Origins of Kung Fu – The Intricate Reality!

Image of Wushu
Kung fu Wushu

Kung fu” or “Wushu” is one of the most lethal methods of unarmed combat in existence. The origin of this incredible martial art is poorly recorded and often subject to many debates especially by scholars studying the Indian arts who claim inaccurately that it is a direct descendant of the South Indian martial art Kalaripayattu.  I feel it is a shame that despite the advent of the information age, people still entertain inaccurate notions about kung fu and its origins.

In this post, I would like to debunk the belief that kung fu came from kalaripayattu, especially the accounts pertaining to Bodhidharma (or Bodhidharman if you prefer) and his contributions to the Shaolin monastry based on all available information. I request the reader to read the article completely before making comments. I was stimulated into writing this because recently I happened to watch a two-part video in YouTube titled “Birthplace of Kung fu: China? Wrong! Guess Again!” that attributes kalaripayattu as the mother of all modern fighting arts. When I viewed these videos, I found many logical inconsistencies and historical anomalies. You can view those videos here and here.

Image of Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching

In order to counter the hypothesis that kung fu originated in India than in mainland China, we need a thorough understanding of what kung fu is, how the art originated and flourished and its various techniques and philosophies. I will give a brief account on all these aspects and then move on to attacking this inaccurately expressed theory.

The video shows practitioners of Contemporary Wushu and Kalari performing a few movements which according to the creator of the video, are similar. However, those few movements portrayed probably are the only forms of resemblance to wushu has to Kalaripayattu. Another resemblance cited in many websites is the “eighteen hands of Buddha” and the “eighteen arms of wushu” which is claimed to have been derived from the “eighteen techniques” or “pathinettu adavu” of Kalaripayattu.

Image of Shaolin Monastry
Shaolin Monastry

The story originated probably with the knowledge that Bodhidharma, an Indian monk traveled to Northern China in the 6th century AD, where he established the earliest form of Zen Buddhism in the Shaolin Monastery. This combined with the fact that Shaolin has been a famous branch of Chinese Wushu led people to believe that Bodhidharma had experience in Kalaripayattu which he taught the monks of Shaolin thereby giving birth to the Chinese martial arts as we know today. This theory led people to analyze Shaolin systems and compare the movements with kalaripayattu. But those comparisons are often skewed and inaccurate. Besides, resemblance, if at all any, is not proof of origin since it is poorly recorded whether Bodhidharma had any sort of martial arts training at all. Hence it is not clear whether he introduced martial arts to Shaolin or someone else did after him. Even if we buy into the premise that Bodhidharma indeed taught Kalaripayattu to the monks of Shaolin, it still cannot be attributed as the mother of all modern martial arts, especially Chinese wushu. We know this by looking at the evolution of the art and its various styles which not only pertains to just Shaolin (as we shall see later) but also spread throughout mainland China.

Image of Incredible Kung Fu!
Incredible Kung Fu!

Kung fu, also known as Gong fu or Gung fu is a generic term used to refer to the many styles of Chinese infighting though the original meaning of this word is unrelated to martial arts and refers to any type of skill achieved through hard work and practice. The Chinese use the term “Wushu” which literally translates to “war art” to describe martial arts. The term kung fu is a compound word with two components viz “kung” which means “achievement” or “merit” and “fu” which means “man”. Hence combined, it means an “adept man” or “human achievement”. “Kung fu wushu” thus would mean “a man adept in martial arts”. It was not until the 20th century that the term “kung fu” started slowly replacing “wushu” to describe the fighting arts of China. In this article, both kung fu and wushu are terms used interchangeably since they are basically the same thing (please do not confuse with Contemporary Wushu, which is a sports variety of the traditional systems developed for athletic purposes).

Numerous styles of wushu developed over many centuries of Chinese history and it is estimated that the number of kung fu styles may range between 300 and 500. It is impossible to fully classify and label all the different fighting systems of China since a single style may fall under multiple categories. It is however possible to approximately classify most of them into certain groups as follows:

Image of The Five Sacred Animals
The Five Sacred Animals – Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Leopard and Crane

1. Based on “families” or “jia”, “sects” or “pài” and “schools” or “mén” of martial arts. These styles flourished in closed groups or families and were passed on from one generation to the next. Examples are Choi Gar, Hung Gar, Lau Gar and Mok Gar.
2. Based on whether it is a mimic boxing or not which means whether the style has adapted the movements of a bird, beast or an insect or arachnid. Such styles are influenced by movements of birds like eagle, peacock and crane, animals like tiger, snake, monkey, leopard, elephant, horse and fox or insects and arachnids like the praying mantis and scorpion.
3. Based on what type of philosophy the styles follow. Almost all Chinese fighting systems have a spiritual aspect influenced by philosophies like Confucianism, Taoism and Zen in addition to various religions, myths and legends. Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua and Liuhebafa are Taoist while Drunken Boxing, Wing Chun, White Crane, Monkey, Eagle Claw and Praying Mantis are Buddhist. There are also Muslim styles like Tan Tui, Baijiquan, Zhaquan, Qishiquan, Piguaquan and Huihui Shiba Zhou.
4. Based on how the manipulation of internal energy or “qi” called “qi gong” takes place, the styles are classified as internal or “nèijiaquán” and as external or “wàijiaquán“. Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua, Xing Yi, Liuhebafa and Yiquan are examples of internal systems while almost all others can be classified as external. Styles like Wing Chun, White Crane etc fall midway because they include aspects from both extremes.
5. Based on the geographical location in China, the styles originated. Styles are labeled as northern or “beiquán“(examples are Changquan, Tai Chi Chuan, Northern Praying Mantis and Baijiquan) and southern or “nánquán” ( examples are Hung Gar, Wing Chun, White Crane, Choi Li Fut and Dragon).

We need to pay particular attention to the concept of mimic boxing here because there is an assumption that the concept of mimicking animals in fighting came from Kalaripayattu. That is also far from the truth because the animal concepts taught in Kalaripayattu speaks only about certain postures, jumps etc. The animal systems in Chinese martial arts are much more advanced since they mimic the animals and adapt from it in highly refined manners which includes fist positions, stances, footwork, shouting etc. In Chinese wushu, the practitioner must temporarily transform himself into the animal while practising and the “dim mak” or pressure point attack is performed so as to mimic the effect of the said animal’s attack. For instance, within the snake style itself there is cobra and viper systems which affects the opponent in different ways just as the bites of these two snakes affect their victims. Further, the concept of birds, insects etc are unique to Chinese fighting systems and have no relation whatsoever to any Indian fighting system. In addition to that, there are weapon systems unique to these animal styles like the monkey staff and the straight sword and spear in snake style. Apart from all these, the Chinese Dragon style kung fu is a highly unique animal kung fu style totally based on the philosophies and myths pertaining to the mythical and legendary Chinese Dragon found in folklores.

Image of Yellow Emperor
The Yellow Emperor

Like any other martial art, wushu evolved because of the need for self defense, hunting and military training. All these requirements created unique styles of hand to hand as well as weapons techniques for soldiers, imperial guards, merchants etc. Chinese legends attribute the origin of wushu during the oldest “Xia Dynasty” over 4000 years ago when the Yellow Emperor Huangdi who according to legends reigned from 2697 to 2597 BCE created the earliest fighting systems in China. The Chinese describe him as a famous general who wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and martial arts before becoming the ruler of China.

Another legendary figure during the same period was Chi You who is credited as the creator of “jiao di“, which is thought to be the predecessor of the modern Chinese Wrestling. According to Chinese Mythology, he was a tribal leader and tyrant who fought against the then future Yellow Emperor during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era.

The best examples of ancient Chinese martial arts practiced before the arrival of Bodhidharma are “Shoubó“, practiced during the Shang dynasty (1766–1066 BCE) and “Xiang Bo” (similar to modern Sanda), practiced from the 7th century BCE. It was in 509 BCE that Confucius suggested Duke Ding of Lu that people should practice martial arts alongside literary arts thereby beginning an era of martial arts where laypeople outside the military and religious sects started practicing them. The “Classics of Rites” written in the 1st century BCE describe a combat wrestling system called “juélì” or “jiaolì” which used strikes, throws, joint manipulation and pressure point attacks. During the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE), Jiao Di became a sport.

Image of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan

The Han History Bibliographies have accurately recorded on the distinction between no-holds barred weaponless fighting called shoubó, for which “how-to” manuals were written and sportive wrestling, then known as juélì or jiaolì during the Former Han (206 BCE – 8 CE) period. Further, information on wrestling can also be found in the Shi Jì, Records of the Grand Historian, written by Sima Qian (ca. 100 BCE). The theory of hand to hand combat that includes integration of the concepts of “hard” and “soft” techniques have been expounded in the story of the “Maiden of Yue in the Spring” and “Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue” written during 5th century BCE. The Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai has written accounts of sword dances. During the Song and Yuan dynasties, contests of an art called “xiangpu” were sponsored by the imperial courts and by the Ming and Qing dynasties, the modern concepts of wushu were fully developed.

Image of Art of War
Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Chinese philosophical texts have extensive accounts on the martial arts. For instance, in the “Passages in Zhuangzi“, a Taoist text written by the eponymous author Zhuangzi who is supposed to have lived in the 4th century BC, describes psychology and practice of martial arts. Another Taoist text, “Tao Te Ching“, written by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism contains several principles applicable in martial arts, especially in the internal systems. In the classic Confucian text “Zhou Li“, archery and charioting were an integral part of the “six arts” or “liu yi” which also included music, rites, calligraphy and mathematics during the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BC). The “Art of War“, written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu deals directly with ideas on military warfare and martial arts.

These examples demonstrate how wushu changed with the evolving society over time and acquired a philosophical basis. many practitioners of Taoism used to perform a set of physical exercises similar to today’s qigong called “Dao Yin” as early as 500 BC which many believe is the predecessor of Tai Chi Chuan. The “Han Shu“, written during the Former Han Dynasty by Pan Ku included “Six Chapters of Hand Fighting” in the years between AD 39 and AD 92. Noted physician Hua Tuo composed the “Five Animals Play” which included the movements of tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird around 220 BC.

The role of Shaolin Temple in influencing the development of Chinese martial arts happened much later in the history of China. The oldest evidence of the participation of Shaolin in combat has been recorded in 728 AD which describes two incidents in which defense of the monastry took place from bandits around 610 AD and the defeat of Wang Shichong at the Battle of Hulao in 621 AD. There are no documented evidence of Shaolin’s participation in combat from the 8th to the 15th centuries. However, from the 16th century onwards, the Shaolin system flourished to epic proportions when it became an integral part of monastic life of the monks. The theory also revolves around just one Shaolin temple in Henan province when in fact there are many such temples in Fujian, Omeishan etc teaching and practising different forms of wushu.

Image of Kalaripayattu

Thus, it is very clear and evident that martial arts were well established in China centuries before the arrival of Bodhidharma or the construction of the Shaolin temple. Almost all of the philosophical as well as technical aspects of Chinese Martial arts were already well developed before Bodhidharma or Buddhism itself (which arrived in China between only 221 – 206 BCE). It is also logically fallacious to assume that Bodhidharma had introduced martial arts to China. Because assuming that would mean the warriors of China did not have a fighting system for 2500 years and they waited for Bodhidharma to come and teach them kalaripayattu in the 6th century.

I am in no way trying to demean the contributions of Bodhidharma or the art of kalaripayattu. However, based on historic and technical evidence, it is clear that India is not the birthplace of kung fu. Both kalaripayattu and kung fu are two great martial arts that developed in two separate cultures that have more differences than similarities. A detailed analysis of each system will reveal staggering differences between the execution of techniques practised in them. Even if we accept the theory that Chinese martial arts came from kalaripayattu, it is still not going to make a difference since the art has undergone over forty centuries of refinement making it one of the most advanced, most in-depth and most scientific methods of combat in the world.

