Shaolin at the Moon

You won't see some Hollywood actor in bad makeup doing kung fu in slow motion. There will not be even one kid called "Grasshopper." Don't expect discussions of snatching a pebble from anyone's hand. And there will be no ear-shattering Bruce Lee-style vocalizations. All that stuff is fine for the movies or television, but with the visit of the Shaolin Warriors to Gammage, we have a rare opportunity to experience the real deal.

It started some 1,500 years ago. That is when a Buddhist monk from India by the name of Ta Mo traveled to the area of China later to be known as the Hunan province. It was there he founded the Shaolin monastery, the home of a particularly disciplined sect dedicated to meditation and the martial art known as wu shu. These early monks began a long process of developing a system of defense based around the movements of animals living near their settlement. After only a few centuries of practice, it was known far and wide that the monks of Shaolin had extraordinary and deadly fighting abilities, which are never meant to be used in an aggressive manner.

On this tour, the Shaolin monks are presenting a representation of their daily routine. This includes ritual chanting, martial arts exercises, seemingly impossible feats of acrobatics, amazing physical strength and lightning-sharp mental prowess. Unarmed fighting styles will be on display as well as those involving nearly 20 weapons, including axes, spears, swords and the black tiger hammer.

These peaceful "warriors" practice every day to become masters at what they do. They meditate for hour upon hour to focus their minds and calm their bodies. The goal is a mental state known as Samadhi which, when achieved, enables them to withstand extreme physical discomfort. In accordance with their nonviolent and nonaggressive teachings, the monks practice their art in near silence. This eerie juxtaposition of remarkable physicality and quiet is known as their "stillness in movement."

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David Gofstein