China — Master De Ru (Shawn Liu), a 31st-generation shaolin master and disciple of the original great master Su Xi, was attacked recently by hundreds of peasants here as he was leaving his native village of Shaolin. The incident occurred in Pai Fang, near the Shaolin village, about a mile from the Shaolin Temple.
The majority of the crowd — estimated at 20 years of age or younger — was Tagou Villagers and many small street venders/merchants who had migrated there from other remote areas over the last 15 years. Although Liu lived at the Temple for much of his early life, he has spent the past 17 years in the United States. He may have been recognizable to the older villages, but to the youth of this area, he was the enemy.
Here is the chilling, first-person account of what happened and how an angry mob bent on murder taught him a valuable martial arts lesson.
Was blocking the road. I was videotaping, as I always do when I visit the temple, when suddenly a loud voice shouted, ‘He is
YongXin’s people!’ Of course, I was not. I had lived in the temple as a monk for decades before Yong Xin, but the villagers did not look to see who I was; they just saw a monk from the temple and reacted. A few people grabbed my camera. I tried to explain that I was a real monk and disciple of the great master Su Xi (still very respected among the villagers). I further tried to tell them that I was the head coach of the national Wushu-San-shou team of America. But the mob was too angry to hear anything. They were not listening. All I could hear was, ‘Beat him, beat him to death.’ Then they began to attack me from all directions, striking me in the face, head, and body, mostly from young peasant fighters out in front.
At that point, I was faced with a choice, a choice that could be considered a classic test for a true monk of the Temple. I knew, even in that moment, they were not angry with me, but at the abbot and what was being done to the village. My choice was to respond with force. With literally hundreds of people coming at me, the only way for me to have responded would have been to severely hurt vil-lagers. If I had responded and done sig- nificant injury to even but a few villagers, the rest would back off. But that was not an option for me. How could I, as a monk, even when being attacked, do harm to people merely responding to a situation. I could not. These were good people and I could not hurt one of them. Furthermore, as a monk, I could not feed into villagers’ views about what they thought the Temple was doing by hurting them. I could only muster all of my energy to protect my body and attempt to withstand the attack. I do not believe someone without my training would have survived such an attack. I had to merely take, without responding, the force of hundreds flocking around me. Then, an elderly man who recognized me yelled at the crowd, ‘Don’t! — He’s Su Xi’s disciple!’ But it was not the time for reason. They were losing their homes and livelihoods, with no notice or compensation. They began to attack the old man as well. I covered the old man to protect him, as he wouldn’t have survived the blows.
Despite the potential loss of life and limb, master Liu refused to retaliate. If I was an ordinary civilian fighter, I might have fought a bloody path out of the crowd. It wouldn’t have been easy, but it could have been done (with more injuries). But as a shaolin 31st-gener- ation disciple of great master Su Xi and head coach of the U.S. National San-shou team, I could not even think of it. First, with my training, the injuries I would have caused would have been significant, and I could not bear the thought of having hurt, or done worse, to these honest villagers. I represent the very essence of martial arts and the Shaolin Temple and therefore my actions carry greater consequences than the ordinary fighter. My responsibilities are much greater. I have fought hundreds of fights (sanctioned and non-sanctioned) over the past 40 years, and I sustained more injuries in this one attack than in my entire fighting career, but I was willing and able to endure and tolerate the beatings from these peasants who were being wrongly treated and only wish I could have done more to help relieve their suffering. If that meant perishing in this life in exchange for the sufferings of many, I would willingly have done it. During the highly charged time of the attack, emotions ruled, total hatred toward the new Abbot was palpable, and no words would be heard by the mob. Total chaos erupted. Rocks hit my head as I helped the elderly man. I had to get to a place where fewer people could attack, so I pushed and dodged through the crowd, to retreat to a Wushu Studio Sword Factory back door where the road was nar-rower and fewer people could fit in. I must admit, in the midst of the rocks hitting me, there was a brief moment when I wanted to fight, but my heart and reason took over right away. I am happy with what I accomplished by taking no action. In essence, it is the best action I could have taken. If I fought back, the consequences would have been dramatically different. The injuries and damage I could have caused to such a large number of people would have been great. But, I not only represented the U.S. As coach of the Team, but I also represented my sifu, the great master, and the only ‘Old, Spiritual Monk’ left at the Temple in China. I could not imagine a greater test for a Shaolin monk. If I had done different, if I had fought back, I don’t believe I would have walked away still a monk; I could not have called myself that. I won the heart of the people without fighting. That is my greatest triumph. THE ESCAPE: People fell behind as we backed into the factory yard. Still, the elderly man needed protection, leaving me more vulnerable, and repeated efforts to explain were met with more shouts of, ‘Kill him!’ Eventually, things calmed down as a few older villagers from the Shaolin Village recognized me and told the crowd who I was. One man from the village recognized me as his teacher. It was only then that everyone realized they had made a big mistake. When they stopped and realized who I was, I think they had a renewed respect; they realized I could have fought back and hurt them, but I did not. I, therefore, taught the villagers a greater lesson in not attacking than by attacking. While I was injured, I implored them to cease the violence because it would not accomplish anything, despite the injustice.
THE PLEA: This is the only way we know, they replied in desperation. We won’t have a home to live in if we do not fight. We hate evil monks because our homes will be destroyed without compensation — even if they promise compensation, there is no guarantee. Yong Xin is behind this. The people were, understandably, driven mad by rage. I am content with my reaction to the attack, that is, in having not resisted, and I would do it again if necessary, to the extent that my bodily suffering can help the people and uphold the time-honored shaolin tradition of non-violence. The practice of promoting benevolence to all sentient beings is the most important spiritual aspect of Shaolin, and the reason why the reputation of the Temple and its traditions have remained so strong for over 1,500 years. Although it may seem ironic that I, as an undefeated fighting