Shaolin Kempo

The ori­gins of Kem­po. More pre­cise­ly Shao­lin Kem­po. Unli­ke Japa­ne­se Kem­po. One fact in advan­ce: The direct roots of Shao­lin Kem­po are not in Japan, nor direct­ly in Chi­na, neit­her in India nor in any monas­te­ries, in spi­te of count­less sources which are always copied in the same way. Rather, the Malay archi­pe­la­go, espe­cial­ly Indo­ne­sia, is the home of Shao­lin Kem­po. But what is Shao­lin Kem­po, and here our own style Lung Chu­an Fa, actual­ly? Befo­re I stumb­led into the local sports hall in Kal­le­tal, I did­n’t even know this name.

Basi­cal­ly: Kem­po is the Japa­ne­se term for Chu­an Fa, which is the Chi­ne­se word for mar­ti­al arts. Both even have the same cha­rac­ters. So in the style I prac­ti­ce, the Lung Chu­an Fa Kem­po, one of the two terms, Kem­po or Chu­an Fa, is actual­ly dou­ble. Lung is the Chi­ne­se word for dra­gon. So we train the dra­gon style of Kem­po. Alt­hough we don’t real­ly have anything to do with clas­si­cal Japa­ne­se Kem­po. But more about that below.

Oki­na­wa and the Ryu­kyu archi­pe­la­go in gene­ral are his­to­ri­cal­ly con­si­de­red the crad­le of the Kara­te forerun­ner Kem­po. On Oki­na­wa, the deve­lo­p­ment of the forerun­ner of Kara­te is attri­bu­t­ed to a sett­le­ment of Chi­ne­se mer­chants, who­se work is actual­ly his­to­ri­cal­ly pro­ven (“the 13 fami­lies”). They main­ly brought with them the KungFu style of the White Cra­ne, which met the nati­ve Todé here. Today’s Goju Ryu goes back direct­ly to this style. The clas­si­cal Sho­to­kan Kara­te, which is much bet­ter known today, is also a mar­ti­al art from Oki­na­wa and was only dis­co­ve­r­ed by the Japa­ne­se in the 20th cen­tu­ry and was trans­for­med by them into “their” mar­ti­al art. Also in Ger­ma­ny, clas­si­cal Japa­ne­se Kem­po styles, such as Shorin­ji Kem­po, are taught today.

The pro­blem is that our Shao­lin Kem­po comes from a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent cor­ner of the world, but is mixed with Japa­ne­se Kem­po in a fun­ny way.

Origin Indonesia

Lung Chu­an Fa is not based on the tra­di­tio­nal Japa­ne­se Kem­po mar­ti­al arts, which came via Chi­na to Oki­na­wa and from the­re to Japan. Rather it is a mix­tu­re of South Chi­ne­se Kung Fu styles and Indo­ne­si­an Silat. The Chi­ne­se high cul­tu­re also had a con­si­derable influ­ence in the Sou­the­ast Asi­an regi­on. The mer­chants nee­ded pro­tec­tion, so they were accom­pa­nied by trai­ned figh­ters — mer­ce­n­a­ries or regu­lar tro­ops. Kung Fu spread along old tra­de rou­tes that con­nec­ted Chi­na with Sou­the­ast Asia for more than 2000 years. Here, too, the White Cra­ne style is often quo­ted from sou­thern Chi­na. The mar­ti­al arts did not remain hid­den, but were adap­ted to the envi­ron­ment over time and pas­sed on over many genera­ti­ons in the clas­si­cal father-son line — the Kun­tao came into being.

Kun­tao loo­ks ele­gant, con­vin­ces with mini­ma­listic but extre­me­ly sophisti­ca­ted hand tech­ni­ques and body turns and a rather upright pos­tu­re. For the Indo­ne­si­an and Malay­si­an inha­bi­tants, the mas­ters of the Kun­tao were con­si­de­red almost invin­ci­ble war­ri­ors, who put their enemies out of action with bare­ly visi­ble tech­ni­ques and avo­id­ance move­ments. What is cer­tain is that Kun­tao is stron­gly intert­wi­ned with the East Indo­ne­si­an, Malay­si­an, Bru­nei­an and Sou­thern Phil­ip­pi­ne cul­tures, but has retai­ned its Chi­ne­se character.

