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Chinese martial arts Essay

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Shamis: Way to Shaolin is a traditional dance performed by the Kung Fu Monks of Shaolin. Dance exists in many forms and can fulfil different functions: ritual, social or artistic. This particular dance fits into the ritual and artistic function. When performed and practised, ritual dance serves a strong function in sustaining the life of people through the culture and its procedures. Artistic dance is performed to be looked at and to entertain onlookers. The work itself can also be a means of expressing ones thoughts and feelings (Snook.

B, 2004, p47-49).

This essay will prove that the ritual function is most predominant in Shamis: Way to Shaolin. The ancient collection of Chinese martial arts referred to as Shaolin Kung Fu was created by a Buddhist Monk called Bodhidharma or Tamo who attempted to teach the monks of Shaolin the discipline of Zen meditation. They were not physically capable for the rigorous regime so he then continued to create a series of exercises to build up their health and increase their stamina (History of Shaolin Kung Fu, N/D, para 2).

The exercises were both physiological and physical; the “goal being to control the body through the power of the mind” (The History of the Shaolin Monastery, 2008, para 1). The martial arts were developed out of necessity as the monks had to defend the monastery from thieves who tried to rob them of their treasures (History of Shaolin Kung Fu, N/D, para 3). Today, Shaolin Kung Fu is still practised and used for self-defence, health, fitness, character development, spiritual cultivation and life enrichment (Aims and Objectives of Practising Kung Fu, ND, para 3, 4 and 6).

The ritual function is clearly the most predominant function in the performance of Shamis: Way to Shaolin, because of the great history and meaning of Shaolin Kung Fu to the Buddhist monks and the way it is performed. The dance components in Shamis: Way to Shaolin clearly fulfil the ritual function of dance due to the culture and beliefs represented. The dancers are all male Chinese Buddhist monks and they are wearing traditional outfits. The orange robes are dated back centuries and were originally chosen because of the dye available at the time.

They are meant to symbolize simplicity and detachment of materialism (Exotissimo, 2010, para 1). The dancers are respecting themselves and others as they all bow together at the beginning of the performance and stand in a meditation position on one leg before dancing. The thin, wooden poles used in the performance of Shamis: Way to Shaolin are martial art weapons used for defence. The monks are representing themselves as warriors protecting their beloved monastery which is part of their history.

This is realised as the stage is representing the outside of their monastery with large doors opening outside to steps which lead downwards and have 2 Chinese statues guarding them. The movements of the Shaolin monks are also very sharp and aggressive. They shout “HA! ” loudly together on particularly strong movements as a warning signal and to show it is their territory and monastery. This is a characteristic of ritual dance as the performance is portraying a function. The dancers engage themselves entirely on the performance using immense concentration and focus.

Repetition, a characteristic of ritual dance, is used as the monks repeatedly twirl their poles and bang them on the ground. The ritual function is most predominant as the Buddhist monks are dancing for themselves for enlightenment as well as for their culture and beliefs. There are also dance components that fulfil the artistic function of dance within Shamis: Way to Shaolin. It is choreographed and performed onstage for an audience. The dance begins with a loud gong and then fast-paced, traditional music is played which is whistling and chiming.

The music is played to assist the audience in understanding and enjoying the performance. The monks mostly all dance together in sync at the same time, the majority of the time in a 3 straight lined formation facing the audience. This is an artistic element because the dancers have practised their routine so that it would be appealing to watch. A smoke machine is used when the male dancers enter onto the stage and go down the steps which provide levels within the performance.

Levels are again used during the dance because they are regularly leaping, crouching and jumping. At the end most of them go to either side and sit while watching 2 monks fight dance with poles in the middle. These components are all used for the benefit of the audience and the overall effectiveness of the dance. Therefore the dance is also clearly fulfilling the artistic function. The ritual and artistic functions are seamlessly combined in this dance. The artistic function includes music, formations, cannons and levels.

The ritual function is more complex representing their culture and beliefs with the dancers being Buddhist monks, wearing traditional outfits, doing meditation and Martial Arts/Kung-Fu etc. Together the two functions create an unforgettable production with the ritual being the most predominant. Bibliography Exotissimo Blog (December 21, 2010) [online] Why do Buddhist monks wear orange robes and shave their heads? http://www. exotissimo. com/blog/buddhist-monk/ (13/03/2013) DVD Shamis: Way to Shaolin. 2001. (Live show video recording) South Australia, IMS Entertaining SA.

Schaffhausen Book Snook. B, (2004) Dance Count Me In, McGraw – Hill PTY LTD (p47-49) Shaolin Kung Fu History (date unknown) [online] ChinatownConnection. com http://www. chinatownconnection. com/shaolin-kung-fu-history. htm (date accessed 2/03/2013) The Aims and Objectives of Practising Kung Fu (date unknown) [online] General Kung Fu Aims http://www. shaolin. org/general/kungfu-aims. html (date accessed 2/03/2013) The Mystical power of Shaolin Kung Fu (2008) [online] The History of the Shaolin Monastery http://www. shaolinmonksinmalta. com/ (date accessed 2/03/2013).

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