Anyone who has a counter opinion is welcome to post their comments or email me. Thanks for your time.

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  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Thank you for this post. It really irritates me of the arrogance to claim that Kung Fu came from Kalari or India, and even worst, to claim that Kalari is the mother of all MA. Even Kung Fu haven’t made such claim. To be honest, i don’t see any similarities at all. Kalari simply looks very sloppy and un-coordinated IMO. There’s not even a technique in Kalari and that’s probably one of the reasons why it is not taught.

    1. Thank you Rommel for the support and encouragement. Yeah, even I have been much irritated by the arrogance of kalari practitioners. It is not just kalari practioners, but also people who have no relation to martial arts whatsoever making the claim. Even after writing this post, there have been people who came and told that despite what I have written, they will still believe that kalari is the mother of all martial arts. Sad. 🙁

      1. i also had the same feeling that people and other kalari practitioners claiming that all eastern martial arts came from them they are just too jealous or arrogant so that they can get tons of pride when people hear them say that all the martial arts came from india and i bet many historians like you had already told them that they are saying tons of bullshit moments and arrogant lies or they are just releasing their egos claiming they created everything and we and the whole world historians would say thats bullshit

    2. well even though i am not knowledgeable in this topic and not here to stamp the claims of kalari artists i would like to put forth two points. 1.bodhidharman or damo whatever u guys call him was a guys of warrior/royal lineage so he might have had at the least a small knowledge of martial arts. 2.martial art is an evolution of various practices and movements and postures and whatever people did for self defence. kalari is a mix of indian sciences and martial arts and unlike kung fu is a martial art in crude form without any foreign influence but kung fu may have an indian influence most probably kalari”s
      p.s. your are defending ur art form here same way kalari arts are trying to justify their art form and its significance and similarities so pls don’t term it as arrogance ok

      1. There’s a difference between defending a lie and objecting to the same lie. I’m simply objecting to the false claim that Kung Fu came from Kalari and defending KungFu that it did not come from any other art form, especially not from Kalaripayatu. The fact is that there is no credible factual proof behind this claim. There are no similiarties between Kung Fu and Kalaripayatu, not in form, style, and execution, that’s undeniable. In regards to Kalari justifying their art form and it’s significance, that’s perfectly fine and worthy. But it doesn’t need to make up stories such as it’s “the mother of all martial arts” and that Kung Fu came from it just to get some recognition. Especially when there are no credible factual proof to back it up with. And what do you exactly mean that Kung Fu is a martial art in crude form. There’s nothing crude about Kung Fu, not in style, form, and execution.

        1. I understand that you are a proponent of this posit, and I am not surprised.But what you are missing is critical judgement.I understand your devotion toward Kung Fu but  I found no evidence from your side to back up apart from the same ole.

      2. IMO, Kalaripayatu has enough credibiltiy and certainly has enough ability to mark and stamp it’s own reputation without having to resort to any folk lore stories or false claims. It’ll just do more damage to it’s image and reputation.  You don’t here any other martial arts claiming to be the best or claiming to be the mother of all martial arts. Kalaripayatu does not need it.

    3. Do you know the kalari Mr.Rommel??? just do some research on “Tamil and their people” history. No guru teaches all the techniques he knows here. The kalaripayatu you are seeing is just 10% of it. Do some research on “varma kalai”. you will know who invented what.

      1. Dear Ram,

        You don’t need to be a musician to fully appreciate or criticize Beethoven’s symphony. What Rommel has said is right. Why should he research on “Tamil and their people” history? Kalaripayattu is an art most prominent in Kerala than Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. Just like another guy who commented below, you also haven’t read the article completely. I have written clearly in the 2nd paragraph that you must read the article completely before commenting. Look at the facts presented and the logical inferences drawn. I have done sufficient research before writing this article. I haven’t written some ignorant opinion. The sources are sited below the article for your reference.

        Use logic than emotion. Being an arrogant nationalist won’t get you anywhere. Now regarding the 10% stuff, it’s a myth. Most Kalari masters these days teach the art in its entirety even to foreigners. Some have even opened schools abroad. I know at least two masters personally who have opened schools in Australia and Russia. The 10% myth is created to paint an intimidating picture of a very complex fighting system to people.

        Marma Adi (Malayalam) or Varma Kalai (Tamil) is the Indian form of pressure point attacking. Similar methods exist in other martial arts around the world. For example, the Chinese have “Dim Mak” which is based on an ancient book named “Huangdi Neijing” or the “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicines” and the Japanese have “Kyusho Jitsu” which is based on an ancient scroll named “Bubishi”. All these are different expressions of the same thing developed independently in separate cultures.

        As I have shown in the article, it is difficult and often impossible to prove that one thing came from the other. Kung fu coming from Kalaripayattu is a fanciful theory which is more fiction than fact.

        So, now it is your turn to research. Hope you got the message.


        1. “Porud of India” sounds like a guy with lots of investment in India
          in the same way you sound like a guy who has invested lots of time and energy(and money) in Kung-Fu.
          Anyone watching the above two videos can see for themselves that the two martial art forms have a few similarities and if we study both arts in detail we are bound to find a lot of differences too.

          So a kalari guy would see only the similarities and a Kung-Fu guy would only see the differences.

          “Use logic than emotion. Being an arrogant nationalist won’t get you
          anywhere. Now regarding the 10% stuff, it’s a myth. Most Kalari masters
          these days teach the art in its entirety even to foreigners. Some have
          even opened schools abroad. I know at least two masters personally who
          have opened schools in Australia and Russia. The 10% myth is created to
          paint an intimidating picture of a very complex fighting system to

          How do you know?Lots of  Logic I guess.Dude do you really believe you would be half (or even 10%)as good as a shaolin ‘master’.An Instructor and a Master are two different things.There is no such thing as teaching an art in its entirety.Anyone who has practiced any form of art  would know that.

          Your article though informative is prejudiced and your reply to comments exposes it even more.
          Dude you sound as arrogant and emotional as “Porud of India” Though you are trying hard to be “Pleasant”(or maybe its just your screen name).

          Sorry for being sarcastic.
          An  instructor is a process whereas a master is a phenomenon.Don’t try to understand it literally.
          When you find a Master you’ll understand, till then practice any art in the entirety of your capacity.
          Be it Kung-Fu or Kalari or else you have missed the whole point of that art.

          1. This article poses a question. It is meant to make people think. Porud of India resorted to personal insults. That’s why I attacked him in the same fashion. When we discuss something, the language should be moderate. But that doesn’t mean that if someone resorts to abuse, we should keep quiet. Porud of India did not think and I seriously doubt whether he read the article fully. I repeat, this article is about an alternative point of view and should be considered such. Thanks for you comment. 🙂

          2. Observer,

            I honestly don’t think Pleasant miss any point of the art at all. Pointing out facts or having an alternative point of view based on facts, doesn’t mean not understanding or missing the point of any martial arts. Remember that the whole article and discussion is about the claim or false claim in my opinion, that Kung Fu came from Kalari. That’s all it is. Pleasant by all means is not discrediting or belittling the art of Kalaripayatu. Now whether you care for that or not, is another issue. I believe that it is very important to tell the truth and have all the facts regardless what it is about, and it  doesn’t matter who’s side you’re on. If there is no credibility or proof with this claim, then it’s shouldn’t be taught or spread because it diminishes the prestige and pride of both arts.

          3. Quote:
            “Pointing out facts or having an alternative point of view based on
            facts, doesn’t mean not understanding or missing the point of any
            martial arts”

            I agree but my post doesn’t say anything like that either.Read it again.

          4. You are correct, my mistake. So what do you mean by Pleasant missing the point of the whole art?

            And in regards to this post. “So a kalari guy would see only the similarities and a Kung-Fu guy would only see the differences.” I’m neither a Kalari or Kung Fu, but i can easily see the huge differences between the two. In form, execution, and technique. Especially when it comes to kicks, they’re night and day.

          5. Any art or anything thats worth being called art has its roots in meditation,a thoughtless state of mind or an egoless mind.

            Watch this video:


            The way this monk is fighting is beautiful(He might not be the best).
            Although he is fighting there is no violence within him.He is not split,has an unwavering mind without fluctuations.
            And where do fluctuations come from?Thoughts,Emotions.

            So if you are practicing an art and allow a stray comment to disturb
            your calm and become emotional or agitated you are missing the whole point of it.

            True art is always objective.Its more about transforming you than the
            art itself. That’s where you’ll see every art converging.Thats what I meant.

            My comment was in response to a comment and so it sounded off-topic,confusing and was bound to be misunderstood.Hope things are clear now.

            Since the comments are going way off-topic won’t be posting anymore.

          6. Yes i have seen that video before, about three years ago. The monk wasn’t displaying any emotional anger nor did his opponent, but both of their intentions were to fight, considering the strikes they both executed, they where both going for head strikes. So the intentions could still and would’ve ended up in a violent manner. Now to your point, regardless who you are and what martial arts you practice, your emotions is a complete separate issue. Sure you can use martial arts to control those emotions just like the monks, but at the end, you’re only human just like everyone else, eventually some of your emotions will come out. Pleasant replying to Porud with emotion or passion doesn’t necessarily means he missed the point of the art or Kung Fu specifically. If anything, he handled it quite well without being too aggressive and emotional. Not all martial arts have special focus on human emotions. That’s up to the school and teacher to make that part of their teaching, and it’s mostly up to the individual to control that.

          7. if you are neither,then do not judge it.only musicians or sort of prof can read music and create music notations in a ledger. if you are not a musician,then do not even compare the music composition but just listen.

          8. You don’t have to be a practitioner of these arts to judge these particular issues or have an opinion about these particular issues. I’m not judging these arts by themselves, i’m judging the issue and subject about the origin of KungFu, and i’m  judging it base on facts and evidence, but it also helps that i have knowledge of martial arts and a practitioner of martial arts as well.

      2. I know enough that Kalaripayatu did not invented martial arts or Kung Fu. That’s a fact. Unless you can come up with a credible factual proof,  then you don’t know who invented what either, nobody does. Now go do some research.

        1. Do you have any evidence ?I have read this whole webpage and wikipedia so far.Everyone tells that Kung Fu existed before than Buddhism or so on.Show me a single piece of evidence that shows ‘Kung Fu’ existed then.Please do not show me anything that is far away from ‘modern Kung fu’. Taoism styles were influenced and based on Chi Gung ; that is what Yoga.Show me an evidence of Acupressure and chakra system existed in China that predates Indian style of it.

          1. It is written clearly in the article that the term “kung fu” replaced wushu to represent martial arts somewhere in the 20th century. The evidence is right there. Wikipedia might not be evidence. But at the bottom of every Wikipedia article, the sources are mentioned clearly. Try reading them. At the closing paragraph, I have written clearly that I do not rule out the possibility of Chinese martial arts having roots in India. But then, what do you mean by “modern kung fu”? Do you think the Kalaripayattu that is practiced today is the same that was practiced 500 years ago? Kalari itself came into prominence somewhere around 12th century AD, which is 700 years after Bodhidharma. So, what are you trying to prove to me here?

  3. Don’t get me wrong, i respect all type of Martial Arts, even though i don’t like some of them. But the big difference between most martial arts and kalari is the style and technique. I base this statement on videos posted on youtube, which should be credible because most of them are shown from their schools and documentaries. And base on those videos, Kalari does not have any technique at all. Even their choreographed fights and display are very sloppy and just simply un-coordinated. Basically there’s no style.