Silat is an ori­gin mar­ti­al art of Sou­the­ast Asia. The Sou­the­ast Asi­an island king­doms from the Phil­ip­pi­nes to Malay­sia, Indo­ne­sia and Bor­neo are still a mel­ting pot of dif­fe­rent inha­bi­tants and levels of civi­liz­a­ti­on. Con­flicts were the order of the day. The resul­ting mar­ti­al skills are known today under the collec­ti­ve term Silat or Pen­cak Silat, which inclu­des more than 800 known styles and cer­tain­ly many unknown fami­ly styles. Deep stan­ces, sophisti­ca­ted leg and floor work and a rich reper­toire of kicks, pun­ches and throws cha­rac­te­ri­ze the­se arts. Many styles are still pas­sed on, espe­cial­ly in their fami­lies, and the mas­ters enjoy a high repu­ta­ti­on. Silat is a cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge of Sou­the­ast Asia and much more than “just” sports or fighting.

It came to Euro­pe through the nati­ve sol­di­ers of the Dut­ch-Indo­ne­si­an colo­ni­al tro­ops. In the cour­se of Indonesia’s inde­pen­dence at the begin­ning of the 1950s, they had to lea­ve their home­land and move to wet and cold Holland.

Paatje Carel Faulhaber

Here the sto­ry of “our” Shao­lin Kem­po begins. And this with the Kun­tao Macan of Carel Faul­ha­ber, who comes from Indo­ne­sia, more pre­cise­ly Java. Kun­tao Macan is a mix­tu­re of the South Chi­ne­se Kung Fu styles (Kun­tao) descri­bed abo­ve, and Indo­ne­si­an-Mala­y­an Silat ele­ments. It is cha­rac­te­ri­zed abo­ve all by chan­ging stand heights and flowing move­ments. Kun­tao or Kun Tao in Macan (“Tiger”) style was taught by mas­ter (“Paat­je” means uncle) Carel Faul­ha­ber, hims­elf of Java­ne­se descent. Faul­ha­ber was a mem­ber of the Dut­ch armed for­ces. Alrea­dy during his time in Indo­ne­sia he was con­si­de­red a mas­ter of mar­ti­al arts. Initi­al­ly Faul­ha­ber taught only his fami­ly mem­bers in the clas­si­cal man­ner, but then began to train non rela­ti­ves in the Netherlands.

The Ring of Five with Sifu Rob Faul­ha­ber, Sifu Richard Kud­ding, Sifu Jim­my Bax, Sifu Ted Ver­schuur, Sifu E. Lam­merts van Bueren

A word about the­se “Moluccan” or “black Dut­ch­men”: Many descen­dants from the for­mer colo­nies of Sou­the­ast Asia still live in the Nether­lands. They come from sol­dier fami­lies of local nati­ves, who did their ser­vice for the colo­ni­al rulers in the pos­ses­si­on of the colo­ni­al power Hol­land and were not very popu­lar with their own popu­la­ti­on for under­stand­a­ble rea­sons. Alrea­dy during the Japa­ne­se occup­a­ti­on in the Second World War, but even more so when the Dut­ch had to lea­ve their colo­nies in 1953/54, many vete­rans of this colo­ni­al for­ce (KNIL), who had been tried and tes­ted in batt­le, emi­gra­ted with them to the far-off Nether­lands. Many of them, by the way, with the fal­se pro­mi­se that they would only have to go to far, wet and cold Euro­pe for a short tran­si­tio­nal peri­od, only to then move to a group of islands inde­pen­dent of the new Indo­ne­sia. They brought their mar­ti­al arts to their new home.

The situa­ti­on of the emi­gra­ted Asi­ans was anything but rosy sin­ce the mid-1950s. They felt like stran­gers in their new “home” and at first they resis­ted any approach to their sur­roun­dings. Actual­ly, they were only pas­sing through. And final­ly they were proud of their mili­ta­ry suc­ces­ses and achie­ve­ments in the colo­ni­al for­ces and the peri­od of resis­tance against the Japa­ne­se. Inte­gra­ti­on was the­re­fo­re not initi­al­ly inten­ded by eit­her the Indo­ne­si­ans or the Dut­ch. So they were not given “nor­mal” work per­mits at first. But the invol­un­ta­ry exi­le in Hol­land con­ti­nued, beca­me lon­ger and lon­ger. What could be more obvious than to make a living from the “old” skills? Faul­ha­ber foun­ded a mar­ti­al arts school in Renkum in 1960, which was also open to Dut­ch peop­le. His first stu­dents still form the “Ring of Five” today: Robert Faul­ha­ber (the eldest son), Richard Kud­ding, Max Bax, Edu­ard Lam­merts van Bue­ren and Theo (Ted) Ver­schuur. Paat­je Faul­ha­ber died of can­cer in 1974 at the age of only 50 years.

This dojo was also visi­ted by Gerald Karel Mei­jers, the second cen­tral figu­re in the deve­lo­p­ment of Shao­lin Kempo.

