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Shaolin Academy History; in Word, People and Video

How we got here and who made it so!


It is an advantage to know about the organization you are training with or thinking of trying out. it would be good to know if the foundation is made of sand or stone, if the club has a long history of that which it is offering or is it a franchise for making money. You may want to know this as part of researching your future club or just for an idea of the background of the Academy; no matter which, here it is in it's full and long glory. We could have made it shorter but we are proud of our history!


Fist Shaolin Academy Promo Shoot in 1996

Different people would like to know the story in different ways so; we have told the story of the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy in three ways;

  1. Chronologically in word and Picture
  2. Through the Academy's Outstanding People
  3. Through Recorded Video

Peruse through and see what you make of it!

How it Started

Sijo, Robert Z started his martial art training 1962 when his brother took him to Judo Training. Over a period of 8 years he trained Judo irregularly in between going to school and moving houses a lot. In 1970 at age 17 most of the Z family migrated to Europe where he was door knocked by the local Karate Club. This didn't work out but there was another Karate Club close by his work and in 1971 he joined. This was interrupted in 1972/3 by his military service where he was able to continue martial art training (free style) on a very regular basis (there was not much else to do after 5pm)!. In 1976 he won the European Full Contact Championship and lost his Chief Instructor in a car accident.

That same year he started his engineering studies and was introduced to the mystical art of Aikido by a very good friend. Just 2 weeks shy of migrating to Australia he was able to grade for his Black Belt coinciding with his instructor Christine Assessment for her third Black belt level. Arriving on Friday 13 August 1992, it took a very short time to settle in and find a job with the help of his older brother and wife. In November that year he started training Kung Fu. He stayed with the same club until 1992 but started being restless in 1988 when the club started migrating from Traditional Hung Gar to Wushu.

He spent 6 years training with a host of other clubs often training 8 times a week (twice on Saturdays). Around 1989 he was asked to take a Martial Art Fitness class at work as part of a "getting to know each other month" which resulted in a small, twice a week training class for his colleagues. As a result of training, he became one of the first fully qualified LAN managers in the company and was transfer to a new modern 44 high rise to set up the buildings LAN infrastructure. With a Gym and training facilities the work place training continued in this building.

As the building filled, the numbers increased but also the amount of people who wanted the use of the facilities including with a fellow engineer who taught karate. They cooperated together for about 3 years before the karate people relocated. During this time, on the 24 June 1992 the club was 'officially' started offering classes initially twice a week on Monday and Wednesdays but from 1994 also on Fridays.

A Club Name was Needed

Dagmar Z (Sibok), wife and partner, was teaching Tai Chi to her staff and clients at work. Now with regular classes run by both Sibok and Sijo a club name and uniform needed to be devised and found. It took a while as they wanted to represent the principles of what they were aiming for as well as that which they represent. Something that represented the two halves of a whole much like the principles of Yin and Yang but without using the much overused circular black and white symbol. Sibok Dagmar found a Chinese poem on the Dao which described Yin and Yang principles as;

Liang-I - The two Ancient, ever opposing, ever complementing forces

The name was registered with the Victorian Business Names Registrar as Liang-I Lifestyle Kung Fu, to differentiate from the fighting and hard styles of 5 Animal Kung Fu. Unfortunately, over the ensuing 5 years other business started using 'Lifestyle' in conjunction with everything, including Kung Fu. The term was often mis-used and caused a diminishing of the name and it's function. We retained the name Liang-I for the club but renamed the organization to that what we taught. Taking a page from 'Just Jeans', we decided to call it what we taught rather than, what was for many, an obscure name. Thus Liang-I Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu and the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy was reborn.

The Shield/Logo

Liang-I (pronounced Liang-Yi and sometimes written so) was the name for the Black and White circle. So using the Dao as a principle; first there was the one, Dao; which created the two, Yin and Yang; from which came the three; Heaven, Earth & Man. Immediately, as Sijo was teaching the 5 Animal Style, they chose three Animal symbols to represent this; Tiger for the Physical; Snake to represent the Mind; and Dragon for the Spiritual. Well, this caused some confusion; 5 Animal Style with only 3 Animals on the Badge..... after the initial 200 badges were used up, the logo was changed and had a Kicking Person for 'Man', in front of a round stylized 'Earth' and the original 'Dragon' for the spirit.

