The Chinese Influence

Bodhidharma

The most widespread account of the origin of Chinese Martial Arts is credited to a semi-legendary Buddhist monk named Tamo, the 28th East Indian Patriarch of the Buddhist Faith. 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 defenseless against marauding bandits and other warring factions. Bodhidharma who lived during the 5th or 6th century, is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. 

According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu. Bodhidharma 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 relationship with nature.

However, he was rejected by the people initially because such a philosophy did not seem reasonable during wartime. Eventually, 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 Monks 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 routines to improve their fitness levels and taught the original 18 hand movements of the martial arts for both defense and offense. Under Bodhidharma's tutelage, the monks became formidable opponents.

Legend would have us believe that 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 bodyweight 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 severely injured in the process. If the monk did make 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.

Because of its brutal nature, monks many monks defected from the monastery and emigrated to other parts of China and Okinawa. This led to the inevitable expansion of the martial arts with the students teaching the art to outsiders. Thus some would teach straight-line power movements and some would teach circular flowing movements and animal forms. 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 were noticeable improvements in the Martial Arts. Chueh Yuan had increased the original 18 hand movements to 72. Chueh Yuan spent a considerable amount of time teaching and spreading the new improved version of Shaolin Kung Fu. 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, however, due to its lethal qualities, the Martial Arts were only taught 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, with family clans sworn to secrecy 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 Martial Arts improved considerably. Then in 1609, the Japanese dominated Okinawa, with Lord Shimazu removing 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.

Professor William K S Chow

Professor William K S Chow

July 3, 1914-September 21, 1987

CHINESE KARA-HO KEMPO KARATE – was founded by William K.S. Chow, who was allegedly 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. 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 skills; he became quite famous for his martial prowess and excellent memory of techniques. Chinese Kara-ho Kempo Karate utilizes many circular as well as linear techniques, it requires the practitioner to learn 500 such techniques to be considered for black-belt status.

William Chow, although promoted to Black Belt by Thomas Young, was one of James Mitoses' students. 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 Kempo 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 Kara-Ho Kempo Karate."

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