Bodhidharma and the martial arts
In the south Indian state of Kerala (the homeland of kalaripayat), Bodhidharma is remembered as both a kalari master and as the "father of Han-Chinese Shaolin Fist". The Yi Jin Jing also credits Shaolin kungfu to Bodhidharma. Malays believe that Bodhidharma introduced preset forms into silat. All this would make him an important influence on Asian martial arts in general. However, both the attribution of Shaolin boxing to Bodhidharma and the authenticity of the Yi Jin Jing itself have been discredited by some historians including Tang Hao, Xu Zhen and Matsuda Ryuchi. This argument is summarized by modern historian Lin Boyuan in his Zhongguo wushu shi as follows:
As for the "Yi Jin Jing" (Muscle Change Classic), a spurious text attributed to Bodhidharma and included in the legend of his transmitting martial arts at the temple, it was written in the Ming dynasty, in 1624, by the Daoist priest Zining of Mt. Tiantai, and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma. Forged prefaces, attributed to the Tang general Li Jing and the Southern Song general Niu Gao were written. They say that, after Bodhidharma faced the wall for nine years at Shaolin temple, he left behind an iron chest; when the monks opened this chest they found the two books "Xi Sui Jing" (Marrow Washing Classic) and "Yi Jin Jing" within. The first book was taken by his disciple Huike, and disappeared; as for the second, "the monks selfishly coveted it, practicing the skills therein, falling into heterodox ways, and losing the correct purpose of cultivating the Real. The Shaolin monks have made some fame for themselves through their fighting skill; this is all due to having obtained this manuscript." Based on this, Bodhidharma was claimed to be the ancestor of Shaolin martial arts. This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source.
The oldest available copy was published in 1827 and the composition of the text itself has been dated to 1624. Even then, the association of Bodhidharma with martial arts only becomes widespread as a result of the 1904–1907 serialization of the novel The Travels of Lao Ts'an in Illustrated Fiction Magazine.
Huiguang and Sengchou were expert in the martial arts before they became two of the very first Shaolin monks—years before the arrival of Bodhidharma. The Taishō Tripi?aka documents Sengchou's skill with the tin staff.
Bodhidharma is associated with the idea that spiritual, intellectual and physical excellence are an indivisible whole necessary for enlightenment. Such an approach to enlightenment ultimately proved highly attractive to the samurai class in Japan, who made Zen their way of life, following their encounter with the martial-oriented Chán Lingji School introduced to Japan by Eisai in the 12th century.