It is very difficult to encapsulate a 1,500 year old culture in just 4 Chinese characters, but the Chinese language has a way of doing just that!
Embedded in the 4 Chinese characters of our logo are the characteristics that make our Shaolin culture so unique:
On the left column are the two characters: 少林 (Shàolín). In English we accept the word "Shaolin" to be the same. 少 means young. 林 means forest. So together, "Young Forest" is the name given to the temple around 500 AD to describe the environment at that time. Associated with the name of Shaolin and its rich history is a spiritual culture of meditation, martial arts, and peace. This is supported by the other two characters of the logo as described below.
In the top right column is the character: 禪 (Chán). In English, we accept the words "Chan", "Ch'an", and "Zen" to mean the same word. This character is not so easy to define but it can be simplified to mean 'Meditation' or the practice of meditation. For a more detailed explanation, you can read Master Dao's explanation of Chan here: https://www.stqitoronto.com/index.php/what-is-shaolin-meditation-discipline
In the bottom right column is the character: 武 (Wǔ). The closest English translation of this word is "Martial", or "Martial Arts" as in 武術 (wǔshù). Because the English word Wushu has been used a lot in the 20th century by performance style martial art sports, it is more accurate to interpret 武 (for Shaolin) as "Traditional Martial Arts".
The Meaning of Shaolin Martial Zen
With the explanation of the individual characters, we can finally explain what the 4 characters mean in our logo!
The combination of the four characters helps us to understand what makes the Shaolin Arts and the Shaolin practices so unique. Shaolin began as a peaceful culture. The people who lived there are known as Shaolin Monks, and they were there to practice self cultivation through daily and disciplined meditation. They would listen to Buddhist scriptures, examine their own thoughts and emotions, and contemplate the meaning of existence as well as their connection with everything in the world.
But without much exercise, the monks would find their bodies getting weak. So the they began to do martial training to strengthen themselves. They not only become physically stronger, they also developed the ability to defend themselves from bandits.
A Warrior Monk program was developed where a few Shaolin Monks devoted themselves to developing Shaolin Kung Fu techniques with the teachings of Chan as the foundation.
Thus we can interpret Shaolin Martial Zen as the peaceful practice for self wisdom with a strong healthy body to support it.