Kung Fu is an incredibly well-known form of fighting that values discipline and perseverance and teaches self-control while improving both physical and mental health. Centered in peaceful ideals with a message that discourages random violence, this exotic exercise is hailed as a fitness program that doubles as a self-defense class.
History of Kung Fu
Kung Fu is a term that has come to refer to all Chinese martial arts in the western world. The actual meaning of the term Kung Fu is “human achievement,” covering any skill that has been mastered by using hard work and practice. Simply put, Kung Fu values perseverance above all.
While the history of Kung Fu is undoubtedly long and rich, just like the history of China, there are not many records that can pinpoint its exact history. Most teachings of Chinese martial arts over history have been destroyed or lost.
The Shaolin monks of the Henan Province developed a fighting style that was reflective of the teachings of the Indian Buddhist monk known as Bodhidharma. This monk taught the Shaolin monks the art of using yogic movements to improve their general health and well-being. From this beginning style of martial arts, many different disciplines of Kung Fu emerged over the years. The different disciplines feature different philosophies and movements, but they were all intended to be practiced for entire lifetimes in order to be mastered.
What is Kung Fu?
Kung Fu is the umbrella term given to the hundreds of fighting styles that have developed in China over the course of its history. “Kung Fu is primarily a striking style of martial arts that utilizes kicks, blocks, and both open and closed hand strikes to defend against attackers.” The art of Kung Fu uses both hard and soft techniques to create its beautiful and flowing form.
There are many substyles of Kung Fu. Northern styles are Shaolin, Long Fist, Eagle Claw, and Monkey Style. Southern styles are Wing Chun, Hung Gar, and Choy Li Fut. Other Chinese martial arts styles are Baguazhang, Shuai Jiao, and Tai Chi.
King Fu has been seen numerous times in movies and television, having notable occurrences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, Drunken Master in 1978, and the 1970s television series named Kung Fu.
Benefits of Kung Fu
Since it is not just a style of fighting but also a way of living, there are many benefits of Kung Fu training. Some of the more notable benefits of Kung Fu are:
- Increased Fitness: It can increase both strength and flexibility.
- Increased Health: It can help to lower blood pressure, increase blood circulation, strengthen the immune system, and improve sleep.
- Better Concentration: The focus needed to master Kung Fu helps to heighten concentration skills.
- Self-Defense Skills: It provides the learner with an adequate way of defending himself.
- Sense of Community: Friendships and trust are built within groups of people training martial arts.
- Increased Confidence: Improving and mastering skills increases confidence.
- Self-Expression: The art of Kung Fu helps the learner beautifully master grace and power.
- Self-Discipline: Mastering martial arts is a common way to combat problems dealing with anger and frustration.
- Stress Relief: Kung Fu training helps to ease tension, alleviate depression and anxiety, and improve mood.
Parts of Kung Fu Training
Kung Fu relies heavily on discipline and determination. It is taught that it takes a lifetime to master any Chinese martial art. There are many parts of Kung Fu training that must be learned in order to become a true master of the craft.
The first training a martial artist must complete is the Basics, which includes stances, meditation, and the harnessing of qi.
- Stances are the postures used in Kung Fu that provide the foundation and form for the fighting style.
- Meditation helps the fighter to develop the mental clarity and focus needed to master the art form.
- Learning how to use qi, the inner energy or life force of a person, helps the fighter learn to heal and focus energy into his attacks.
The weapons training part of Kung Fu provides the learner with the weapons skillset, coordination, and strategy that he needs to further master his craft. The application part of the learning process teaches the student to apply what he has learned so far in his practice. The form part covers the part of the training during which the learner masters his movements to perfect the flow of Kung Fu.
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Schools of Kung Fu
Because of their long history, Chinese martial arts have a variety of different schools and disciplines that can be learned. The most influential and well-known of the schools are:
- Shaolin Martial Arts: The martial arts that originated with Shaolin Monks of the Henan Province.
- Wudang Martial Arts: The martial arts that were developed using Taoist ideals in Mt. Wudang of Hubei Province.
- Emei Martial Arts: The martial arts that were developed at Mt. Emei of Sichuan Province that blend Shaolin and Wudang styles.
- Tai Chi: A slow and elegant style of martial arts that developed from Taoist ideals.
- Form/Intention Boxing: A straightforward and quick attack from the Xingyiquan martial art style.
- Eight-Diagram Palm: A continuous change in palm style while stepping in a circle from the Baguazhang martial art style.
- Southern Fist: Short, tight movements with varied skills, steps and attacks from the Nanquan martial art style.
- Qigong: A version of martial arts that is also a method of physical and mental exercise.
No matter the school of martial arts, they all follow an ideal called “martial morality.” This ideal states that martial arts are not something to be used to inflict unnecessary violence, but they are meant to be used for self-defense, mental training, and a system of ethics. Martial arts are meant to be an entire way of living that is governed by Buddhist or Taoist ideas, which are generally peaceful.