Sin The

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From The Martial Arts Encyclopedia

The Historical Claims of Sin The'

Sin The
Civil suits concerning copyright violations normally do not bother themselves with historical claims. However in Sin Kwang The' vs. Jacob Rydberg the plaintiff Sin The' stumbled into a paradox. To establish his claim that he had copyrighted Shaolin Do, The' needed to show that he had created Shaolin Do or parts of this martial art because otherwise he would not be able to claim an ownership interest in an art whose existence predated him. The problem The' faced was that he had repeatedly claimed that his art had ancient origins back to the Shaolin Temple in China. So The' needed to claim, for legal reasons, partial ownership of the Shaolin Do material, but in a manner that would not admit that his art lacked any of its previously asserted historical lineage. This would prove to be quite difficult when The' was deposed.

The polished version of Shaolin Do's origins were committed to paper by James R. Halladay, the author of Shaolin-Do: Secrets From The Temple. At the time of its publication in 1995, Halladay was a 4th degree black belt in Shaolin-Do who wrote this book with The's cooperation and approval.

The' told Halladay that his teacher, Master Ie, "established a school where he taught Shaolin-do meaning 'the Way of the Shaolin Temple'" (p. 12) According to Halladay, it was Master Ie who "named the Martial Art he taught in Indonesia, Shaolin Do" (p. 10) and that The' told him that while "in Indonesia he was studying Shaolin Do" (p. 13) 1 The Tennessee Federal District Court took notice of a screen test in which The' was filmed saying that "I teach the ancient system of Shaolin Do." The defendant Barry Vanover, also claimed that each time The' "taught him one of the katas in question, (The') would give his students the history of the kata (or "form" as it is known) from the Shaolin Temple." 2

The Lawsuit

Fifteen years later in a lawsuit that once again asserted a copyright ownership over Shaolin Do, The' would have his Attorney state in his complaint:

"Plaintiff Sin Kwang The' is currently the only living Shaolin Grandmaster. Since the age of six, Grandmaster The' trained in the art of Shaolin kung fu, known as 'Shaolin Do,' under then Grandmaster E. Chang Ming. At the age of 25, Grandmaster The' earned the title of Grandmaster, making him the youngest Grandmaster in the history of Shaolin kung fu. In connection with his work, Grandmaster The' developed his own system of Shaolin Do. Grandmaster The's Shaolin Do system includes a series of specific martial arts movements and exercises that are performed in a specific manner and order." 3 Later in an Affidavit, The' would also make these assertions under oath. 4

The Deposition

In the law, no "good" story goes unchallenged, so on February 8, 2012 Sin The' was deposed by the Defendant's attorney Michael Olson, in Costa Mesa California. Under pressure The's account of his art's history, started to wobble. For the sake of space I've eliminated The's attorney's numerous objections, they can be found in the transcript of the deposition which is attached to the first post of the following thead.

Shaolin Kung Fu or Shaolin Do

"Going back to Grandmaster E you started studying him -- with him when you were about five you say?

(The') A: Five and a half, six years old, yes.

Q: And he never taught you any Shaolin-Do?

A: No. Shaolin Kung Fu, yes.

So he would not have the ability to make you the grandmaster of Shaolin-Do; correct?

A: Well, Shaolin-Do or Shaolin Kung Fu (transcript p. 85)

Q: He could only make you the grandmaster of Shaolin Kung Fu; correct?

A: Correct

[jumping down the page]

Q: How could he appoint you as grandmaster of Shaolin-Do if he never studied Shaolin Do? (transcript, end of page 86)

A: Because he appoint me as the grandmaster of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Q: Are you saying that Shaolin Kung Fu and Shaolin-Do are the same?

A: I'm not saying that.

Q: So explain to me how Grandmaster E can appoint you as Grandmaster of Shaolin-Do if he never studied Shaolin-Do?

A: He appoint me the grandmaster of Shaolin Kung Fu. Then I cleared Shaolin-Do. So then some student refer me as the grandmaster of Shaolin Kung Fu, sometimes called me grandmaster of Shaolin-Do. It is like if you were (end of page 87) president but you were also chief -- chief of the Army, armed force, then you can call yourself I am the chief of the armed force. By the same token I'm also president of the United States. See?

