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National Geographic Reveals SECRETS OF THE KUNG FU TEMPLE

How the Shaolin discipline has adapted to the modern era.

By Jarrod Sarafin     December 17, 2008
Source: National Geographic's Official Website


Martial monk with sword on the grounds of the Shaolin Temple in National Geographic's SECRETS OF THE KUNG FU TEMPLE(2008).
© National Geographic Channel

Are you ready to get your Kung Fu on, Maniacs? The experts at National Geographic are getting set to do just that with their new special Secrets of the Kung Fu Temple, which will kick its way onto the National Geographic Channel on Thursday, December 18 at 10pm ET/PT. The cable network which caters to the fact-finding geek within us all will take us inside the walls of the China's Shaolin Temple and give us some seldom seen before glimpses of life for people who truly live the kung fu philosophy.

Our friends were kind enough to send it our direction early and it was most definitely interesting to see how the Shaolin monks have adapted to the modern era. For hundreds of years, these martial arts experts were the enforcers of the law and the men on the battlefield for mainland China but as with most hand-to-hand cultures, they've had to adjust to a world where the government can kill their enemies with the push of buttons from thousands of miles away. How does the Shaolin philosphy survive and thrive in our modern day? We don't want to spoil it for you but needless to say it's a bit surprising how well they've adapted. If you're into the old Jet Li and Bruce Lee martial art extravaganzas, this special airing tomorrow night is right up your alley.

You can check out a video clip of the action below and for more video and photos, check out their official website.

 

 

 

Plot Concept: Shaolin Temple in rural China is the birthplace of kung fu and home to Zen Buddhism.  Over centuries of turbulent history, the temple has been destroyed and reconstructed, with varying degrees of success.  While it has survived challenges ranging from the Cultural Revolution to battling warlords, the temple has never lost sight of its true essence: mastering martial arts and honoring deep-rooted traditions.  However, the hardest battle of all still remains: maintaining tradition in the chaotic rage of a 21st century world.  

Head Abbot Shi Yong Xin may wear a saffron robe instead of a business suit, but with cell phone in hand, he is constantly working to take Shaolin Temple to the next commercial level.  Xin functions as a brand manager for the temple's multimillion-dollar business ventures and is shrewdly expanding its reach with schools in the United States and Europe, while building global portfolios in property, media, tourism and health care investments.  "I believe if our first teacher, master Bodhidharma, were alive today, he would have done the same to adapt to today's society," comments Xin.  

Despite the modern commercialism, Shaolin kung fu masters work hard to maintain the ancient integrity and techniques of their art, which include more than 700 movements and a disciplined connection between mind, body and spirituality. Kung fu literally means "hard work."  Over five hours a day, 365 days a year, the monks train with a very strict regimen.  For these novice monks, Shaolin could be their chance to get out of the poverty and isolation of rural China.  By traveling the world displaying their kung fu mastery, the best at Shaolin may very well strike stardom. 

Meet Yan Xiu, the instructor and expert warrior who uses drill sergeant techniques to work his students, while his 60-year-old colleague Shi Yong Qian offers the students his deep knowledge of meditation and Zen.  You'll also meet Zhou Jinbo and Luo Zhenzhong, two student monks competing to be among the top kung fu fighters in the world.  We get an inside look as these students tackle extraordinary acts of strength, grace and flexibility not commonly seen in the West, such as breaking metal bars with their skulls by standing on their heads for 30 minutes each day.  

And we see how one man, a Belgian choreographer, attempts to mix traditional kung fu at Shaolin Temple with modern dance movements.  Watch as he tries to transform these traditional kung fu warriors into world-class performers for the London stage.  Will the head monk approve of this modernization of traditional kung fu?  

Secrets of the Kung Fu Temple will hit the National Geographic Channel on Thursday, December 18 at 10pm ET/PT

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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monkeyfoot 12/17/2008 8:27:19 AM

I will definitely be watching that. I love the martial arts and I've seen some documentaries on the Shaolin Temple but none of them deal with the day-to-day life of monks or how they work in the modern life.

From seeing the old Kung Fu series as a kid, I always had the fantasy of being raised in some temple like that learning cool stuff like I was a Jedi or something. Probably don't learn any force chokes and light saber dueling there, though. 

violator14 12/17/2008 12:49:43 PM

Oh man... i remember when i used to be there. It was grueling.... but atleast i learned shaolin kung fu. The girls dig that shiett....   =)

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