While most people think “kung-fu” refers to the martial art that we see performed in movies by actors such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, or Bruce Lee, the term kung-fu means something somewhat different. Kung-fu translates from the Chinese as anything achieved through hard work, practice, and discipline. So when we refer to Shaolin kung-fu, we are describing the practice and discipline of Shaolin. The martial art, or “wushu”, we think of as kung-fu is merely one part of that discipline. There are many different versions of wushu in China, so what makes Shaolin the most respected of all these?
To understand the development of Shaolin into a unique and unmatched system, an overview of the history and evolution of the philosophy of the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, China is necessary. History can show that from the practical demands of everyday life spring the tools and practices of the modern philosophy.
Within Shaolin kung-fu, there are three major areas of study: mental, physical, and spiritual. The goal of training is to achieve a complete balance among these three areas. Achieving this balance is a goal that can be beneficial not just to athletes, but to anyone seeking a healthier mind and body.
In most cases, there are no clear divisions between the mental, the physical, and the spiritual.