The Shaolin Monastery is the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu and Chan Buddhism (called Zen in Japan), both founded by Bodhidharma. Bodhidarma did not teach the martial art as we know it today. He taught a series of health exercises called the Muscle and Sinew Purification. This series of exercises evolved with martial art that already existed to become Shaolin Kung Fu. The Muscle and Sinew Purification exercises are the root of Shaolin Kung Fu and are taught as part of the program at the Vermont Kung Fu Academy.
The essence of Bodhidharma's teaching is the importance of a clear mind, a mind not continually preoccupied with selfish desire and personal gain at the expense of others. The cornerstone of his teaching is wisdom and compassion. One gains wisdom by knowing oneself. He practiced and taught sitting, or meditation, as a means to see directly into one's true nature.