Potala Palace Martial Arts



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Standing high upon Marpo Ri hill, (the Red Mountain) 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, the Potala Palace rises a further 170 meters and is the greatest monumental structure in all of Tibet. Early legends concerning the rocky hill tell of a sacred cave, considered to be the dwelling place of the Bodhisattva Chenrezig (Avilokiteshvara), that was used as a meditation retreat by Emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century AD. In 637 Songtsen Gampo built a palace on the hill. This structure stood until the seventeenth century, when it was incorporated into the foundations of the greater buildings still standing today. Construction of the present palace began in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama and by 1648 the Potrang Karpo, or White Palace, was completed. The Potrang Marpo, or Red Palace, was added between 1690 and 1694; its construction required the labors of more than 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsman. In 1922 the 13th Dalai Lama renovated many chapels and assembly halls in the White Palace and added two storey's to the Red Palace. The Potala Palace was only slightly damaged during the Tibetan uprising against the invading Chinese in 1959. Unlike most other Tibetan religious structures, it was not sacked by the Red Guards during the 1960s and 1970s, apparently through the personal intervention of Chou En Lai. As a result, all the chapels and their artifacts are very well preserved.

From as early as the eleventh century the palace was called Potala. This name probably derives from Mt. Potala (Sanskrit: Potalaka; which means ''Brilliance." It is from the Tamil pottu (potti-) ''to light" - as a fire).  The mythological mountain abode of the Bodhisattva Chenresi (Avilokiteshvara / Kuan Yin) in the Kerala region of Southern India. The Emperor Songtsen Gampo had been regarded as an incarnation of Chenrezig (as indeed all all Dalai Lama's). Given that he founded the Potala, it seems likely that the hilltop palace of Lhasa took on the name of the Indian sacred mountain. The Potala Palace is an immense structure, its interior space being in excess of 130,000 square meters. Fulfilling numerous functions, the Potala was first and foremost the residence of the Dalai Lama and his large staff. In addition, it was the seat of Tibetan government, where all ceremonies of state were held; it housed a school for religious training of monks and administrators, as well as the Potala's own Gelugpa Sect (Yellow Hat Lama's) Monastery  the "Namgyal" which means; "The Victorious".   It was at the Potala that the Dalai Lama's were officially installed as the spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet on 'The Lion Throne' a vast jewel encrusted throne that stood in the principal state room of the Potala: Si-Shi-Phuntsog (Hall Of All Good Deeds Of The Spiritual And Temporal World). The Potala was one of Tibet's major pilgrimage destinations because of the tombs of past Dalai Lamas. Within the White Palace are two small chapels, the Phakpa Lhakhang and the Chogyal Drubphuk; dating from the seventh century, these chapels are the oldest surviving structures on the hill and also the most sacred. The Potala's most venerated statue, the Arya Lokeshvara, is housed inside the Phapka Lhakhang, and it draws thousands of Tibetan pilgrims each day.

19th Century View of The Potala Palace


Historically ruled by the His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and supporting a monastic community that comprised of between 10 and 20 % of the male population, Tibet was a state in which religious interests and priorities were at the very heart of life.  The Tibetan Buddhist Tantric Religion was not  however  always the peaceful entity it is believed by many to be.  Even within the Gelugpa Sect, (The Yellow Hats of the Dalai Lama himself) and  between the great Gelugpa monasteries, there were those who were often at odds with the Dalai Lama's spiritual and temporal authority and government. This potential for conflict and indeed at times open combat, extended across and between all of the Tantric Buddhist sects, and frequently saw armies of 'Fighting Monks' engaged in battle with one another, or with the National Army of Tibet. 

A 19th Century Tibetan National Government Army Cavalryman

The Tibetan monastic system supported a staggering number of monks. Surveys show that there were 97,528 monks in Central Tibet and Khams in 1694, and 319,270 monks in 1733.  Assuming that the population of these areas was about 2.5 million in 1733, monks therefore constituted about 13% of the total population and about 26% of the males. The magnitude of this can be appreciated by com-paring it to Thailand, another prominent Buddhist nation and culture, wherein  monks comprised only 1-2%  of the total number of males. A critical factor underlying this size was the Tibetan belief that the state should foster the spiritual (religious) development by  making monk-hood available to the largest number of people.

