Who invented Kung Fu?
Bodhidharma and the Beginnings of Kung Fu
While China has a long tradition of developing fighting styles, some believe that most modern systems stem from the teachings of Bodhidharma.
History is sketchy on precise details but he probably went to the Shaolin Temple in the 6th century and taught various exercises to the monks there that would develop into modern day kung fu.
Ta Mo originally traveled to China in order to meet the Emperor, a pious man who believed enlightenment could be obtained through good works being performed by others in his name. To this end, he had set about translating Buddhist scriptures from the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, into Chinese in order to allow the common people to practice the religion.
The Indian monk disagreed with this interpretation of the religion and parted ways with the Emperor, heading for the nearby Shaolin Temple where the Sanskrit was being translated. Probably as a result of his disagreement with their ruler, the monk was refused entrance so he sat in front of a wall in a nearby cave and meditated for nine years to prove his worthiness.
How much of the story of Bodhidharma’s history is based on fact can never really be known but we can say that a number of legends have arisen about him and that they themselves have become a part of the development of kung fu culture. Some tales say that he literally burned holes in the walls of the cave with his piercing eyes and others suggest that while meditating, the sun burned his silhouette directly onto the rock.
Either of these would have proven his dedication and may have eventually got him admitted to the temple, however it is more likely that over time he conversed with monks who brought him food and water and won them over with his great wisdom. The type of Buddhism taught by the Indian monk became known as Ch’an and would have a great influence of the philosophy of the martial arts not only in China, but also in Japan where it was known as Zen.