Bodhidarma (Dot Mor) traveled from India to the Sil-Lum temple
on Mt. Shaoshi in the Sung Mountains in 502-557 A.D. during
the Liang Dynasty. Bodhidarma was a famous Buddhist monk
who taught zen (chan) Buddhism in the Sil-Lum temple.
Here, according to legend, he noticed the Chinese disciples
could not stay awake during long meditations. So, he introduced
the 18 Lohan hand movements. During this time, kung-fu
split into two systems: internal (nei-dan) and external (wai-dan).
The beginning of chi gung (breath control) developed from this.
Two classics were written by Bodhidarma: Sinew Change
Classic and Washing Marrow Classic.
From these 18 movements and classics, 72 techniques were developed
which later evolved into 170 techniques. These techniques
were divided into five styles which were called the five formed
fist and became the basis of Sil-Lum kung fus (Ng Ying
Ga) five animal style.
1. CRANE (hao):
*Develops sinew for balance externally and chin (essence) internally.
*Teaches self -control.
*Uses grace, quick foot movements, wrist trapping, knee strikes
2. LEOPARD (pao):
*Develops muscle speed for external strength.
*Uses leopard punch for penetration and lower body springing
3. TIGER (hu):
*Develops bones for external power.
*Uses tiger claw for sinking in grabs, holding and throwing
4. SNAKE (she):
*Develops internal chi (intrinsic energy) and external flexibility.
*Teaches two methods: A) Stationaryinternal training for
B) Movementexternal training for endurance.
5. DRAGON (lung):
*Develops spirit (shen) and mind power.
*Teaches spiritual calmness and concentration.
*Uses body twisting techniques, elbow strikes and dragon claw
Sil-Lum kung fu was taught only to monks in the temple and they
were well known for their martial arts excellence. They
could not leave the temple until they passed a life or death
test. Sealed in a chamber the monk had to work his way
through a series of traps and wooden dummies that were triggered
mechanically. at the end of the chamber was a gate and
in front of the gate was a smoldering urn. To leave the
chamber, the monks were to move this urn with their arms wrapped
around it, which branded their forearms with two dragons which
was the symbol of the Sil-Lum inner chamber disciples.
During the time of the Sung Dynasty (1206-1337), Chang San Feng
(a disciple and Taoist in the Sil-Lum temple) was considered
an excellent student. He was believed to have created
the tai chi chuan (Grand Ultimate Fist). Tai chi chuan
is a system which minimizes the use of external strength and
emphasizes internal strength or chi. This was developed
after Chang San Feng watched an encounter between a snake and
a crane. Tai chi chuan is based on five elements: metal,
wood, water, fire and earth. It also helps circulate late
blood, breath, chi flow and helps build ones awareness.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), kung fu was referred to as
chi yang and the art flourished throughout China during this
time. Wang Lang, a Buddhist of the Sil-Lum temple, invented
tong long or the praying mantis system. He created the
system after seeing an encounter with a mantis and a cicada,
which led him to experiment with the mantis to create a new
The system uses an antenna
(the arm and hand) to find an opponents strength and direction,
hooking and trapping techniques with its strong forearm and
mantis claw (si diu). Later monkey (hou san) footwork
was added to the system for mobility. Also during this time
Chen Yuan Ping traveled to Japan and introduced chin-na
to the Japanese. Chin-NA (grasp and control) is a system
of joint manipulation through locks and holds.
In the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911), Kou Sze killed a man and was
imprisoned. As he sat in his prison cell he observed monkeys.
From these observations he devised the monkey system (hou-chuan)
which was thought to have come from the Grand Earth or Heaven
Earth style (ti-tang men).
Sil-Lum was taught only to worthy students and the secrets remained
in the temple. During the 17th century when China was
conquered by the Ching Dynasty, supporters of the Ming Dynasty
took refuge in the Sil-Lum temple. The temple was then invaded
and destroyed by forces of the Ching Dynasty. During this
period a few monks escaped and the secrets of the Sil-Lum temple
were closed to the outside world.
Since then the Chinese fighting arts have been divided into
many schools. Some schools practice internal styles and
some practice external styles and others practice a combination
of both, but whichever they practice they still owe they development
to Sil-Lum Kung Fu.