A 19th Century Tibetan Government Official

The scope of monasticism (and the cycle of religious rituals and ceremonies the monks performed) can be seen in turn as the measure of the Tibetan state's success. Monasticism in Tibet, therefore, was not the otherworldly domain of a small, exclusive elite; rather it was a mass phenomenon. The Tibetan monastic system was also striking in that, first, the over- whelming majority of monks were placed in monasteries by their parents when they were between the ages of seven and ten, without particular regard to their religious predispositions or wishes; and secondly, becoming a monk was not a temporary undertaking but rather a lifelong commitment. There were many reasons why parents made their son a monk. For some, it was their deep religious belief that being a monk was a great privilege and honor. For others, it was a culturally valued way to reduce the number of mouths to feed, while also ensuring that their son would never have to experience the hardships of village life. Again, sometimes parents made a son a monk to fulfill a solemn promise made to a deity when the son was very ill. Yet, in other cases, recruitment was simply the result of a corvee tax obligation to a monastery which was their lord. Parents sometimes broached the subject with their sons, but usually they simply told the child of their decision. 

The monastery officially asked the young boys whether they wanted to be monks. But this was really pro forma, and if, for example, a newly made child monk ran away from the monastery, this would not result in his dismissal on the grounds that he did not want to be a monk. A number of monks recalled that they had fled to their homes after a few months' initial stay in the monastery only to receive a beating from their fathers who immediately took them back. The monks relating these incidents did not see this as abusive. Rather, they laughed at how stupid they were at the time to want to give up the opportunity of being a monk. Tibetans, both lay and monk alike, generally feel that young boys cannot comprehend the wonder and importance of being a monk, and that it is up to their elders to see to it that they have the right opportunities. 

Thus, the decision to make a child a monk was predominantly the prerogative of the parental generation rather than derived from either the wishes of the child or some perception of a deep-seated predilection in the child for the monk's life. Once accepted, it was hoped that the novice would remain a monk for his entire life, adhering, minimally, to a vow of celibacy. However, monks clearly had the right to leave the monastic community whenever they wanted. Given the almost random selection of novice monks, powerful mechanisms were needed to retain young monks who had to face a life of celibacy. The monastic system, in fact, possessed effective mechanisms for facilitating this,  including economic security, comradeship, and a very liberal (or lax) view of monastic activities and discipline. 

For example, the Tibetan monastic system did not attempt to weed out novices who seemed unsuited for a rigorous life of prayer, study and meditation, and monks were expelled only for the most serious crimes such as murder and (ocassionally) sexual intercourse. Similarly, there were no exams which novices or monks had to pass in order to remain in the monastery (although there were exams for the achievement of higher status within the monks' ranks). 

Monks who had no interest in studying or meditating were as welcome as the virtuoso scholar monks. On the other hand, monks leaving the monastery faced significant eco- nomic problems. Because they lost whatever rights they might otherwise have had in their family farm (patrimony) when they entered the monastery, departing monks had to face the task of finding a source of income. Complicating this was the fact that they reverted to their original peasant status when they departed, and were thus liable for service to their lord. These and other factors made it both easy and advantageous for monks to remain in the monastery. The elevated status of monks and monasteries was manifest also in their treatment as semi-autonomous units within the Tibetan state,  the exclusive right to judge and discipline their own monks in all cases except murder and treason. This relative autonomy, however, did not mean that the monastic system was disinterested in the political affairs of the country. It wag actually very concerned. The reason for this derives from the fundamental ideology of the Tibetan state and its economic and political ramifications. 

Tibetans considered their country unique by virtue of its support and patronage of religion as its primary goal. This was nicely phrased in a letter the Tibetan Foreign Bureau sent Chiang Kai-shek in 1946: 

"There are many great nations on this earth who have achieved unprecedented wealth and might, but there is only one nation which is dedicated to the well-being of humanity in the world and that is the religious land of Tibet which cherishes a joint spiritual and temporal system".

 However, this "joint spiritual and temporal system" ideology did not preclude serious conflict between the monasteries and the government with regard to specific actions and options, for there was no unanimity on who was best able to determine what was in the best interests of religion and thus Tibet. The monks believed that the political and economic system existed to further their ends, and that they, not the government, were the best judge of what was in the short and long term interests of religion. 

