History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

Chinese martial arts in the West are mistakenly called Shaolin Kung Fu, Chinese Kung Fu generic name for kung fu or Gong fu means skill and can refer to the skill of a calligrapher or pianist as well as that of a martial arts expert.

Although it is unknown when they were introduced into the country, China has the largest number and most colorful variety of fighting styles, including drunkard's boxing and praying mantis style. Kung Fu is usually divided into two types of schools: internal (neijia) and external (waija).

The former usually emphasize inner power or qi, and employ evasion and softness to unbalance the opponent; the waija school seeks to defeat the attacker with physical power and strength. Kung Fu makes use of numerous weapons, such as the spear, sword, stick and whip, and even teaches defense with everyday objects such as fans, umbrellas or stools.

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

Origins of Kung Fu

Kung Fu comes from man's struggle in ancient times with wild animals and warfare between tribes.

As early as the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), the Book of Odes devoted some terms to describe the initial form of the martial art. The Book of Rites (Western Han dynasty, 206 B.C.-24 A.D.) made clear the emergence of the opposition-type tournament in a record concerning how to reward men according to skills. According to another record, fixed-term martial arts contests were introduced later.

For his part, Zhuangzi recorded that the King of the Zhao Kingdom kept three thousand swordsmen to fight each other with his weapon day and night in his presence, so that the annual toll of killed or wounded reached more than one hundred. In the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) Kung Fu underwent rapid development.

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

From the stone carved pictures of the same dynasty unearthed in Henan province not a few describe Kung Fu movements, such as "Drawing of swordsmanship", "Drawing of sword dance", "Drawing of snatching spear with hand", "Drawing of mutual charge to sword and halberd", etc., and show that at that time there were already series of individual Kung Fu exercises and series of opposing exercises.

In addition, since the Spring and Autumn Period the method of Qi (vital energy) circulation of Taoism acquired embryonic form.

The famous philosopher Laozi advocated "to maximally attain emptiness and preserve the firmness of peace" and "let the body and vital soul be united in an embrace, let the vital breath make you tender and fresh"; Zhuangzi (about 369-286 B.C.) formulated: "breathe out and breathe in to discard the old and assimilate the new".

In Xingqi Yueming (Inscription on a jade ornament regarding the concept of the circulation of Qi) dating from the beginning of the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) methods for circulating Qi are fully recorded.

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

Later the theories of Lao Tse and Zhuang Tse concerning the conservation of Qi in combination with the doctrine of Yin and Yang and the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth, elements that make up the physical universe) became the basis for practicing beneficial internal organ exercises in Kung Fu.

Certain theories expounded by Laozi such as controlling action through stillness, mastering strength through flexibility or that "the most skillful appears clumsy'', etc., were assimilated by various schools of Chinese Kung Fu and even more, revered as fighting principles by internal boxing schools.

Classification

This sporting activity originated from the daily chores of Chinese ancestors, and then incorporated elements and movements as required for self-defense and health promotion.

Throughout history, China has developed countless styles and schools of martial arts, among which "Shaolinquan" (Shaolin boxing), "Taijiquan" (Taiji boxing), "Xingyiquan" (Xingyi boxing), and "Zuiquan" (drunken boxing) stand out.

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

The most prominent and influential schools are the following:

- Shaolin Kung Fu: Shaolin Kung Fu was born and thrives at the Shaolin Buddhist Temple, located on Songshan Mountain in the central Chinese province of Henan. The shrine was founded in 495 A.D. and fell into ruin on numerous occasions.

However, the Shaolin school of martial arts has developed unceasingly. With its simple, yet firm, vigorous and practical movements, this form of pugilism has been very well received by monks and the general population.

This doctrine has generated numerous formulas of combat, such as exercises with fists, sticks, swords and other types of bladed weapons, with great influence throughout the country.

- Wudang Martial Arts: based on the culture of Jingchu and with Wudang Martial Arts, Chinola Mountain Wudang Kung Fu, in Hubei province as the center, is transmitted in Hubei, Henan, Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces and Shanghai municipality.

- Emei Martial Arts: based on Bashu culture and with Emei Mountain (Sichuan province) as the center, it is transmitted in Sichuan province and Chongqing municipality.

- Nan Quan: based on Minnan and Lingnan cultures and with Quanzhou City and the Pearl River Delta as its center, it is spread in various provinces in southern China.

- Tai Chi (Taijiquan): This is an elegant and comparatively slow style that originated from the combination of Taoism, dialectic ideology, traditional medicine and physical exercise.

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

It is characterized by slow but rhythmic and harmonious movements that promote the circulation of blood and energy, and the regulation of the functioning of the entire human body.

- Xingyi Quan (form and intention boxing): it was formed in the late Ming and early Qing dynasty, in Shanxi province, based on the Taoist theories of "Yin" and "Yang", and the promotion and mutual restriction between the 5 basic elements.

Its forms and movements are simple, rhythmic, vigorous and well organized between attack and defense, created in the image and likeness of 12 animals: the dragon, the tiger, the monkey, the horse, the "Tuo" (crocodile-like), the rooster, the kite, the swallow, the snake, the dove, the deer and the bear. This style has great renown in Chinese martial arts.

- Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigrams Palm): is a form of Bruce Lee's internal art that incorporates circular movements to all the steps and blows. Its practitioners are traditionally considered unpredictable, elusive and fierce opponents.

Chinese Kung Fu and Cinema

The Chinese and Hong Kong film industry entertains audiences with stylized and polished versions of Kung Fu in plots that often deal with themes of revenge and just punishment. Famous actors include Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and unknown B-movie actors and actresses. Star films include The Drunken Master 2 (Jackie Chan) and Operation Dragon (Bruce Lee).

History and Development of Chinese Kung Fu [Martial Arts]

The martial arts used in film bear little resemblance to the real thing; an impressive martial arts actor is not always a good martial arts master. In the movies, movements are choreographed and special effects are used to avoid the dangers of real combat.


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