  4. Im not sure about the techniques of kalari or kunfu or its roots. But one thing is true.
    Style is subjective, there is no universal law for style…. Style is a hype, if kalari is shown in english movies, it can also be a style…. yoga is now becoming a style in western world, because it is projected. style is just the outlook of people. A style 100 years back may not be a style now. Hippie style which made a big revolution in 70’s is now a joke. So style is nothing..! :).

    1. Style means a lot, especially in competitions. But i do agree that style is subjective, so for me to say that Kalari doesn’t have style is wrong. I don’t like it, but it is still a style. But my whole point why i brought up style and technique, is to prove that there is a huge distinct difference between Kung Fu and Kalari. In fact there are no similarities at all in their style and technique. And that’s just another factual proof that Kung Fu did not come from Kalari.

      1. to a chauvinist, style a1 uses kicks first. so, style b2 which uses kicks in their art must be a copy of a1. heh.

    1. Look, this article is not about styles. It is about a gross misunderstanding about the origins of an art and the clarifications therein. With over a decade of martial arts experience, I pretty well am aware that styles are subjective. Bruce Lee has also rightly said it in his philosophy of JKD that styles don’t matter. However, Lee has also said that we need to combine the natural instinct and control into harmony. For instance, there is only one way of executing a particular technique no matter which style you practice. Hence the core concepts of martial arts remain the same. I repeat, this article is not about styles and their advantages. It is written to clarify a misunderstanding entertained by many people.

  5. The writer of this article is nothing but an ignorant fool who doesn’t know anything about martial arts. Plainly comparing each and every movements in kalari and kung-fu to spot out differences is really stupid approach. Wing-Chun is a martial art derived from Kung-Fu.. Karate is derived from Kung-Fu.. but both of these martial arts have their own unique style and methods and does not resemble Kung-Fu in many aspects.. Karate mostly uses linear movements in most of its styles where Kung-Fu uses circular movements, Kung-Fu punches are vertical-fist and Karate had the just opposite.. Karate training system is entirely different from Kung-Fu training, in which karate contains Katas, Wazas and Kumites which does not resemble Kung-Fu in any way.. So, only from from this point shall i or anybody deny the fact Karate is derrived from Kung-Fu? NO!

    Kung-Fu is ‘derived’ or ‘developed from’ kalari, not kalaripayattu itself.. Kung-Fu is spread and practiced widely in china by Buddhist monks to protect themselves and temples from robbers.. Buddhism originated in Ancient India and then later spread to China.. this cultural and spiritual influence led into developing new style of martial arts which later became Chinese Kung-Fu and Wu-Shu, Wing-Chun which in turn became influential for other martial arts like Karate, JKD etc.

    Chinese had trade relations with south India since ancient times before common era. There had been historical records of Chinese and Babylonians been the main trade relations of Kerala, the originating state of kalari payattu..

    The writer must try at least learning Kung-Fu and Kalaripayattu to make any comparisons and reviews rather than blabbering nonsense from a biased point of view with arrogance and sarcasm.

    1. My dear “Porud of India”. I am not sure whether you meant to write “Proud” and became “Porud”. And even if it is “Proud”, you are wrong because it has to be “Pride” and not “Proud”. Anyway, I do not want to pick on that at the moment. But I need to say the following since you created so much fuss.

      From your comment, two things are very clear:

      1. You have not read the article properly.
      2. You have not researched the martial arts properly.

      Now for your information, I have long years of martial arts experience which includes studying and researching the various styles of combat, analysing their differences and studying their merits and demerits. And I am still doing it. Before you call me an ignorant fool, sit and think for a moment whether you have any idea about my background and what you are talking about. You are saying that I am biased and filled with arrogance and sarcasm. So what are you filled with? Militant nationalistic chauvinism? Your comment certainly shows a lot of it.

      Your notion that JKD is a martial art itself shows what type of knowledge you possess in martial arts. Everyone with proper sense and knowledge knows that JKD is not a martial art but rather a concept. Now your differentiation between Kung fu and Karate is again wrong. Who told you that Kung fu punches use just vertical fist and Karate uses just horizontal fist? Have you even been learning these styles before making this ignorant comment? And besides, did you even read the last sentence of the article in which I have written clearly that it is remotely possible that Kung fu may be derived from Kalaripayattu and that I respect all the arts? Of course not. People like you are so obsessed with nationalism that it blinds you from reality.

      Since you spoke about Buddhism, let me ask you this; what can you say about the Taoist styles of Kung fu? Where did that knowledge come from? The thesis of your comment is similar to saying, “Because human beings originated in Africa, all human achievements must be attributed to Africans.” Does that even make sense?

      Further, there are martial arts around the world like Capoeira, Penchak Silat, Kali etc. Do you think all of this came from India? Why don’t you just say that human civilisation began here? That would summarise your nationalistic arrogance.

      Finally, do you think that someone who has no experience in martial arts would spend this much time researching and writing an article? This article is comparatively very long when compared to my other articles. However, I wanted to include everything necessary to lift the veil that people have been so comfortably holding. Go back to school buddy and try to learn at least how human beings behave before you assume how they do. Thanks for your time.

        haha. Its funny u had to raise the question about indian civilization being the oldest.please go to the above link and open your eyes to this revelation. This study is not based on ancient text and archaeology but genetics, so no fooling around. In short, it says indians have the most unique and oldest dna and that civilization undoubtedly started in india. From farming to pottery, literature to music, religion to philosophy, maths to science !! Think about it, kamasutra, hinduism, yoga, music, art, cuisines, etc all are deeply rooted and evolved here. Is it logical to think that sitar was developed from guitar ? Iddiyapam was developed from noodles ? The only thing west gave us was technology. And that too after looting us. The closest civilization to india in terms of history is chinese. And understandable because it was right above us. But seperated from himalayas so their evolution was going in another way. Likewise, kungfu has to have originated from kalari but because kalari was not documented or followed properly it remained in basic or lost form.
        Ps. better change yr name from pleasant to proud of india 2

        1. Dear Jacob, please read my article properly and completely and spend a few minutes thinking about it and then comment. Or else I will have to name you Proud of India – 3. It makes me sad that people don’t spend enough time to read this article fully and try to understand. I am not saying that you should convert to my way of thinking. All I am saying is, spend some time after reading this article to think about the facts presented and come to your own conclusion. Unfortunately, what I am getting is rampant name calling and personal attacks. I even wrote a sequel to this article because of all these comments I am getting. You can read it here : Please read that also. (I know that Indian civilization is very old. You don’t have to teach me that. People are bringing in the characters from Indian epics like Parasurama and trying to take arguments in some other direction. I am trying to thwart that attempt.) Anyway, I hope I am clear. Good night.

          1. dear pleasant. I have read your article fully and completely and spent time to understand it and blah blah. But i have also read all the comments and your replies which made me post here at the first place. Throughout your article you have tried to show references from chinese texts which prove that kungfu was present before kalari. And yet at some points chinese say that bodhidharma taught the martial arts to them. Its logical to think that chinese patrons will try to debunk this theory even with some evidence favoring bodhidharma, eg the painting on the wall and statues and antiques found in china. Why the hell would a country uphold or care about a foreigner. Secondly, you yourself mentioned your article that comments are welcome. And considering this topic, you should expect “nationalist” replies. What makes me angry is that you did not come across as a neutral writer here. You were anti bodhidharma the whole time and in the end just wrote that you dont mean to demean him. Also please dont post in a another name (rommel). Its very immature on your part. Also on your premise that civilizations cannot survive without martial arts. Are you just making arguments for the sake of it? Hunting and killing is a form of martial arts for you then ? In any case i think you did a great job with the research. But You Are Wrong.

          2. Fine. If you think I am downright wrong despite the evidences presented, then I have nothing more to say. There is no propaganda that I am trying to spread. I wasn’t referring to hunting and killing as martial art. I was referring to specific arts that had (and still have) well established curriculum and names that existed before Bodhidharma. And I have listed those in the article. And did you read the second link I gave? The sequel to this article poses 5 questions which are pretty clear. Unfortunately, no one has ever been able to give me satisfactory answers to that.

            And frankly speaking I am very offended by you saying that Rommel is me. You are wrong. I don’t have to use some other name and post comments in my own blog. If I was such an “immature” person, I wouldn’t have invited comments in the first place. I would also have censored out comments that came to name calling. Besides, I am not the one who started name calling, if you have noticed. I still have the power to wipe out all the comments here and prevent any future comments. But I am not that kind of a person. I need not go hiding behind a veil just because some people are posting negative comments on my site.

            Anyway, it’s been exactly 3 years since I wrote this article and started answering comments. I need a break. Good night. Nice talking to you.

          3. haha. I am sorry dude. I appreciate your research and hard work. To be honest i know little about kalari or kungfu. But when the chinese have evidence in their own country about bodhidharma and his teachings your blog does not make sense. And yes i did read your sequel but then considering the recent dna findings all your arguments become void. Ofcourse kungfu is very very advanced and developed. And obviously there will be many differences. So much so that one cannot imagine kalari being the mother of it. Also by hunting and killing i mean that civilizations must have been protected by these instinctive ways. Like the present naga tribes who still follow their tradition of hunting animals. Centuries before tribal wars ended with the chief bringing home the heads as trophies. They did not have martial arts then. Nor do they have now. Now they replaced this tradition with harmless wrestling. So you see you dont need martial arts to protect civilizations.

          4. The Chinese do have evidence that Bodhidharma had no connection to Shaolin Marital arts. This legend comes from “Yijin Jing”, the sacred Shaolin Art taught by Bodhidharma , was in fact a 17th century fictional qigong manual, written by a Taoist. Chinese Historians have discredited the manual as a legitimate source on the grounds of anachronistic errors, absurdities and fantasy claims. For example, in the manual, a fictional character named Bushy Bearded Hero was recorded as lineage master. In addition, a popular twentieth century fantasy novel, The travels of Lao Ts’an, promoted wide spread association between Bodhidharma and martial arts. There is no evidence that Bodhidharma had any knowledge of marital arts. He was falsely credit for transmitting Yijin Jing to the Shaolin Monks not Kalaripayattu.

            According to Shaolin records, the first two Chinese monks, Sengchou and Huiguang, were martial arts experts before studying religion under, Batuo. Thus, Chinese martial arts existed in temple before Bodhidharma arrived at the monastery in 5th century AD. The
            Chinese martial arts that predate Bodhidharma’s arrival by several centuries to over thousand years include, but are not limited to, Jiao Li wrestling, Wu Yisword arts, Shoubo military arts, Sun Bin Quan internal style, “Dao Yin” qigong, The Six Chapters of Hand.Fighting, Huo Tuos Five Animal Play etc.


          5. Characters? They were real gods you fool. Parasurama was gods incarnation on earth, evidence of his presence is everywhere. You think Ramayana was fake? The truth is everywhere in Lanka and India. The epics are real. It’s not just a story

          6. According to Aryabhatta, Kali Yuga started in 3102 BC. Dwapara Yuga lasted 864,000 years. If you add these two, the end of Treta Yuga occurred about 867,102 years ago. So any event described in Ramayana, which occurred in Treta Yuga must have happened before 867,102 years. That is a very long time ago. Modern humans didn’t exist during that time. Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens approximately 200,000 years ago. That is very recent. Agriculture was developed just 10,000 years ago let along modern civilization. And you are claiming that in a highly primitive era of human evolution, events involving aircrafts, advanced weaponry, construction and complex communication language existed? Calling me “fool” will not make you a wise man my dear sir. Your argument has nothing to do with the article I wrote. Nevertheless I took time to reply to your ludicrous claim that the epics are real. Please stop wasting others’ time.

          7. Hi! Please, don’t go with the mainstream archaeology.
            Because there are thousands of facts nd proofs around the world that are not taken into consideration because then westerners would have to re write the history.