They could not accept that decisions detrimental to their monasteries could benefit Tibet's unique religious system, and they believed it was the monasteries' religious duty and right to intervene whenever they felt the government was acting against the interests of religion, which they generally saw as their own college or monastery. This, of course, brought them into the mainstream of political affairs and into potential conflict with the Dalai Lama and the government who also felt they were acting in the best interest of Tibet and religion. Although the great monasteries did not involve themselves in the day-to-day operation of government administration, they played an important role in larger issues. 

For example, in the 1920s, a bitter dispute emerged over the Thirteenth Dalai Lama's plan to enlarge the army. The Dalai Lama saw this as necessary to preserve Tibet's integrity vis-a-vis China, while the monks saw it as a threat to their superiority with regard to both coercive force and the institutionalization of alien Western (British) values. One major theme of modem Tibetan history, then, was the conflict be tween the desire of the government to control the monastic segment, particularly the three great Gelugpa monasteries in and around Lhasa: Sera, Drepung and Ganden. 

The Three Monastic Seats:

 Sera, Drepung and Ganden were collectively known as the "Three Seats" (gdan-sa gsum) of the Gelugpa Sect, because they acted as the main monasteries for hundreds of smaller branch monasteries. These three monasteries were enormous, resembling bustling towns as much as sanctuaries for the pursuit of other-worldly studies. Their monks were basically divided into two groups: those who were pursuing higher studies, the 'readers," and those who were not. The former became the scholars while the latter ty ically could only read and chant their prayer books. In the Mey College of Sera Monastery, for example, only about 800 of the 2800 (twenty-nine percent) were "readers."  Of these 800, a large proportion never went be yond the lower levels of learning. The nonreaders worked for the monastery (or themselves), or simply lived off the daily distributions and teas provided by the monastery during the collective prayer sessions. However, although so many of the monks were engaged in non-scholarly and non-meditative pursuits, all were celibate. 

Fighting Monks:

Drcpung, the largest of the three monasteries, officially held 7700 monks, but actually contained about 10,000 in 1951. Sera officially held 5500 and Ganden 3300, but they actually housed about 7000 and 5000 monks respectively. By contrast, the army normally present in Lhasa numbered only 1000-- 1500 troops. Moreover, as many as ten to fifteen percent of the monks housed in the Three Seats were Dob-Dops (ldab-ldob) or "Fighting Monks." These monks had a distinctive appearance (e.g., hair style and the manner of tying their robes and soot blackened faces for intimidation and 'working' at night). They belonged to special Dratsangs (schools, see below) which held regular athletic competitions (Dob-Dob's had to be skilled in running, long-jumping and climbing as well as martial arts, in order to traverse mountainous terrain). They also frequently engaged in ritualized armed and unarmed combat according to a code of martial chivalry, and often acted as bodyguards for the monastery, as well as 'enforcers' at religious festivals, and performed 'policing duties' protecting roads and travelers against criminals and bandits.   Sera Monastery in particular, held a high reputation as a producer of superb martial monks (Lama's). 

A 19th Century Dob-Dop or Warrior Lama

see LINK:  Tibetan Warrior Monks

The presence of 20,000 monks in and around Lhasa, thousands of whom were "this-worldly," aggressive, fighting monks traditionally afforded the Three Seats tremendous coercive leverage vis-a-vis the government, whose army they dwarfed before 1920. The Three Seats somewhat resembled the classic British universities such as Oxford in that the overall entity, the monastery, was in reality a combination of semi-autonomous sub-units, known in Tibetan as Dtratsang (grwa- tshang). 

By analogy with British universities, these are commonly called "colleges" in English. Monks belonged to a monastery only through their membership in a college, and although there was a standing committee that functioned with regard to monastery-wide issues, there was no abbot for the whole monastery, only for individual colleges. Each Dtratsang had its own administration and resources, and in turn was comprised of important residential sub-units known as khamtsen (khams- tshan) which contained the actual domiciles (apartments or cells) of their monks. Like the college, they had their own administration and, to a degree, their own resources. A potential monk could enter any of the Three Seats but within the monastery had to enroll in a specific khamtsen depending on the region he was from. Membership in a khamtsen, therefore, was automatic and mu- tually exclusive. For example, a monk from Kham (Eastern Tibet), or more likely, from one of a number of regions in Kham, had to enter one and only one khamtsen. Thus, khamtsen exhibited considerable internal linguistic and cultural homogeneity. Since different khamtsen were affiliated with different colleges, the college level also often had a regional flavor. Colleges and their khamtsen units occupied a specific spatial area within the monastery, and were the center of ritual, educational, social and political activities for their members. Each of these units - the monastery, the various colleges and the khamtsen - were corporate entities. They had an identity and a name which continued across generations, owned property and wealth in the name of the entity, and had internal organization. While the monks came and went, the entity and its property continued. Moreover, it is essential to note that a monk's loyalties were primarily rooted at the khamtsen and college levels, and there was often little feeling of brotherhood between monks of different colleges despite their being from the same monastery. Thus, there were competing units within the Three Seats. The monastic colleges were often at odds with each other, and even the incarnate lamas were allied with specific monastic colleges and khamtsen. An essential flaw in the Tibetan politico-religious system was, therefore, that while religious priority was universally accepted, defining what benefited religion or religious entities was often contested.

