Where did Chinese Kung Fu came from?
Kung Fu is a blanket term for all Chinese weapon based and unarmed Combat System or Martial Arts. There is actually more than 1500 known styles of Kung Fu or Chinese Martial Arts, although it is known that many styles of Kung Fu derive from Shaolin, most style of Kung Fu did not came Shaolin. To truly understand the origins of Kung Fu or Chinese Martial Arts we must look at the 5000 year history of China.
Ancient China, the earliest form of Martial Arts were Invented and Used by the Chinese Military which was thousands of years before Buddhism started.
As early as over 4000 years ago in China's Xia Dynasty (夏朝) around the period of 2070BC -1600 BC, emperors and generals had formalized systems of conscripting & training peasants as soldiers. The peasants will be taught the use of simple weapons such as bows & arrows, spears and stone maces, to foster their battlefield readiness, health and morale.
From the Shang Dynasty (商朝) - Qin dynasty (秦朝) 1600BC - 207 BC onwards warfare and the training of soldiers in China became massive and more refined. Soldiers were train to use a wide assortment of long & short weapons, including swords, spears, pole-axes, long handled dagger-axes and cross bows. For defense they used shields and put on armor suits. The soldiers were also taught unarmed-combat known as Jiao Di (角抵) containing wrestling & kickboxing moves which Greatly Resemble today's MMA.
Over the centuries with soldiers retiring from the military and returning to civilian lives, their combat skills slowly spread to the masses. Initially the martial arts skills were taught in each civilian school are very similar throughout China. then different schools started to specialize in certain techniques, gaining a symbolic trademark differentiating themselves from other schools. In the later dynasties, Chinese Kung Fu became greatly diversified and there were hundreds of distinct styles in the whole of China.
In the Spring and Autumn era, Confucius and Mencius themselves are martial arts teachers. During that period, the Jian(剑 : straight swordplay) was already very well developed and popular. The boom of Taoism took place then, Taoists not only offer prayers to heaven and worship gods, they also practice the most ancient form of Qigong. In fact Taoist celestial and deities are believed to be humans who have attained a very high level of enlightenment with Qigong and became immortal. The emperors and officials of the imperial court are staunch believers in Taoism. The holistic Chinese culture includes Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), Feng Shui(geomancy), Wei Qi chess, Mathematics, Fortune Telling, Music and Martial Arts all use the same concepts of Taoism.
In the Han Dynasty, legendary doctor Hua Tuo invented a Qigong(气功) exercise routine called Wu Qin Xi(Five Animal Play) which involves actions which mimic animal movements. This exercise promotes the flow of blood and chi and preserves the body tissues. In the North and South Dynasties, Buddhism came to China through monks Ba Tuo and Da Mo (also known as Bodhidharma). Shaolin temple was established and many monks learnt martial arts from teachers outside, or they were already skilled martial artists before becoming monks. That was even before the arrival of Da Mo.
The Shaolin monks of today’s Shaolin Temple clarified that the famous Yi Jing Jing(易 筋经 :Tendon Changing Classic) and Si Shui Jing(Bone Marrow Cleansing Classic) did not come from Da Mo, it is a Qigong exercise which the Shaolin monks developed themselves. The earliest form of Qigong in Shaolin is called the Ba Duan Jin(8 Pieces Brocade) and is developed as a form of exercise for sedentary meditating monks. It became the 18 Luohan Hands, which eventually evolved into the various Shaolin fist techniques we see today.
It is very misleading for the western media & writers to claim that Shaolin martial arts or even Chinese Kung Fu in total come from India. It is very unethical to twist the historical facts. Indian Yoga uses the seven channels of chakra (root/earth, water, fire, chest/air, throat/space, third eye/illusion, crown/spirit) which is different in its own entirety. Chinese Qigong masters will tell you that Chinese Qigong uses 3 Dan Tian (丹田) energy centers which are in the abdomen, the chest and the third eye (between the eyebrows). Indian Yoga and Chinese Qigong are two different systems, I cannot imagine the nasty consequences should one try to mix them together in practice. If it is feasible, it would’ve been done by our Indian or Chinese ancestors as they were always linked by trade and diplomacy.