Shaolin History

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   Historical painting on the wall of Shaolin Temple

Ancient Chinese Shaolin forms of metal money

This history is copyrighted material by J. Madriaga. However, it may be used freely provided proper acknowledgement is made to the source of the material. Please also note, that the form of Shaolin Kempo addressed here, is in no way related to the system known as “Shaolin Kenpo” originating from Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro.


Shaolin Kempo Karate is a formalized system of martial arts, which can be found throughout the United States, and in parts of Europe and Latin America. Generally, there is a consistency of curriculum wherever the art is taught. For example, it is safe to say that practitioners of this art will learn the “numbered” combinations, sets of forms generally recognized as “KATA 1 through KATA 6,” “PINAN 1 through PINAN 5,” and “Statue of the Crane.” Also, Shaolin Kempo practitioners will recognize the 8 and 10 point blocking system, Palm Blocking System, half mooning, and several other aspects, which are truly distinctive of this particular system. However, what is present in most formalized systems of martial arts, and lacking in the Shaolin Kempo Karate, is a well-documented history, which provides detail relative to the systems founding and development.

It is not easy to trace every step in the development and growth of Shaolin Kempo. Perhaps it is because of the lack of well-written records, or perhaps it is because there is more than one major pioneer who made significant additions to the origination and development of the various interpretations of Shaolin Kempo along the way.

However, when analyzed from the historical perspective, certain key events and certain people appear to have played the major role in the development of what we know as Shaolin Kempo today. This article will identify these events and people, and identify the contributions or changes to Shaolin Kempo caused by these events and people.