Kung Fu - The Chinese way


The term "Kung Fu" came into popular use in the west because of its use in television and movies, but it is not technically the correct term for a style of martial arts.

The proper term is "Wushu" and generally anything that is called "Kung Fu" by westerners is really Wushu.

Wushu is perhaps the foundation of all east Asian fighting systems- some authorities date its beginnings all the way back to 3000 B.C., others claim it was brought to China from India along with Zen Buddhism by a man named Bodhi Dharma around 500 B.C. Either way, there is little argument that the Shaolin temple in China (where Bodhi Dharma was said to have taught the monks) was the centre of martial arts development for hundreds of years.

It was from the Shaolin temple that Wushu spread throughout southeast Asia and branched into the Korean, Japanese, Okinawan, Thai, Vietnamese, Philippines, and Indonesian styles that we see today.

Wushu itself has fragmented incredibly, with as many as 1500 styles practised. These cover all ranges of any spectrum you care to imagine, and defining even the most popular styles would be too large of an undertaking to be practical.

A beginner who wishes to study Wushu should make a list of the things that they are looking to get out of martial arts and contact training centres by telephone to avoid wasting time going to visit training centres that may not even have an approach compatible with that individual.

Though many styles defy these categorisations, a good starting-off point may be to ask the training centre if it teaches an internal or external style of Wushu. Internal styles- focus on life energy, circular techniques, uses hands more, Taoist philosophy, may also teach healing arts

External styles- focus on muscular force, linear techniques, uses feet more, Buddhist philosophy, may also teach speed and strength conditioning

MANTIS (China)

Praying Mantis Kungfu was created by Wong Long in the year 1644, during the Manchurian takeover, Wong Long took refuge at Shaolin Temple.

While at the Shaolin Temple he trained and planned on how to over throw the government, he met a senior monk by the name of Feng. Feng and Wong Long liked to spar against each other, unfortunately Wong Long lost everytime to monk Feng.

Monk Feng was going on a trip that would take about three years to complete, before he left he told Wong Long that he hoped that by the time he got back, that Wong Long's skills might have improved.

Wong Long continue to train everyday and one day as he was resting after a vigorous workout, he noticed a mantis fighting a cicada.

Wong Long was so impressed with how the mantis moved, that he captured the mantis and took it back to the Shaolin Temple where he could study the movements of the mantis better.

After several years of Wong Long practicing and writing down new techniques, his old friend Feng, the senior monk arrived back at Shaolin Temple and immediately he wanted to see his friend Wong Long and find out if he had improved in his skills.

As the both met they bowed to each other and decided to have a friendly match.

To the amazement of monk Feng, he had just been defeated easily, but he couldn't accept that he figured that maybe it had just been pure luck, so he challenged Wong Long again, and again he was defeated. What kind of a style is this cried out monk Feng, I have never seen anyone fight like that. Wong Long said; I call it Praying Mantis.

Together Wong Long and monk Feng incorporated the footwork of the monkey into the mantis style.

PA-KUA (China)

One of the three branches of nei-chia(internal family of system) of Chinese boxing (along with Tai-Chi and Hsing-'i). Pa-Kua was derived from the philosophy from the I Ching(Book of Changes).

Pa-Kua's philosophy is concerned with continuous change: all is in flux, nothing stands still.

The origin of Pa-Kua is unknown, however it IS known the Tung Hai-ch'uan (A.D. 1798-1879) of Wenan Hsien in Hopei province during the Ch'ing Dynasty learned this art from an annonymous man then barely in his 20s.

Tung is reputed to have been nearly dead of starvation when the hermit found him. The Taoist ministered to him, and Tung remained with him several years learning a 'divine' boxing.

Pa-kua emphasises displacement of horizontal strength and turning of the palms.

Pa-kua is comprised of various circling postures named after and based on the movements of the snake, stork, dragon, hawk, lion, monkey, and bear.

