Colorado Shao-Lin Martial Arts
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History

Over 1500 years of development and practical martial arts brought to the United States by Grand Master Sin Kwang The'. As we move forward we work to keep our complete art to share with anyone who wishes to study and practice a martial art with a rich history and tradition.

Legend has it that it all began 1500 years ago in a small part of Honan province in China at a temple known as Shao-Lin Ssu, the Young Forest Temple. Nestled at the foot of Sung Shan (Sung Mountain), monks, plagued by bandits, began practicing additional techniques for self defense as well as continued health and longevity. Finding a focus in their martial training, these monks learned and grew, collecting and developing different forms and styles of fighting arts and, thus was born the legend of the Shao-Lin Fighting Monks.

It was in the sixth century that Ta Mo, known as Bodhidharma in India, crossed the Himalayas and taught the Shao-Lin monks the 49 postures of the I Chin Ching, the Muscle Change Classic. Throughout the next centuries the Shao-Lin monks added to and perfected their art, and spread to other temples. The monks of the Fukien, Shantung, Omei, Kwangtung, Wutang, and Hua Mountain Temples focused their attentions on various aspects of the art, among them Northern and Southern Fist, Shantung Black Tiger, Fist of Hua Mountain, Iron Bone Training, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and many and varied weapons.

Shao-Lin Kung Fu exists to this day and is taught at the Chinese Shao-Lin Center. Ta Mo's 49 postures of the I Chin Ching and much of the subsequent material has survived. The Shao-Lin Art has prevailed despite various attempts to erradicate it. The Shao-Lin Ssu itself can be visited today, as can the cave where Ta Mo is said to have meditated for nine years. The Chinese Shao-Lin Centers, under the guidence of Elder Masters Sharon and David Soard, continue to teach this ancient art to students in the United States and abroad. They continue to lead student trips to China to visit and honor the sites and traditions that have been handed down from these temples

Grand Master Linage:


Grand Master Su Kong Tai Djing

Great-Grandmaster Su Kong T'ai Djin was born in Fukien in 1849. He came to the world with a genetic condition hyperthrihos that covered him with hair from head to toe. His confused parents abandoned the infant in a forest near the Fukien Temple. A passing monk rescued the newborn and presented him to the Shaolin Masters. The Masters found it impossible to find a family willing to adopt such a child, so they decided to raise him themselves. They named him T'ai Djin.

From childhood on, T'ai Djin studied the Shaolin art with exceptional dedication. The Fukien Masters responded to his enthusiasm with a rare variance from Shaolin tradition. In the temple it was customary for a student to choose one system in which to study, but he was no ordinary student! He knew that because of his appearance, he could not live a normal life outside of the temple. He chose then to devote all his time to the study of martial arts. He was allowed to study with all the masters at the temple. Over the years he accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and material from the various Shaolin masters and eventually earned the title "Su Kong" or Grandmaster. Instead of assigning Su Kong's training to a single Master, as was the practice, each of the Fukien Masters contributed to Su Kong's martial education. Su Kong was therefore able to complete every branch of Shaolin training, learning and mastering hundreds of forms and disciplines. It was an unparallel achievement. [Usually the 10 Grandmasters of the temple each learnt 1/10th of the Shaolin art]. Su Kong was a contemporary of Tai Chi masters Yang Lu Chan, Yang Jian Hou & Yang Pan Hou.

Su Kong's knowledge and strong character led to his appointment as the Grandmaster of Fukien. More than once, his exceptional martial skills were needed to fulfill the responsibilities of his position.

The Fukien Shaolin monks took it upon themselves to protect the Fukienese coast from the raids of Japanese pirates. They were tremendously effective, earning the love and respect of the common people. When word reached the Ch'ing Kwang Hsu Emperor in Peking, trouble brewed. Kwang Hsu saw the Fukien monks as potential rebels with widespread popular support. He secretly dispatched imperial troops, armed with cannons on a mission to destroy the Fukien Temple. He even sent a renegade Shaolin Master, Chi Tao Su, the White Eyebrow Monk, to strengthen the attacking force.

A sympathetic official warned the monks of the impending attack. The Fukien Masters chose a surprising, ingenious solution. They evacuated the Temple, removed all of its valuable artwork and books, and set fire to the temple themselves. They hoped to rebuild the Temple in more favorable times. More favorable times have not yet come.

Grandmaster Su and his disciples retreated into the Fukienese Mountains to continue their training. Among those studying with Su was Ie Chang Ming, the man who would become the second of the three Grandmasters of our lineage. Su Kong died in 1928 at the age of 79.