            For example. You will find that at number of diiferent places around the world archaeologists have found humam figurines with dinosaurs!
            Really, I mean doesn’t it rings a bell that how such ancient people (as we call them) know the body structure of animals extinct millions years ago.

            We should not forget that the history we read is greatly westernized. And many great civilization as we normally like to think probably were not as primitive.
            For it is very possible that humans did existed before the time we believe them to be.

            Take the story of Noah, as how almost every civilization or religion present today talks about it.

            A human civilization before the great flood.

            And now there are scientific proofs that such flood did came once.

            Thank you.

            “Sometimes reality is even stranger thn fiction.”

  6. Dear Proud/Porud of India,
    Am pretty sure that you haven’t read the article in a good way.Your repeated use of the word Kung-fu itself shows your ignorance on this matter.China had martial arts way before Budha,have you ever heard of Taoism? there’s a bunch of martial arts which follows taoism,and all dates back before the birth of Bodhi,now..don’t ay that Taoism also came from India..If you want to show jingoism,bring out some genuine arguments.And yes, I’m a martial artist for the last 10 years, who hvae practiced Karate,Wing-chun,JKD and wushu..and I have seen much of kalarippayattu,from which I can surely say that Kung-fu,as you call it( the right way to call the arts is written above in the article) didn’t develop from kalaripayattu..

  7. Thank you Anoop for the support. Further, the term Kung fu, as I have rightly written in the article did not even pertain to martial arts until the 20th century. I think the critic missed that point too.

  8. Porud of India. First and foremost, you obviously did not read the article that Pleasant wrote that was thoroughly researched with complete specific and accurate facts. Not just opinions or speculations, but actual historical facts. You on the other hand are just quoting false statements and speculations. There are no credible factual proof that supports the “Bodhidharma theory”. That’s all it is, a theory and at best a speculation. Read and learn. And again, the FACT that there are no similarities what so ever between Kung Fu and Kalari or kalarippayattu, is even more PROOF that Kung Fu did not come from either one of them.

  9. Thanks again Rommel for supporting me. To any rational person, the Bodhidharma Theory is totally unacceptable since it is logically fallacious. It makes me sad that people comment on the article without reading it. 🙁

  10. BTW Pleasant, i don’t know if you ever heard of Ehsan Shafiq. He’s a Kung Fu master and has studied Kung Fu for more than 20 yrs. He has many videos in youtube and he’s a world champion as well in full contact competitions. He’s Afghanistan but he resides in the UK and has several schools there as well. In his website and in an interview, he stated clearly that Kung Fu came from China. You should check out his website, it’s pretty interesting, it’s

  11. Yáng Xuànzhī

    A Dehua ware porcelain statuette of Bodhidharma, from the late Ming Dynasty, 17th century
    The Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (洛陽伽藍記 Luòyáng Qiélánjì), was compiled in 547 by Yáng Xuànzhī 楊衒之, a writer and translator of Mahāyāna Buddhist texts into the Chinese language.
    At that time there was a monk of the Western Region named Bodhidharma, a Persian Central Asian. He traveled from the wild borderlands to China. Seeing the golden disks [on the pole on top of Yǒngníng’s stupa] reflecting in the sun, the rays of light illuminating the surface of the clouds, the jewel-bells on the stupa blowing in the wind, the echoes reverberating beyond the heavens, he sang its praises. He exclaimed: “Truly this is the work of spirits.” He said: “I am 150 years old, and I have passed through numerous countries. There is virtually no country I have not visited. Even the distant Buddha-realms lack this.” He chanted homage and placed his palms together in salutation for days on end.[13]
    Broughton (1999:55) dates Bodhidharma’s presence in Luoyang to between 516 and 526, when the temple referred to—Yǒngníngsì (永寧寺)—was at the height of its glory. Starting in 526, Yǒngníngsì suffered damage from a series of events, ultimately leading to its destruction in 534.[14]
    The second account was written by Tánlín (曇林; 506–574). Tánlín’s brief biography of the “Dharma Master” is found in his preface to the Two Entrances and Four Acts, a text traditionally attributed to Bodhidharma, and the first text to identify Bodhidharma as South Indian:
    The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king of the Pallava Dynasty. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path, and so he put aside his white layman’s robe for the black robe of a monk […] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei.[15]
    Tánlín’s account was the first to mention that Bodhidharma attracted disciples,[16] specifically mentioning Dàoyù (道育) and Huìkě (慧可), the latter of whom would later figure very prominently in the Bodhidharma literature.
    Tánlín has traditionally been considered a disciple of Bodhidharma, but it is more likely that he was a student of Huìkě, who in turn was a student of Bodhidharma.[17]

    1. Dear Jeroth,

      I am aware of this information from the Wikipedia article on Bodhidharma. My article in no way denies the existence of Bodhidharma or his Indian origins. What this article does is to logically question the notion that Chinese Wushu had Indian origins, especially from the South Indian martial art Kalaripayattu. It is a notion that is hard to digest because it poses a bigger question than it answers. If you read the last few paragraphs of the article, you will know the question the article poses. Anyway, I will repeat for your convenience. Bodhidharma lived somewhere during the 6th century AD which is around 2,500 years after the original formation of the Chinese dynasties. Hence, associating him with the origins of Chinese Wushu is not entirely accurate. It may be true that he invented the Shaolin fighting system, but then again, looking at the entire spectrum of Chinese fighting arts, Shaolin’s contribution is only a part of it. And Chinese Wushu, which not just depends on Buddhist philosophy was well established long before the arrival of Bodhidharma. I hope you understood what I am trying to say. Thanks for your time. 🙂

  12. To Jeroth,

    Chinese martial arts

    There is a theory which claims Indian martial arts spread to China via the transmission of Buddhism in the early 5th or 6th centuries of the common era, and thus influenced Shaolin Kung Fu. Elements from Indian philosophy, like the Nāga, Rakshasa, and the fierce Yaksha were modified and converted into the protectors of Dharma; these mythical figures from the Dharmic religions figure prominently in Shaolin boxing, Chang boxing and Stave fighting.[9] The religious figures from Dharmic religions also figure in the movement and fighting techniques of Chinese martial arts.[10] Various styles of kung fu are known to contain movements that are identical to the Mudra hand positions used in Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which derived from India.[11] The 108 pressure points in Chinese martial arts are believed by some to be based on the marmam points of Indian Kalaripayattu.[12][13]

    Proponents who support the theory commonly cite a popular legend about a prince-turned-Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma (circa 5th century) who is said to have imparted his martial arts knowledge to the monks of the Shaolin Monastery, thereby founding Shaolin Kungfu.[14] According to Wong Kiew Kit, the Monk’s creation of Shaolin arts “…marked a watershed in the history of Kung Fu, because it led to a change of course, as Kung Fu became institutionalized. Before this, martial arts were known only in general sense.”[15] Chinese records do not agree with the presented time line, however. Various documents from the 6th and 7th centuries place him in locations around Shaolin, but never at the monastery itself. It is not until the publishing of the Precious Record of the Darma’s Transmission (Chuanfa baoji) (c. 710) that Bodhidharma is said to have actually spent time in Shaolin.[16]

    The association of Bodhidharma with martial arts is traceable to the Yi Jin Jing, though its authenticity has been discredited by several historians such as Tang Hao,[17] Xu Zhen and Matsuda Ryuchi.[18] This argument is summarized by modern historian Lin Boyuan in his Zhongguo wushu shi as follows:

    As for the “Yi Jin Jing” (Muscle Changing Classic), a spurious text attributed to Bodhidharma and included in the legend of his transmitting martial arts at the temple, it was written in the Ming dynasty, in 1624 CE, by the Daoist priest Zining of Mt. Tiantai, and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma. Forged prefaces, attributed to the Tang general Li Jing and the Southern Song general Niu Gao were written. They say that, after Bodhidharma faced the wall for nine years at Shaolin temple, he left behind an iron chest; when the monks opened this chest they found the two books Xi Sui Jing (Marrow Washing Classic) and Yi Jin Jing within. The first book was taken by his disciple Huike, and disappeared; as for the second, “the monks selfishly coveted it, practicing the skills therein, falling into heterodox ways, and losing the correct purpose of cultivating the Real. The Shaolin monks have made some fame for themselves through their fighting skill; this is all due to having obtained this manuscript.” Based on this, Bodhidharma was claimed to be the ancestor of Shaolin martial arts. This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source.[19]

    The oldest known available copy was published in 1827[18] and the composition of the text itself has been dated to 1624.[19] According to Matsuda, none of the contemporary texts written about the Shaolin martial arts before the 19th century, such as Cheng Zongyou’s Exposition of the Original Shaolin Staff Method or Zhang Kongzhao’s Boxing Classic: Essential Boxing Methods, mention Bodhidharma or credit him with the creation of the Shaolin martial arts. The association of Bodhidharma with martial arts only becomes widespread as a result of the 1904–1907 serialization of the novel The Travels of Lao Ts’an in Illustrated Fiction Magazine.[20]
    Main gate of the Shaolin temple in Henan.

    Shaolin monastery records state that two of its very first monks, Huiguang and Sengchou, were expert in the martial arts years before the arrival of Bodhidharma.[21] None of the canonical Buddhist sources associates Bodhidharma with martial arts whereas they do note Sengchou’s skill with the tin staff.[22]

    The discovery of arms caches in the monasteries of Chang’an during government raids in 446 AD suggests that Chinese monks practiced martial arts prior to the establishment of the Shaolin Monastery in 497.[23] Monks came from the ranks of the population among whom the martial arts were widely practiced prior to the introduction of Buddhism.[23] Moreover, Chinese monasteries, not unlike those of Europe, in many ways were effectively large landed estates, that is, sources of considerable wealth which required protection that had to be supplied by the monasteries’ own manpower.[23]

    In addition, the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue, the Bibliographies in the Book of the Han Dynasty and the Records of the Grand Historian all document the existence of martial arts in China before Bodhidharma. The martial arts Shuāi Jiāo and Sun Bin Quan, to name two, predate the establishment of the Shaolin Monastery by centuries.[24]

    1. That Movie looks awesome, and the leading actress is beautiful. Do you know exactly what is it about?

      1. Yes, the movie is awesome. 🙂 It says that the DNA of a warrior will retain its fighting elements even after several generations pass. So, if we invoke one of those DNA codes, we can revive the fighting elements in the person belonging to the current generation. Basically, it talks about a 21st century guy who is a descendant of Bodhidharma. Sounds more like the plot of the video game Assassin’s Creed. Anyway, need to watch the movie when it is released.

        PS: By the way, the lead actress is Shruti Haasan, the daughter of a very famous actor Kamal Haasan.

  13. Wow that was one good article. I dont believe that kung fu came from kalari. Every country has some sort of martial art originated in it as fighting is necessary to survival of a kingdom. It may be possible that due to invasion the native form may be influenced by the other but we cannot say that it descended completely from the other. I had read somewhere that parakration ( a form of greek martial art i dont really remember the spelling ) may had influenced kalari when greeks came to india. In the same way it may be possible that some form of shaolin kung fu may be influenced by kalari but it is absurd to claim that kung fu directly descended. In the same way i think may be silat was also influenced by kalari in some ways due to tamil occupation of indonesia but silat itself did not come from kalari.