Q: Not really. (transcript, p. 88)

Later on when asked when he first started calling his art Shaolin Do, The' admitted that he started calling his art Shaolin Do "When I had my sports complex that was 1978, and I believe we call it Shaolin-Do then. So around '78 I guess." (transcript p. 161)

At end of the deposition Attorney Olson had circled back to this subject asking The' if he had authored a book with Mr. Halladay, "Correct" answered The'. (transcript p. 172)

Olson then had The' read into the record the statement from this book. "In Indonesia Chinese are a minority and are the object of resentment and discrimination. So to avoid the negative publicity the style went underground by dropping the outward appearance of a Chinese style. The name was called Shaolin-Do, and the Japanese belt system was adopted. Other than the superficial changes Grandmaster E. taught in the traditional manner. . . . Is that what you said in your book?"

A: Yes. (Transcript, pp. 172-173)

The' had admitted that the name Shaolin Do had not been used in Indonesia, or by his previous master, but instead had been created by him in Kentucky in 1978. Therefore his version of what transpired in Indonesia which he had written down with Halladay was grossly contradicted. More probing lead to further embarrassing information.

The Forms of Shaolin-Do

Previously Sin The' preferred to tell students that Shaolin Do was an ancient art.

Q: When you go to seminars or when you do testing or go to observe students, do you tell the students that you're teaching an ancient martial arts system?

A: I did because majority of the material I teach is the system of ancient system of the Shaolin. (transcript, p. 38)

Defendant's counsel began to try to find out what was ancient and what was not.

Q: And those 29 different forms are those ancient techniques that were passed down to you as part of your training or were these forms that you created yourself?

A: Form that I created myself. (transcript, p. 44)

One of the 29 forms was a form that contains 30 different kata.

Q: Those 30 different kata were not something that you created yourself; correct?

A: Not correct. I created myself.

Q: Okay. Don't you in your book say that these 30 Kata are part of a system of 108?

A: That is a legend that they have 108 short form, but nobody ever seen it.

Q: Okay, So you don't know how to do the 108 form?

A: That is correct.

Q: Okay, and of the 30 that you teach, those are part of the 108 form?

A: No. That's the part I created.

Q: Okay. So it's not part of some ancient system, it's something you made up yourself? (transcript, End of page 46)

A: Correct.

Q: So in your book when you say that it's part of the 108 form, ancient form, you're not telling the truth?

A: No not telling the truth either. But because the legend has it that it's 108 form. (transcript, p. 47)

After several more exchanges, the Attorney and The' had one of the more enlightening exchanges of the day.

Q: Yeah. And so why did you say it's part of those 108 if you made them all up yourself?

Ms. Pham: Same objections.

The Witness: Well. just in Chinese culture you need to understand that it is that we always say walk looking downward, meaning don't be boastful. I don't want to be boasting to the student that this is I created. So I don't want to say that because that sound boasting, and that's no good. (transcript, pp 47-48)

Once again The' had been caught. He had admitted that he had previously represented a particular kata as ancient when he had invented it.

He would later repeat this admission regarding the 29 forms he had attempted to copyright.

Q: Do you tell them that this material is stuff that you created and it's not forms from ancient China?

A: No. I didn't tell them that solely because I didn't want to sound boasting and tell people. (transcript p. 166)

But on that issue of Boasting

The's claim that he had concealed the origins of certain forms from his student because he did not want to appear "boastful" was contradicted by his testimony concerning another story he liked to tell his students.

Q: Do you tell your students that you were stabbed in the heart by a kris?

A: Not in the heart, in the neck.

Q: You were never stabbed in the chest?

A: No.

Q: You were stabbed in the neck?

A: (Nods head). (transcript, p. 105)

The' indicated he had been stabbed in the right side of his neck when he was fifteen by a Kris which is a curved blade.

Q: You were attacked by -- you tell your students you were attacked by six other people?

A: (Nods head)

Q: And it was a poison kris?