Tung's most noted pupils were Yin Fu, Ch'eng T'ing-hua, Ma Wei-chi, Liu Feng-ch'un, and Shih Liu. The best known pa-kua boxers today are in Taiwan, notably Wang Shu-chin, Chang Chuan-feng, Ch'en P'an-ling, Kua Feng-ch'ih, and Hung I-hsing.

TAI CHI (China)

Although T'ai Chi (also commonly spelled "Taiji") is technically a form of Wushu, it merits its own listing because it differs from most other forms in significant ways.

T'ai Chi is made up of slow movements and breathing exercises designed to allow the chi (life energy) to flow freely throughout the body.

This, in turn, reduces tension, clears the mind, helps blood circulation, improves posture, and promotes good health in many other ways.

The central concept of T'ai Chi is that the mind, body, and spirit must work together to defeat an enemy- and enemies can be violent attackers, physical ailments, or mental illnesses.

Chi is developed in most forms of martial arts- called "ki" (pronounced "key") in Japanese and Korean styles- but is not focused on as much in any style as it is in T'ai Chi.

Though the movements of T'ai Chi are an effective means of self defence in their own right, a practitioner who has studied for a number of years can control her or his chi to the point of being able to use it as a weapon by "discharging" it into an attacker.

This release of power is forceful enough that small women can knock enormous men off their feet without the use of muscular strength.

Similar Styles:.

Qi Gong (also commonly spelled "Ji Gong" or "Chi Kung") - Also technically a form of Wushu, Qi Gong is made up of slow movements designed to allow the Chi to flow more easily. Shintaido - Japanese style developed in the 1960's around the same principles as T'ai Chi.

Wing Chun (China)

Wing Chun is a southern style of Chinese kung-fu, and the most influential Chinese martial art in modern times. Wing Chun emphasizes self-defense reduced to its most streamlined rudiments, simultaneous attack and defense with multiple straight-line strikes at extremely close range.

Each punch, poke, strike, slap, or kick in the system has been designed to serve as a defense; similarly every block, deflection, or evasion has been designed to double as an attack.

Rapid hand techniques combined with low kicks tend to be featured in an aggressive array of constant forward pressure.

CHOW-GAR (China)

Chow-Gar style is from Southern China. It was founded by Chow Lung, who learned hung-gar, one of the five basic southern systems originating in the Shao-lin temple, from his uncle who added the pa-kua staff maneuvers to his nephew's training before passing away.

The Choy style was taught to him by Choy-Kau. Later, after a three-year residence at the temples he opened his own school in Canton. In 1915 Gen. Lee-Fook-Lam appointed Chow-Lung an instructor in the Chinese army.


Choy-Li-Fut is a popular Southern style of kung-fu in which the contenders oppose from some distance, which requires of each the proficient and exprt development of long-hand abilities, as well as firm and solid grouning in the body, though the feet must be versatile.

The arms are wielded freely and powerfully in a variety of styles: uppercuts, backfists, roundhouses, and overhead foreknuckle thrusts.

The Baat Gaw land, willow leaf double swords, and 18 staff may be used in the aggressive kung-fu style.

HSING-'I (China)

Literally the 'mind-form'. Found chiefly in the north, originating in San-Shih province. It spread to Hepei, the to Hunan, and eventually reached Peking. Based on the five-element philosophy of Chinese cosmology, it has a simple and practical style.

Major weapons are knife(tao) and sword(chien). It uses single movements in training, repeated on both left and right sides, and contains short basic forms, unlike other northern systems.

Important figures in the Hepei style (San-Shih original style) are Li-Tsun-I, San-Yuen-Shiang, Tsau-Ke-Li, Chiao-Liang-Feng and Adam Hsu.

HUNG GAR (China)

A Fukien tea merchant, from the family Hung, studied Shaolin tiger and then went on to develop the leopard, adopted and changed the styles of dragon and snake. He married a lady who was adept in the crane style. Adopting this style as well.

The five animal style was thus created. The most famous exponent of this style is Wong Fei-Hung.