    1. Thank you Shiva for the nice comment. You are right, every civilization developed its own fighting systems. Pankration according to Wikipedia, was introduced to Greek Olympics around 648 BC. And it is more of a primitive version of the modern Greco-Roman wrestling style. However, some people have revived the art recently after analyzing the various ancient Greek scripts and scuptures and drawings. Modern Pankration looks more like Judo. Silat is widely practiced throughout Southeast Asia in various forms. In Thailand, it’s called Kuntao Silat (or Krabi Krabong, I need to refer). In Malaysia, it is called Berserk Silat and in Indonesia it’s called Penchak Silat. Silat is called Kali in the Philippines where people believe the art originally came from. Escrima and Arnis are arts derived from Kali. May be there was influence from Kalari due to the influence of the ancient Sri Vishaya Empire. But then, the empire was spread upto Java and Sumatra islands. So, we can’t possibly associate the origins of these arts with Kalari. As you rightly said, influence is not origin.

  14. Wow..that was an interesting piece of information.. the presentation was great.Am not competent enough to comment on the topic though.

    You are really a researcher!!!

    1. Thank you Lakshmi for the encouragement. It was much hardwork preparing this article but I guess it was food for thought. The intention of this article is basically to provoke thought in people about an alternative point of view that is more logically sound than what is generally believed.

  15. here’s a layman’s point of view…i have watched many martial arts videos, and since i don’t know much about martial arts and their histories, i only know what watching each form makes me feel. kalaripayattu is certainly a beautiful art, but it’s very obvious that it has a very different “feel” from wushu. wushu always seems “flowery” to me, sort of like the people who made the forms love to look at flowers(look at a chinese painting, you’ll get the idea); whereas kalari seems to celebrate movements that are very natural to the human body; to me kalari looks a lot like contemporary dance. in fact i saw one youtube video about contemporary dancers in India taking up Kalaripayattu to improve themselves. wushu forms use a lot of dynamic tension in the arms and upper body, like they’re imagining that they’re really striking someone. kalari doesn’t; the movements seem smooth and flowing, and yet they’re longish and expanding – rather than small and circular like Taichi. in fact, if i’m not mistaken, their very treatment of solo forms is different; chinese regard their forms as “shadow boxing”-a solo fight simulation. whereas the kalari “meypayattu” means body exercise – which seems to indicate that they regard application(via partnered choreographed fights) and conditioning(via solo forms) as two different things. think of ancient greeks doing gymnastics for fitness, and then sparring with weapons to improve fighting technique – it doesn’t mean that they’ll get down and do the Planche in the middle of a battlefield.

    1. You are right. Wushu is a bit flowery. 🙂 My initial training in Chinese systems started with Wushu. Practitioners of Wushu believe in refinement of movements and yes as you said it is about simulating fighting scenarios. Wushu is more of a performance art and exponents fully try to realize the fact that “martial art” must contain both “martial” and “art”. It is true however, that most of those flashy and flamboyant movements are practically useless in a real life situation. Wushu practitioners take a course on something called Sanda which is more like Chinese Kickboxing to compliment their solo performance and get a fighting edge. In fact, any oriental fighting system you take, most of the movements are not applicable in real fight. Even Tai Chi practitioners focus only on key moves while sparring. Wing Chun, my favorite of all styles focuses only on practicality. The emphasis is on simplicity, directness and economy of motion. And that’s what you need in a real life system. You don’t want to waste time and energy. Despite all this, the “art” portion is really fascinating and that’s one reason millions are drawn towards the Chinese systems. 🙂

      1. thanks.. in my eagerness to comment just now i forgot to conclude with my whole point – that Kalari and Shaolin/Wushu, if watched by any normal person, do look liike they originated from two different worlds entirely. furthermore, kalari is rooted in Hinduism, Shaolin in Chan Buddhism – very different. it is also important to note that Kalaripayattu isn’t the only Indian martial art. there’s Angampora from Sri Lanka – a martial art with a Buddhist background(could this be where Bodhidharma really came from?). and if you search “Shirayán Vajrámutthi” on the web, you’ll see an “indian” martial art that looks a lot like Kungfu….but i’m not very sure about this one; it seems that the instructors are all Caucasian(?). and there’s not much info about it available. on a side note, it’s interesting to note how a culture’s arts in general reflects on its martial arts. if u see a japanese painting and a japanese martial art, they have the same characteristic – sparse and utilitarian but generating a sense of peaceful stillness.

        1. Hello. Yeah, I have heard about Shirayan Vajramutthi. It’s ironic that there are only Caucasians practicing it. I remember a YouTube video I saw long back which claimed that the master learned it from some place in India. Anyway, all arts have their origins depending on the culture they flourished. Some may have been influenced by each other. But mostly they are independent. Thanks for the support 🙂

          1. Shaolin existed before than Win Chun and it influenced from Shaolin.Similarly,Aryan arts influenced Shaolin.When you compare Aryan arts predates shaolin.Unfortunately,we don’t have many records before than 2000.But  I am still worried that China ever will admit if experts find more evidence to back up that Kung Fu originated in India and travelled to China.They are now even claiming that Tibet is a part of China. Pathetic!  

          2. Aryan arts influenced Shaolin? How can Aryan arts influence Shaolin when Shaolin predate European contact with China? This doesn’t make any logical sense. Ancient China was very much isolated from the rest of the world through out it existence. Kung Fu can’t originate from India because Kung Fu aka Chinese Martial arts predate India’s first contact with China. In the same degree, Jesus can’t influence Zeus because Zeus predate Jesus. Despite housed under the same style, each art are distinct in nature, the differences between Wing Chun and Mantis are night and day because their origins and conceptions are different. Shaolin is just a house that held martial arts like a library. You wouldn’t credit the Librarian as the writer of the collection books within the library. Chinese martial arts that existed thousands of years before Shaolin, went into Shaolin temple than Chinese Shaolin disciples, through their own experiences, conceived their distinct art. Also, Shalin isn’t the only house for Chinese martial arts, Wudang and other family lineages can debatably be more renown than Shaolin.

      2. Can you show me a single evidence that Tai chi practice existed in China before BC 500 ? What is Chi gong? simply YOGA. Indian systems clearly depicted chakra and all better than any Chinese forms.All of these Chinese forms such as acupressure and all only can be seen after Buddha-era. On the other hand,India had many such as Nata, varmakali,kalari,yoga,dharma marga or Aryan art.Why KGB is teaching Indian M.A ? why not kung fu? I do not mind if you are a die hard fan of China,but you need to understand that India contributed many to China that includes their name too.

        Cina = china ;cina is a sanskrit term.

        The word “China” is derived from Cin (چین), a Persian name for China popularized in Europe by the account of the 13th-century explorer Marco Polo.[27][28] The first recorded use in English dates from 1555.[29] The Persian word is, in turn, derived from the Sanskrit word Cīna (चीन),[30] which was used as a name for China as early as AD 150.[

        1. The first known written reference of Tai Chi appeared in the Book of Changes. Yi Ching, the Book of Changes (1122BC), was the first book to introduce Qi, vital energy, heaven, earth and man, the relationships in Qi Gong, Yi Ching predate Bodhidharma by over a thousand years. Historically, Taoist philosophy Huangdi Neijing (475-221 BC) establishing the pathways through which qi circulates in the body originated as early as late warring states period, predating Bodhidharma around eight centuries. Dao yin, Taoist Yoga (prior to 168BC), predate Bodhidharma several centuries. Chinese medicine physicians were also qi-gong masters, Hua Tuo (141-208AD) devised movements that were similar to the movements of five different animals: the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird, predate Bodhidharma by several centuries. Note, Bodhidharma was born in the 5th century, mid to late 500 AD not 500 BC.

          Tai Chi is based on the foundation of the aforementioned Qi gong and Taoism philosophy. Tai Chi movements and application are physically and spiritually nothing like Yoga. In fact, according to huffingtonpost, the holistic yoga practice of physical and spiritual fitness simply didn’t exist before about 200 years ago. The first workout-like practice of asanas, or poses, stem from the Sritattvanidhi, a book written in the early 1800’s by Mummadi Krishnaraja, a patron of Indian culture and arts.”

          Acupressure is part of Chinese traditional medicine, along with meridians channel network of Qi, Taoist concepts.

          The Chinese didn’t call their country China.. They call it “Middle Kingdom” aka zhongguo (中国). The name changed with the dynasty they lived in, Han, Tang, Ming etc

      3. I would like to add, the moves in Wushu aren’t useless. The flamboyant movements act like stretching, the movements are overextended so the body can adjust to it. In a real fight, the motions are much smaller and practical. The idea is to overextend in training rather than come up short in a real fight. In a real fight, you aren’t suppose to use the full range of motion. However, practical application doesn’t look as appealing, wouldn’t be fun to watch. Hence, there is a difference between combat Wushu, practical elements and sport Wushu, entertainment elements.

  16. I have read your article, yet i have to disagree on some points. I believe fighting systems/ health system of humans have been there from the beginning of humanity and have developed since then. If a bear can paw strike me, then a lower human species couldve done the same ten thousands of years ago. But the boddhidharma did introduce a form of yoga to the monks from the Shao lin temple. From there chi chong and all those styles have errosed. The boddhidharma introduced it to monks too, not emperors or warriors. It was a new system that used prana, or chi power.

    If you know a bit about chinese philosophy and indian philosophy (not only buddhism but taoism, pantali yoga, the upanishads etc) you would see the similarity and that means they have a common source. Then if you’d know that the yogic system of prana/chi and the energypoints in the body has been known earlier to the indians (through deep meditation, long before the buddha came to bless the earth – the evidence are the veda’s) , you might make the conclusion that India did influence China with its culture and philosophy, again before the buddha came to earth. Ofcourse the known  Shaolin Wushu have derrived from China, but the internal part of Shaolin Wushu derrives from yogic exercises to open up the energy canals in our body.

    So i agree with you that the chinese knew martial arts before the buddhidharma came, yet the shaolin arts known, which used inner/internal strenght, have arrived from the buddhidharma’s system of yoga (dhyana).

    I hope i havent offended anyone, yet these are my 2 cents. And to give you more perspective to who i am, i am an western Indian who is following a yogic meditation system and the wushu Wing Chun from the WSL lineage.

    1. I appreciate your comment sir. In my closing paragraphs, I did mention the possibility of Bodhidharma’s contributions to the development of the Shaolin system. However, Chi Kung, which is the fundamental foundation of all Chinese fighting system may have had an independent origin than from India. The probability of Pranayama and Chi Kung having independent origins is very high. Anyway, let’s not fight over it. 🙂

  17. i propose that gung fu and karipayattu are siblings, deriving from the martial arts of preceding societies. in the earliest accounts of human history, shortly after humanity is born so is war. a human necessity, the martial arts are a tool for man to achieve his ends. if a man wants to kill an animal for its meat, he must fashion devices to kill and process the animal. in order to cook, one must have fire. in order to remain a sovereign nation war must be waged at times. therefore a tool for war must be developed that starts at the man.

    1. That is precisely the subject of this article. I wouldn’t call it siblings, but cousins may be. Both arts developed in two different cultures and have more dissimilarities. If you take for example, the five elements used in Indian metaphysics is Earth-Fire-Water-Air-Ether. In China it is Earth-Fire-Water-Metal-Wood. And there is the Sheng-Cycle the productive process and the Ko-Cycle, the inhibiting process between these elements. And there is extensive written records on the various ways by which these two cycles affect the energy balance of the body. Hence, the very core concepts themselves are dissimilar, let alone anything else.

        1. I repeat! This article proposes an alternative viewpoint by analyzing existing facts about Chinese martial arts. This article’s purpose is to make people think about an alternative point of view. Please read the points I mentioned first before questioning my credibility. It is very hard to say whether kung fu came from India or Kalari came from China since both Indian and Chinese cultures are pretty old.  It is possible that both arts of Kung Fu and Kalaripayattu might be cousins to each other and might have a common ancestor as I described in the last paragraph. However, if that is the case, the common ancestor cannot be called either kung fu or kalari. The core concepts that formed the foundation of Chinese martial arts already existed in China before Buddhism or Bodhidharma reached there. I don’t understand your revulsion to the content in this article.

