Also known as the 36 Chambers of Shaolin, a Shaw Brothers film, and definitely one of my favorites(also happens to be listed as one of Wu-Tang's classics too). The much younger Gordon Liu(aka Chia Hui Liu), stars as San Te, a recently accomplished Shaolin monk, who returns to his homeland to emancipate his oppressed countrymen.
I believe the story takes place during the Ming dynasty, where the some of the villagers had grown tired of the oppressive government. Sound familiar. One of the students had joined the insurgents to help overthrow the ruling power. Unfortunately, most of these militants became martyrs and their families were brutally murdered in the town square. Liu fled with his life to Shaolin temple to learn the skill of Kung-Fu.
Some of you may remember the much older Liu from his excellent role in Kill-Bill 2. Where he played the wise teacher of David Carradine.
Well, I prefer the much younger Liu, as his skills were certainly unparalleled. As the title suggests, he spent time learning the necessities of Shaolin kung-fu while traversing the 36 Chambers. What I found most interesting were the life lessons of perserverence and tenacity. Clearly most martial artists would agree that these tenants are essential to becoming a focused student.
The entire film was a series of trials and tribulations. From the aspect of humility, he began scrubbing dishes and cleaning up before he would be trained by the experienced monks. I especially enjoyed the log walking portion of the flick. Absolutely classic. Liu utilized most of the traditional weapons in this film, tonfa, three-section staff, bo-staff. While some of the chambers seemed a bit harsh, I clearly understood the significance of each area. Concentration was perhaps the most important of them all.
Liu would ultmately, be banished from Shaolin, but he would then return to exact revenge on the sinister oppressors. Oddly enough, he would contradict all of the teachings he'd learned in Shaolin. As a priest, he would be forbidden to use his skills to mame or hurt. I found it interesting that he actually did not kill anyone until the very end of the film.
I would rank this classic among the all time greats in its genre. A must see.