This 2nd Badge was first shown to students and 'some' thought that both a man and a woman should be represented. We went with this for another 200 badges but the symbolism was to obtuse and it really did not quite represent the spirit that we wished it to convey. We further developed it into the original symbols for Yin and Yang, the Dragon and Phoenix, avoiding using the Chinese version of the Phoenix that often is mistaken for a rooster. Yet, to truly represent both the Oriental Spirit and the Modern western way of running the club (TQM, Safety, etc) we considered that an Eastern Dragon with a Western Style Phoenix would be best.

Up until this time we maintained the 5 pointed outline of our badge but some complications arose when we had another set, our first full embroidered badges. We considered all options and merged the Shaolin Academy Symbols with the base of our family Shield and instead of a crown added the symbol that we had avoided for over a decade. We also added our motto replacing our family motto (Freedom, Strength, Unity) with "Strength of Word and Will"

The first venue, Kooyong, ran from 1992 to 1995

Around 1993 Sijo received an invitation to participate in a special events day at the Association for the Blind in Kooyong. The day and the experience for the partially and fully blind participants was quite a success and the Association offered the use of their recreational hall for free, if Association Members, staff and clients could train for a minimal cost. This led to regular classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at this location for about 18 months.

Sijo was, through his work as a People Development Manager, involved with some key members of Vision Australia. It was suggested that Kung Fu could be a good tool to help vision impaired person gain confidence and coordination, and to cope better with life. A vacant training facility was found in Kooyong and a free class for Vision Impaired members was started. This was moderately successful and from some 23 persons who started the program about half were still training after 4 months and 8 passed their Assessment with 60% or better.

The level of support for the Vision Impaired was very high, sometimes as much a one-to-one for activities and many of the participants expected this level of support with any activity. After about a hear and a half the attendance dropped down to only 2 persons from Vision Australia and the 'experiment' was over. There were two non-vision members but these agreed to train in the city; around the time when the third Friday class was added.

Frankston Mechanics Hall
Take 5 Dance Studio

Around 1994 a vision impaired person representing Special Interest Group in Frankston called and invited Sijo for a demonstration and class. The class was for a mixed group of people non of which were visually impaired except the organizer. After the demo, a small group of around 6 people wanted to continue training and a small room was found (location 3). This worked well for some months but the location was too small and the Academy moved to the Mechanics hall in Frankston where it remained for several years successfully (location 4). Eventually though, the needs of the council for the venue forced Sijo to find another location. The Take 5 Dance Studio in the center of Frankston on Nepean Highway offered the 1pm time slot (5). This was a great location and a second class day was added on Wednesdays in addition to the regular Saturday Class and occasional Sunday Weaponry training..

Kimekai Karate Studio and Shaolin Academy too.

This again worked well for a while until the manager of the Take 5 Dance Studio decided to lease the time allocated to us to another martial art club for a higher rent. They did not consult us in any way, but just told us to start 1½ hours later; so instead of 1pm start at 2.30pm. We though this was to accommodate their Dance needs and originally agreed but when it was clear we were displaced we had to move, fairly quickly. But as so often, one door closes, another opens (although at the time it was quite a stress experience).

Around 1995, Sijo invited to share the community Hall with the Karate group he initially shared the city venue with. This was initially impossible but when Kooyong was closed Tuesdays & Thursdays were started there (location 6). After two years Sensei moved to a full time venue and Sijo moved with him (location 7) but still in Highett. This went well until the needs of the Karate Studio and Students started impacting on the Kung Fu classes. Around the same time in 1998 the Take 5 Dance Studio was running into financial problems and double booked the location so that it greatly impede with the Kung Fu. This was difficult, trying to relocate two venues. For a period of 3½ months we trained in a park, and lost a lot of members.

Mordialloc Kwoon was launched with an Open Day on Saturday 13 March 1999 and is still operating today!
Craigieburn Leisure Center

With a lot of luck for us (not the Tae Kwan Do club that went broke), the Allan McLean Hall in Mordialloc suddenly had vacancies, we immediately booked Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This proved in the long term (as we still are there) to be the perfect location and so the Alan McLean hall became the 8th (location 8) Shaolin Academy location. At this time we ran with the City on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Mordi Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

As a parallel development, one of our instructors was eager to teach. Sijo did not really want to hand off any classes at this time as he enjoyed the training and teaching greatly; and it kept him fit, healthy and alert. The instructor assisted in classes for a year and was prepared for teaching. After he graded his Black Sash, he found a venue close to where he lived, in Craigieburn and started teaching (location 9). Great location, bad timing. The venue remained open for 2 years before it folded.

Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy in Henan China at the Shaolin Temple Training School, next to the Shaolin Temple
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy in China 2001, at the Shaolin Temple training School, in Henan, next to the Shaolin Temple (Ssu)

Sijo always wanted to visit the source of the style and in may 2001 he and 7 students made a 3 week pilgrimage to Shaolin, Henan, China. When the group returned from China and Sijo returned to work, he was told that his project funding was cut and that he no longer had a job; unless he is prepared to relocate to Hong Kong. A great opportunity with only two flaws; he would have to hand off the Academy and his partner and club co-founder had just started a successful TAFE.

Change was abroad and around the same time; the facility owners of the Clubs City location, employed a new manager as the facility was not really growing. This new management was not interested in allowing the martial art to continue and started a process of creative eviction; from inflated invoices to locked doors, rude staff and accidental double bookings. A new location was needed. Sifu Wayne who had been wanting a venue of his own was tasked in finding a replacement and he did, at the Melbourne City Baths (location 10). At the same time Sijo sought a new location, away from the City and was fortunate to come across a venue in Caulfield that had burned down a few year earlier and was now refurbished and ready to take bookings (location 11).

Everything was flowing except, that same year (still 2001), Sifu Wayne, the city instructor, was warming to his task of having 'his own venue' and wanted to manage this his own way. He wanted to manage the curriculum and method of teaching himself rather than being part of the Academy. In Spring 2002, the Shaolin Academy ceased to have a City location after 9 years of operation. Sifu Wayne took the city students and went his own way. We went looking for a new location for Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions!

From the corner of Lonsdale & Exhibition St
to the Melbourne City Baths,
420 Swanson St
Shaolin Academy Caulfield Griffin Kwoon opened
September 2001 with a great Martial Art show and two new students.

Again we were lucky. All venues around the city and suburbs were booked to the hilt; except the Caulfield East Reserve Hall, which had burned down 2 years prior and was just being reopened when we called. Obviously, not many members that came to the city location could make it to Caulfield, some did, many left. We had to start all over again. And again we did reasonably well for quite a few years except for the natural disaster called Monash University Cricket and Football Club.

After a few years they became heavy users of the venue for their 'Social and Gambling' nights. They did not clean up. The council felt they should, they as a University felt it was the councils duty to clean the venue. For around five years until 2011 we were stuck in the middle often training on beer soaked carpets, and cigarette stained chairs. We terminated our relationship with the Caulfield Council and moved to the Anglican Church and School Hall around the corner in Glenhuntly.

A beautiful hall built by the Rudd Stimulus Initiative, it was part of the halls charter to allow community bookings and we were there just at the right time. The Head Master Mark was very good and we got a good deal. We launched the venue on the 4th of April 2011. The first year was good and then the Deputy Headmaster took over and doubled the price for our bookings. I mad her aware of the agreement but it was a take-it-or-leave-it type of offer. For the next year we struggled as we could no longer invest in advertising and we had to reduce our classes. After two years of this we terminated the agreement and we no longer had a second main venue.

The owner of the Camberwell Tiger and Crane Kung Fu club had a heart problem, a quadruple by-pass and could no longer run sessions. he asked me to take his venue and his classes over. Considering the ill health of Gilbert we did everything for him including paying a hefty sum for his equipment. After the fact we found out that he had only 6 members and that when he opened a new location they all went back to him. We developed the venue non-the-less and it now our Senior Instructor training venue.

Sifu Wayne was not the only one who wanted to Branch out. Sifu Sarah had a Muay Thai Instructor as a partner and he offered her to start classes in Greensborough (location 12). This was a long way from Sijo's base of operations. Sifu Sarah made a good go of it but her 'partner' problems saw this venue closed after 2 years (although after the birth of her son she restarted a new venue some 5 years later on her own recognizance) .

Our short term Bentley Location. Went well for a while but than complications arose when the council also rented out the venue to a TKD Club.

Sifu John was also eager to try children's classes. Sijo was not really interested in Children's Kung Fu but supported Sifu John. We found a location in Bentleigh (location 13) in an ideal location between 3 schools. We rented the facility on Tuesdays and started advertising. As the location started to grow we approached the council to expand our training days and were informed that a large and commercial Tae Kwan Do club rented it on all other week days of the week. This surprised us no end as we were told that the venue would not be made available to any other martial art clubs! It was around the time when the whole scandal with Caulfield (Glen Ira) councilors was occurring so we should not have been surprised. It was impossible for us to expand or do anything as the TKD club 'marked' the facility as theirs and outdid us on advertising. We moved the children's classes to Mordialloc (note - the universe seems to balance itself as we took over a former TKD venue in Mordialloc, although they were doing children's classes and we adults and did not push them out . . . ironic no?).