        2. You can at least show or post a credible argument to back up your statement. By simply saying “kung fu originated in India”, doesn’t really prove anything and it doesn’t have any substance. Pleasant’s researched study reveals a credible and factual proof that the two martial arts might not have any relationship at all. Or you could at least read Pleasant’s article, because i don’t think you have.

          1.  Thanks Rommel. I feel very sad that people are not reading the article completely and taking in all the points before commenting. I am not claiming that I am the biggest authority on martial arts. But I know enough to say that Chinese martial arts might have independent origins from Indian martial arts. Anyway, let’s see whether someone actually comes with a credible argument against this article. Most of the comments so far are from “angry men”. 😀

          2. It is sad that some people don’t have an open mind. I personally think that there might still be a possibility that KungFu  did come from Kalari, and i wouldn’t have a problem with that if that is the truth. But that truth would have to entail absolute and  indisputable facts and proof.  But when i read your article, it is hard to dispute it and not believe it. I don’t think they’re necessarily angry, i think it’s more of a nationalistic pride and a little bit of denial as well. But i can also understand where they’re coming from.

  18. pleasant
    did u get all this by doin some research in the net or have actually gone out and done something
    and pls tell me about ur qualifications on world martil arts

    1. May i ask what is your qualifications in regards to martial arts and martial arts history? Have you done your own research to dispute Pleasant’s article, or do you have anything substantial and credible data to back up your argument other than “kung fu came from India”.

  19. Lets say Kung fu is from Kalari.But Kung fu has evolved with the help of a lot masters, new techniques,new weapons etc.So the style seems different than that of Kalari.Due to Kalarippayatt’s immense importance in Kerala’s support against the British, they started killing all the Main Gurus of Kalari, for example Thacholy Udayanan, Pazhassi Raja ect.This was the begening of the end for Kalari.Only few Gurus remained,thus the less evolution in it took place.Thus the less similarity.

    I love and respect all the martial arts in the world.As every one will have more respect towards the martial art from their region or country, I am learning Kalari for four years now and I find a lot of  similarities between Kalari & Kung fu ,I dont now whether  this is from my less experience in the field of martial arts than you or from the respect for both the arts.

    I respect your hard work in writing this article,learnt a lot about these arts.
    Thank You for your contribution.

  20. i,m kungfu student 4m kerala. i think there is little relation b/w kungfu & kalaripayyatu now. Their style, movements etc. i think u know that kalaripayyatu is oldest martial arts than kungfu . kungfu formed around 600A.D , teaching of the Bodhidharma. He was a kalaripayyatu master 4m south India.
                                                           As u told that kungfu has many differences techniques than b/w kalaripayyatu . The statement is true , i supported is also . 4m 1400 years kungfu become rich due to contribution of many techniques 4m  kungfu masters but in kalaripayyatu due to arrival of Britishers it became stagnant. kungfu and kalaripayyatu is not just fighting system like other martial arts., it talk yoga , meditations , medicine etc.  it is true kungfu is orginated from kalaripayyatu, 

    1. Sir, seriously have you read the article completely? If not, please go back and read. Especially from paragraph 14 to paragraph 20. If you put some comment like this without reading the article first, you are wasting your time and my time.

    2. No one knows for sure what is the oldest martial arts, and what is the original martial arts either. There are no solid proof to support any of these claims that you are referring to. The Bodhidharma myth is just a myth, nothing more, nothing less, unless proven of course. In regards to style and movements, you will always find similarities in all martial arts, but if you break it down to the actual specific technique and execution, there are no similarities between KungFu and Kalaripayyatu. Especially when it comes to kicks.

      Hi friend , i read ur comment , ‘relation b/w kungfu and kalaripayyatu ‘ . the statement confusing the both martial arts practitioners and historians . some of them says kungfu is not related with kalaripayyatu and others saw oppasite manner . but in one matter,  all historians have same argument that Bodhidharma is a kalaripayyatu master and he was the founder of shaolin kungfu

    1. The historians have implied that Bodhi taught the monks exercise and Buddhism, from that, they theorized and concluded that KungFu came from those teachings. There are no concrete evidence and proof that supports those theories. Not to mention that the Bodhi “myth” does not add up base on his age. I read somewhere that for this theory or this Bodhi myth to be true, that means that Bodhi would have to be like 700 yrs old by the time he came out of the cave from meditation. Again, the Bodhy myth is just a myth, it is not base on facts and there are no concrete solid proof to support it.

    2.  Dear Phinix, please read the paragraphs from 14 to 20 before commenting. I have given factual evidence that the earliest records of the Chinese fighting systems date back to roughly 2600 BC. That is almost 3000 years before Bodhidharma. And the art Kalaripayattu came into prominence around 1200 AD, which is 700 years after Bodhidharma. Something doesn’t add up here.

  22. History says that Parasurama brought this art from heaven to earth… Even before any of these dates u mentioned. Secondly it is a complete science… And u like us know only what u heard of… And The origin of this art dates older than any of what u imagine… Sometimes accepting is hard… I wish  u write something that is not ur opinion but fact… Or be learned in both of these to talk of these… this is incomplete post…

    1. Well, sir first of all Parasurama is a mythical character. There is no evidence whether he existed or not. There is a story that he threw his axe and created the state of Kerala. Well if that is true, then which kingdom did Vamana visit? Vamana as you know was the previous avatar of Lord Vishnu. Anyway, let’s not take the discussion in the wrong direction. This article is not about the origin of Kalaripayattu or any Indian martial art for that matter. It is about the origins of the Chinese martial arts and the Bodhidharma theory.  This article doesn’t say anything against Kalaripayattu or its origins or its age. Please show me one sentence that says anything against Kalaripayattu. I repeat – This article is an attempt to present an alternative point of view that is different from the Bodhidharma theory by doing a critical analysis of the existing Chinese martial arts. You most certainly haven not read this article properly. You just skimmed through it and commented. You said that I am writing my own opinion and not fact which means you assume that my opinions are just the figment of my imagination and not based on facts. Well, please cite at least 5 opinions of mine from this article that is not at all based on any fact. I have presented my opinion but I have also presented the facts that led me to formulate those opinions. Again, this shows how much you have read the article. As I said, this article presents an alternative point of view based on already existing facts. I do not understand why you fail to see it.

    2.  The fact that you stated that this Parasurama brought this art “from heaven to earth” and “it’s a complete science”, in the same context, makes your statement quite invalid and contradicting. I don’t know anything about this Parasurama, but once you make your argument base on a myth and not on facts, then there’s no point on having a discussion or a debate. It’s like arguing with religion or any other beliefs. You can’t argue with anyone’s beliefs, that’s personal and sometime even sacred. Pleasant presented facts and made his conclusions and opinions based on those facts, not his personal beliefs.

    3.  Dear Love & Peace
                         you said that Parasurama brought this art from heaven to earth, that is totally wrong thinking we have history about 10,000 years that time harishchandra is emperor of india, that time also warriors is there & fighting art is existed so how you said that Parasurama brought this art from heaven to earth.
      i respect Parasurama he is a incarnation of Vishnu. Some one said that Parasurama created kerala state from his sword it is hard to belive, before that only pandala dynasty Prince Lord Manikantha or Ayappa swami is existed so how u belive that Parasurama created.

  23.  Hi pleasant
                    i am a practitioner of shotokhan karate, chinese kung fu, kalari, muay thai (kick boxing),jkd wing chun & tai chi, i think i have some knowledge about martial arts, i will not agree the whole fighting system is came from india, centuries ago sword fight, stick fight & wresteling were there in world wide but we talk about kung fu or chinese martial arts bodhidharma came for china to teach buddhism & he saw the monks they were weak & not living like a perfect monk for that purpose he started to teach indian yoga & pranayam (breathing technique) before arrival of bodhidharma they know some breath technique and meditation but they were not so effective, in that time he teached self defence art, in shaolin exercise 80% indian yoga & mudra is included and kalari sword technique is 70% similarities in chinese sword fight but in kalari they used dall for protection, that is a implemented version of sword technique,  that is done by bodhidharma or any other that we don’t know,
                           Brucelee is proved that the karate is came from kung fu & judo flying sword technique copied from shaolin flying sword technique, and in kalari

    leg &  hand movements & stances :
    (round kick- inside to outside)(round kick- outside to inside)(straight kick)(right to left, left to right kick)(round kick – inside out)(combined kick)(both side kick – kick straight turn around and kick)(round kick – outside in)(kick and sit)(kick and sit – turn and sit)(kick and side split sit)(kick and side split sit – turn and side split sit)

    sword similarities:




























    Flexible sword
    stance similarities:

    Gajavadivu     Elephant stanceSimhavadivu     Lion stanceAsvavadivu     Horse stanceVarahavadivu     Boar stanceSarpavadivu     Snake stanceMarjaravadivu     Cat stanceKukkuvadivu     Rooster stanceMatsyavadivu     Fish stance Mayuravadivu     Peacock stance

    Steps :

    Vatta Chuvatu – Circular stepsAakka Chuvatu – Inside stepsNeekka Chuvatu – Moving stepsKon Chuvatu – Corner stepsOttakkal Chuvatu – Single-leg steps

    these are some points that we can see the similarities between kung fu & indian martial arts from this we can believe that chinese martial arts is implemented version of indian martial arts & Marmashastram is a medicine without a medicine that also including in shaolin kung fu,
                         In Ancient india Nalanda world university was there in that 64 course, in that martial arts also one of the course that time people coming to study in Nalanda from worldwide this also one of tha evidence to prove, 
                           In chinese martial arts there is a implementation from centuries to centuries but in india there is no implementation,

    The Shaolin style of wushu is regarded as amongst the first institutionalized Chinese martial arts. The oldest evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is a stele from 728 CE that attests to two occasions: a defense of the Shaolin Monastery from bandits around 610 CE, and their subsequent role in the defeat of Wang Shichong at the Battle of Hulao
    in 621 CE. From the 8th to the 15th centuries, there are no extant
    documents that provide evidence of Shaolin participation in combat.

    Between the 16th and 17th centuries, no fewer than forty sources
    exist to provide evidence both that monks of Shaolin practiced martial
    arts, and that martial practice became an integral element of Shaolin
    monastic life. For monks to justify it by creating new Buddhist lore,
    the earliest appearance of the frequently cited legend concerns Bodhidharma’s supposed foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu dates to this period. The origin of this legend has been traced to the Ming period’s Yijin Jing or “Muscle Change Classic”, a text written in 1624 attributed to Bodhidharma.

                         From these evidence we can believe that kung fu is implemented version of indian martial arts, because shaolin temple is burned so more evidence is burnt, some legendery Hero’s like yip man, brucelee,jackie chan, jet li & Etc.
                          yip man is implemented the wing chun style but still it is called as wing chun only, then brucelee introduced the “jeet kune do” but JKD is filled with all type of martial arts,
                         Bodhidharma is a founder of chan or zen Buddhism, while travelling to china he went on sea route & passed through malaysia, thailand & then reached china. in malaysia he teached martial arts, they implemented and kept a name as Silat. In Thailand they kept Muay thai, but there styles are little bit difference Because they implemented the style, in india there is no implementation thats the problem.  Archaeological department has proved Bodhidharma character is true, he is the 28th patriarch of Buddhist & last. 

