Kung fu flourishes at the Shaolin temple for a couple centuries or so. Then, the Manchus invaded China in 1664 and established the Ching government by overthrowing the reigning Ming dynasty. After that, supporters of the overthrown dynasty fled to the Shaolin temple as refugees. This in and of itself isn’t as significant as the fact that the refugees plotted against the Manchus from within the temple in an effort to restore the deposed Ming dynasty.
Destruction of the Temple
As you can imagine, the Manchu government did not take too kindly to such activity. They outlawed kung fu and it is said that soldiers destroyed the temple in the 1700s in fear of rebellion. The burning of the monastery marks the beginning of Hung Gar style of kung fu, of which I have been a student, and now a teacher, for many years. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Hung Gar, stay tuned…there’s a Part 2 coming up!
All Was Not Lost
As the story goes, among those who escaped the burning of the temple were Shaolin abbot Chee Sin and his disciple Hung Hee Koon. Hung is said to have combined his Tiger techniques with the softer Crane techniques he learned from his wife Fong Wing Chun, resulting in a more balanced system we call Hung Gar (Hung’s Family) kung fu.
The ban on kung fu training didn’t last forever and by the early 1800s, two disciples of Chee Sin (Hung Hee Koon and Look Ah Choy) came out of hiding and opened kung fu schools. Look Ah Choy’s most famous student was Wong Tai, and my training comes from this kung fu lineage.
A Renewed Tradition
Traditional kung fu has been making its way across the world, though there are many traditionalists who did not take too kindly to the teaching of kung fu to non-Chinese. As with all art forms, martial or otherwise, it needs to be passed down so that it is not lost.