The attribution of Shaolin's martial arts to Bodhidharma has been discounted by several 20th century martial arts historians, first by Tang Hao on the grounds that the Yì JÄ«n JÄ«ng is a forgery. Stele and documentary evidence shows the monks historically worshiped the Bodhisattva Vajrapani's "Kimnara King" form as the progenitor of their staff and bare hand fighting styles.
Huiguang and Sengchou were involved with martial arts before they became two of the very first Shaolin monks, reported as practicing martial arts before the arrival of Bodhidharma. Sengchou's skill with the tin staff is even documented in the Chinese Buddhist canon.
Records of the discovery of arms caches in the monasteries of Chang'an during government raids in AD 446 suggests that Chinese monks practiced martial arts prior to the establishment of the Shaolin Monastery in 497. Monks came from the ranks of the population among whom the martial arts were widely practiced prior to the introduction of Buddhism. There are indications that Huiguang, Sengchou and even Huike, Bodhidarma's immediate successor as Patriarch of Chán Buddhism, may have been military men before retiring to the monastic life. Moreover, Chinese monasteries, not unlike those of Europe, in many ways were effectively large landed estates, that is, sources of considerable regular income which required protection.
In addition to that, the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue, the Bibliographies in the Book of the Han Dynasty and the Records of the Grand Historian all document the existence of martial arts in China before Bodhidharma. The martial arts ShuÄ�i JiÄ�o and Sun Bin Quan, to name two, predate the establishment of the Shaolin Monastery by centuries.
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