Reflection of Monks Crossing a Wooden Br


A long time ago, in 540 AD, an Indian Buddhist priest (Bodhidharma Tamo) came to visit the Chinese emperor to coordinate the spreading of Buddhism in China. When they came to a disagreement because Bodhidharma's Indian Buddhism was too complicated for the Chinese mentality, the priest went to a nearby Buddhist monastery called Shaolin (meaning "young forest") to meet with the monks who were translating Buddhist texts into Chinese. He was not greeted warmly and was forbidden to enter the monastery. He went to a nearby cave where he meditated for nine years, facing the wall, keeping his eyes open and without sleep. The monks from the monastery recognized his values and allowed him to enter the monastery. Upon entering the Bodhidharma monastery, he realized that the monks were physically underdeveloped and lost the physical and mental strength for even the most ordinary meditations. He began to teach them movement exercises designed to increase vital energy (Chinese: Chi, Japanese: Ki) and restore strength. That was the beginning of Chuan Fa. Over time these exercises developed into martial arts because the temple was located in an inaccessible area, where bandits and wild animals roamed freely.
Although martial arts existed in China before the arrival of Bodhidharma, it was only during the 1000 years after his arrival that the various boxing styles truly flourished in China. What distinguished Chuan Fa from martial arts at the time was the spiritual component that gave a new dimension to martial arts and, in a unique way, enriched weaponless martial arts.
Around 1400 AD, with the help of various Buddhist priests who taught esoteric teachings, Chuan Fa came to the independent kingdom Ryu Kyu Island. Influenced by the local population's mentality, Chuan Fa, or Kempo, slowly took on its present form. At the very beginning of the 20th century, Kempo arrives in Europe.

Image by Mattia Faloretti


The name Kempo is a Japanese form of the Chinese word Chuan Fa. On the other hand, Chuan Fa is an approximate translation of the Indian term Vajramukti (Sanskrit). Vajramukti means "Thunderbolt Clasped Hands" and represents the proto skill of all present martial arts. Today, allegedly, only about 30 people in India practice a skill they claim to be the original Vajramukti. The two signs that make up the Chinese name Chuan Fa have different meanings depending on the context, but in Buddhism, Chuan means "closed fist" while Fa means "Dharma" or the Buddha's transcendental teaching. There are other translations, e.g., "hand principle".