Clayton also only lasted a short time; as the leisure center was closed, demolished and rebuilt.

There was one other attempt at an interdependent but instructor run location in Clayton. It was actually a clever attempt as the location was inexpensive and due to be rebuilt. Sifu Danny speculated that a year would allow him to gauge if the location and he were viable and so Shaolin Academy classes started in Clayton (location 14). Sifu Danny was right but in a different way. He discovered his passion for experimentation and this did not translate well into teaching his students the promoted Shaolin style of Kung Fu. At the end of the lease, the location was abandoned. The building time took longer than expected (as expected!) and only was available 3½ later. There was nothing to resurrect.

At this time we run only two venues. Mordialloc on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and Camberwell on Mondays. In addition to this we have Instructor training Session at HQ on Sundays. As it is, all is going well currently. Camberwell is almost 10 years with us (since 2007) and Mordialloc has been open uninterrupted since May 1999 and going strong. Kung Fu is good! For training times and days, locations and maps for Mordialloc and Camberwell click on this line!

Club Arhat Students

Not every person reaches Black Sash, actually around one-in-a-hundred only. But there are many members that have had great success and achievements in their Kung Fu training. We feel that those who gave us their time and effort in learning Kung Fu well are also the members we are most proud off and refer to as Arhat's or Honored Members. These are often an even better representation of the Academy's spirit than just the venues and location and words. Below are the 18 Arhat's of the Shaolin Academy

Sibo Dagmar Z, co-founder of the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy, Tai Chi Master, chief Meditation Teacher
Sibok Dagmar Z, Co-founder and co-everything-else.
Sifu Audrey, will always be the 1st Student and Instructor; Champion and Perfectionist
Sifu Audrey the first and very unique in many ways.
Sifu Wayne, the doer, the fighter and the teacher; never really stopping for anything
Sifu Wayne, the Friend, Fighter and Winner
Sihing Paul, a great operator and personwho left us at age 35, too soon, too soon
Sihing Paul; a Bulldog of a person who passed to early.
Sifu Vaness, the best of the best, who flew high and....
Sifu 3rd Degree Vanessa, a true Champion.
Sifu Chris the gentle giant, the champion and the healer
Sifu 3rd Degree Chris, the power & spirit of a Bear.
Sihing Luke who will always seek the better or not seek at all
Sihing Luke, Precise & Exact looking for perfection.
Sifu Sarah who flies high and quickly, lands hard and takes off again
Sifu 3rd Degree Sarah, always wanting to fly high.
Sifu John, the mind of Einstine, the ability of who ever he wishes
Sifu 3rd Degree John, the mind of Einstein.
Sihing Carlisel, no one ever worked harder and was more consistant
Sihing Carlisle, the hardest working martial artist ever.
Sihing Sam, who put the flair, the show and the ability into everything
Sihing Sam, An intelligent artist and martial artist.
Sihing James our Monkey Boy with many hiden abilities and skills
Sihing James, channeling the spirit of the Monkey King.
Sihng Daniel, the power and the determination
Sihing Daniel, the power & ability to create Order.
Sihing Ash, the mind of a surgeon and ready to use it
Sihing Ash, a mind as sharp as a Hawks Talons.
Sihing Anthony, the heart and style of a Lion
Sifu Anthony, a Lion by nature of Heart and Spirit.
Sihing James, the moving mountain, the unstopable bear
Sifu James, an unstoppable force & unmovable object.
Sifu Martyn, a Master in the Making, a worthy martial artist.

Video Chronicles

Finally, for those who wish to go through memory lane or want to see what actually happened; we have hours and hours of Shaolin Academy Club history. Each of those years will open a new window which will play that years Video Chronicle. Many of the windows will have a listing of individual event recordings which can also be chosen and viewed.

24 June 1992
Academy was founded



More Info

We are happy to hear from you and answer you martial art, health and developmental questions. If you wish to train with us, the first 3 sessions are free. It is best to try these before making any commitment. If you have any other questions or would lust like to explore some possibilities, you can;

On this WEB site you will find information about quite a number of Kung Fu Styles, Systems and Techniques as well as complete Style Training Programs (Cyber Training). The Colored Tiles Below are direct links to the pages with the Information and training. The Grayed-out Tiles are the Programs, Styles and Information we are still working on bringing to the WEB. If there is anything in particular you are interested in, let us know; we may have some info on the topic. Write to us at Shaolin Academy; Thank you - Sijo Robert Z

Links to other interesting Shaolin Kung Fu pages.

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