Interesting Martial Arts Stories that May or May NOT be True.
Fact or Fiction: The Shaolin Monks were always armed.
The original Shaolin Monks were not allowed to carry weapons. The only "weapon" they carrie was a cudgel (short staff for carrying water buckets). They were not allowed to carry weapons because they were given special permission from the emperors to travel across varied areas to preach. Had they carried weapons, they would have likely been mistaken for foreign soldiers, spies or threats to the emperor and taken into custody or killed. Historical records do show evidence that in later years they were not only allowed to train with various weapons but even conscripted or recruited into service by the emperors. This is likely how they began training with weapons, out of necessity or national service. Not likely the version of the story depicted in movies.
Fact or Fiction: Real Shoalin Monks Branded their Forearms
The real Shaolin Monks burned figures like dragons and tigers into their forearms lifting burning pots of coal. Not true. The Shaoiln Monks were taught to respect their bodies as a temple and strictly forbidden from intentionally causing harm to themselves. This holds closely to Budhist teachings of protecting all life regardless of its status. The stories of self marring likely come from Chinese Army rituals where soldiers branded their village or name into their skin like tattoos to help their bodies be identified and returned to the proper village for burial if they were killed.