Today's research notes delve into the history of Shaolin and Echani. Time for a compare and contrast!

The Echani martial art first appeared in Star Wars in Crimson Empire, as the martial art of choice for the Emperor's Royal Guard; their training in double-vibroblades and force pikes, as well as unarmed combat, was in an insane method reminiscent of the most extreme Chinese training - including a final duel over a pit before the Emperor's eyes, to which the loser would fall to his death or be killed before that. Since then it has been established primarily as one of the most deadly arts in the Galaxy, appearing most notably in Knights of the Old Republic II under the aegis of the Handmaiden, which sheds some light (but unfortunately not much) on it. What we do know is that Echani is taught in three 'tiers', and not much else.

In almost every RPG sourcebook that Echani appears in, which serves to be the most common source of information, Echani is invariably a rapid-striking, vital point-focused art, described as fluent and powerful together. Nerve points are a very large part of what they do, and Echani has a very formidable understanding of the body and its inherent mechanics due to the 'understanding opponents through battle'. There is not as much a spiritual aspect to it, which lends credence to the argument that it is an 'external' martial art, in the same vein as Northern Chinese arts, as well as many Japanese arts.

While many people make the argument that the Echani were purely unarmed combatants, this is simply a blatant lie. The Echani had more weapons than you could poke a telescoping staff at, and their armies were still fierce and formidable anyway. The Thyrsians, the basis for the Emperor's Royal Guard, were still Echani warriors and they were all about heavy armour and blasters and melee weapons. The Echani armies would still fight using blasters and standard tactics, but they had one of the most reliable things to fall back on.

Unfortunately, the material on Echani as an art is ridiculously small and ends there, so I felt it prudent to examine fan works as well, to see if there were any others who came to the same conclusions as this. What I found was an overwhelming amount of material to support my theory that it was a Chinese art; fansites everywhere are essentially saying the same thing. Fluent, fast, almost entirely about counter-striking to vital points - it's essentially a shoe-in. The long-time roleplaying website, the Dark Jedi Brotherhood (which has existed since the early 90s), publishes their own fan-made hand-to-hand arts guide, which says exactly this. Most fan-made RPG-based rulesets, which appear in droves should one Google 'Echani (martial art)', are in total agreeance as well. Thus, I'm using this as an extrapolation and

Which then brings us to...

Northern Shaolin
Northern Shaolin kungfu is a very broad umbrella. In fact, 'Northern Shaolin' itself in specific art terms is just one specic art called 'Northern Shaolin Boxing School'. What we are studying is essentially the core of the arts studied at the Shaolin temple - which actually has a staggering 72 sub-arts. Primarily, 15 of these sub-arts are taught at the Shaolin temple, under the current guidance of Grand Master Shi De Yang and Abbot Shi Yongxin, who have both released instructional material to the world as part of their plan to keep the Shaolin Temple in the limelight of the world stage.

What we're using is the more broad umbrella art, given that Echani itself is also a broad umbrella with many facets and indvidual changes; Chinese arts at their root have variations and changes based on the practitioner and the master who teaches it. This is a pretty convenient set-up for us and lets us look at this art from a number of different angles. It would not be wise for us to restrict ourselves to a single way of looking at this, given that the variant arts make a perfect argument for individuality. While they use the same core techniques, there are mindsets and variations on small things which allow us to make the basic arguments we need.

The Shaolin monks are world-renowned for being some of the deadliest warriors in history. Even in small numbers, they have turned tides of battles in China after being conscripted by the government. After a strong, silent lineage, it is only recently that the Temple has opened up its gates to allow foreign students to study there, due to the fact that they want to ensure a pedigree that is perfectly transmitted from master to student. A common misconception is that all monks of the Shaolin temple study kungfu. The Temple is primarily a monastery for Chan buddhism; the warrior-monks practise kungfu as a spiritual extension of their beliefs, and it is not a massive percentage of monks who practise kungfu.

Northern Shaolin at its heart is an external art, focusing on the body and its toughness, flexibility and speed. Many people have seen a Shaolin demonstration team in action, performing insane feats like balancing on the point of a spear. Needless to say, these monks are the pinnacle of human strength.

As an art, it is fast-paced, fluid, always in motion and invariably about defending with counter-strikes as opposed to a dedicated system of blocking, striking with every part of the hand. There are many kicks and stances, with the foundation techniques of the art being taught in 18 core techniques of stances and kicks in conjunction with hand techniques with a wide variety of applications to these techniques. These 18 core techniques can be found on Youtube or purchased online through some fairly reputable martial arts stores, performed by Shi De Yang and Shi Yongxin themselves and their top students, which does lend some credence to what we see.

(By the way, Shi De Yang? He's amazing.)

So there's some background and history, and some core stuff you might be interested in. This will form the basis of what I'm working with, and I'll get working on the first few sections ASAP!