The History of Shaolin (Siu Lam)
The Shaolin (Siu Lam) Temple was known to have existed in Ancient China sometime after ca.500 A.D. Although it is thought the monks of the temple started off as scribes, these monks of the temple started learning and developing fighting skills and martial arts, and used these arts to protect themselves and others against Evil doers.
It is also known that an Indian Buddhist priest named Tamo (Bodhidharma) visited the temple sometime around ca.520 A.D. and taught the priests breathing and stretching exercises modified from Indian yoga's designed to both enhance chi's flow and build strength. Hence Shaolin picked up the basic principles of yoga at the base of its martial arts.
The monks amalgamated the prevailing Chinese philosophies of the time; Buddhism, Confusium and Taoism to become a new order which was Shaolin. A Shaolin monk was never the attacker, nor would they necessarily use the most devastating of their arsenal in any given situation. They studied Kung Fu that they might better understand violence and thus avoid conflict. When violence could not be avoided, Karma simply returned it back to the attacker.
Over time the Shaolin Temple had unsurpassed development in kung fu, refining these arts into many specific Shaolin styles based around different fighting concepts such as how a particular animal might fight. (e.g., Dragon,snake, crane, tiger)and they gave different Warriors sanctuary for those who chose to live in love of life and good.
About 400 years ago (ca.1600) the Manchu's took over China collapsing the Ming Dynasty. In the course of the restructured China the Manchu government managed to learn one of the predominant styles of Shaolin (one of their harder more physical styles-similar to karate) and the Manchu's taught this style to its own solders thanks to a Shaolin traitor. Wing Chun was created to combat the traitors doings
On another front, the battle fields of manchus and chinese uniforms were taken by, Japanese soldiers who took the armour remains from both sides to create the Saumari Suit, and returned with highly tensile weapons.
The Shaolin Temple traditionally supported the monarchy peace and the monks would have liked to have overthrown the Manchu government and restore the Ming Dynasty but the traitors veins ran deep.
Around 280 years ago (ca. 1720), the leading Kung Fu Masters and Elders of Shaolin got together and decided to develop a master style with which would be able to overcome all the other styles, as Traditionally Shaolin Kung Fu took over 18 years to Master, and they also needed a style which would take a much shorter time if it was to be something that could be effectively used against the Manchu's.Hence Wing Chun,- the only Martial Art to have the Woodenman. (Now every Martial Art claims it, although its only in Wing Chuns origins).
The Shaolin elders realized that in each of their styles there were techniques that worked very well, and other aspects that did not. They began combining all the best of each of their styles into one system, refining their moves, ideas and techniques, using only what worked best and discarding the rest. They used their knowledge to invent a way to take advantage of the weaknesses inherent in the other martial arts systems.
But before Heads, Ng Mui/ Monks, had totally instructed their new system to followers, Shaolin was betrayed by the traitor monk, and the foreign government attacked the temple destroying/burning it while many slept. Only a small amount of the Shaolin masters and monks were able to escape, and they were scattered throughout China.
Sifu Leung Bik was a bone realiner and medical Doctor and was Famously known as an unbeatable fighter. He passed his notebooks and indoor teachings to his Son Leung Bik and gave a slow style to his Students(and Ip Mans first Teacher).
Leung Bik taught Ip Man as a personal student and Ip Man took care of him. In return, Ip Man got passed Grandmaster Leung Biks note books and indoor Teachings.
In 1949, Ip Man, who is the 20th Century Grandmaster of modern Wing Chun, who individually brought the style out of China into Hong Kong and eventually to the rest of the world. He had many famous Students including Bruce Lee who claimed him as his one Master.