    1.  Dear Amar,

      Thanks for the input. It’s true that the probability of Bodhidharma’s existence is quite high. And I don’t deny that either. But facts are facts. Civilizations existing without some forms of martial arts is impossible. And that is precisely the premise of this post. Besides as I have described, Kung Fu is not the right term to refer to the martial arts of China. Besides, Buddhism is not the only philosophy that the Chinese Wushu relies on. Again I have written about it in detail in this article. Ip Man is one of the patriarchs of Wing Chun but he is not the only one. During Ip Man’s time itself there were other experts in the system such as Yuen Kay San, Wai Yan, Hung Fa Yi and Yuen Chai Wan. Karate has some similarities with the Tibetan White Crane system in certain Katas. But that’s not the whole arsenal of Karate. It has much more techniques than most people know of. Bruce Lee’s JKD is not a style, it is a concept. That concept can be found in other martial arts also. Silat is more related to the Filipino Kali than Kalaripayattu. Silat is called by many names depending on the region it is practiced such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Java and Philippines. It’s hard to conceive that a single person traveled all around these countries and spread martial arts of India. In that case the question comes, from where did ancient Indians get the idea of advanced martial arts? The earliest accounts for the existence of Kalaripayattu is in the 11th and 12th centuries, which is almost 600 years after Bodhidharma. So, what did he exactly teach the Chinese? I am not asking you to buy what I am saying. But just think for a moment.



      1. Dear Pleasant     

                 In Indian history Ramayana & mahabharata Are the great Epic, in that mahabharatha war  they used many type of martial arts techniques wrestelling, bow & arrow, swords, stick fight,hand to hand combat etc & this history dates back 4000 years ago & in Ancient indian there is a rules for kings or Emperor son’s after 12 years they should go for education in that yogi’s or Rishi’s (Saint or Monk) they teaches all types of martial arts technique, And indian monk’s are very skill full in spiritual power & knowledge, not only in that they are skilled in yoga, meditation & fighting art.who said you that kalari is dates from 11th to 12th century.

                              In kerala state pandala dynasty in that history kalari is existing and that dynasty dates back 3500 years, in india we have records 10,000 years history that time harishchandra is the emperor that time also warrior are there in dynasty they also know fighting art, you said that It’s hard to conceive that a single person traveled all around these countries and spread martial arts of India. he travelled from india to china travel duration is above 3 years this enough time to teach and malaysia is ruled by indian king & in malaysia tamil language is der, Mauy thai that muay word came from sanskrit language muay means warrior fighting art & muay fighting art is defined in Mahabharatha.

                                                         Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, sri lanka, Pakistan, & etc they are divided from india. i think this you know,  in  shaolin temple of henan province, china. they take weekly 30 minutes class about history of kung fu they said (Bodhidharma) Dammo & funto indian monks they introduced Animal styles fighting system and Dammo is the founder of kung fu. Bodhidharma is not only a monk, he is a Spiritual master & in Buddhist religion they worshiped Bodhidharma as a 2nd Buddha. you said that karate is similar to Tibetan martial art, tibet is part of india that you know.

        1. That doesn’t answer my question still. If martial arts originated in India, then how did Indians get the idea in the first place? Obviously through wars with neighboring areas. If that is the case, can’t the same thing happen in other civilizations too? Why is it important for you or anyone else to tout up Indian civilization as the supreme one? Besides, epics are not part of history. The incidents written in epics are grossly exaggerated and contrived in many ways. Don’t tell me that things like arrows multiplying in the air and the sudarshan chakra are true things. Those are just ways to decorate a given story. The actual incidents, if they happened might be much simpler and totally unrelated to the stories mentioned in the epics. I don’t think Kalaripayattu was called Kalaripayattu if it existed thousands of years ago because Malayalam itself formed only a few hundred years back. As I mentioned in my article, it is not correct to attibute Kalaripayattu as the mother of Chinese martial arts. That would be demeaning the efforts of the masters who contributed to the development of the same.

      1. it has been replied and the commentator(you) unable to argue has quit the discussion

        1. My dear Ajay, I have argued sufficiently well in that blog before quitting. Your itzguru was unable to give explanations for the specific questions I asked and was taking the discussion in circles. Besides, I am not in competition with anyone here. That is his blog and he has written his opinions based on the information he has. This is my blog and I wrote my opinions based on the information I have. What’s the big deal? So chill. 😀

  24. Guess ill comment once more. Fighting existed since the human being could form a fist. So its not about the origin of fighting or the system of fighting. This is very hard to trace this back.

    The SHAOLIN and their TECHNIQUES (NO Pleasant, their techniques where not known before the temples came) did derived from Indian Yoga techniques. Shaolin = Yoga fighting style (don’t think about dhalsim though). Bodhidharma thought the chinese how to breath properly and create great energy out of it and so strengthen their body (before this, the monks where very weak – only meditating while getting robbed by thieves etc. This is the story as how i heard it) So he teached them yoga (at least a form of yoga) that was about controlling the breath and strengthening the body. NOT Kalaripayattuu – although this is an ancient fighting system that probably is derived from times way before the Buddha even. it is a form of Yoga which is the basis of the Shaolin techniques. How they strengthen them self, how they can bend poles with their necks etc. THis power is derived from Yoga and Meditation, that which Bodhidharma gave or lets just say a (Buddhist) Yogi from India.

    He MIGHT have thought him the basic of the animal fighting style OR the Buddhist monks them self observed the animals with their new mental and physical power (through Yoga) and learned the styles them self. This i leave open. The basic is obviously from Yoga though and NO the Chinese didnt know about Crane or Snake BEFORE Bodhidharma came. THey did know MA though, they could throw punches and kicks of course. Just NOT Shaolin techniques (which stayed within the walls of the Temple).

    1. Look sir. I have already written about the arts that existed before Bodhidharma. Please read the paragraphs 15 to 18. The paragraph that starts with the sentence “The best examples of ancient Chinese martial arts practiced before the arrival of Bodhidharma are……..” and the subsequent paragraphs explain clearly the arts that existed before the arrival of Bodhidharma to China. I have explained about so many different styles. Why do you refuse to acknowledge that? Why do you demean the arts that existed before Bodhidharma as simply “punches and kicks”? They were exceptionally complex systems with strong philosophical backgrounds. Go and re-read the post before commenting. Thanks.

  25. Who said Kung-Fu is derived from Kalaripayattu? If you look closely, you can see the similarities between Kung-Fu and “Varmakkalai”. In fact, Varmakkalai is more advanced when compared to Kung-Fu!!

    1. Hello Ragavan. Thanks for the comment. This article does not say Kung-Fu came from Kalaripayattu. It basically questions that notion. Varmakkalai is advanced. But then there are similar advanced techniques in other martial arts also. In Tamil it is called Varmakkalai. We in Kerala call it Marma Adi. The Chinese call it Dim Mak. The Japanese call it Kyusho Jitsu. In the Burmese martial art of Naban also pressure point striking is mentioned. In fact almost all advanced martial arts talk about pressure points. It’s not very true that one came from the other. That wouldn’t make sense. The people who claim that one art came directly from another do not understand the concepts of independent development and common ancestry. For example, humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. That does not mean that humans came from chimpanzees. On the other hand, there are inventions and discoveries that happened independently. Calculus and Jet Propulsion are the best examples. Further, Kung-Fu is not the right way to call the martial arts of China. It is Wushu. Kung-Fu can mean many things depending on the context.

    2. Proponents of Kalaripayattu have always claimed that KungFu came from Kalaripayattu. Now if you’re disputing that as well, then you obviously don’t believe that claim either, that Bodhi brought KungFu to China. But if you’re claiming that KungFu is derived from Varmakkalai or any other martial arts, then you’re making the same false claim that Kalaripayattu’s proponents are claiming, which is frankly baseless and false and without any substantial and credible factual proof. If you would take time to read Pleasan’ts well written research & article, you would see the logic and the truth that KungFu did not derived from any other martial arts.

        1. Thanks Pleasant, i haven’t read your new article, but i will definitely read it as soon as i can. Just to clarify things, i am not by all means discrediting or demeaning Kalaripayattu or any other martial arts for that matter. I won’t be surprise nor will i be disappointed if Kalaripayattu does have some influence in Kung Fu or other martial arts. As we all know, Indian culture has a very strong and positive influence in that region of the world. But base on your article and many other studies from different sources, the Bodhi myth and the suggestion or claim that Kung Fu came from Kalaripayattu is proven to be not true. Thanks again Pleasant.

  26. It was an indian who found the shaolin temple after which bodidraman(da mo)who came to the place by teaching zen buddism to chinese .after his death there were two books found through which 18 movements with 72 techniques were present .The chinese didnt invent kung f. Or wushu they were by da mo successors after him which had speard to japan through chinese immigrants This can easily seen through the way of art of fight

    1. I have stopped wasting time on people who do not read my article properly before commenting. You guys are putting up comments just for the sake of commenting. I am sorry for being rude but it is sickening when people don’t read the article (and apply a little common sense) before posting a comment.

  27. Iam Chinese, and personaly i believe that Damo existed and has an important place in Shaolin martial art history.
    However concerning the fact that Damo was the founder of Wushu or Kungfu is not correct, because the term Wushu means Martial Art in general. As the Chineses already have martial arts centuries before Shaolin and Buddhism in China, that s the reason why we cannot really say that he was the founder. Also, in Shaolin temple, there is records that say that before arrival of Damo, some monks already were expert in chinese martial art.
    Now there are severeal cases concerning Damo and Shaolin that i would like to share.
    For me Damo did introduce some Indian knowledges in Shaolin.
    1-Let’s start with the fact that Damo is not a martial artist, but only a monk. As a monk he knew of course Indian kwnoledges on meditation and maybe medecine and lot of knowledge on body. I often heard when i was young, that he introduce some exercices to strenghten the body, and then the shaolin monk developped those exerrcices and maybe combining with chinese martial arts it became shaolin kungfu. I have watch on youtube those exercices, and for me it doesnt look like martial art, butthey look like a kind on indian dance crossed withmaybe yoga. this is one of my reason on Damo existence.
    2-Let’s say that Damo is a warrior monk . In that way, Damo introduced the exercices to strengthen body but also Indian martial arts. Maybe Damo combined Indian martial arts and chinese martial arts and founded Shaolin kungfu. That s the reason why there are some similarities. And If ever Damo did not creat shaolin kungfu but only introduced Indian martial arts and knowledge in shaolin, it was the chinese monks who created shaoling boxing whith both indian and chinese martial arts.
    Thats the reason why i dont consider Damo as founder of Wushu or Kungfu in general, but he participated in the creation of Shaolin Kungfu, and has a place in chinese martial art especially Shaoling Style. Thanks to him Shaolin kungfu became famous, powerfull and then influenced later the other chinese martial arts.
    So in that way i would say that he contributed in creation and improvement of chinese martial arts, or the kungfu is the union of chinese and indian martial arts, that why its so powerfull XD
    This is what i believe now, and if ever i was wrong in the futur i apologize.

    1. That is an excellent answer Xian. Thank you 🙂 This is precisely what I was trying to say in this article. I am glad that you got the message. I don’t deny the existence of Damo either. As you rightly said, Damo might have introduced some methods to the already existing systems.

      1. Of course i can also make some other hypothesies on Damo existence and contribution to shaolin. Although in chinese taoism there is meditation, i believe the concept of Qigong may comes from india too or is also the union of indian and chinese meditation. Because what shaolin monks do with qigong is very very impressiv. As a karate artist, i never see qigong techniques so advanced in any other martial arts except shaolin. Even Wutang qigong is not so impressiv, but taoism meditation might had influenced also shaolin qigong techniques.
        1- I read that indian meditation techniques are to have a posture, then we stay immobile and breath.
        2- I read that toism meditation techniques are to hold breath and/or moving.
        When we see shaolin monk gathering his energy before breaking something, hes moving slowly but doesnt hold breath. thats why believe also that shaolin qigong is based on indian and chinese meditation techniques.
        3-I also know that in india there are also some people who lie on spikes. (I leave in france) In french we call these people “fakir”.
        Unfortunately i dont know a lot on chinese and indian meditation, but i did some reasearch. So if iam wrong, i apologize.

