Who are the Shoalin?

So, I was watching Best Week Ever, and was struck by a question that had plagued me for some time (but never enough to actually do some research). Just who and what are the legendary Shaolin monks? A quick web search reveals only the following “facts”:[ol]
[li]Shoalin are mammals[/li][li]The purpose of the Shoalin is to flip out and kill people. In fact, they invented Kung-Fu.[/li][li]They are apparently getting increasingly good at soccer, which is braggable.[/li][/ol]

But outside of Hong-Kong films, what’s the real deal? Being monks, I assume they’re fairly religious, what’s their faith? Are they a large sect? What’s their history? Is the popular association of the Shoalin with nigh-superhuman martial arts at all based in reality? Thanks, all.

The Shaolin are a Buddhist sect in China. They developed an exercise regimen to strengthen themselves for the rigorous meditation required by their beliefs, and combined that with the local martial arts to form Shaolin-quan. Kung fu is a Chinese expression meaning, more or less, “expertise” – that is, great learned skill. Its associatin with Chinese martial arts is mostly due to the Hong Kong movies. Apparently, those computer geeks who talk about their “kung fu” are actually using the term correctly.



I can say that this was copied from http://www.realultimatepower.net/

My imagination started racing when i read the thread title. What could a name like Shoah-lin refer to? I decided the Shoah-lin must be a band of Chinese martial arts warriors in the Jewish ghettos of places like Warsaw and Lódz, who defend against the Nazi invaders.

[nitpick]They’re not so much a sect as a movement within the Chan (or Zen) sect originating from two monasteries: the original Northern Shaolin Temple in Henan province and the later Southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian province. Even if you forget about martial arts, the Northern Shaolin Temple is important to Zen Buddhists as the founder of the movement, Bodhidharma is said to have spent several years there.[/nitpick]

Actually, I wondered if I was spelling it right (in my defense, it was late and I was tired). My mispelling still pulled up many Google hits, all of them crap, but still on the monks in question. Now I know why Google failed me.

And yes, I was aware I was ripping off Real Ultimate Power. It was a critique of the apparent dearth of accessible serious Shaolin material. Or a Joke.