The martial arts originated from ancient India but some say they came from China. There are no written records giving us a clear idea of this development. But according to legend, there was a monk named Bodhidharma (Daruma Daishi in Japanese) who came to China from India during the 5th century A.D. They say he was born in Conjee-veram, near Madras, on the southern side of India.
Upon learning that Buddhism was taught in a mistaken form in China, Bodhidharma decided to set foot for this country. His journey was literally that of a thousand miles, for he crossed the rugged and perilous terrain of the Himalayas on foot, proceeding to the Chinese interior until he reached the south eastern part called Kuang (now called Canton). He then arrived at the capital city of Chin Lung, where he met Emperor Lu. He was, however, disappointed to find out that he and the Emperor differed (in opinion) on the different doctrines of Buddhism. Later, Bodhidharma was kicked out of the kingdom.
Bodhidharma proceeded to the kingdom of Wei, eventually arriving at the Shaolin-shu temple in Henan Province. Upon arriving at the monastery, he discovered that most of the monks were too weak and so, he decided to teach them a series of exercises designed to strengthen not only their bones and muscles but also their minds. He also gave them two books on the military arts, the Hsien-sui-ching and the I-chin-ching.
Both books dealt with a coherent system of Indian self-defense which was in existence for more than 3,000 years. They say that the two books antedate the ancient Greek fighting techniques. The physical exercises and the fighting techniques taught by Bodhidharma flourished and it was later named the Shao-lin-shu method of self-defense.
Soon, this fighting system would spread all over China and, it would later evolve into another fighting form called the “Tote” in the neighboring island-kingdom of Okinawa. But then again, there was an absence of historical records to prove these theories. And so, the story of Bodhidharma remains a legend.
(to be cont’d)