"Spirit Wolf of Truth"
When I was young, many years ago, about age 10, a best friend of mine, David Dale, told me a story, "My father told me about the most deadly martial art in the world." He held his hands up in a Praying Mantis position -- imitating something his dad had shown him. "And they have such strong fingers they pull off your ear or even dig out a piece of your cheek flesh," he said with a pinch I still remember.
We joked and played our Mantis Kung Fu. That was the last time I ever heard anything of it until I saw the KUNG FU tv pilot starring David Carradine. Shifu Kam Yuen demonstrated the Praying Mantis style and I remembered my friend David Dale.
Still, it seemed distant and remote, like the language of a far away country. Praying Mantis Kung Fu wasn't even on my list of things to do in life. I'd always been a pacifist and avoided fights.
But the Kung Fu tv series did seem like something I wanted to have or be in my life. The Buddhist lessons, the spiritual peace, the calm use of the martial arts without anger, and all that cool kicking -- that appealed to me. I watched that show religiously, week by week, or day by day when it went into reruns later. Kung Fu really appealed to me.
When I got engaged to be married to Rita Wolf in 1980, I saw myself as a man who could not protect his wife and felt lacking in maturity or manliness. Now I was motivated to learn Kung Fu.
I'd tried Shotokan Karate for a few months and knew that wasn't my direction. My fantasies were always of me being Quai Chang Caine, the half-American half-Chinese Kung Fu Disciple played by David Carradine. Master Po, the blind monk had given me words of wisdom from the tv show that still echo in my mind at appropriate times when I need inspiration.
Living in Santa Monica, the closest Kung Fu school was in the San Fernando valley at Douglas Wong's White Lotus System. I signed up and studied with a passion. I took every class he offered and advanced to the Intermediate level. When I injured my ankle, I had to take a month off.
During that month I discovered the Tai Mantis Federation in Redondo Beach. Since it was known to all my friends and business associates that I was studying Kung Fu, someone pointed out that "The guy from the KUNG FU tv series who taught David Carradine his Shaolin Kung Fu is teaching in Redondo Beach..."
I hunted the school down and joined up. Over the next few years I was at the Tai Mantis school a minimum of twice a week and sometimes six days a week. My first instructor, Shifu G.D. French, moved away and Shifu Scott Stamps took over. Shifu Stamps had a photographic memory and had learned almost every Kung Fu Form and Kung Fu weapon that Master Kam taught at the school.
I moved in with Shifu Stamps in 1983 and over the next two years I soaked up every drop of Kung Fu knowledge he possessed. I would be waiting at the door like a little puppy when he came home. "Check this out Shifu!" I would exclaim to him and he would watch me demonstrate the previous day's lesson.
This effort was always rewarded with, "Okay, it looks like you're ready for the next section." We made our lives into a Kung Fu world. I still remember how we'd vacuum the house every Saturday morning Kung Fu style. We would alternate each week who ran the vacuum while the other person was in charge of moving the furniture out of the way. One of us would move it out of the way, always trying to stay one step ahead of the other person. I'm remembering his huge Chinese porcelain jug, about three feet high he made his Dit Da Jow in. That had to moved carefully to avoid spilling or breaking.
In 1985, Shifu Stamps announced to me, "I've taught you all the Kung Fu I know."
I felt like a hungry kid who only got a half meal. Ironically, I'd learned more Kung Fu and learned it faster than anyone I have since seen or ever known. I learned a dozen weapon Forms, 13 of the 15 Praying Mantis Forms, 8 of the 10 Shaolin Forms, and a variety of other Kung Fu Forms passed down through the Jing Mo Association of China, such as the 12 Tantui, also a Luohan Form, The Small Circular Fist Form, Lian Bu, some Daoist staff...
Fortunately, I had written down all this Kung Fu. So I spent the next five years relearning and studying these Forms.
Ooops I have to go teach a Tai Chi Seniors class at the YMCA.
I'm back. It's Friday night and the sun has been shining all day. I've been remembering my early years of Kung Fu all day.
That's the most important part of what I have to say. Kung Fu has made my life richer, healthier, stronger, and smarter. I have thousands -- maybe millions of good Kung Fu memories.
