China Information >> Martial Arts
Kong fu, (also known as wushu or martial arts) is one of the most well known examples of traditional Chinese culture. It it is probably one of the earliest and longest lasting sports which utilizes both brawn and brain. The theory of Kongfu is based upon classical Chinese philosophy. Over its long history it has developed as a unique combination of exercise, practical self-defense, self-discipline and art. In sports like track and field, ball sports, weightlifting, and boxing, an athlete typically has to retire from full participation in his 30s. Injuries sustained during years of active sport participation at a young age can that affect our health in later life. In Chinese Kung fu however, a distinction is made between "external" and "internal" kong fu. It is said that "In external kong fu, you exercise your tendons, bones, and skin; in internal kong fu, you train your spirit your qi, and your mind."
In addition to training to achieve a strong body and nimble limbs, there is also an "internal" training to adjust body and mind, strengthen internal organs, and increase circulation of one#s qi, or flow of vital energy. Progressing from movement to stillness, from firmness to softness, the older one gets, the more adept one becomes at kung fu. The higher one#s level of achievement in kung fu, the better one is at maintaining good health and living a long, active life. The internal training, that is, practicing Qigong, is essential for Chinese Kung Fu. Chinese say: "Practicing boxing without practicing Qigong will come to nothing."
The skills of Chinese kungfu consist of various forms of fighting: fist fights, weapon fights, and other fighting routines (including such offence and defense acts as kicking, hitting, throwing, holding, chopping and thrusting) and unarmed combat. According to Statistics, there are over 100 schools of Chinese boxing alone. Many individual styles within each of these schools.
Yongchun Quan (Wing Chun, Eternal Youth Boxing) originated in Fujian Province, later spreading south to Guangdong, Macao and Hong Kong. Yongchun Quan is just one of a number of styles under the general term, Nan Quan, the Southern School of Boxing, a vigorous and aggressive school popular south of the Yangtze River. Of the many styles of Nan Quan, the most well-known are Hongjia Quan, Liujia Quan, Caijia Quan, Lijia Quan, and Mojia Quan, "the Five Great Schools." Other schools of Nan Quan are: Tiger and Crane Boxing, Eternal Youth Boxing, Knight Boxing, Hakka Boxing, Buddhist Boxing, White-Eyebrow Boxing, Confucian Boxing, Southern Skills Boxing, Kunlun Boxing, House of Kong Boxing, Han-Exercising Boxing, Diao School of Teaching, Yue School of Teaching, and Song School of Teaching.
Bei Quan, the Northern School of Boxing is a generic term for those schools in the provinces north of the Yangtze River. Characterized by speed and strength, the Northern School emphasizes variations of kicking and footwork, hence the common saying "Southern fists, Northern legs." The major styles of the Northern School are: Shaolin Boxing, Wheeling Boxing, Zha School of Boxing, Essence Boxing, Flower Boxing, Cannon Boxing, Hong School of Boxing, Full-Arm Boxing, Maze Boxing, Six-Harmony Boxing, Springing Legs, Jabbing Feet, Eight-Ultimate Boxing, Great Ancestor Extended Boxing and Silk Floss Boxing.
There are also the popular Taiji Quan and Chang Quan, the energetic Xingyi Quan (Imitation Boxing), the flowing Bagua Quan, the vivid Hou Quan (Monkey Boxing) and Zui Quan (Drunken Boxing), the acrobatic Ditang Quan (Tumbling Boxing), and more. Each has its own characteristic skills.
Chinese Kungfu involves practice with weapons as well as the standard bare-hand skills. "Weaponry" includes nine kinds of long weapons and nine short, such as knives, spears, swords, and clubs, which together constitute what is called the "Eighteen Types of Martial Arts." The majority of these weapons have been adapted from traditional weapons, hence the use of the term the "eighteen military weapons." This term was already widely used during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Ming novel, Outlaws of the Marsh mentioned it frequently. One version of the book records the "eighteen military weapons" as the lance, mallet, long bow, crossbow, jingal, jointed bludgeon, truncheon, sword, chain, hooks, hatchet, dagger-axe, battle-axe, halberd, shield, staff, spear and rake. Today, the term generally refers to the broad-sword, lance, rapier, halberd, hatchet, battle-axe, shovel, fork, jointed bludgeon, truncheon, hammer, harrow, trident, staff, long-blade spear, cudgel, dagger-axe and wave-bladed spear. This is only a general term, since military weapons were never restricted to just eighteen forms. Other weapons frequently used include the rope-dart, Emei dagger named after the Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province from which the style originated, as well as the bent-handled club and hook.
Today, the wide variety of weapons used in Kungfu practice fall into four groups:
1. Long Weapons: Longer than the height of a person and wielded with both hands during practice. They include the lance, staff, great broad-sword, spear, halberd, fork, trident and spade.
2. Short Weapons: Shorter than the height of a person and wielded with one hand. These include the broad-sword, rapier, hatchet, hammer, truncheon, jointed bludgeon, dagger and shield.
3. Soft weapons: Rope, chains, or rings are used to create linked weapons which are able to strike close or far and are wielded with one or both hands. They include the nine-sectioned chain, three-sectioned flail, flying hammers which is tow iron balls linked by a long iron chain, the rope dart, flying claw and the ordinary flail.
4. Twin weapons: Here a pair of weapons are wielded, one in each hand. These include twin broad-swords, handled clubs, twin lances, twin hatchets, twin daggers, double-bladed daggers, Panguanbi (Twin rods with fist-shaped heads) and duck and drake battle-axes.
Shaolin Kungfu and Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin kungfu, following its originating in the Shaolin Temple, had been circulated for quite a long time among the monks of the Temple. It is after the event of 13 martial monks helping Prince Tang that the world began to know about the kungfu of Shaolin, and gradually a huge system of the Shaolin kungfu has taken shape in the society.
In the Tang and Song Dynasties and afterwards, a lot of non-monks entered the Shaolin Temple to learn kungfu and conduct kungfu exchange. By the mid-Ming dynasty, the Shaolin kungfu was already popular in the society. By the beginning of the Qing dynasty there were ten branch Temples of the Shaolin in China. And these branch Temples became the centers of the Shaolin kungfu. In the course of popularization the Shaolin kungfu itself has got enriched and developed. The result is that there are now many Shaolin kungfu schools, such as the Emei Shaolin, the Guandong Shaolin, the Fujian Shaolin, the Shandong Shaolin, etc.. As the spread is so fast and the scale is so large that in the present China "people cannot talk about martial arts without mentioning the Shaolin". Hence the saying: "All the kungfu in the world originate from the Shaolin Temple".
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