There are some legends that speak about a mysterious art during the 4500 A.C.famous with the name of "Big Dance" and someone says it had absolutely magical powers. It is said that this one was the precursory of all the techniques worldly known as Martial Arts. Like Vajradhara Tai Situ Rimpoche noticed the word "martial" and the word "art" are in conflict between them and this is not the most appropriate words for them. In fact, martial means "army" and it not fit very well for them, especially thinking why they were born. Anyway the entire world knows these techniques with this name, so we will use it too.
Coming back to the origin, some historical documents reinforce that some therapeutic exercise, based on the movement of the animal, was codified in China. During the 5 century D.C. a Hindu Bikshu, named Bodhidharma, went to China and built a Monastery, famous with the name of Shaolin. The rules were very hard and the monks often fallow to sleep during the long periods of meditation. The enlightened Bodhidharma, inspiring by the movements of the animals, made a system to strengthen the feeble bodies of the monks and this became the base of the famous Kung Fu Shaolin. So, it is not sure if Bodhidharma creates them or, inspiring Himself by something that already existed, adapted it to the necessities of the moment. This small introduction is to inform who didn't know it before, that Martial Arts, didn't born as a system of defence as normally believed and absolutely not as a fight system (like the movies teach), but like a support to allow the monks of Shaolin to pray a long time. Considering that, during the Ch'ing dynasty, the Temple was besieged and destroyed by the Chinese army and the legend told us that 5 survived monks, expert in 5 animal techniques, wandered on the country spreading the Arts. The style that it is said was taught in Shaolin were: the dragon, the snake, the tiger, the leopard and the crane. Some other source said that there were a lot of different styles, already existent at that time, like the deer, the monkey, the bear, etc. I personally think that the choice of number 5 was to symbolize, following the Taoist doctrine, the 5 elements that, following the Tao, constitutes the Universe. Anyway if the survived monks were 5 or more, it's not so important. What is sure is that these ancient Arts, passing through the generations, were adapted to the personal needs of all the Masters who learned them and that during the century, it got different forms and names.
Martial Arts spread in the entire East and every land welcome them, adapting the form to their habit, tradition and temperament. Then all Martial Arts had many variations according to many factors: who practised them, which was the land of practise, the body constitution, etc. Many different styles were born, rising from different knowledge that was adapted by wise Masters. During the last century then, the Martial Arts were further dismembered and from their scission, others more were born. An example was when in Japan, the Master Jigoro Kano, with the intention to create an Olympic Art, extrapolates from Ju Jitsu some "sweep down techniques" and strangulations, melted them with some articulation leverages, creating the Judo. In the same way did some other Masters like Gicin Funakosci that took out from Ju Jitsu some parries, punches and kicks, he adapted them to his body and creates a new style of Karate for fight, the Shotokan. We can say that the same happened to the Chinese Kung Fu and to the hundreds of styles now existing. Like we can easy understand, Martial Arts was born in a way and developed in a different one. It's easy to understand that to know the really ancients forms, it's almost impossible. Anyway, it is possible to go close to them, studying with humility and sincerity, what the modern Martial Arts are now. Obviously it's impossible to study all of them and also it is impossible to study the majority of them, anyway the deepen of what are some derivation of the original forms are can lead us pretty near to what the Ancient Martial Arts were.
This is what the ShenDo suggests, a deep and sincere study of styles coming from different tradition, with the goal to move as near as possible to what Bodhidharma codified.
The full name Vajra ShenDo is composed by 3 names coming from different countries. The word "Dorje" is Tibetan, like "Vajra" is Sanskrit means "power". Tibet like was in the ancient time (before the first invasion of China), was very big and spread on all the north of the country that we know today as China. So, even Tibet influenced Martial Arts with its way of fighting and with other techniques. In fact all the meditative techniques, imported from India by Bodhidharma, were here deepen and studied. "Shen" is a Chinese word and means, "spirit", "soul". China was the first cot of Martial Arts and the land where was born the majority of the existent styles, known today. The word "Do" is Japanese and means "the way". Even if Japan didn't really invented anything new, was a land where the Martial Arts spread for the majority and the Japanese culture adapted them to its temper, rejecting all the unnecessary and forging some Arts extremely effective. The ShenDo put together Martial Arts from different countries and melts them with meditative techniques, with the goal to balance the full organism.
So, analyzing it in a deep way, you will find that it is simply the try to come back to his ancient origin. Unfortunately, especially in the west, Martial Arts spread and went famous, due to the movies, for the practical aspects, leaving out the most important: the meditation. We always have to remember which the purpose of their birth was. It's obvious that considering a Martial Art something that is only fight, could be only very wrong. To enter the real spirit of Martial Arts, this couple of physical and spiritual activities is absolutely indivisible. The aspect that normally attracts is the "superman" who can fight many enemies and who can break woods and stones. The mistake is above. Why I have to have many enemies to fight? Why I have to break something? Why I have to think to destroy in place of build? I don't want to say that tamaeshiwari (smashing techniques) is not interesting or useful, I just want to remark that the spirit of a real Martial Art's practitioner is absolutely pacific
"A good soldier is not violent, a good fighter is not angry, a good winner is not revengeful, this is known as the virtue of not fight, this, till the ancient time, is known as the unity with the Heaven". (Tao Te Ching)
For that reason too, even the uniform of ShenDo is made on the base of Tibetan Monk's dress, to always remember us, we have to seek the peace of body, mind and spirit. The real Martial Arts practitioner isn't afraid to fight some external enemies, he just care to fight his inner enemies: the wrong attitudes.
"Who during the battle won many enemies is great, but who win himself is the greatest of all". (Confucius)
The ShenDo propose itself like a "life style" above a "Martial Arts Style". His purpose is to fortify the Spirit through the physical practice of many Martial disciplines with the goal to bring back the man to his primordial psychophysical balance and allow him to harmonize again with the Universe. To do that an inflexible discipline and a real firmness are needed. There is absolutely no other way.