A: Yes.

Q: How did you know it was poisoned?

A: Because I feel itching after I get stabbed.

Q: Did anyone check you and determine if it was poisoned?

A: Well, Grandmaster E put some medicine on my neck because he know kris usually are poison, light the match there, and burn it.

Q: How long were you sick?

A: A couple days.

Then came what can best be called a partial admission.

Q: Did you embellish the story to help your business model with your students?

Ms. Pham: Objection. Argumentative.

The Witness: You can say so, but you know it help. It help. (transcript p. 106)

I thought that The' was claiming that he lied about his forms because he didn't want to boast, whereas it is fine to embellish about surviving a sharp force encounter if it helps you in the eyes of one's students. I can't keep his rationales straight, but that's okay, neither apparently could The'.

Other Stories


The' had named one of his forms "The flying tiger comes out of the cave" and had apparently said in his book that this form had come from the temple at Huanan Providence. However under questioning at his deposition he admitted "The legend has it on the Hunan Providence they are flying tiger come out of cave, but nobody ever seen the form." (Transcript, pp. 51-52) Apparently The' had used a legendary name and not informed his students that his form by the same name, was not from the temple itself.


In a famous story that The' has told many students and on the CD of his stories "At the feet of the Grandmaster" which was filmed in Austin, Texas in 2003. The' claimed that he had first studied "sand burn" martial art at age five. According to The', practitioners burn their hands by working with hot sand, turning their hands into "charcoal" and "rock". Their hands retain this heat and they have to wear gloves to protect others. According to The' his teacher had picked up a baby without gloves on and killed this grand child by melting their skin. This full story is told between minute eight and nine on this CD.

At deposition however, The' would "admit" this was a rumor, and he didn't know whether it was true or false.

Q: Did you tell people that it was a rumour or did you tell them that it was a fact?

A: I didn't say either way.

The' had recounted the story as an actual occurence on his CD filmed in Austin.

Q: Did you tell it to the students because it would make them more interested to study your system?

A: Maybe. (transcript p. 92)

Once again, this is a partial admission


The' also claimed at his deposition that he had mastered 900 Shaolin forms and stated he remembered around 300 of them. (transcript, p. 94)


The' never admitted at his deposition that Grandmaster E Ching Min, was fictionized in any manner, but Attorney Olson did ask him why The's brother, who had also been an instructor in Shaolin Do had said he was actually The's grandfather when he was described in all of The's accounts as being a man with no familial relationship to The'.

Q: But you know he sometimes referred to Grandmaster E as his grandfather; right?

A: I have heard from my student. But as it is he only have three to eight student most of the time, so to me I just chalk it off. To small to compete with us. (transcript, p. 89)


Sin The' did not tell the truth to his students about the origin of his martial art, Shaolin Do. He did not tell them that Shaolin Do did not officially exist until after he had arrived in America and was not taught as Shaolin Do in Indonesia. The' did not tell them that multiple forms he taught were created in America and did not come from the ancient Shaolin Temple.

The' indicated that such deception was done not to make himself look boastful, but there are examples of him telling untrue tales to his students to make himself look special and make his art more interesting which appear to be the product of self interest. Finally the deposition raises the substantial possibility, that Sin The' did not study the Shaolin Arts with Grandmaster E. but instead with his grandfather. This apparantly is what The's estranged brother tells his students, and The' confirmed that his brother was indeed telling this story.


1. Order that the Plaintiff's Motion For a Preliminary Injunction be Denied, United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee At Knoxville, No. 3:96-cv-413, by Robert P. Murrian, Magistrate Judge, November 7, 1996, p. 5.

2. Ibid, p. 6.

3. Sin Kwang The, v. Jacob Rydberg et al, Case No. CV 11-6471 GHK, United States District Court, Central District of California, Complaint, see paragraphs 10 and 11 on page two.

4. Sin Kwang The, v. Jacob Rydberg et al, Case No. CV 11-6471 GHK, United States District Court, Central District of California, Declaration of Sin Kwang The, December 12, 2011, see paragraphs 2 through 4 on page 1 of the declaration.