A 19th Century Tibetan Lama outside the Potala Palace with a 'Mendicants' (Monks) Staff

Lion's Roar Tantric 'Kung-Fu':

The Lion's Roar martial art of Tibet, was a Lama art, a Tantric (Dorje/Vajrayana) system said in Han-Chinese oral narrative histories, to have been created by the Lama Ah-Dat-Tor (Han 'Ho-Da-Tou' 阿达陀) around the year 1426 AD, at the Potala Palace. In some accounts the art was created as result of a direct edict by the 5th Dalai Lama: (The 'Great 5th') Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, who decreed that a Superior Martial art should be created, in order to rid the world of evil; the result being Ah-Dat-Tor's Tantric Lion's Roar!  This is certainly an echo from "Sanatana Dharma" -Hinduism, the story of the Narasimha, the Man-Lion incarnation of Vishnu/Krishna, who saved the world from the power of evil that had presented in the form of a Demon King.  See LINKS: The Lion Symbol in Tibetan Martial Arts and: Hinduism

The difficulty with the Great 5th Dali Lama being the originator of the Lion's Roar! is that he was born nearly 200 years after Ah-Dat-Tor, but some input or further development of the system at the time of the Great 5th Dalai Lama is perfectly possible. It is also possible that the dates given for Ah-Dat-Tor were too early, and he may indeed have been a contemporary of the Great 5th Dalai Lama.


NOTE: There is a further possibility, based on Tantric practices: that the 'Tibetan' stage of the system was formulated in the time of the Great 5th, and that Ah-Dat-Tor, was an acknowledged Lineage Master of previously existing martial systems: the 'new' Lion's Roar! system being created thru Tantric 'Yidam' processes, with Ah-Dat-Tor as the Tantric Yidam. This would not mean that Ah-Dat-Tor as a past lineage Master was directly and personally involved in a later creation of the art, but, that his 'Bodhicitta' (Enlightened Mind) was accessed thru Tantric practices by another Tantric Master, using his own capacity for Bodhicitta.  This may seem unusual, but, Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) as a part of the broader Mahayana Buddhism, is not for example so much concerned with the actual personality of the 'historical' Buddha, but, with the Buddha Mind, the 'Bodhicitta', that is available to all thru Mahayana practice. So, Ah-Dat-Tor being 'consulted' thru Yidam deity meditations would have been a perfectly normal practice.

 Likewise, in a Tantric Martial Arts context, a past lineage master, could be 'accessed' as a Yidam and used as inspiration for the development or revision of a martial system. This practice is part of some contemporary Tantric Martial Arts systems, who in addition to the usual Yidam 'deities', Dharma Protectors, and current Guru (as the additional three 'Tantric' Jewels) also access the Bodhicitta of past Lineage Masters.

NON-Martial Tantric practitioners need to appreciate that in Tantric Martial Arts, the Art itself is a 'Yana' (Vehicle) a Tantra-Yana, in its own right.  It has its own Tantric empowerments and transmission according to the secret teachings of  its Lineage Masters.

According to this Tantric viewpoint, Ah-Dat-Tor need not actually to have ever existed as an historical personality, his utilization as a specialized Yidam would be sufficient for a Tantric Master to tap into the Bodhicitta and thus to formulate the Lion's Roar! Martial Art.

