DOWNLOAD A FREE GUIDE TITLED “KUNG FU TV SERIES FLASHBACK: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH DAVID CARRADINE” NOW. JUST CLICK HERE!Popular Belief No. 4: Bodhidharma was the Buddha. No. He was actually a Buddhist monk, a 28th-generation disciple of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Popular Belief No. 5: Monks have to be accepted into the temple, and they must start training at age 3 or 4. Yes and no — maybe. In the past, that might have been true. These days, an adult can be accepted, even a married one, and being accepted doesn’t mean you’re a monk. Part of a display that retells the history of Shaolin Temple, 1988 Popular Belief No. 6: Shaolin monks are concerned only with perfecting their fighting skills. Not even close. Buddhism is a life of purity and atonement, and being able to improve the quality of other people’s lives. It’s basically a life of sacrifice. It’s no different from many other religions in that respect. Popular Belief No. 7: The physical labor monks do in movies was never part of the real Shaolin lifestyle. Not true. Before they’re allowed to practice kung fu, they have to build their physical strength and humility. They sweep, carry things and do other tasks. The temple is a national treasure, but its inhabitants still have to take care of everybody and everything there.
Wang Bo, formerly of Shaolin Temple, is the featured instructor in a new online kung fu course from Black Belt magazine. Titled Tree of Shaolin, it streams video lessons to your smartphone, tablet or computer anytime and anyplace. Sign up here and start your journey along the 1,500-year-old Shaolin path!Popular Belief No. 8: Young monks at Shaolin don’t receive a proper education. Wrong. All children at the temple are educated in conventional subjects, as well as Chinese culture and Buddhism. They also do many chores to keep the temple in good working order. Popular Belief No. 9: All monks get the same education. They don’t. As a young monk progresses, he’ll usually get noticed by one of the senior monks or priests, who will take him on as a disciple. If that doesn’t happen, he won’t learn very much. Popular Belief No. 10: A monk-in-training can have more than one mentor. No. Each one has only one master, who accepts him as a son. Popular Belief No. 11: All the monks live at the temple. Most do. However, some are sent to other cities to help spread the Shaolin martial arts. The temple has a facility in which the monks live, and it’s pretty crude. Chinese students training at a commercial kung fu school near Shaolin, 1988 Popular Belief No. 12: Once a monk starts training in kung fu, that’s all he does. Not so. It’s a big part of his life — but not all. He also studies Shaolin culture, Buddhism, weapons, chi kung and Chinese medicine. Popular Belief No. 13: Most visitors to Shaolin are kung fu students from America. No way. More than 1 million tourists make the trek annually, and 90 percent of them are Chinese. Popular Belief No. 14: Any tourist can come to Shaolin and train with the monks. Unfortunately, no. I’ve seen the real training and the training tourists engage in, and they’re different. The real training is old-style Shaolin. The tourists stay in more modern facilities located near the temple and follow more modern training methods. Shaolin monks demonstrating in California, 2003 Popular Belief No. 15: The monks are getting rich from their performances. Nope. The individual monks have no income. They live at the temple, which provides food and clothing — a simple robe, pants and sandals. And they have their sleeping quarters. But real Shaolin monks have no money — nor any need for it. (Photos by Robert W. Young) Steve DeMasco is a Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a personal disciple of the abbot of Shaolin Temple. For a complete list of his books and DVDs — many of which are on sale now — click here.