MY REMINICSENCE OF AN ERA THAT HAS GONE BY IN HISTORY, A TRIBUTE TO CHINESE KUN TAO TRAINING IN INDONESIA.
Many misconceptions have surrounded the Chinese martial arts practiced by the Chinese in Indonesia, and by many who have assumed that Kun Tao is some interbred martial art that found its beginnings in Indonesia. In clarifying this misunderstood issue, as we enter the 21st century, I must begin touching the surface of the history of Kun Tao first, before I write about the physical training in Chinese Kun Tao as I have endured in the archipelago.
Safeguarded from non-Chinese outside the South East Asian communities, the meaning of Kun Tao is in essence, a variety of Chinese combative arts practiced by Chinese. These fighting arts of self-defense are absolute entities of the "old" Shao Lin boxing arts brought by Shao Lin masters to the archipelago.
Chinese martial arts found their rightful place in historical recordings when Chinese along with settlers from Viet Nam, Thailand and Cambodia migrated to the Malay Peninsula, and became inhabitants of the islands occupying the Dutch East Indies. Many South East Asian and Chinese tribes moved from their original countries 4000 years ago to settle in the archipelago.
There are variable means when the name is applied, for instance the terminology for Chinese fighting art in the Mandarin language appears as Chuan Do (a way of kung fu), in the Cantonese dialect, the expression is referred to as Kun Tao, in Hokkien's translation as Kuen taw (not kun taw), and in Fuekchin Chinese as Koon touw. The need to comprehensively understand the words for Chinese fighting arts, are just as complex as it's translations, and can only be experienced by physical expressions during training in the fighting arts, and through sounds of the mouth, the chi, appropriate breathing exercises in body language.
Tracing first their roots back in unorganized systems, and later to the Northern and Southern boxing schools of the Shao Lin temples in China, with the main Center located in the Honan province. The Honan temple boxing school was always considered the source that had influenced all major temple boxing schools of China, and is acknowledged for its 12 outstanding leg maneuvers of the Tan T'ui system. A Shao Lin monk of the province created the system to counter the Iron skin styles.
Chinese boxing (Chuan Fa) have greatly influenced the fighting monks (monk soldiers) in defending the monastery walls in Honan during conflicts between soldiers of the First Emperor of China, and the philosophical monks. The Emperor felt ill- treated by the sovereignty of the monks, and destroyed the Honan temple.
India's Yoga form of exercise for health was prior to the evolution of martial arts history, and had a major impact in the practice of the Kun Tao arts. With breath control in Gi Gung, Nei Gung and Wei Gung, the grabbling arts and severe meditation.
Most of the settlers from China and South East Asia were extremely successful and flourishing during the struggling eras of World depression and economic disasters. Their success was in business owning of individual stores, factories and banking systems - and over an expansion in years of hard labor. Starting with the second world war, the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch in 1948, and all throughout the 50's, 60's and 90's, Indo Chinese merchants were heavily discriminated against by the Indonesian natives with jealousy. In defense against native intruders of protecting their goods and property, the Chinese merchants used Kun Tao for self-defense. Many of the old Shao Lin boxers also have changed their combative forms, from their respective traditions to a more applicable and practical essence in fighting to suit their environment in Indonesia.
When Soeharto took control over the Indonesian government 30 years ago, he also has depleted Indonesia's economy in billions of Dollars. This has caused the fall of the Republic into a big depression. The situation in Indonesia is still out of control, and the Indonesian government under pressure of the World Community have started to evaluate the civil disorders hampering their nation.
Men and women of the past have influenced us with their hard work, and are appreciated for their contributions to our way of thinking, and living. They have led us to our present accomplishments in progress. The Kun Tao arts for self-defense have been refined to a science. Some of the practitioners of the younger generation may experience a great benefit in practice of the "old" techniques of perfection. It is customary of each generation to improve upon the technical values of Kun Tao for the potential of growth.
As an author I would like to pay tribute to some of the expert boxers of the past - who have contributed their "life blood" to the martial arts. It is because of these great men that Chinese boxing survived its turbulent eras of each generation in many corners of the world. Historical events concerning data and its events will be outlined for the readers.
HISTORY, TIME AND ERAS.
DHAN DYNASTY (1066 BC - 403 BC)
Chinese boxing can be traced back to the following styles: Tiger, Deer, Bear, Monkey and Bird.
BODHIDHARMA, or DAMO (481 - 557 AD).