Padmasambhava's Treasures:  Guru Lions' Roar! / The Lion Roaring Guru:

Padma - the 'Lotus-Born' - Lions's Roar Guru, and 1st Patriarch of Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, is said to have hidden Dharma Treasures (Terma).  These treasures were teachings either as Sutra's or as expressions of Dharma in any form, and were placed in physical - earthly places, but also within Bodhicitta (enlightened Mind) itself.  The Terma may be 'uncovered' as 'revealed-wisdom', by 'treasure hunters', people who discover the Terma by the appropriate means.  In the Siddi (Crazy wisdom) tradition, Terma can be revealed and expressed through any medium.  Some lineages in Tantric Lion's Roar Martial Arts consider their practices to be both 'Upaya' (Skillful Means) and 'Terma' (Revealed Treasure).  This links closely with Yidam, tutelary deity work, and is in fact at the very core of Lion's Roar! martial arts practice as a kinetic Tantrc-Buddhism. The lineage of Terma practice is usually short, as it involves revealed wisdom to treasure seekers.  It is closely linked with a Gnostic interpretation of Buddhism, as revealed knowledge and experience through the heart.  Such 'treasure seekers' called Tertrons, are at the heart of advances in Tantric Martial arts, and in a broader Tantric context are often considered to be  reincarnations of Padma's disciples from past generations.  The passage below from Wikipedia is a useful summing up of Terma:

"Types of Terma

Termas can be either of the "earth" or "mind". The former are physical objects — which may be either an actual text, or physical objects that trigger a recollection of the teaching. The "mind" termas are states of mind discovered in meditation, which connect the practitioner directly with the essential content of the teaching in one simultaneous experience. Once this has occurred, the tertön, or discoverer of the terma, then holds the whole teaching in his mind and is hopefully able to write it down at some future point, and transmit it. In this way, one can see the tradition of termas and tertöns as analogous to that of inspiration.

In one sense, all termas might be considered as mind-termas: the teaching is always "hidden in the mind" of the student, to be rediscovered in a future incarnation. The process of hiding implies that the student must gain realisation in that life. At the time of hiding, a prophecy is made concerning the circumstances in which the teaching will be rediscovered. Especially in the case of an earth-terma, this often includes a description of a place, and may specify certain ritual objects which must be present, and the identities of any assistants and consorts who must accompany the tertön.

It is said that earth-termas may be buried in the ground, hidden in a rock or a tree, or hidden in a lake, or hidden in the sky. If the concealed object is a text, it is often written in dakini script: a non-human type of writing. As the tertön studies such a text, it is said that the text and meaning sometimes alter and change. The tertön must continue to study until the meaning is completely stable, and then must practice the teaching until he gains the realization it embodies: only then can he write it down or transmit it."

However, for now, let's continue, with the broad acceptance that Ah-Dat-Tor WAS indeed an historical personality and the physical and Tantric-founder of the Tibetan lineage of the Lion's Roar! Lama Martial Art...


According to Han narrative histories (nothing original remains in written form) Ah-Dat-Tor is variously described as a Chinese (Han) national, from Quinghai province (which borders Tibet in the East) and/or as a native Tibetan nomadic tribesman.

It is argued on the above link that the origin stories that have been passed down thru the Han lineages to the West have likely been overwritten in characteristic Han fashion to emphasize Chinese culture and to obscure Tibetan culture and history, as anything not strictly Chinese is regarded as alien in traditional Han circles. 

The narrative histories name 'Gong-Got Lama' as Ah-Dat-Tor's Tantric teacher and Martial Arts Master at the Potala. Gong-Got Lama is also described as 'Dharma Master' which clearly identifies him as a 'High' Lama, a learned Buddhist (Tantric) Master, and NOT as a more functionary, or unscholarly monk, such as a Dob-Dop (see Link: Tibetan Warrior Monks )   Ah-Dat-Tor himself is identified in the narratives as a Tantric Siddha, a teacher in the 'Crazy-Wisdom' tradition, someone who will utilize any path or way of life (including the martial arts) as a vehicle for Tantric enlightenment.


Senge Dradog (English: Guru Lion's Roar): one of the 8 Manifestations of Guru Padmasabhava - The Lotus Born, Patriarch of Vajrayana to Tibet. The name 'Lion's Roar' in the Tibetan Lion's Roar Lama Martial art is linked thru Tantra to Senge Dradog as Padmasabhava.

