What Is Kung Fu ?
Kung Fu, a time-honored martial arts in China, traces back to as early as the time of the clan communes in primitive societies. At that time, there appeared the "Xi" (Sport) of Jiaodi (wrestling) and the "Wu" (dance, or Exercise) of Gannqi( axe and shield). These were the earliest embryos of Kung Fu, which served as a means to build up health, cure diseases, prolong life, temper the fighting will, train military skills and so on.
Kung Fu, literally, means anything that requires profound quantities of practice and skill. A Chinese old saying says, that a steel stick can be made into an embroidering needle as long as Kung Fu is enough. In short, the more Kung Fu, the better the job. It can be used to describe any subject, working, assignment, cooking, painting, calligraphy, family life, even career.
In west, the most common use of "kung fu" is just to refer to Chinese martial arts. This is partly because that the instructors immigrating in last century or earlier time were mostly from the south part of China , where people love to call Chinese Martial Arts Kung Fu even though they may understand the meaning of term Wushu. In a Chinese dictionary, Kung Fu may refers to something else rather than Chinese Martial Arts, while Wushu definitely means Chinese Martial Arts.
The words kung fu and Wushu are used interchangeably on this web site to refer to Chinese martial arts.
What Is Wushu?
Wushu is the Chinese word for martial arts. "Wu" translates into English as "martial" and "Shu" translates into "art." The meaning behind the word encompasses everything to do with the art of fighting. It is formally defined as a traditional Chinese sport which pays attention to both internal and external exercise, with fighting movements as its main contents and with routine exercise and free combat as its forms.
Wushu has a unique competitiveness and health values and over the last century wushu has permeated throughout the world and is favored and practiced by the people with different cultural backgrounds. The competitive routines are based on different styles of techniques and movements. Performances include bare-hands, sword and broadsword as short apparatus, spear and cudgel as long apparatus. This creates a platform for spectacular choreography of movements of a martial connotation with graceful acrobatic and gymnastic appearance connected to attack and defense techniques.
In modern times, Wushu has evolved to include a sport version just as boxing, wrestling, and fencing evolved in other cultures. Attempts are being made to include it as an event in the Olympic games. Nowadays, there has been 97 member-nations in International Wushu Federation (IWUF), the official member of the International Olympic Committee(IOC). IWUF has applied for the inclusion of Wushu to be a competition event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This application was filed on December 20, 2001 and is fully supported by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee and the Chinese Government.
How Is Wushu Distinguished From Other Martial Arts?
Every martial art has its own distinct characters. Judo, which invented in the late 1800s in Japan, emphasizes primarily throwing and grappling. Taekwondo, a Korean Martial Arts, has a very strong emphasis on kicking. Aikido, another Japanese Martial arts, has very circular motions. Karate, similar to Tae Kwon Do, fully use the feet as a weapon, and dispenses with throws completely, its blocks are hard and it is a power-oriented style.
However, Wushu is quite different from all other martial arts.
The first point that Wushu can be distinguished is that it is actually a combined martial arts. As known, Wushu almost encompasses everything which any martial art requires--- kicking, punching, striking, grappling, wrestling and elbowing, kneeing and so on. Many other martial arts actually derived from Chinese Martial Arts during the different historic period. Judo, for example, which derived from Chinese Martial Arts in Tang Dynasty, further develops the throwing and grappling techniques of Chinese Martial Arts.
The second point is that it has an unique and rich form styles. It is estimated that there are about 5 hundred of the different and systematic styles of wushu, from the Southern Shaolin to the Monkey to the Mantis and the Snake and Fanzi and Ditang. Each style has its own distinctions, but all are uniquely Chinese, and uniquely beautiful. Never before have you seen acts of offense and defense performed so gracefully.
The third point is that Wushu pays more attention on the coordination of the internal and external activities. The internal activities refer to the functions of the breath, the Qi, which is the vital energy or life force, and the mind, whilst the external activities mean the bodily movements of the eye, the hand, the foot, the trunk, etc. When practicing, you should coordinate the movements with the breath and mind. Tai Chi, for example, requires the practitioner to make the Qi sink to Dan Tan where Qi is stored, and to direct Qi by the mind. Shaolin system stresses that the body and limbs become active through the controlled use of Qi and breath.
The fourth point, Wushu suits people with all levels of ability. Almost everybody can find the right content to practice in Wushu field. The kids can choose the basic exercise to improve their agility, speed, flexibility, even discipline and confidence. The young people can develop their all-round sports potential by training the different system forms. The persons interested in sparring and self-defense can try Chinese Sanshou (Chinese Kickboxing). The elderly can also pick up easily what they like, such as Tai Chi, Qigong, breath exercise. In short, no any sports event like Wushu can be most widely adapted by the people with the different ages and the different sports ability.