Gerald Meijers

Mei­jers was also a KNIL vete­ran. Sin­ce about 1953 the mar­ti­al and life artist has lived in Hol­land.  The­re are several, part­ly amu­sing sto­ries about Gerald Mei­jers. Obvious­ly, Dsche­ro Khan, as he also calls hims­elf, has eager­ly par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the crea­ti­on of legends. Thus, he actual­ly traces his ances­try back to Genghis Khan and sees hims­elf as a prince of Mon­go­li­an descent. See also this old Spie­gel arti­cle. When I read all the mum­bo jum­bo about Prince Dsche­ro Khan, who even made it into Wiki­pe­dia, then my sto­mach turns as a half­way ratio­nal per­son becau­se of the absur­di­ties and his­to­ri­cal fal­si­fi­ca­ti­ons. It gets even cra­zier that the­se fai­ry tales are eager­ly spread on count­less web­sites of estab­lis­hed Kem­po asso­cia­ti­ons (the link is just one example).

Any­way, Ger­ard Karel Mei­jers cer­tain­ly loo­ks back on a varied and adven­tur­ous life sto­ry. In any case, he was adop­ted by a Dut­ch gene­ral named Cor­ne­li­us Mei­jers, hence both the refe­rence to Hol­land and his civil name. Mei­jers, tog­e­ther with several thousand other mem­bers of the Indo­ne­si­an armed for­ces under Dut­ch com­mand, came to fara­way Hol­land after the lost War of Inde­pen­dence in the ear­ly 1950s.

Mei­jers was inspi­red by nume­rous styles, trai­ned various hard kara­te styles, but also Chi­ne­se and Indo­ne­si­an mar­ti­al arts. In Hol­land Mei­jers met Kun­tao Macan and Paat­je Faul­ha­ber. For about three years the two mar­ti­al artists trai­ned tog­e­ther. Mei­jers initi­al­ly pro­ved to be the ide­al choice to repre­sent the style to the out­side world becau­se of his mar­ti­al arts expe­ri­ence and espe­cial­ly his com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on skills. The two chan­ged the name to Shao­lin Kem­po. In order to be accep­ted by the then lar­gest mar­ti­al arts fede­ra­ti­on in Hol­land, they based the style with its names and exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons clo­se­ly on the Japa­ne­se sys­tem, which was the only reco­gni­zed sys­tem in Hol­land at the time.

This chan­ge of name still gives rise to the per­sis­tent legend that Shao­lin Kem­po has some­thing to do with Shao­lin Monas­te­ry or Kem­po from Oki­na­wa. But this is total­ly wrong!

After some years the two mar­ti­al arts pioneers sepa­ra­ted in a dis­pu­te. Mei­jers seems to be qui­te res­ent­ful, becau­se he dele­ted all refe­ren­ces to the real father of Shao­lin Kem­po, Faul­ha­ber, from his bio­gra­phy. Mei­jers fur­ther appro­xi­ma­ted his style to the rather hard Japa­ne­se kara­te styles, sup­ple­men­ted mis­sing con­tents (due to the short time of trai­ning the Kun­tao Macan) with sui­ta­ble kara­te ele­ments, foun­ded new dojos and also gave guest per­for­man­ces on this side of the Ger­man bor­der, espe­cial­ly in the Lower Rhi­ne and Ruhr area. Here the­re are still dojos today, which are in direct descent of his work.
Her­mann Scholz from Kle­ve and Hans Stre­si­us from Duis­burg-Rhein­hau­sen, today in Kamp-Lint­fort, were the first Ger­man stu­dents who could train with Sifu Mei­jers in the Nether­lands as well as in Ger­ma­ny. Also Rai­ner Fran­zo­let from Keve­la­er ( Kwoon Do ) was a stu­dent of Sifu Meijers.

Via Richard Kud­ding, who emi­gra­ted to Cana­da in the 70s, Kun­tao Mat­jan came to North America.

Development in Lippe

Lip­pe (North-Rhi­ne West­fa­lia) noti­ced two Kem­po cur­r­ents at once. First­ly, Richard Claase, a nati­ve Indo­ne­si­an and sol­dier in the Dut­ch armed for­ces, brought the Shao­lin Kem­po of Sifu Mei­jers with him. Claase was a direct stu­dent of Mei­jers in Hol­land and foun­ded a dojo in Blom­berg. The style spread, always with slight chan­ges and new names. Bes­i­des Lung Chu­an Fa Kem­po in the Kal­le­tal the­re are dojos in August­dorf, Bösing­feld, Pot­ten­hau­sen, Schie­der, Leo­polds­hö­he, Lage, Det­mold as well as Bad Pyr­mont and Steinheim.