The clear suggestion is that martial arts were already taught at the Potala.  The 'Tibetan' version of  the Lion's Roar system, being the subsequent creation of Ah-Dat-Tor See Link:  The Lion Symbol in Tibetan Martial Arts

Various martial systems already flourished in Tibet, such as Amaree Wrestling (still performed at cultural festivals), and Dorje-Lam "Diamond Path" martial arts.  The nomadic tribes of Tibet and the Mongols brought sword-play and archery to levels of excellence in Tibetan martial arts - and these ae still practiced today in Tibet as the 'Three Manly Skills' - in concert with Tibetan Buddhism, just as they still are - with Tibetan Buddhism, in Mongolia. 

The Gesko and Dob-Dop Fighting Monks were skilled with these weapons, as well as in more unusual methods such as stilt-walking (for crossing mountain streams) and kite-flying for communication through signals across vast distances. They were also skilled with daggers and with the Monk's 'Mendicant' Staff as weapons.

Ah-Dat-Tor was supposed to have been accomplished in many local Tibetan arts and according to some narrative sources he was adept at Indian Kalari and/or of Simhanada Vajramukti (The Hindu originated Santana Dharma, Lion's Roar! Diamond Thunderbolt Fist) martial arts too.  

This is very likely indeed. The name Potala/Potalaka derives from the Southern Indian region of Kerala, the originating home of Kalari Pyatt martial arts, and from where the Zen (Ch'an) Patriarch Bodhidharma and legendary Founder of Shaolin Kung-Fu set out from on his eventual journey to Shaolin Monastery in China. Bodhidharma is still revered in Kerala as a lineage Kalari Master. Today, some Kerala region Kalari Pyatt martial arts forms appear near identical in sequence and technique to some of those found in Han lineages of Tibetan Lion's Roar, Potala Palace martial arts.

Simhanada (Lion's Roar!) Vajramukti (Diamond Thunderbolt Fist) is the oldest of all Indian Martial arts, and in Spiritual and Technical terms, stands in direct prior lineage to 'Tibetan' Lion's Roar! 'Lama' Martial Arts.  Simhanada Vajramukti links the Buddha's blood family - the Shakyas,with the Hindu (Sanatana Dharma) Warrior Caste.  Buddha himself was instructed in Simhanada Vajramushti as a youth.  

Over time, Simhanada Vajramukti developed in both Hindu and 'Kinetic' Buddhist variants, with the Hindu system entering Tibet prior to Buddhism's much later successful entry as a religion, thru trade and other socio-economic contacts. Successive Theravada (Arhat) traditions in Simhanada Vajramukti, and then Mahayana (Bodhisattva) and Vajrayana traditions coalesced with the original Hindu methods, finally resolving into the conditions that gave rise to the 'Tibetan' system credited to Lama Ah-Dat-Tor.

Amaree Wresting at a festival in Modern Tibet.

The main features of Ah-Dat-Tor's Lion's Roar martial art were Tantrism (at its very core) and its eclectic technique, drawing on many systems from Tibetan, Indian and perhaps even Western Chinese systems. 

The famous 'Ape' and 'Crane' Divisions of the Lion's Roar as a Tantric Lama Martial Art, show clearly how the system was meant to access raw instinctive forces from deep within the psyche and to transform these through physical, mental and spiritual Tantrayana  into a vehicle to achieve Bodhisattva enlightenment and compassion.  See Link: The Ape and Crane Divisions

The Tibetan Gibbon: "Cheung-Bei-Yuan" in Cantonese, root Totem-Tantra animal consciousness level and symbol of the mythical 'Father' of the Tibetan Nation and People (NOTE  the 'Ape' is possibly a 'Tibetan' Gibbon 西藏蝯 but  now believed to have been either a Tibetan Macaque monkey, or a Hanuman Langur Monkey - or possibly a Gibbon via Nepal and/or China)

The Indo-Tibetan Macaque

Indian Langur or 'Hanuman' Monkey

This is an important area for Lion's Roar-Lama students, as extinct species of Gibbon where reported to have lived in very cold climates (e.g. parts of Tibet). Gibbons have a magical aspect to them in Chinese/Taoist belief, and in Tibetan lore 'Apes' (Gibbons) form part of the origin myth of the Tibetan People. In ancient China the distinction between 'Ape' and 'Monkey' based on western scientific classification was unknown. Apes and Monkeys alike were grouped together. 'Monkey's' are called 'How-Yee' (Cantonese) and Gibbons: 'Cheung-Bei-Yuan' (Long-Armed Ape). see also: The Yeti Myth in Tibetan Kung-Fu


