The History of Chinese Kempo – Chuan Fa
In about 539 AD, a holy man named Bodhi Dharma (later called Ta Mo by the Chinese) left his monastery in Southern India to spread the Buddhist faith to China, later called Ch'an Buddhism. ( Ch'an is the Chinese translation for the Sanskrit word "dhyana" meaning Yogic concentration, also known as Zen in Japanese when it was introduced from China.). After travelling hundreds of miles to reach Northern China and crossing the Himalayan mountains and the Yangtze River, he headed North to Loyang, the capital of Henan Province.
There of course he found the Shaolin Ssu (Temple). It was, 40 years after it was founded, and it had become famous for scholarly translations of Indian Buddhist scripture into Chinese. Bodhi Dharma sought entrance to Shaolin but the abbot of the day, Fang Chang would not let him into the temple ( many sought entrance for various reasons ).
Bodhi Dharma was determined to enter and see the Shaolin Ssu. He located to a nearby cave on the side of a mountain ( this cave can be visited when in Henan/Shaolin as well as climbing to the top where a 40 foot Buddha is erected in honour of Ta Mo ) where (it is said) he sat in meditation facing a stonewall for nine years.
Upon gaining entrance to Shaolin, Ta Mo ( as he was now called by the Chinese ) saw that the monks were weak and unable to perform the rigorous meditations he expected that Buddhist Monks should be practising. Whilst meditating they often fell asleep or were very restless and were not achieving inner calm or peace ( a state required to reach Enlightenment, that for which all Buddhist strive! ).
He spent some time in seclusion pondering the problem. Considering the time and health awareness of the period, Ta Mo came to a staggeringly accurate conclusion, that the monks were not fit to meditate. With this in mind he started working on a solution; he created three treaties of exercises.
These in-place exercises were later transcribed by monks as;
a. "The Muscle Change Classic" or "The Change of the Sinews,"
b. "The Marrow Washing"
c. "The Eighteen Hand Movements later named The Eighteen Lohan Shou (Lohan meaning enlightened and Shou meaning Hands/Exercises)
This marked the beginning of Shaolin Temple Chuan Fa ( meaning hard work and perfection ).
Ta Mo later devised some self-defence movements based on his knowledge of Indian fighting systems ( Bodhi Dharma was well versed in Yoga and Indian Martial Arts).
Many of the Shaolin priests were retired soldiers and generals, thus, Ta Mo's teachings were enriched and refined by these martial art masters and it slowly developed in to a martial art of the hands also known as Shaolin Ch'uan [ Shaolin Fist ] or Shaolin Ch'uan Fa [ Way of the Shaolin Fist ].
Shaolin was not a poor temple by this time and was regularly attacked by peasant armies ( since individuals had no chance to penetrate Shaolin defence's and walls ). Often, to enrich it's knowledge, Shaolin would invite wandering healers, scholars and now also martial art masters into it's walls to learn from these by sharing knowledge and skills.
Shaolin became very apt at Chuan Fa and in repelling the attacking bandits. Slowly but surly the Shaolin became renown for their martial arts prowess and fighting ability. It is to be noted that not all Shaolin Monks were warrior monks, often they chose to specialize in areas of expertise, much like university professors. Although at this time all practiced Chuan Fa, not all were totally focused on the practical aspect of the art, only the Warrior Monks. It is also interesting to note that Shaolin preferred not to hurt their assailants as this would have ramifications for their spirituality.
For many years the Shaolin fighting arts were practiced in utmost secrecy. Masters were afraid that the techniques would fall into hands that would use the potentially deadly art for purposes other than what was originally intended. Many factors contributed to the eventual spread of the Martial Arts. Buddhist missionaries to Japan, Korea and Indonesia took their arts with them. Students sometimes left the temple prematurely and passed on what knowledge they had. But the main factor was the ruthless domination of the Manchu Emperor. Secret societies were formed for the purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty to power and overthrowing the Barbarian Manchus. Most Chan Buddhists were anti-Manchu and many temples were training grounds for pro-Ming revolutionaries. On several occasions the Manchus destroyed temples in an effort to stomp out resistance. Fleeing monks undoubtedly carried many secrets with them, which were eventually spread all over Asia.
During the 6th and 16th centuries, the monks in Japan developed distinctive forms of kenpo, with the differences in styles being attributed to location, climate and customs.
In the 16th century, the term Jujutsu began to be used to describe all the different forms of combat in Japan. Several of the systems that were developed in the 12th century though retained the name kenpo. Some styles, such as Mitose's Kosho Ryu combined the new phrase and the old phrase to create the term Kempo Jujutsu.
The art was practiced and passed down in the Mitose line until James Mitose, who lived in Hawaii in 1940, began teaching publicly.
Professor Chow learned and started his martial arts training with his father, an immigrant from Shanghai, China where he was a Buddhist Priest in the temples thereof. Hoon Chow taught his son, William, the ways of Zen as taught in the Temples of China. The training was intense yet William felt that the training ways of his father was not practical in the streets of Hawaii and so he started to design the training techniques and methods to fit a unique fighting style, which worked as a street defence. James Mitose ran a Kenpo-Jujitsu dojo and Chow soon became a part of that dojo. The union was short and soon both men parted their ways with Mitose having his system known as the Kosho ryu Kenpo and Chow named his system Chinese Kempo of Kara-Ho Karate. Both men had their own following. As Chow started to teach in various areas of the island he acquired several students who had become quite well known in the martial arts world today. Some of these men were Edmond Parker, Adriano Emperado and Sam Kuoha. Because of his explosive and rapid firing of techniques to the vital areas of the body, he was referred to as the man that struck like a thunderbolt. This stuck and he was nicknamed, Thunderbolt. Professor Chow died in 1987 as in recognized as a legend, in hour days more then 50 styles follow is teachings and way of vision and that is the way of the Lohan Tao Method.
The Chinese Kempo is a system of martial arts characterized by the use of quick moves in rapid-fire succession intended to overwhelm an opponent. The Chinese Kempo Lohan Tao Method is about moving on, respect, honour and Ohana (family). The Chinese kempo Lohan Tao Method was designed to give a standard base to all Lohan Tao Ohana members; the students are encouraged to train all directions of Martial Arts and to understand the principles of Spirit, Mind and Body. The training is based on the Chi principles and the program is well divided with: History, Theories, Forms (Kata), Weapon Forms (Kata), Escrima, Self Defence, Chi Kung, Chin Na and Fighting. The Method we teach reflects the original Chinese martial arts passed down from one generation to another for hundreds of years -- a tradition our schools continue to this day.