I read some online texts that say Kung-Fu is originated from Kalaripayattu. Is there any truth to this claim?

The Shaolin temple itself was founded by an Indian Dhyana master Buddhabhadra. On one of the walls of the Shaolin temple a fresco can be seen, showing south Indian monks, teaching the Chinese the art of bare-handed fighting. On this painting (see image below) are inscribed: Tenjiku Naranokaku which means: the fighting techniques to train the body (which come) from India.

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In Meir Shahar's The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts, there is a whole chapter (number six) dedicated to that topic. It basically debunks this (with reference to studies and historical sources) as a myth that had been raised as late as the 17th century and later. The conclusion ends as follows:

The seventeenth-century transformation of bare-handed fighting was accompanied by the emergence of a novel martial arts mythology. Shaolin monks gradually accepted a legend that had originated outside the monastery according to which their fighting techniques had been invented by the Chan patriarch Bodhidharma. The legend of the Buddhist saint evolved in conjunction with the myth of a Daoist immortal. As the “External” Shaolin martial arts were attributed to a Buddhist master who reputedly resided on the sacred Mt. Song, an “Internal” school of fighting was ascribed to a Daoist recluse who sup- posedly hid on the holy Mt. Wudang. The two legends matched each other in a perfectly harmonious mythological structure, the flawless symmetry of which has likely been the source of their ongoing appeal. (p. 181, emphasis mine)

The main point is that while (apart from the questionable historicity of the person) Bodhidharma is seen as the spiritual father of the monastery, there is no evidence that there was any influence regarding martial arts (or, for that matter, that "he" even was proficient). It is only in modern times that stories were made up to provide a unity of religion and martial arts that provided further credibility and myth to the alleged superiority of (Shaolin-)Kung Fu.

The monastery itself was most certainly founded by an indian-born monk "in the last decade of the fifth century" (p. 9), while the first archeological hints to Buddha are from 728 and 798 respectively (p. 14).

Martial arts came into focus a long time after founding.

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    Yes, and I would add that there has certainly been a transfer of ideas from India to China and vice-versa. The same is true for all of Asia and the West. Nothing exists in a vacuum. But, the idea that Shaolin kung-fu comes from Indian martial arts is a big stretch. In 1500 years since Shaolin came into existence, that has been quite enough time for Chinese kung-fu to evolve in its own way separate from Indian influence. It is 100% Chinese now. Indian martial arts may have played a minor role in influencing it over the years, and kung-fu may have influenced Indian martial arts as well. May 16 '17 at 13:58
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    @SteveWeigand: Most definitely, yes. All these heritage claims are futile, especially if used in "more pure" or "deeper truth" arguments. You just have to look into the developments between, say, Sambo and Judo, or Muay Thai and Western Kickboxing, in the last few decades. Additionally, it would be like saying Okinawan Karate is just Kung Fu. No, it isn't. Because it transformed in cultural contextualisation (e.g. traditional Okinawan wrestling). May 16 '17 at 15:33
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    I would like to add that this whole idea that there exists One Original Martial Art is laughable. The humanity has always had a mean streak and there have always been more effective fighters than others regardless of geographic or cultural context. Some may even passed on secret of their efficiency to following generations, creating schools of martial arts. May 17 '17 at 4:33
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    One other thing. I've been told that Kalaripayattu is actually a fairly modern martial art, even though their own account of the history of it dates back to the 6th century AD. It's similar to Shaolin Kung-fu. The kung-fu taught today at Shaolin Temple at Songshan is basically modern wushu. It's almost completely different from what was taught in the mid-1700's at Shaolin. And prior to the 1700's, there isn't much we know definitively, except that it probably doesn't look anything like what exists nowadays. May 17 '17 at 15:12
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    @PhilipKlöcking The way you said "NO" in big letters surprises me, sounds like you know everything about history. With all respect there are lot of things not well documented and you DONT KNOW yet! For example the martial arts (Adimurai adimuraiindia.org/rules.html) we practice from time unknown. Yeah, it's sad my forefathers sold those palm leaflets to british/eurpoe just for some money and even now one of my friend who is a holistic medicine practitioner is willing to sell some to an europe museum. We know the truth, some chinese knows too. We don't care about the world!
    – VJAI
    Oct 3 at 14:43

all martial arts originated from kuttu varisai and nattu adimurai..these martial arts were originally practised by Tamils living in the southern part of india (Tamil Nadu..but in particular it was from the district of kanyakumari).

it was from kuttu varisai that kalaripayattu and angampor (sri lanka) and other martial arts travelled to other places of the world in different names

these ancient martial arts are still practised in secrecy in some southern parts of kanyakumari

  • I don't understand why there are negative votes for this answer. There are proofs that Bodhidharma (we believe the one who taught Martial Arts to Chinese) came to KanyaKumari and learnt the arts. There is a temple called Chitharal Malai Temple and there are inscriptions about this. The martial art practiced in KanyaKumari is not Kalari it's a different one called Adimurai not based on weapons. Please watch this video youtube.com/watch?v=V_mTdmlIamA In our place, we are still practicing Adiumari and Varmam privately.
    – VJAI
    Oct 3 at 13:59
  • For more info about Adimurai adimuraiindia.org/rules.html Varmam youtube.com/watch?v=S1uUE3JNrWs
    – VJAI
    Oct 3 at 14:33

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