A further point of note concerning a pre-Tibetan 'Ape' as Totem animal in the original Hindu Simhanada-Vajramushti, is the importance of the Monkey 'God' Haruman:

  [hanuman - the monkey god]

See Link: Haruman Monkey God

Haruman has many attributes (see link above) but one important one is his role as "He serves, protects and inspires the servants of God. Saints like Tulsidas had the vision of God through the grace of Hanuman" - which makes an easy translation into a 'Dharma Protector'.  The Tibetan Origin Myth of the Gibbon-Father, could easily absorb earlier Hindu devotions to Haruman in Vajramushti. 

 Vajrakaya: Marble Idols
Vajrakaya Hanuman, the warrior monkey god dressed for a war.

娑羅娑The Indian 'Sarus' Crane

The White Crane, co-root-Totem Tantric animal level of consciousness in the Lion's Roar, and Sacred in India as the 'Sarus Crane', the world's tallest flying bird at 6ft tall. This bird may well echo the Simhanada-Vajramushti and Kalari Pyatt Indian Martial arts, as the parent systems of the Lion's Roar Lama Art; or indeed be a mythical symbol that has come to represent the domination of Han-China over Tibet.


A further possibility concerning the esoteric symbolism of the 'White Crane' in Tibetan Tantric Lion's Roar! Lama martial arts, goes back once again to India, to the Jetavana: the 'Grove of Victory' the place Buddha spent his final years and where he chose to leave this world.  Jetavana, was, before being renamed by the Buddha, called Suklahavarsa: the 'Grove of The White Crane'.  In Buddhist scriptures, the color white symbolizes 'good' or 'without impurity'. On the Buddha's death, it is said that all the Sala trees in the grove around him blossomed out of season, and shed their White blossoms around his resting place. The Chinese Buddhsit scriptures refer to the leaves of the Sala trees as being like the 'wings of a Crane'.

This would make the White Crane a symbol of the transmission of the Buddha's Dharma from Jetaavana, and into Tibet, where it met with the Bon-Po faith in the form of the Ape/Monkey (the mythical Father of the Tibetan people) The Ape was interpreted by the later Tibetan Buddhists as an Avatar (incarnation or projection) of the Bodhisattva (Buddhist saint) Avalokiteshvra - himself created from the meditation of the Dhyani-Buddhas - the 'Buddhas of Meditation'. The Ogress (The Mother) was similarly interpreted in Tibetan Buddhist terms as an emanation of the Godess Tara - the Wife of Brishaspati - the Teacher of the Gods.  

The encounter between Ape and Crane - between Buddhism and Tibet, translated and reinterpreted 'locally' from the original lineage art of Hindu Simhanada Vajramukti:  gave rise to the 'Tibetan-Lion's Roar!' as a martial art, a Tantric Buddhist Vajrayana - Vajramukti martial art.  The Lion's Roar! Thunderbolt Fist, thus being a creation of the Buddha's transmission of the Dharma into Tibet - making it the martial representation of the very Soul of the Tibetan Nation and People.

As a member of the Potala Palace and its Namgyal "Victorious" Monastery, Ah-Dat-Tor himself would have been a member of the Gelugpa or 'Yellow-Hat' Tantric sect. Since Ah-Dat-Tor's time however, some lineages of the Lion's Roar art have become associated with the rival Karmapa or 'Black-Hat' Sect of Tantric Buddhism. 


A Stone Lion marking the tomb of a Lama Priest in Tibet

Ah-Dat-Tor's Lion's Roar "Potala Palace" Kung-Fu was to travel extensively from its original home, becoming at one time the 'Imperial Kung-Fu' of the Manchu Emperor's bodyguards, and the system of choice to resist the Shaolin 'rebels' who fought with the Manchu's to restore the deposed Han, "Ming" dynasty. 

The rest is history.....

Yellow Hat Sect (Gelugpa) Iron-Club Lama's Gesko/Dob-Dops'  the Warrior Monks of Tibet at the Potala Palace

For an alternative or complementary perspective on the history see this information from the eminent martial arts historian and senior disciple of the late Grandmaster of Lama-Pai Kung Fu Chan-Tai-Shan: David a. Ross:



      Om Ah Hum Vajra Simhanada Sangha Hum