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The Grand Masters of Shaolin

"From the dawn of history mankind has endured great tragedy. In the face of utter loss many never regained the spark of life. However, a few brave souls emerge from life’s greatest trauma almost unscratched, they become master of life. Of these few, a handful transcend their tragedy to become a stronger, wiser, and better human being. And those few, they are the Grandmasters of life.”

          ~ Shaolin Grandmaster, Sin Kwang The’

Great, Great Grandmaster Sukong Tai Djin

Great Great Grand Master
Su Kong Tai Djin

Grandmaster Su Kong Tai Djin was born in the Fukien province of China in 1849 with a rare genetic condition that resulted in his entire body being covered with hair. His parents convinced they had given birth to a demon, abandoned the infant in a nearby forest. A group of passing monks heard the baby's cries, quickly realized he was human, and brought him to the Shaolin Temple. Given the child's appearance, the monks knew he would not be adopted by any family and decided to raise the child themselves.

golden dragon

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This situation was unique from all others because Su Kong Tai Djin was raised from birth in the temple. He was not only raised with the monks' ideals in mind, but he was also not limited in his studies to one master. He was treated as everyone's favorite son and could study with anyone. The masters responded to his rare enthusiasm for learning, and he quickly mastered hundreds of forms that had never been accomplished by one person before.

It is important to understand the distinction between the grand master of the temple and the head abbot. The grand master oversaw the monks' physical progress and the mastery of the martial arts by the warrior monks. The head abbot oversaw the temple as a whole and the monks' religious and intellectual studies.

After learning the temple was going to be attacked by the government, the monks evacuated the temple, taking with them priceless books, scrolls, and artwork and fled into the mountains after setting fire to the temple themselves. One of the young disciples who fled the temple with Su Kong Tai Djin was a young boy name Ie Chang Ming. 

 

Great Great Grand Master Su Kong Tai Djin died in 1928 at the age of 79

Great Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming

Great Grand Master 
Ie Chang Ming

Ie Chang Ming was born in 1880 and admitted to the Fukien Shaolin temple as a young boy. There he spent all his time and energy learning the martial arts, specifically the Golden Snake system. Upon the death of Su Kong Tai Djin, the title of Grand Master was given to Ie Chang Ming, his top student.

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After suffering tremendous personal loss, Ie Chang Ming fled the turbulent conditions in China to Bandung, Indonesia. There, he eventually established a Shaolin school. In Indonesian culture, there is considerable prejudice toward the Chinese and their culture. To avoid conflict with the people and the government, Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming added the Japanese word, Do (pronounced doe) to Shaolin to disguise it as a Japanese martial art rather than a Chinese martial art. At this time, he also adopted the Japanese gi (uniform) and belt ranking system that we still use today in his honor.

Grand Master Ie was famous throughout Indonesia for his martial arts abilities, specifically his iron palm training, his high level of meditation, and his mastery of the Golden Snake system.

His preferences for meditation were so that he required little sleep at night. One favorite meditation posture of his was to place his head on one chair and his heels on another and suspend himself between them every night while meditating for hours.


Great Grand Master Ie Chang died in 1976 at the age of 96.

Grandmaster Sin K. The'

Grand Master Sin Kwang Thé
Current Shaolin Grand Master

Grand Master Sin K. The' has been teaching in the United States for close to 60 years. In that time thousands of students have learned and practiced the ancient art of Shaolin-Do. In the 1970's and into the 1980's Grand Master The' held one of the largest east coast tournaments in the U.S. His influence and recognition is widely respected within the Chinese Martial Arts community here in the United States and abroad. To this day he still has a strong connection to his numerous affiliated Martial Arts schools and his countless students that span across the country. His annual visit to Boise attracts students from all over the western United States and the Pacific Northwest.

Background

In 1943, Sin Kwang Thé (pronounced Tay) was born in Bandung, Indonesia. His parents were Chinese but fled to Indonesia after the Communist Party of China came into power. Young Sin was drawn to the martial arts at a very young age. A friend of the family and a close friend of Grand Master Ie Chang Ming introduced young Sin Thé to Grand Master Ie’s school to watch and observe a class. He was amazed by what he saw. Grand Master Ie's students were practicing empty hand forms, weapon forms, and sparring.

As it was at the Shaolin Temple, Grand Master Ie was very strict with whom he admitted as a student. Potential students were studied from every conceivable angle to judge their temper, demeanor, and attitude. One wrong action would prevent a student from ever gaining admittance to the school. The six-year-old Sin Thé asked to join but was dismissed with polite excuses. After some time, he was then allowed to join the school, and then the real tests began.

Just like at the Shaolin temple, young Sin Thé's training began with stances. He would stand in horse stances, bow stances, and cat stances for hours at a time. As Sin The’s training continued he started earning the trust of his teacher. His training progressed and advanced at a faster-than-normal rate.  At the age of thirteen, Sin tested for his black belt. A test that was extremely difficult.

 

As his training continued, Sin Thé's abilities increased greatly. He spent all his time training with Grand Master Ie and even stayed at his house on weekends and during his vacations from school. It was at this time that Grand Master Ie saw Sin's potential and began grooming him to become the next Grand Master of Shaolin-Do. The pace of the training became frantic. Grand Master Ie began teaching him one form every day of the week. But forms were not the only thing Sin was being taught. He was also being taught countless training exercises and forms of Meditation, Chi Kung, and Nei Kung techniques.

In 1964, Master Sin was preparing to leave for college. A friend of the family, who was a professor from the University of Kentucky, convinced Master Sin and his parents that he could get an excellent education there. He began his studies at Transylvania University, and not long after started at the University of Kentucky. It was there that he started teaching Shaolin-Do (without his teacher's knowledge or permission) to supplement his income, the first time non-Chinese had ever learned the art of Shaolin-Do! Grand Master Ie would later find out about his teaching and after some heartfelt correspondences, gave his student his blessing to teach Americans.

In 1968, his Shaolin training was complete and Grand Master Ie awarded Master Sin Thé the rank of 10th Degree Black Belt and the Grand Master's Red Belt. Sin Kwang Thé had become the youngest Grand Master in the history of Shaolin martial arts!

 

Grand Master Sin Thé continued his education at the University of Kentucky and had nearly completed his Doctorate Degree in Nuclear Engineering when Ie Chang Ming died in 1976 at the age of 96. Grand Master Sin realized that the world had plenty of engineers and scientists, but only one Shaolin Grand Master. He quit his studies and since has devoted all his time to teaching the art of Shaolin-Do!

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