 
Grand Master Ie Chang Ming

Ie Chang Ming was born in 1880. He was admitted to the Fukien Temple as a small boy. Like Su Kong, Ie Chang Ming poured all of his time and energy into the martial arts training, especially the Golden Snake style. Tied hand and foot, he could evade spear thrusts by twisting and turning like a snake. He could also wrap his body around a pole climb it, like a snake on a vine.

Grandmaster Ie's extensive knowledge, sensitivity, and martial skill were complemented by great personal strength and concentration. For example, he trained wearing a weight vest (equal to his body weight!), and used an iron staff and Kwan Tao. He also did the Iron Bar posture (stretched out between two wooden benches, with his head on one bench and heels on the other) for 2 hours every night.

One evening, while traveling through the countryside, Grandmaster Ie took a shortcut through what appeared to be an abandoned military encampment. Although the camp was almost deserted, it was not abandoned. A sentry stopped Ie. Soon other sentries appeared, bringing the number of soldiers to 11. They taunted Ie, and became increasingly aggressive. When they ordered him to lick their boots, Ie knew he had to take action. All 11 soldiers were killed in the resulting fight.

A price was put on Ie Chang Ming's head. He escaped to Indonesia, settling in Bandung, where he eventually established a Shaolin school. It was not easy to become his student; there was a long waiting list and each prospective student had to prove his/her worthiness




Grand Master Sin Kwang The

In 1943 a boy named Sin Kwang Thé was born in Bandung who would one day become the third Grandmaster of our lineage. His family had several Shaolin ancestors and young Sin was drawn to the martial arts... His father, however, had been injured during martial arts training when he was a young man and opposed his son's wishes. Nonetheless, Sin Kwang's mother secretly let him out at 4 am each morning, so that he could study the martial arts. He began with sand burn training. Sand burn training is a crude form of toughening the hands by thrusting them into buckets of hot sand.

After 6 months, the sand burn man stopped teaching. Sin Kwang heard about Grandmaster Ie's school and went to watch. Grandmaster Ie had 80 students practicing empty hand forms, weapons forms and sparring. The 7 year old Sin Kwang asked to join the school, but he was put off with polite excuses. One evening, Grandmaster Ie spilled a bowl of uncooked rice on the training hall floor. He asked Sin Kwang to pick up the rice, grain by grain, and to blow the dust of each grain. He was to find all of the 855 grains that had been in the bowl. It was late at night, and the Shaolin students had all gone home, by the time Sin Kwang was through dusting and counting the rice.

The rice counting was only the first of many tests of determination and character Sin Kwang passed. For the final test, Ie spilled hot tea on the boy and took hold of him, looking deep into his eyes. He saw no anger, only surprise. Sin Kwan Thé was finally accepted as a Shaolin student.

Five years later at the age of 13, Sin Kwang Thé tested to Black Belt. For his test, he had to spar 7 other students while blindfolded. He also had to do forms blindfolded. At different times during the forms, boards were held in his path. Since he didn't know when there would be a board, every strike in every form had to be true.

In 1964, Master Sin was preparing to go to Germany to study engineering and physics. He had added German to the multitude of languages that he could speak. Yet the Berlin crisis altered his plans. By chance, however, he met a couple from Lexington, Kentucky who were able to arrange a scholarship in the US for him. Master Sin Kwang Thé came to the United States.

Master Sin studied academic subjects with the same dedication that he gave to the Shaolin art. As often as he could, he returned to Indonesia, for the time had finally come for him to learn the Golden Snake Style.

In 1968 Master Sin's training was complete. Grandmaster Ie awarded him the 10th Degree and the Grandmaster's Red Belt. Sin Kwang Thé had become the youngest Grandmaster in the history of the Shaolin art at age 25.

Grandmaster Thé continued his education and was on the verge of completing his Master's Degree when Ie Chang Ming died at the age of 96. Grandmaster Thé realized that while there were many engineers and scientists, he was the only Shaolin Grandmaster. He dropped his studies in order to devote all his time to teaching the Shaolin art.

Shaolin Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé could have returned to Indonesia to resume teaching the art. Instead he chose to stay in the US. This was a bold break in tradition, for in the past only full blooded Chinese had been permitted to learn the Art. Yet when American men and women from all walks of life were able to learn what was once taught to a handful of Chinese monks, it was clear that martial arts excellence dependence on time and effort and not race.

 

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