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Release: Jan. 31, 2002

The Heart And Soul Of Chinese Kung Fu Comes To UI

The Shaolin Warriors, Buddhist monks from the Chinese temple where Kung Fu was invented, will demonstrate their martial-arts virtuosity and mental discipline in fully choreographed theatrical form at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 21 and 22, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The Shaolin Warriors will also present a public demonstration/Q&A at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Iowa Children's Museum at Coral Ridge, in conjunction with the museum's Chinese New Year activities. Entry to the Children's Museum involves an admission charge. The museum's phone number is 319-625-6255.

The Shaolin Warriors presentations are appropriate for the entire family. The production is a choreographed demonstration in which no actual violent combat occurs.

For nearly 1,500 years the Shaolin Temple, at the foot of Mt. Shaoshi in the Henan province of central China, has been the heart and soul of Chinese Kung Fu. It was there in 525 AD that the Indian Buddhist monk To Mo laid the foundation for the martial art, out of a commitment to enhancing harmony between mind, body and spirit.

Kung Fu is based in Ch'an Buddhism (the Chinese source of the Japanese term Zen), through which it harnesses violent movement as meditation.

Recognizing the need to protect themselves in battle-torn feudal China, the early Shaolin monks began to develop a system of personal defense. Tradition holds that the monks developed their techniques by patiently observing the attack and defense maneuvers of wild animals in the vicinity of the temple.

The monks called their system "wushu," and after a few centuries of practice and refinement, their order became famous far and wide as an order of Buddhists that one would be unwise to provoke. Their unsurpassed skills are now legendary to martial arts practitioners throughout the world.

The monks train in martial arts for several hours each day, to master hand-to-hand combat and the use of the temple's 18 traditional weapons, becoming a master of one -- in combination with seated meditation that creates the mental focus and serenity required to endure the pain and discipline of their training.

The Shaolin monks have now expanded their weapons inventory to more than 20, ranging from common axes, swords and spears to a variety of specialized staffs, darts, daggers and hooks used exclusively by Shaolin fighters. The monks are also prepared to utilize any common object as a weapon.

They also demonstrate their ability to "take a punch," including a battering ram to the stomach and lying suspended in mid-air on spear points.

The staged demonstrations of the Shaolin monks have attracted huge audiences in China, but they have only begun to tour internationally -- after 15 centuries. In their first U.S. tour last season, Jeff Rubio wrote in the Orange County Register: "We're told that the Shaolin Warriors of China never use their fighting skills in acts of aggression. That's a relief. These Buddhist monks for a Chinese monastery where martial arts and meditation are a way of life are so good at what they do that it almost looks like animation."

Time Out in New York noted, in a less serious vein, "Not many people would ever think of hitting a holy man, but just in case you're ever tempted, you should know that the Shaolin Buddhist monks of China could kick your ass from here to nirvana."

And William Littler wrote in the Toronto Star, "I've always been skeptical about the ability of the human body to do what the Bruce Lees and Jackie Chans have appeared to do on the silver screen. But after last night, some of the skepticism vanished."

Cantebury Inn & Suites is the local corporate sponsor of the Shaolin Warriors performances, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $35, $33 and $30. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price. Zone 2 and 3 tickets are available to UI students for $10.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:< http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher >.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <hancherboxoffice@uiowa.edu>.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit <www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.