Shaolin Kung Fu was huge a few hundred years ago. After growing for more than a thousand years, the Shaolin Monastery housed China’s true people’s army. But since the monastery was destroyed and its top masters fled in their separate ways, Shaolin has never been the same again.
Shaolin these days resembles gymnasts dressing up in orange outfits and touring the globe performing with stunt-oriented exhibitions. Now gymnasts do train hard, and Kung Fu does mean hard work, but there comes a point where we’ve got to ask: Athleticism aside, what’s the true level the average modern-day Shaolin Kung Fu teacher’s combative skill?
Now don’t get me wrong, many great, practical styles of oriental martial art – if not all of them – have derived from the Shaolin at some point, to some extent. For example, Wing Chun Kung Fu comes from Shaolin – in fact, it came from the best empty-handed combat master to survive the destruction to the monastery. But the average Shaolin disciple today can probably trace their lineage back to some random Shaolin monk who didn’t learn much from the monastery’s elders. As such, Shaolin is worthy of as much respect as any school or monastery, but the average modern-day Shaolin Kung Fu class or exhibition should be taken with a pinch of salt.