against marauding bandits and other warring factions.

Bodhidarma made extensive travels within China endeavoring to teach the Zen philosophy i.e., that one must coexist with nature and the surrounding environment. He promised that if the people would do so they would have a better understanding of their individual relationship with nature.

He was basically rejected by the people initially because such a philosophy did not seem reasonable during war time he began teaching in seclusion at the Shaolin Monastery in the Hunan Province. The Shaolin Monastery is also called Shorin-ji in Japanese. As a result, his Zen doctrine became the foundation of study for Monk's within China's religious structure.

He told them that peace was within each person and not within the world. Bodhidharma tried to teach the monks, but found that many fell asleep during meditation. As a result, Bodhidharma introduced exercise to improve their fitness levels and taught the original 18 hand movements of the martial arts for both defence and offence. Under Bodhidharma's tutelage, the monks became formidable opponents.

To graduate from the Shaolin Monastery, the monk had to complete and travel through a corridor equipped with 108 dummies which were triggered into action by the body weight of each monk as he proceeded through it. Each monk could trigger up to 5 dummies at once depending on their weight.

Many of the monks died or were injured in the process. If the monk made it to the end of the corridor, he had to lift a burning metal urn which branded a dragon on his left forearm and a tiger on his right forearm. This was the diploma of a graduating student of the southern Shaolin monastery.

This resulted in defection of the monks from the monastery who emigrated to southern China and Okinawa and began teaching the art. Thus some would teach straight line power movements and some would teach circular, flowing movements, animal forms, etc. This explains why there is so much similarity between certain martial arts styles and why there are so many of them.

During the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 A.D.) there was noticeable improvements in the Martial Arts. Chueh Yuan had increased the original 18 hand movements to 72. Chueh Yuan spent some considerable amount of time teaching and spreading the now improved version of Shaolin. He then met up with two more martial arts instructors and they eventually enlarged the original 72 hand movements.

The two instructors were Li Ch'eng and Fai Yu-feng and they increased the number of movements from 72 to 170. As time passed, Martial Arts training became integral to the Chinese lifestyle because they were in a constant state of war. However, due to its lethal qualities, the Martial Arts were taught only by select clans who had their own master and who would teach only selected individuals in each clan. Great pride was taken by each master in his distinctive style. Family clans swore never to divulge the teachings they received from their masters.

The Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Ch'ing (1644-1912 A.D.) Dynasties were the golden age of Martial Arts in China and many of the styles taught today were founded and expanded on during this period. In 1372 Chinese-Okinawan relations were consolidated and in 1470 Sho-ha-shi became king of Okinawa and confiscated all weapons from the people. This forced the Okinawans to seek other forms of Self-Defense. As a result, some Okinawans emigrated to China to learn what was then called Chinese Kempo from top masters.

As the years passed, practitioners continued to learn and demonstrate their skills in private and the Martial Arts improved considerably. Then in 1609, the Japanese dominated Okinawa and Lord Shimazu removed all weapons from the public at large. Between 1609-1903 the greatest achievements were made in the Martial Arts as a result, a variety of styles and systems emerged.  

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Professor William K S Chow 

Founder of Kara-Ho Kempo Karate

CHINESE KARA-HO KEMPO KARATE - Founded by William K.S. Chow, a student of James Mitose, this Kempo offshoot is a blend of the Kosho Ryu Kempo and 5-animal Kung Fu of the Chow Family. Chinese Kara-ho Kempo Karate utilises many circular as well as linear techniques and requires 500 such techniques to be learned for black-belt status. Currently, Chinese Kara-ho Kempo Karate is under the evolution of Sam Kuoha who has added various new techniques as well as 12 Kata based on Chow's original 12 base linear techniques. Chinese Kara-Ho Kempo Karate is currently growing as a Kempo organisation with currently over 5000 members to its teachings.

William Kwai Sun Chow was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 3, 1914. William Chow was also known as "Thunderbolt" because of his incredible speed and power. He spent most of his life practicing and perfecting his martial arts; he became quite famous for his martial prowess and excellent memory of techniques.

William Chow, although promoted to Black Belt by Thomas Young, was one of James Mitoses top students and a close friend. He left James Mitose in 1949, after becoming an instructor, and opened his own Kenpo school. It was William Chow who coined the term "Kenpo Karate" to distinguish his system from James Mitoses Kenpo Jiu-jitsu, although both styles were the same. William Chow then took the title "Professor" and renamed his system Go-Shinjitsu. Some twenty years later, William Chow renamed his system "Chinese Kempo of Kara-Ho Karate."

The Pinyin pronunciation in Chinese for fist-law is "Ch'uan Fa" and is sometimes incorrectly called "Ch'uan Shu" which is the Chinese term for Kung Fu.

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