The second Kem­po branch came via Ted Ver­schuur, also of Indo­ne­si­an descent from Hol­land and part of the “Ring of Five”, to Rin­teln and then to Kal­le­tal (see inter­view with Kem­po vete­ran Her­bert Zielin­ski). This direc­tion is clear­ly more ori­en­ted towards Kun­tao and Silat and can also be found in Kal­le­tal at Shao­lin Kem­po Hsins­hih, also in Budo SV Kal­le­tal. No won­der, becau­se Ted Ver­schuur was alrea­dy a Silat figh­ter in Indo­ne­sia befo­re he went to the Dojo of Carel Faulhaber.

Lung Chu­an Fa comes from the lineage of Shao­lin Kem­po of Mei­jers and was taught in its pre­sent form by Grand­mas­ter Marc Richards and his disci­ples Wital­li Rein­gard and Flo­ri­an Klee­mei­er in the Kal­le­tal. For me it is exci­ting to see and feel how, as one beco­mes more and more invol­ved with Kem­po, one can get clo­ser and clo­ser to the silat roots of this uni­que style without wan­ting to hide the Japa­ne­se and Chi­ne­se ele­ments. But many of the ele­ments only make sen­se if you under­stand their ori­gin and cul­tu­ral background.

Training skills

Ele­ments such as kata or Sifat, wea­pon forms and kum­i­te with part­ners ori­gi­na­te from the tra­di­tio­nal are­as. Kata are divi­ded into Tai-Tsuku and Sifat, wher­eby the Tai-Tsuku is a cha­rac­te­ris­tic of Lung Chu­an Fa. In other Shao­lin Kem­po styles the­se forms do not exist. The hig­her the stu­dent gets in his stri­ving, the more soft ele­ments and thus ele­ments clear­ly remi­nis­cent of Chi­ne­se arts or Indo­ne­si­an mar­ti­al dan­ces beco­me visi­ble in the Sifat. Sin­ce my appren­ti­ce­ship with Sifu Olaf Bock we have been deve­lo­ping Shao­lin Kem­po back to its ori­gins. The six discip­le forms, the Sifat, are coun­ted in Indo­ne­si­an and clear­ly con­vey the con­nec­tion to the Silat ori­gins. The hig­her forms make the Chi­ne­se ori­gins clear and are taught in many Kem­po schools in the Ger­man Wus­hu Asso­cia­ti­on in a very simi­lar way.

The clas­si­cal Bo- (long stick) kata is alrea­dy lear­ned by the pro­spec­ti­ve green belt. Later on other wea­pons can be lear­ned in their mas­te­ry. Our wea­pons are hand­led com­ple­te­ly dif­fer­ent­ly from Japa­ne­se and Oki­na­wa styles, and are more akin to Chi­ne­se Kung Fu. And our second root, Silat, is inse­pa­ra­ble from wea­pon­ry any­way. The­re­fo­re we are open to a varie­ty of clas­si­cal wea­pons, from long stick, ton­fa and sai to saber, hal­berd or chain. The first mas­ter form, for examp­le, is actual­ly a wea­pons kata with but­ter­fly swords, which we also train with them.

Kum­i­te are part­ner forms, in which fixed attacks are coun­te­red with equal­ly fixed coun­ters. This is not only for streng­t­he­ning, but also inter­na­li­zes move­ment sequen­ces, which should later lead to an auto­ma­tic reac­tion even in a sup­po­sed emer­gen­cy or in spor­ting com­pe­ti­ti­ons. A dis­tinc­tion is made bet­ween the 10 Ippon-Kum­i­te and the 50 clas­si­cal Kem­po-Kum­i­te, who­se sequen­ces beco­me more and more com­plex with incre­a­sing know­ledge. In the mas­ter degrees, real­ly dan­ge­rous and abo­ve all rea­listic tech­ni­ques are introduced.

Self-defence is of gre­at impor­t­ance. Not only are effec­ti­ve levers and throws, kicks and pun­ches taught here, but spe­cial empha­sis is also pla­ced on the pro­por­tio­na­li­ty of a defence. Lung Chu­an Fa Kem­po has a wide reper­toire of tech­ni­ques to be able to face almost every situa­ti­on appro­pria­te­ly. Tho­se who know Kem­po do not need any extra self-defence trai­ning. Shao­lin Kem­po is a mar­ti­al art.

Ground figh­t­ing and fall school are ele­men­ta­ry com­pon­ents of a mar­ti­al art. While the for­mer not only trains strength and is fun, but is also excel­lent for self-defence, the fall school is also very important in ever­y­day life. The fall of an apple tree, lad­der, skate­board, bicy­cle or motor­bike can be con­trol­led bet­ter if the prac­ti­ced unrol­ling is done automatically.






  1. Uwe kraemer Reply

    Thx Lutz. Very good arti­cle and rese­arch of you 🙏

    • Lutz Odewald

      Lutz Odewald Reply

      Dan­ke Dir, Uwe. Ein Lob aus beru­fe­nem Munde

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