bodhidharma

In addition to appearing in three Bruce Lee classics, Tony Liu portrayed in four films a Chinese emperor who had a great impact on the way the martial arts evolved in China and around the world.

This blog post will test your knowledge of kung fu films, challenge your understanding of who’s had the greatest impact on the development of Chinese martial arts movies and maybe even cause you to examine your kung fu film “nerd quotient.” My first question is, What ever happened to Tony? Tony the Tiger? No, but he was g-r-reat! Tony Jaa? Too much of a suit-and-Thai guy to be linked to Chinese cinema. How about To Ni? Nah, he was a background actor often seen in old films but rarely credited. My question refers to the first actor to bear the brunt of Bruce Lee's iconic death blow: Tony Liu, aka Liu Yong.

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What you see in movies about Shaolin Temple kung fu isn't always true. Get the scoop from a martial artist who's made annual training trips to Shaolin for 17 years.

During my annual visits to Henan, China, the head abbot of Shaolin Temple instructs one of the older monks to teach me what he thinks I need to know about the famed monastery and its style of kung fu. After 17 years of such treatment, I’ve been “enlightened” on a number of popular beliefs that Western martial artists hold. I offer the following to set the record straight.

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Keith Vargo concludes his fascinating exploration of why martial artists find tales such as the Bodhidharma legend and Zen in the Art of Archery so compelling.

Continued from Zen in the Art of Archery, Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple: Martial Arts Fact or Fiction? (Part 1). There were fighting arts in China before Bodhidharma, and there was Buddhism in China before him, too. But as Robert W. Young pointed out in the September 2001 issue of Black Belt magazine, it’s likely that warriors came to Shaolin Temple looking for sanctuary or redemption and brought their fighting skills into the religious life there. The truth in the Bodhidharma myth is that, through his insistence on mental and physical discipline tempered with wisdom, the Indian monk is more the father of the modern martial arts than the people who invented the techniques of fighting are.

Remember "Grasshopper" from Kung Fu? He's back in this FREE download!
Kung Fu TV Series Flashback: Behind the Scenes
With David Carradine ("Kwai Chang Caine")

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Martial arts history is replete with tall tales of philosophy and heroism. Zen in the Art of Archery and the story of Bodhidharma traveling to the Shaolin Temple are two prime examples. Why do martial artists find them so compelling? Keith Vargo explains.

When a person uses the word “myth,” he is usually pointing out that something is false. What’s more, he is claiming it’s a falsehood many people believe is true, such as urban myths about illegal kidney harvesting or murderous lunatics who make threatening calls from within their victim’s home. These stories aren’t true, but many people believe they are. They don’t seem especially powerful or meaningful. Maybe “myth” isn’t the right word for them. A myth is a story meant to convey a fundamental truth or belief. Usually it’s a mixture of history and fantasy, a kind of cultural ideal. It is, in short, a story so compelling that it doesn’t fit into the easy categories of truth or falsehood. The martial arts are full of myths. For instance, there are stories about Japanese warriors being taught swordsmanship by tengu, or mountain goblins. I don’t think anyone believes goblins were the origin of kenjutsu, but it’s still a story, not a lie. Some people think tengu were actually yamabushi, mountain ascetics whose ritual privations were supposed to give them special abilities. The underlying message is that the secrets of swordsmanship originated in a single-minded, religious devotion. The tengu story is a little closer to what we normally think of as myth, but there are grander stories in the martial arts that mean a lot more to people. Two of the most popular are the myth of Shaolin Temple and the myth of Zen in the art of archery. Most martial artists know the general outline of the Shaolin Temple story: A monk named Bodhidharma traveled from India to China as a missionary for Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism. He found the disciples there in poor physical shape, so he taught them exercises to improve their health, thus enabling them to meditate for longer periods. Those exercises eventually developed into an original martial art, from which all forms of kung fu, kenpo and karate descended.

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