Ancient China: The Legend Of Shaolin Kung Fu

From the Youtube description: Legend of Kungfu Documentary — Shaolin shows what is Chinese Shaolin kungfu and how people learn it. Video in English with Chinese caption.

Title: Legend of Kungfu Documentary — Shaolin (YT link) Uploaded by Chinese Wishes Yee.

The Legend Of Shaolin Kung Fu by National Geographic – (2011) 5 stars

Run time: 44 minutes. This excellent documentary comes from Nat Geo’s Kung Fu Quest series. The episode focuses on a Westernized martial arts practitioner Howard Man heading out to Chinese Kung Fu schools to see the ancient fighting styles for himself. We have the usual showiness from the larger Shaolin schools, which many criticize mind you, including this show, for being too spectacular and not so practical for competition or self defense. We see Man woefully outclassed by the more limber students, as is par for the course when it comes to these types of documentaries. That’s only part of the show, however.

The bulk of this program shows us what the more specialized Shiniba Kung Fu style is all about. Now, I have watched plenty of Kung Fu movies, where factions have their own fighting schools and students fight under one powerful Master or under Buddhist traditional priesthoods. You would think such arrangements are a thing of the past, but this is not so. There are highly skilled martial artists in China today who break way from the established schools and go off to found their own. It amazes me to think that if a fighter is good enough, they can go find a mountaintop and build a school on it, and people will leave their ordinary day-to-day existence behind to go and devote their lives to one Master’s philosophy. This is unheard of in Western society, where the greater impetus is to conform to majority rule.

This particular Shiniba style is very interesting. We have a lot of crouching to minimize being struck, and a lot of inward channeling of Chi both for power and for defense. Another aspect that is usually ignored by Western producers is that this school practices healing with traditional medicines. I’ve watched other shows where martial arts moves are mimicked while sweeping or doing other menial chores, and we see the same thing here with brooms and garden hoes, and even while walking up stone steps.

There is some fight footage between a general martial artist and a Shiniba specialist. I believe the martial artist held back, as he never went on a hard offensive and was always seen pulling back until he was stopped by the walls and chairs behind him. I mean, if we expect to see how good this practice really is, I think these guys should have given it all they had instead of pulling their punches as the general fighter was doing. He didn’t throw too many kicks and he pulled his arms up loosely when the Shiniba guy got in close. Basically, he was waiting to get charged, so this idea that his faith was restored by the matches is pretty much BS. (After watching the fights further, I see the general guy didn’t throw too many punches, either. The fights were rigged!)

One of the most amazing sights of this documentary is watching the Shiniba Master practicing his moves on top of a boulder on top of a mountain. I watched another Kung Fu special a few weeks ago, where another Master did something similar. That guy was on a slanted tile roof throwing punches and kicks, on top of a building that was on top of another mountain. If he had slipped, he would have had a very long way to fall.


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