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See also: Martial Arts Words and Phrases
3. Shaolin Chan
7. Wudang Fist
11. Ken Zen Ichi Nyo
少林寺拳法 is a specific type of martial arts in Japan that claims origins in the Kung Fu practiced in the original Shaolin Monastery of China.
The first three characters mean "Shaolin Monastery" and you might notice the Japanese is pronounced in a very similar way. 少林寺拳法 is because many words were "borrowed" from the original Chinese when Japan did not have a written language and simply absorbed Chinese characters into their language around the 5th century. When a Japanese word did not exist, the Chinese pronunciation was often absorbed as well as the written form.
The last two characters mean "fist law" or "method of the fist". It has long been argued as to whether the Japanese for these characters should be Romanized as "kempo" or "kenpo". The official method should be "kenpou" but it's common to drop the "u" that comes after the "o".
I imagine if you are looking for this title, you already know what it means, so the above is simply extra information that a student of Shorinji Kempo might want to know.
少林禪 literally translates as "Little Forest Meditation".
少林禪 is part of a movement to provide spiritual and mental health by integrating the practices of martial arts and meditation.
More information at Shaolin Chan Foundation.
少林拳 is the title of the martial art (style of Kung Fu) that is taught to the monks and students in the Shaolin Buddhist Monastery.
The addition of Chuan or Quan which means fist is what signifies that you are talking about this school or form of martial arts.
少林流 is the Japanese martial arts title "Shorin-ryu".
Though the first part of the title comes from the Shaolin (small forest) monks of China.
In Japan, this refers to the Okinawa School of Karate.
Note that often in Japanese, the first Kanji of this title was changed to the version shown to the right. If you prefer this version, please click on the Kanji to the right instead of the button above.
This form of martial arts can be translated in several ways. Some will call it "fist principles" or "the way of the fist", or even "law of the fist". The first character literally means fist. The second can mean law, method, way, principle or Buddhist teaching.
Kempo is really a potluck of martial arts. Often a combination of Chinese martial arts such as Shaolin Kung Fu with Japanese martial arts such as Karate, Jujutsu (Jujitsu), Aikido, and others. You may see the term "Kempo Karate" which basically means Karate with other disciplines added. In this way, Kempo becomes an adjective rather than a title or school of martial arts.
These facts will long be argued by various masters and students of Kempo. Even the argument as to whether it should be spelled "kenpo" or "Kempo" ensues at dojos around the world (the correct Romaji should actually be "kenpou" if you precisely follow the rules).
The benefit of Kempo is that the techniques are easier to learn and master compared to pure Kung Fu (wu shu). Students are often taught basic Karate moves, kicks, and punches before augmenting the basic skills with complex Kung Fu techniques. This allows students of Kempo achieve a level where they can defend themselves or fight in a relatively short amount of time (a few years rather than a decade or more).
Because the definition of this word is so fluid, I should make some notes here:
1. Purists in Okinawa will claim that "Okinawa Kenpo" or "Ryukyu Hon Kenpo" is the original and true version of this martial art from the old kingdom. There is actually little or no connection between Okinawa Kenpo and the way the word is used elsewhere.
2. In Chinese, where these characters are pronounced "quan fa" (sometimes Romanized as "chuan fa" because the Chinese-pinyin "q" actually sounds like an English "ch" sound), these characters do not hold the connotation of being a mixed martial art. It is simply defined as "the law of the fist".
3. In my Japanese dictionary, it oddly defines Kenpo as "Chinese art of self-defense". I personally don't feel this is the most common way that people perceive the word but just something you should know.
One of the most famous types of martial arts in the world - and not just because of Bruce Lee.
Some translate the meaning as "Accomplishment by Great Effort". I think this is partially true but directly translated it literally means "Merit/Achievement/Accomplishment Man". The word "fu" can sometimes mean "husband" or "porter" but in this case, it can only mean "man". However, few in China will think "man" when they hear the word "Gong Fu" spoken.
This term is also used for things other than martial arts. In fact, it's used to refer to a person with excellent skills in crafts that require a great deal of effort such as cooking, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy.
What a lot of people don't know is that the spelling of "Kung Fu" was actually taken from the old Wade Giles form of Romanization. Using this method, the sounds of the English "G" and "K" were both written as "K" and an apostrophe after the "K" told you it was supposed to sound like a "G". Nobody in the west knew this rule, so most people pronounce it with a "K-sound". And so Gong Fu will always be Kung Fu for most westerners.
Also, just to educate you a little more, the "O" in "Gong" has a sound like the English word "oh".
The popular Chinese dish "Kung Pao Chicken" suffers from the same problem. It should actually be "Gong Bao Chicken".
Historical note: Many will claim that Kung Fu was invented by the monks of the Shaolin monastery. This fact is argued in both directions by scholars of Chinese history. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Shaolin Monks brought the original fame to Kung Fu many generations ago.
Japanese note: While most Japanese martial artists will recognize these characters, Katakana is more often used to approximate the pronunciation of "Kung Fu" with "カンフー." Some will argue as to whether this should be considered a Japanese word at all.
See Also: Bruce Lee
This Japanese phrase is often translated as "train both body and spirit".
Here's the breakdown of the words in this phrase:
拳 means fist.
禅 is zen, which means meditation.
一如 is a word that means "to be just like", "oneness", "true nature", or "true character".
So to get to the translation of "train both body and spirit", you must understand that "fist" is representing "body" and the idea of mediation is representing "mind".
I have to say, this is not how I would translate this. To me, it's really about training with your mind and remembering that mediation is a huge part of training, not just your fist. As the Shaolin Buddhist monks show us, meditation is just as important as physical training in martial arts.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji (Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Shaolin Martial Arts||少林武功||shǎo lín wǔ gōng|
shao3 lin2 wu3 gong1
shao lin wu gong
|shao lin wu kung
|shào lín sì quán fǎ|
shao4 lin2 si4 quan2 fa3
shao lin si quan fa
|shao lin ssu ch`üan fa
shao lin ssu chüan fa
|sho rin zen|
|shǎo lín chán|
shao3 lin2 chan2
shao lin chan
|shao lin ch`an
shao lin chan
Shao Lin Quan
|少林拳||shǎo lín quán|
shao3 lin2 quan2
shao lin quan
|shao lin ch`üan
shao lin chüan
|Shorin-Ryu||少林流||shou rin ryuu|
sho rin ryu
|wǔ dāng quán|
wu3 dang1 quan2
wu dang quan
|wu tang ch`üan
wu tang chüan
|Shorin Ji Ryu||少林寺流||shou rin ji ryuu|
sho rin ji ryu
|拳法||kenpou / kenpo||quán fǎ / quan2 fa3 / quan fa / quanfa||ch`üan fa / chüanfa / chüan fa|
|功夫||kan fu / ku fu|
kanfu / kufu
|gōng fu / gong1 fu / gong fu / gongfu||kung fu / kungfu|
|Ken Zen Ichi Nyo||拳禪一如|
|ken zen ichi nyo|
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
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Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.
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