Kung Fu has enriched my life in ways I would not have expected. That's what I want to offer you. Kung Fu makes your life better.
Books by Buddha Zhen
When I realized that Kung Fu was my business and I was now the founder of a Kung Fu school, I organized my curriculums.
Since my favorite part of the KUNG FU tv series was that little kick fight each episode with cool Kung Fu moves PLUS the Buddhist wisdoms that were taught to the young novice...I hungered for enlightenment.
Now was my chance to create a Kung Fu school that be a blend of both Buddhism and kicking.
For the first decade, the AAU Amateur Athletic Union, was a sponsor/partner of the Shaolin Chi Mantis and Tai Chi Youth schools in Utah. The low cost membership provided insurance for our schools which I taught in schools, churches, parks, colleges, and amusement parks. Since moving to California, I have been teaching out of the YMCAs and as contracted teacher for the L.A.Parks & Recreation Department...so without the need for insurance and tournament coverage--I regret that our California schools didn't associate with AAU between 1999 and 2009.
The Kung Fu classes I took were excellent for training me in the physical half of Shaolin Kung Fu, but Shaolin Kung Fu is also about Buddhism. Shaolin Buddhism is the ORIGINAL ZEN BUDDHISM, or "Chan" Buddhism to be more accurate. The Japanese renamed it "Zen."
These series of books were written by me between 1980 and 1994. I collected "wisdoms" in notebooks. Inside the notebooks I arranged them by categories: Love, Peace, God, Family... Although I didn't spend much time consulting my collected wisdoms, I was inspired many times in later years by sharing them with others. One notebook, my COYOTE SPIRIT BOOK, was 3" thick and well organized so I could quickly insert my acquired knowledge into the notebook. The COYOTE SPIRIT BOOK was renamed, ZEN SPIRIT BOOK, and now is a required book of Shaolin Chi Mantis and Buddha Kung Fu schools.
Tai Chi Program
Shaolin Kung Fu Program
Praying Mantis Program
Each of the above programs has a book for each Shaolin Chi Mantis and Buddha Kung Fu Belt Rank Level:
These books interplay with each other based upon the Kung Fu being taught that particular semester. A student might be a Tai Chi Intermediate, a Shaolin Kung Fu Beginner, at the same time. The Praying Mantis Program doesn't even start for a few more semesters.
I've repackaged the traditional Buddhism with the Traditional Shaolin Kung Fu combined with my own Zen and a collection of spiritualities I gained while studying all the religions in the world. Although I was raised a Catholic, when I realized what Buddhism was -- I realized I was a Buddhist.
I am reediting and rereleasing all these Kung Fu and Tai Chi books.
Now available from Shaolin Communications:
My Grandpa Beat Up Bruce Lee
Being in Shaolin Kung Fu is to be Shaolin.
Without the Buddhism, it's a fancy martial art that has more kicking than anyone would ever need.
I used to hear Karate Black Belts put Kung Fu down, "You can't use all that kicking in a fight! It's just for show."
I'd shrug my shoulders to the Karate Black Belt trying to protect the limitations of his martial art style and reply, "If I can kick higher than your head, your knee will be a very easy target for me."
A few days ago, I watched ENTER THE DRAGON, starring Bruce Lee, with my son, Zhen Song-Dao. I noticed something very interesting when Bruce Lee fought the guy with the scar and two broken bottles: Bruce Lee beat him up using the two styles of Kung Fu he publicly insulted.
First of all, my Kung Fu Grandpa, Shifu Wong Jack Man in San Francisco, is the man who beat Bruce Lee up so badly that Bruce decided to trash everything he knew and start over in search of a better martial art. Shifu Wong reportedly chased Bruce around the room for five minutes kicking the snot out of him. Bruce supposedly could not get a punch in as Shifu Wong Jack Man delivered kick after kick after kick...
This kicking was probably almost identical to the kicking Bruce used in the fight against the broken bottle guy. Although Bruce had been trained in the 12 Tantui, Shaolin Kung Fu is the Chinese martial art that developed the highest levels of kicking ability. Unfortunately, the only formal Kung Fu training that Bruce Lee had was Wing Chun. Wing Chun was created by a Shaolin Nun as a payback to a family that gave her refuge on a boat when the Shaolin Monks were being exterminated by the Manchurian Ching government. WIng Chun was created so that you could fight in a canoe. So, no kicking.
