A Brief History of the Historical Kung Fu Society

Hello, I'm the project lead Phil Robinson. I'm a trained historian with degrees in Archaeology, Ancient Languages and Museum Studies. I've studied history at Liverpool, Leicester and Oxford Universities and I've been studying Chinese martial arts since I was about 14.

This project started as the Daolin Tai Chi and Kung Fu School and was always intended to present authentic historically researched movements. It was originally going to be a school of Chinese Swordsmanship which I started to plan in 2005 by laying out a syllabus of sword techniques and forms from several Chinese martial arts. As I worked on this it became apparent that the school needed to teach a background in the fundamentals of Tai Chi, Qigong and Kung Fu before handing out swords as none of these arts stood alone.

We opened our doors to the public in November 2006 as a non-profit organisation aiming to teach historical and authentic Chinese arts of Tai Chi and Kung Fu. I started by teaching a mix of Yang and Chen style Tai Chi and some Eagle Claw Kung Fu. The classes were light-hearted and friendly with an emphasis was on fun and friendship.

By 2007 I had updated the syllabus to teaching Chen Family Tai Chi and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. The school had grown and we had lots of people coming along and some great volunteers helping out. We held regular seminars and had so many regular students we needed to open our own dedicated teaching hall. We provided training for a wide range of students at all levels and created a school where everyone worked together in a friendly atmosphere without hierachy. We also raised money for local charities and some people came along to socialise and drink tea as much as practise their arts.

This facility closed in 2009 and we moved back to teaching at our old location with indoor and outdoor classes held weekly. We took a break in 2012 when the location became unavilable and then reformed teaching public classes in a local church hall.

By this point I was staring to doubt the validity of some of the syllabus and wanted to rethink how and what I was teaching. Since opening in 2006 much new reseach had revealed that a lot of the history I had taught was incorrect and I had been unwittingly been passing this on as fact to students at the school.

I finally stopped teaching all public classes in 2017 due to a combination of health complications and a disillusion of the authenticity of the material I was teaching and the direction certain elements of the arts were taking. I know there have always been commercial aspects of Chinese martial arts but the rampant commercialisation and business branding of Chinese martial arts in recent years has become detrimental to the very arts they are promoting. Call me old fashioned but I'm not a fan of genuine plastic Shaolin temple lunch boxes.

Since closing I have continued to research the history of Chinese martial arts and I'm always expanding my knowledge of different kung fu styles and family systems. Each style brings new techniques and nuances that give a deeper understandng and respect to the art as a whole. Comparing the development and differences in the movements makes it apparent how limiting focussing on only one main style really was. It restricted my understanding of any techniques learned to a fraction of the whole and I'm pleased to have released myself from those contraints.

Through the Daolin Historical Kung Fu Society we hope to disseminate the research of the society and share the movements freely with interested parties.

Phil Robinson

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