ORIGINS OF LUOHAN GONG
“…Chan Heung’s techniques improved tremendously; he could fly high and jump far. He had ligaments
made of copper and skeleton made of iron. His strength equals to 9 bulls plus 2 tigers. He warded off
hundreds of enemies single handed. He had developed enormous power and strength. Monk Choy Fook
also taught Chan Heung the secrets of internal Qigong Forms from the Shaolin Temple …”
History of Chan Heung leaving Lau Foo Shan (Chapter 1..Chapter 31)
In the Sixth Century, a Buddhist monk from India, whose name was Bodhidharma or Pu Ti Ta Mo (Ta Mo for short) in Chinese, the 36th patriarch of Mahayana Buddhism, brought to China the Tripitaka- the Three Sutras, and traveled throughout the country, finally settling in the Shaolin Temple located in the Henan Province. He is considered the founder of Ch’an Buddhism, better known in the west as Zen, the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Character Ch’an. Ch’an comes from the Sanskrit Dhyana or meditation.
According to the legend, Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating in a cave near the Shaolin Temple on the mountains of Songshan in the province of Henan. The long periods of sitting meditation of the Buddhist practices caused pain and discomfort to Bodhidharma and his disciple and following the Buddha’s advice to “Take care of the body since it is the vehicle for illumination” he created a set of movements to strengthen the body to withstand the rigorous spiritual training, eliminate aches, drain the energy channel and serenade the mind. These exercises which worked on the body, the breath, the mind/emotions and the spirit were named “Sub Bak Luohan Sau” – “The Hands of the 18 Luohan” and seem to have been created from existing exercises, Yoga Asanas and the close observation of nature and animals like the tiger, the leopard, the snake, the crane, etc. Bodhidharma is also attributed the creation of sisters forms to Luohan called “Yi Jin Xi Sui Jing” or “Stretch the Tendons and Wash the Bone Marrow”.
Generations of monks of the Shaolin temple greatly influenced the Hands of the 18 Luohan and according to some authors during the Yuan Dynasty (1264 – 1368), a famous monk by the name of Gok Yuen enlarged the 18 exercises to 72 movements. Later on Lee Sau and Bak Juk Fung enlarged and enriched them to 173 movements which form the basis of the Shaolin Chuan Fa or Kung Fu. Th Shaolin Chuan-Fa which, in turn, had an enormous influence in the development of the other branches of Oriental Martial Arts and is the framework from which better known arts such as Wu-Shu, Kung- Fu, Karate, Tae-Kwon-Do, Judo, Aikido, Jiu-Jit-Su and a host of other martial arts have stemmed.
Shaolin Temple is known in the west for the Kung Fu movies and it may strike one as a contradiction that a group of Buddhist monks recognized for their compassion, who were vegetarians and lived a contemplative life are also well known by their skill in martial arts. We have already indicated that the origin of many martial arts systems is to be found in the changes suffered by the spiritual exercises that Bodhidharma taught to his disciples. Historically we also know that many soldiers and high ranking army officials entered the monastic life in the latter part of their lives to pursue a spiritual path or as a way of hiding, and once in the temple transmitted their warring knowledge to their peers who often protected the nearby population from bandits or corrupt officials. But even the notion of the warrior monk must not surprise us. Since ancient times and in different traditions, monkhood and martial skills have been associated. Both, the spiritual adept and the worldly soldier, share many personal traits (honor, respect, perseverance, honesty) and must master similar abilities (physical, mental and emotional) only differentiating in the objective pursued. For the spiritual seeker his enemies are inside, to overcome his own faults and shortcomings, for the other it is to prevail over others
The Hands of the Eighteen Luohan along with the other two forms, has reached us through the lineage of the “Choy Lee Fut” Kung Fu system. Choy Lee Fut is the most popular style of Kung Fu in Southern China and traces its roots to the original Shaolin Temple; its teachings encompass the Luohan System of Qi Gong.
When the Shaolin Temple was burned by imperial forces, Choy Fook, one of the surviving monks, ran away to the South, to the Guang Dong Province (Canton). In his mountain retreat of Lau Foo Shan, Monk Choy Fook accepted Chan Heung as his disciple, and taught him all of his Kung-Fu system as well as the internal Chi-Kung forms: The Luohan Gong. After almost 25 years in which he perfected his techniques, Chen Heung founded the Choy Lee Fut Martial Arts System.
Dr. Chen Yong Fa, is the great great grandson of Chan Heung founder of the Choy Lee Fut System. Dr. Gaspar García, MD, President of the European Choy Lee Fut and Luohan Federation was the first person to introduce the system in Europe and America.
The power and the depth of “The Hands of the 18 Luohan” do not rest however in its historical and traceable origins, as important as it is, but in the benefits experimented by practitioners, generation after generation.
In this age of information, when one has access to such a diversity of information and knowledge, it is very important to understand that Luohan Gong is not just another exercise to be introduced to the West.
As a medical doctor, as a practitioner and as a teacher that has seen the same results in students all over the world, I have no qualms in affirming that Luohan is an extraordinary fountain of health and vitality, an inexhaustible source of peace, joy, happiness and wellbeing ready to be tapped and enjoyed even on a simple weekend of practice. For years I have experienced its benefits and thousands of other people claim same results.
These benefits are due to the wisdom and depth in the conception of the Luohan Gong which produces such results in a short time and validates its mythical origin. The intelligent way the body is taught to stretch and move, coupled with the specific breathing patterns and the working of the mind are behind the extraordinary results that produces its practice. “The Hands of the 18 Luohan” are a true jewel of incalculable value.
FROM CHAN HEUNG TO GASPAR GARCIA
As we have mentioned before Luohan Gong is part of the Choy Lee Fut system of Martial Arts, but it is important to understand that Luohan Gong is in reality part and parcel of Cha’n (Zen) Buddhism and of the Shaolin Temple whose knowledge has been kept alive and secretly guarded within the Chan Family – direct heirs of the Shaolin Tradition. Chan Heung founded the Choy Lee Fut Martial Arts System and passed down the teachings to his son Chan Koon Pak, who passed them down to his son Chan Yiu Chi , who transmitted them to Chan Wang Hong who passed them down to his son Chan Yong Fa who transmitted them to Gaspar García who has taught and disseminated this system in the West.
Dr. García has introduced Luohan Gong to thousands of people all over the world through different ways (in conferences, seminars, lectures, written articles, videos, radio and TV) but perhaps his biggest contribution has been forming instructors to maintain this sublime teachings alive for the benefit of humanity. He has formed instructors in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Poland, Finland, Belgium, France, Sweden, Norway, Rumania, Greece, Austria, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland and Russia) in the USA and Latin America (Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina) and also in Morocco and Egypt.