Tuesday, June 03, 2014

[Opinion] When Tradition is Lost among the Nobles

 Tim Mrazek in the Canadian Prairies


1. Path to Shaolin (2010) was a documentary that follows the Canadian "Tim Mrazek on his journey to the Shaolin Temple in China's Songshan Mountains. Mrazek hopes to be given his official 32nd-generation Shaolin name – an unprecedented honour for someone not of Chinese descent." ("Path to Shaolin", JoyTV)

This documentary was originally broadcast on Canada's VisionTV in July, 2010; it was re-broadcasted on Canada's JoyTV two nights ago (Sunday, June 1, 2014).

A Russian version of this documentary is available on YouTube:


I missed the original broadcast but watched it on JoyTV.

What came immediately to mind after watching this documentary was the Chinese phrase: "禮失而求諸野" ("When Tradition is Lost among the Nobles, Seek It in the Common People.")

What I come away with after watching this documentary is that commercialization has eaten away the spirit of kung fu at Shaolin Temple on Songshan (Mount Song); anyone who is on a quest for the traditional spirit of Shaolin Temple should look elsewhere.

2. ("Path To Shaolin", DocuWiki):

"Beyond the movies, beyond the legends, The Path to Shaolin follows Canadian Tim Mrazek on an extraordinary journey. It is a philosophical and spiritual journey on a path into another culture, that leads him to the Shaolin Temple in China to become a 32nd generation Shaolin Warrior Monk. The Shaolin Temple - the birthplace of Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism - has a 1400 year history, marrying the peaceful and compassionate nature of Buddhism with one of the most effective fighting forms in human history. It has always been an enigma. Canadian Tim Mrazek has studied for years under 31st generation Shaolin lay monk Master Chi Wai Lee, whose connection to Shaolin Temple goes back five generations in the Lee family, over three hundred years. Master Lee represents the old guard, his connection is to the original core of monks who trained and lived at the Shaolin Temple. Now Tim Mrazek has become the first Canadian to be ordained through the Chung Wah International Shaolin program as a 32nd generation Shaolin warrior monk. But Timothy Mrazek also represents a paradox. He is a westerner, of European descent. The Path to Shaolin follows Tim Mrazek to the Songshan mountains in China, where, with his master Chi Wai Lee, he travels deep inside the heart of Chinese Kung Fu to the Shaolin Temple. But the pull of East and West has changed many things at the Shaolin temple, more than either can expect."

3. What DocuWiki hinted at but did not say explicitly was that Tim Mrazek and LEE Chi-Wai were given the cold shoulder at Shaolin Temple.

LEE Chi-Wai's Sifu was the previous Abbot of Shaolin Temple and has passed away.

The way the documentary was setup, I was expecting Lee and Mrazek will be granted an audience with the present Abbot of Shaolin Temple (or some of the higher-ups) and that some sort of ceremony to confirm Mrazek to be a 32nd generation Shaolin monk will take place.

Both these events did not materialize.

I suppose they should have been prearranged and the documentary did not properly explain why the cold shoulder took place.

The hints were that was due to the commercialization of the Shaolin brand name and the internal politics at Shaolin with the new Abbot.

4. I sympathise with the spiritual quest of Tim Mrazek.

Kung fu is more than just martial arts.

Besides its external form as a martial art, different styles of kung fu embody different philosophies and ways of life.

Having practice Shaolin martial arts with his Sifu for more than 20 years, Mrazek is on a quest to locate himself within the Shaolin tradition.

Tradition is important.

Sifu LEE Chi-Wai performing the Shaving-Head Ceremony on
Mrazek before their trip to China officially confirms Mrazek as a 32nd generation monk.

Additional ceremony at Shaolin Temple would have confirmed
Mrazek lineage in the trunk instead of from a branch of Shaolin.

The China portion of Path To Shaolin (2010) shows that many young people are still learning the form of Shaolin kung fu; equally obvious from the documentary is that many elders have lost the spirit that is behind it.

Since I can understand the Mandarin or Putonghua, I can tell for certain that nothing deep or meaningful about kung fu or Zen philosophy was discussed in the documentary.

The documentary indicated Mrazek was uncertain of the meanings of his visit to Shaolin Temple.

I can sympathise.

The nobilities of Shaolin Temple have lost the tradition, the spirit of Shaolin kung fu should be sought in the common people who live and practice it.


"Documentary follows a Canadian’s quest to become part of a martial arts tradition", Channel Canada News,
(accessed 2014-06-03).

"Path to Shaolin", DocuWiki,
(accessed 2014-06-03).

"Path to Shaolin", IMDb.com,
(accessed 2014-06-03).

"Path to Shaolin", JoyTV,
(accessed 2014-06-03).