A short lesson about Chinese Kung Fu
Written by Juliette Pitt
Chinese Kung Fu (martial arts or in Chinese 功夫- gōngfu) is a series of fighting styles which has developed over a long historical period in China.
The earliest origins of Chinese martial arts have been traced back to prehistoric hunting techniques and military training in ancient China. Soldiers were trained in hand-to-hand combat as early as the first dynasty, the Xia, some 4,000 years ago.
It is believed that it wasn’t until much later, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, that martial arts became clearly divided into different schools. Namely, the ‘internal school’ (concerned with the spiritual and mental side of martial practice) and the ‘external school’ (more focused on the physiological aspects of kung fu). While the ‘internal’ martial arts are generally performed at a slower pace, helping to improve concentration and coordination, ‘external’ styles are more explosive and helps to improve muscular power.
Nowadays, kung fu is regarded as a traditionalsport that embodies Chinese culture. Styles including Shaolin, Tai Chi and Qigong have many followers worldwide. Most Chinese people do learn some kung fu at school or university and it is common to see group of retirees in the parks practising Tai Chi.
#Note: The Chinese word 功夫 (gōngfu) is not just limited to one’s martial art abilities and it can used to refer to one’s skill at performing any particular tasks such as cooking.
In this article we are going to explore three fun facts about Chinese kung fu so you can impress your Chinese colleagues and/or teachers.
Disclaimer: Kung Fu has many different styles and beliefs. The below facts are therefore not to be seen as universally applicable to each Kung Fu Style.
#Fact 1: Kung Fu advocates virtue and peace
Although being fighting styles, kung fu advocates virtue and peace, not aggression or violence.
Kung Fu is a simple form of exercise, and it is a crystallization of traditional Chinese culture. At its heart it shares many ideals with Confucianism and Taoism as it helps to cultivate moral character and seek inner peace.
#Fact 2: Shaolin kung fu (少林功夫: shàolíngōngfū) is China’s most famous school of martial arts
Originating in the Shaolin Temple in Henan, Shaolin Martial Arts is regarded as the most famous. Both its physical exercise, and mental training, are based upon Buddhist philosophy.
It is said that an Indian monk, Bodhidharma came to the temple in the year 527AD to meditate for nine years. In this legendary story, Bodhidharma created the techniques of Shaolin Kung fu to help toughen his disciples and to defend the monastery in times of need.
The birthplace of the famous Shaolin School is now a flourishing temple attracting numerous Buddhist disciples and visitors. You can appreciate the historical relics while watching the splendid kung fu shows.
#Fact 3: There are over 400 substyles of Kung Fu
Due to the rich and long history of Chinese martial arts, there are over 400 substyles of kung fu!
Northern styles such as the Shaolin school tend to put emphasis on kicks and wide stances. Southern styles, such as Wing Chun, are more about the utilization of the hands and narrow feet stances.
The styles are quite different and therefore it is hard to distinctly classify them. Apart from schools which are classified by different training methods (internal and external), some schools are classified by geographical location and after the original creator and master.
The most outstanding and influential schools are Shaolin Martial Arts, Wudang Martial Arts, Tai Chi and Emei Martial Arts.
Kung Fu is a great form of exercise that connects the mind and the soul. Learning Chinese martial arts has become more and more popular among people of different ages and nationalities.
There are also great kung fu movies and novels such as the Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, Hero, Drunken Master, and the Fists of Fury that are all worth watching if you are interested in marital arts.
Comment down below what you know of kung fu and your experience of the sport!