The other half of the fight Bruce waged against the broken bottles was Wing Chun -- all those moves are in Shaolin Kung Fu also. Still, Bruce put down the Wing Chun because it didn't have any kicking, and he put down the Shaolin Kung Fu because he hadn't been trained in it. But here he was in his peak and prime showing what he could do to improve on these martial arts: he bounced around like Mohammed Ali and made weird noises which my son said, "He sounds like a chicken." I tried to correct him, "No son, he's immitating a monkey I think." My son was adamant, "No Daddy. He sounds like a chicken!"
Which brings up the other part of the Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man legend. Who won? There are two answers to this story, even if we can agree on the truth. There's the street fighter punk perspective, and the Shaolin perspective.
Streetfighter Punk perspective: When Shifu Wong Jack Man bowed at the beginning of the fight, Bruce Lee uppercut him in the forehead. This left a cut above Shifu Wong's left eyebrow. Bruce claimed this was evidence of his victory since he had received no noticeable injuries. Also, as Shifu Wong turned to leave, believing the fight was over -- Bruce kicked him in the back when he wasn't looking, which allowed Bruce to say he had gotten the last punch of the fight.
Shaolin perspective: After being uppercut during his Bow, Wong Jack Man was ablet to control the fight, land numerous scoring blows and not be on the defensive at all from Bruce. Also, since both the uppercut and the kick to the back occurred outside of the fight, they had no influence on the score. Furthermore, as the evil Master Changeable Hand Man said in the ENTER THE DRAGON movie, when his evil Disciple tried to kick Bruce Lee in the back, "You have disgraced us all!"
Kung Fu Music
The first song of the album, TAI CHI MAGIC 1, is "Tai Chi Magic." I wrote the song to help us synchronize during public performances, and give us some cool music.
Another song was dedicated to my Shifu, Dr. Kam Yuen, of the Tai Mantis Federation.
While studying Buddhism with various monks of various sects, I composed the song, "In The Pool Of Enlightenment," which brings forth the best of all the Buddhisms.
We accidentally discovered that the last song on the album is the perfect length for performing the Tai Chi Form SLOWLY. We stumbled upon this coincidence at the YMCA during our 2009 classes with Barb Cipperly. Barb started Tai Chi before me, in the late seventies, also a Disciple of Marshall Ho's Yang Tai Chi. Marshall Ho was also a friend/bodyguard of Cesar Chavez in the 1960s and 70s.
Oh yeah, one of my other grandfathers, Grandmaster Chiu Chuck Kai, was the head of security for the South Vietnamese President for the entire Vietnamese war. He trained the other security in Tai Chi Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Considering all the assassination attempts on the President of South Vietnam, it is is incredible that he kept him alive. I've met a couple Praying Mantis Disciples in California during the 1980s because I kept a Tai Chi Mantis DECAL on my rear van window. They were always very friendly and very good fighters. I learned some staff techniques from one...
I started composing songs to fit the exercises of our workouts in 1993. I studied Japanese and Chinese movies. I made dubs of sections of these movies where I liked the music and started stringing these together for future study and inspiration.
I have one completed album, TAI CHI MAGIC 1, and another album almost completed, TAI CHI MAGIC 2 - THE SILKWEAVER'S 8 BROCADE
Chinese Flavor Buddhism with a Dash of Dao
My name, "Zhen," translates to mean, "truth."
One of the reasons the Chen family bestowed this name upon me, was because they knew I taught Buddhism in my Kung Fu classes.
I wasn't planning on starting my own church, that never even entered my mind. But the Mormons pushed me into a corner and pushed me out to my pulpit. Somehow I ended up with SHAOLIN ZEN, an American sect of Chan Buddhism.
I'm glad to include any of the fantastic wisdoms from the Japanese Zen Buddhas over the last 1,000 years, but my focus has been on the Chinese Chan Buddhism, which originated at the Shaolin Temple, got whittled down to a lazy psychology again, and also I've stuck in some great Daoism that I stumbled into, over, through, and on.
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