Countless of records gathered by historians and scholars on Chinese History suggest that martial arts in China have been around for a few thousand years. One such example could be Shuai Jiao, a form of wrestling which was popular long before (a few centuries) Shaolin temples even existed. Chinese abbeys were full of riches and therefore monks needed to be protected from robbers and pillagers. Monks that lived in monasteries were often trained in self defense and knew how to operate guns, so they were probably knowledgeable in some primitive form of martial art.
When the first Shaolin temples were established, around the year 500 AD, in the region of Henan, there was a legendary Indian monk who endorsed Buddhism, and whose Chinese disciples were said to possess martial skills that excelled those of simple mortal men. The monk’s name was Buddhabhadra, although he was known simply as Batuo. It is believed that before being inducted as Chinese Shaolin monks, the disciples may have been army men.
The ensuing years saw the principles and laws of Shaolin Kung Fu take form and monks were now developing their own fighting techniques. The following centuries were times of deep turmoil and here we can actually find documented evidence of monks defending a Shaolin temple from bandits, around the year 600. There is also some evidence that indicates that Shaolin monks paid their tribute to a deity known as Kimnara King who was considered to be the creator of certain bare hand fighting styles and even of the staff, whose mastery Shaolin monks were famous for. There is some evidence dating back to the 16th century that suggests that Shaolin monks indeed practiced martial arts and that this was a part of their everyday life.
A few centuries later, “Recording Effective Techniques” was published and when copies of this book reached East Asia, it influenced deeply martial arts in Southern Japan and Korea.