Although when most people think of martial arts they think of combat, but the arts has been used for fitness exercise and health exercise for over a thousand years. Legend has it that a Buddhist monk named Bodidharuma, also know as Tamo, Damo or Dharuma, put together the original animal forms that became the basis of all traditional fighting forms and exercises.
As the story goes, Damo came from a wealthy family living in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Being wealthy with plenty of time for education and exercise he must have been schooled in yoga. Bored with wealth and comfort he headed for the hills and spent several years wandering through the rough and wild no man’s land of the mountains. Along the way he encountered wild animals, ruffians and marauders and became adept at defending himself. He watched the animals and learned to use their fighting skills for his defense against human attacks. Then he learned to incorporate their movements into exercise forms for fitness and defense.
Eventually Tamo ended up in the temples of Tibet where he found refuge, solace and peace. But, he was disappointed with the physical, mental and spirtual health of the priests. From what he saw compared to what he grew up with, the priests were unclean, unfit and far too unenlightened. They weren’t even fit enough to sit in meditation for prolonged periods.