        1. The concept of Qi is unique to Chinese Taoism, although similar concepts exist in outside culture. Historically, the Huangdi Neijing and Taoist phiilopshy establishing the pathways through which qi circulates in the human body originated as early as late warring states period, predating Bodhidharma around eight centuries. The Taoist Neidan practices predate Bodhidharma by several centuries too. Qi is actually absent in Indian mediation. Although, Zen Buddhism holds concept of Qi because it is strongly influence by Chinese Taoism.

  28. i read the whole thing and i have understand everything and everything you wrote down is true that india is not the birthplace of chinese kung fu/martial arts because it was develop by the shaolin monks and the chinese military because some shaolin monks are retired warriors of china(which i heard) who has grown tired of fighting (maybe they hate to see their friends or family member died in the battlefield which i heard) and bodhidharma only teach the monks exercises but i believe that the monks invited the best warriors of china to teach them how to defend themselves from robbers/bandits and hostile animals

  29. whelp as i continue my research and spreading the word that kung fu did not came from india and i know how bodhidharma develop the 18 arhat hands,the yijin jing and the xi sui jing he study the five animals play invented by a chinese doctor in the AD period which is in the three kingdoms(220 AD – 280 AD) then thats how he develop it and when he taught the shaolin monks these exerices then they started to become healthy then they invited the nearby chinese warriors to teach them how to defend themselves from bandits and wild animals roaming outside the temple and thats how kung fu was fully develop

    1. Thank you Zack. Yes, the three kingdoms period is crucial in the development of Wushu as lot of martial arts knowledge spread to the common population aiding its further development during that time. Even before that the Han people had mastered the art of Chi Kung with great prowess. Ancient tombs of this era that have been recently excavated show paintings of practitioners performing Chi Kung. I found this if you are interested –

      1. no problem my indian friend :3 btw there some martial arts names in the BC period or should i say the early kung fu styles is

        Jiao Li – a wrestling style sport which later became a martial art, is dated to 700 bc, and officially became a sport in 300bc, mentioned in the Classic of Rites.
        Wu Yi – A sword based martial art mentioned in the Spring and Autumn Annals, dated to 500 bc, text also mentions hard and soft style martial techniques along with sword strikes, postures, and other attacks.
        Shoubo – A completely unarmed martial art dated to about 300-200bc as a Qin military fighting style. Today, Shoubo is called Sanda, and is performed by the Chinese military, also Cung Le uses this style in MMA fighting.
        Sun bin quan – Taoist internal fighting style dated to 200 bc, named after Sun Bin, the military warlord who lived in the Qin era and wrote a book on military strategy, his book is still in existence today, and you can read it if you want.
        Also, Fanziquan and Five Animal Kung Fu is mentioned a few centuries after the Buddha’s birth. and the guy who commented on youtube is Jacky JL

        and yes and one youtuber commented said that many historians like you has already debunked the kung fu came from india and they are right

          1. oh yeah and i am chinese too so i also cant deny bodhidharma’s existence in order to respect each other and other races too :3

          2. yep but some of my indian friends do agree that kung fu came from china not india just you said chinese kung fu and indian kalaripayattu are 2 great different martial arts :3 but they are quite similiar together but one thing is damo/bodhidharma do teach the monks exerices not martial arts but they indeed learn the martial arts from the warriors of china and i think there are some acrobatic dodging and kicks even before bodhidharma came or shaolin was born it was seen in a movie call hero jet li but the flying part is kinda fake but its still fun to watch lolz XD

  30. There is a fundamental misconception on what kung-fu is, what martial art systems are and how they develop.

    First of all. All cultures developed martial arts. It just is not that difficult. There are 5000 year old images painted on Egyptian tombs (at Beni Hasan) which show martial arts techniques identical to judo techniques; examples of O-goshi and Tomoe-nage are clearly shown on the tomb. Did the Egyptians invent Judo? Clearly not, they certainly had some of the same techniques… Which is not surprising if you think about it. Physics hasn’t changed and the human body is basically the same everywhere. How you fight using it is going to come up with a relatively small set of viable methods which work well. So martial arts the world over will basically look similar, no matter how they came about.

    The Shaolin temples were sited along the “Silk road”. A trade route which became very popular after Marco Polo opened routes up with the west. Kung-fu then is a collection of martial arts techniques and concepts which were collected as trade passed back and forth by the temples. The idea of a “single source” of martial arts is just lazy thinking.

    Specifically. The “forms” which you practice as part of kung-fu or karate kata are not simply exercises or meditation. They are the physical libraries which store martial arts techniques and concepts. The various forms and kata contain all types of fighting techniqes from throws and takedowns to arm locks, wrist locks, chokes, eye gouges etc. You name it, the techique will be stored in one of the kung-fu (or karate) forms. Whether you are able to understand it or not is another matter. Learning to decode karate kata and kung-fu forms is an important skill which most practitioners (including todays shaolin monks btw) lack…

    Kung-fu and karate are *not* simply punching and kicking martial arts. The real karate and the real kung-fu are stored in the kata/forms and if you are not extracting that and training it then you are not practicing karate or kung-fu, you are practicing kick-boxing and hand waving.

    Obviously as you collect new techniques and store them in your form, the form changes. It becomes bigger and longer and eventually you create a second one to make practicing all the methods easier. Over time these forms are taught to others and disseminated into the population and they change them, adding and removing techniques as they find them. This is why kung-fu has so many forms and so many “styles”. There is nothing magical or mystical about them, they’re just like books. If you know how to read them.

    On to “styles”… Styles are also misunderstood. There is a lot of garbage talked about linear karate vs circular kung-fu styles or hard vs soft styles or internal vs external… Most talking about this don’t even know what they mean by it.
    A style is just a method for *learning* how to fight. It is not the fighting skill itself. If your style’s form has an “o-goshi” throw encoded into it (and yes, kung-fu forms and karate kata do contain throws), then how you wave your hands around is completely irrelevant. Whether you practice judo, or karate or shaolin kung-fu or preying mantis kung-fu or whatever. The method is a throw and in a fight it will only work if you do it with the correct amount of force and balance. “Style” gets completely thrown away the moment you learn to use your skills in reality. In this way, all “styles” of karate or kung-fu are the same.

    As to how much influence bodhidharma had on kung-fu as a martial art… Well none. Obviously. A throw is a throw. A punch is a punch, they are just not that different anywhere in the world whether you are a zen buddist or christian or athiest… Kung-fu as we know it today didn’t exist until centuries later. He may well have brought some fighting techniques, or other training methods but there has been 1500 years of change in between. Who knows if they are still stored in the forms.

  31. somehow i found out that shou bo and xiang bo are the “ancient styles(thats what i think) of chinese kung fu” so the first 2 monks of the temple is hui-guang and seng-chou the both of them had practice this hand to hand striking and grappling(shou bo and xiang bo) and shuai jiao/jiao di in the shaolin temple before the arrival of bodhidharma and yeah i heard there are legends about these 2 and hui-guang can kick 500 times in a speed of a flying arrow and seng-chou can seperate 2 tigers fighting each other with his tin/metal staff and oh yeah i heard tons of people saying that the chinese monks of the shaolin temple are the true creators of shaolin kung fu

  32. Native People’s Party :

    Kungfu , Native Warriors Art :

    Nice to learn that Kung fu is originated from contribution of both India and China . Shaolin and Buddhism has made that more popular in world . Let us ask UNO now for International Kungfu Day if it is not there .

    Nv. D.D.Raut , President , NPP

    Our Message to Nation : Janeu Chhodo , Bharat Jodo

    1. You have written a great article. I am glad that you and I think the same way. In fact I was planning on a writing a 3rd part to my article. I hope you have also read the 2nd part. Anyway, good work. 🙂

  33. im just here to say few words about martial arts. my friend learned 1)judo, 2)karate, 3)kathi samu, 3)kickboxing, 4) kara samu, 5)kungfu and just he created a new one and named it hulk’s karate but not patented but he can down the person in 3 lock block attack mechanism its too hard to learn because he created for his comfort of fight to his body language. now the question is hulk karate is created by him.

  34. and another thing is one man can withstand a 25 members of martial artisits in a fight with out knowing even the fight arts, i know that you cant belive me but, the my grand father a forest watchman with standed and fighted with out using gun when he has gun in hand, he thrown the gun away fighted they run for thier lives, now he died he told me this he worked in kothari forestry and industries pvt limited in chennai forest ranges in south india, but he is only simply a man hieght 5.9 and looking anyone can beat him to death but he was very angry person in my family background. this is real i asked after his death so many storys about him.

  35. do you want to learn maha mantra rahashya satram written by agastya maha muni in india by books and get guru in india you can savae world or you can destruct the world

  36. Bhodhi dharma is not the first Indian monk to go to China, the first was Bhogar swamigal. He is famous for creating the Palani Murugan statue by using navapasanams (nine poisonous substances). He was a master of ayurvedam and Kalari. He was the disciple of agathyar, the founder of Kalari. Agathyar helped to teach whatever he learned from the gods to the rest of the people, such as Kalari, Tamil and ayurvedam. If you read the history of Bhogar, he went all over the world using his powers earned from his meditations. He went to Rome, China and many other places. When he went to China, he taught people there about ayurvedam, Kalari and other things. He also learned many languages and influenced many languages as well. India is really a Mother of many things. Sanskrit, the oldest language in the world came from there. Hinduism, the oldest religion came from there too. And Kalari, the oldest martial art came from there too. What I’m trying to say is that the Chinese may already have their own martial art established alr but it was heavily improve and influenced by the great Bodhi dharma and before him, Bhogar. Many other religions went against science such as the Catholic Church saying that the world was flat, and other things but Hinduism is the only religion that agreed with science and not only that but was much more advanced than science. Buddhism sprang from Hinduism. Many ideas from India was stolen by other people and said that it was their own! This is what I’m angry about.

  37. Stop arguing about this guys. Why not we just get away with this by concluding that both Chinese and Indian invented Kung Fu ?

  38. Yes, Shaolin is not the origin of Chinese martial arts. The misconception comes from a legend. In the legend, the Indian monk Bodhidharma traveled to China in the 5th century AD, where he established the earliest form of Zen Buddhism and taught martial arts in the Shaolin Monastery. However, this legend comes from a 17th century fictional qigong manual known as the “Yijin Jing”, written by a Taoist.Historians have discredited the manual as a legitimate source on the grounds of the anachronistic errors, absurdities and fantasy claims, a fictional character, Bushy Bearded Hero, was a recorded lineage master. In addition, the wide spread association between Bodhidharma and martial arts originated from a fantasy novel, The Travels of Lao Ts’an, written in the twentieth century. Furthermore, Shaolin records indicate the Chinese monks had possessed exceptional martial arts before Bodhidharma arrived at the monastery, indicating they may have been military men prior to joining the monastery. Since the warring states period, 475 – 221BC, Military strategists, such as the renowned Sun Tzu aka Art of War, would refine their soldiers’ movements in sync with battle formations, each spear thrust, guard and blunt strike had to abide by a routine of offensive maneuvers that maximized damage efficiency and minimized attack duration to eliminate opposition in a swift manner. The Chinese had a structured military fighting system for over a thousand years before the first Shaolin Monastery was foundedin 477AD. The martial prowess present in the monasteries predate Shaolin because they came from outside of Shaolin. Shaolin acted as a martial exchange center in Chinese history along with Wudang and other sites. In fact,

    There is no evidence to support India’s Kalaripayattu had influence on the structure of Chinese Martial arts, but a entire body of evidence that indicated Chinese martial arts, martial training, philosophy predated Bodhidharma.

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