HIGHLAND | Gravity was the only thing keeping three Chinese Shaolin monks from taking flight Monday evening as they demonstrated martial arts that date back more than 1,600 years.
Sponsored by Kempo Jujutsu Martial Arts Academy in Highland, the demonstration of Shaolin kung fu and qigong techniques by the monks and 15 martial arts students from the Shaolin temple in Chicago drew more than 100 people. The monks train at the Shaolin Buddhist monastery in the Henan province of China, which was built in 495 A.D.
For academy owner Dale Hestermann, the demonstration was a chance to show his own students and community members the beauty of these ancient martial arts.
Chief monk ChuanKuo Liu twisted his body into seemingly impossible positions, including turning his left foot completely around, and draping his legs over his neck, then lifting himself up with his hands.
To heart-pounding music of drums, Jiucheng Song threw himself into the air, stretched his arms and legs and landed numerous times on his back, stomach and feet. In another demonstration, two metal bars were broken over Song's head as he completed exercises.
And in one of the most jaw-dropping acts, Hongqi Shi stood with a spear to his bare chest as his fellow monks broke two large pavers over his back with a sledge hammer.
The monks also put the Chicago students through their paces. Six-year-old Joan Lee, of Chicago, said he's been taking martial arts lessons for two years and likes the training. Twenty-something Ben Johnson also started taking lessons two years ago and demonstrated the various exercises that train the mind and the body.
"This is the internal training to go with the external moves you see," he told the audience. "This is a good workout without running around a lot. You can do this anywhere."