Sifu Luca Mastini, kung fu master at the Kung Fu Study Center in Spoleto (Umbria, Italy), talks about the close link between animals, Chinese martial arts and nature. A bond that sinks into the legend of the Shaolin temple and the birth of the first exercises of the monks, which later became the Chinese martial arts.
A brief summary on the history of Kung Fu. It was born in northern China, in the Shaolin monastery, the legendary place of origin of martial arts. Kung Fu became famous in the West first with Sifu Ip Man, then his student, Sifu Bruce Lee, who opened one of the first Western Kung Fu schools (in the Wing Chun style) in San Francisco.
The main styles of Kung Fu are Shaolinquan, Win Chun and Tai Chi Chuan. The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, a semi-legendary Indian prince (his figure is still shrouded in mystery, like many other myths, it is not yet known whether he really lived or whether it is the representation of several characters who actually passed to the Sholin monastery) stationed inside of the monastery to teach Chan Buddhism, but the many hours of meditation practiced by the monks weakened their physique.
Bodhidarma gave a series of eighteen basic exercises, called Luohan Shou, the first basic principles of ancient and modern Kung Fu. The animals enter the scene later, when the monks of the temple began to study the movements of the animals that lived near the temple, thus setting the first styles and the first defense techniques.
Techniques that then, combined with breathing and the philosophical principles of Chan Buddhism, also had an important influence on health.
Sifu Luca Mastini on Kung Fu, animals and health
Sifu Luca Mastini told us: "The study of animals involved observation in their natural habitat, during everyday moments of the day.
Not unlike what is now observed by a naturalist. The monks observed the animals while they hunted, while they walked, while they were still watching their prey, while fighting each other for territorial supremacy or for the right to mate, or while fighting with different animals.
From this observation they extrapolated basic movements, which were then transformed into real and There are four basic animals from which observations have been drawn out of the movements: tiger, leopard, crane and snake.
The dragon, fifth of the five animals, developed later, and being a legendary creature, it represents the inner world . Thus were born the first rudiments of shaolin, related to the movement of animals. At first these observations were only used for the creation of and exercises of good health, to then become real martial techniques.
Many martial arts styles have had the influence of Shaolinquan, deepening some aspects rather than others, with a different and diversified work. Without forgetting that all styles of kung fu also work on traditional medicine and on the theories that make up Chinese philosophical thought such as the tao, the five elements or yin and yang.
Tai Chi Chuan, which works with the same animals as Wing Chun, uses different principles and movements Another legend tells that the birth of Tai Chi Chuan was extrapolated after the observation of the slow and wide movement of the clouds.
The practice of kung fu leads to beneficial effects on our body and mind, tangible and real, making the body stronger and, at the same time, softer and more elastic, improving blood circulation and lowering blood pressure, making the progress of time easier and more pleasant to deal with.
Below are two videos of the main form of the Wuzuquan of the Five Ancestors: the San Chien, performed by Granmaster Sifu Yap Leong and Grandmaster Sifu Chee Kim Thong.