Damo, an Indian monk traveled all throughout China and modified Chinese boxing in the monasteries out of 8 physical exercises. Before Bodhidharma arrived, the monks were unable to defend them selves against intruders. The monks were first very lazy in practice.
T'ANG DYNASTY (600 - 900 AD)
The fighting monks of the Shao Lin temple boxing schools won the emperor's support. The leader of the monks was T'an Tsung. The First emperor created his own system of boxing, the Shao Lin style of T'ai Tan Ch'ang Ch'uan. The nunchaku (three sectional staff) was used for the first time during this era.
MING DYNASTY (1300 - 1600 AD)
Cheng San Fung (1417 - 1459 AD) changed his beliefs from Buddhism to Taoism. He developed a totally different system of internal boxing, very unlike the hard styles of Shao Lin. Apparently during that time the hard styles were introduced in Okinawa for the first time, and the Okinawans developed their own methods of martial practice. Three escaping monks from the Ming Dynasty started a Shao Lin temple (Kushu Ryu) on the island. They taught the throwing arts, basic arts of breathing (Shan Zen), and the folding arts. Cheng San Fung's Shao Lin stressed centrifugal force, intense concentration and the Chi Kung method (control of breathing).
In this era the MING DYNASTY came to an end (1522 - 1566 AD). Gok Yu Sang Yuen joined with two other boxers, Bok Yoke Fung and Lei Sui. They developed five animal forms of boxing: Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Crane and Horse. They also restored the honor of the Shao Lin temple boxing schools.
CH'ENG DYNASTY (1600 - 1911 AD). Many of the fighting arts of today were born during this time. The monks of China were not involved in the martial arts until the early centuries of the Christian era. This was during the same period Buddhism made it most lasting conquest outside India. Many world tribesmen invaded the monasteries, plundering and killing, leaving behind defenseless monks who were unskilled in fighting.
It became imminent that the development of the Northern and Southern Chinese fighting arts in Indonesia would take place during the height of the Ch'eng Dynasty. When Shao Lin boxers came to live as permanent settlers in Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes and Java - practice of the old combative arts had undergone major changes since then, and Shao Lin boxers with new ideas created different styles.
Always shrouded with a mystery to outsiders, Chinese Shao Lin boxers trained their arts under strict supervision of masters in secrecy. In safeguarding their secrets behind closed doors from the "crude" intrusiveness of the Indonesian natives, Chinese settlers had quite often to overcome many hardships and unfair harassment from the natives, and were forced to retaliate physically for their survival.
Several of the merchants were also fully trained Kun Tao experts, acknowledged in China as "seasoned" practitioners, they were the founding fathers of secret "Family" Shao Lin societies in Palembang, Makassar, Semarang, Bogor, Bandung and "old" Batavia, or Djakarta.
What made the martial arts of Kun Tao so great, was never these arts by itself, but the true masters who became as legends to live through the pains of their martial practice for us to tell their stories. The great "Masters" of the past, planted the stage for future generations to follow in passion. Faith, harmony and the science of training the martial behaviors of man - were all paths that these old masters of the past had walked and lived through. It was the stage they have set for us, for a deeper understanding of the floor we walk on in following their footsteps. Their examples they left behind in sandy beaches and mountaintops, were all tools as guidelines for our martial practice - in finding ways to become real practitioners of sound minds, and a rich heart through our own struggles.
Without pain and struggle, there is no heart in the experience. Emotions are senses of the brain cells that relate to feeling, seeing, hearing, touching, and by being even aware within the "dwellings" of our sub-consciousness. As humans by our very own nature, we involve our selves with our emotional feelings.
Chinese Kun Tao in particular is a subject of the martial arts in which the behavior of my pen glides the essence through it's object for writing my thoughts in this paper for justifying the Chinese martial arts practiced in Indonesia, and no where else.
First by addressing the issue in how these safeguarded martial arts from Indonesia gained acknowledgement throughout the world, foremostly not without the endeavors of the expert boxers in these arts who came first to Europe in the 1950's, and later to the United States. Some exponents of karate claimed to have introduced Kun Tao as the first pioneers in the late 60's in Hollywood, California. This issued statement gives me only a healthy ground for engaging myself with the tolerance of debate. Kun Tao, or wrongly pronounced "Kun taw" was never invented in the Philippines by any individual outside the Chinese communities. Chinese settlers were responsible for bringing their arts and culture to the Malay Peninsula.