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Kung fu wushu is an important component of the Chinese culture, with a rich content that has remained untarnished over the centuries. The literal translation of “wu” is military, and “shu” is art. Therefore “wushu” means the art of fighting, or simply martial arts. Perviously, wushu figured significantly in the simple matter of survival through China’s many wars and political upheaval. Today, wushu has been modified and systematized into a formal branch of study in the performance arts by the Chinese. It is the most popular national sport in the country of 1.1 billion people, practiced by young and old, women and men. Wushu’s emphasis has shifted from combat to performance, and is practiced for the purpose of achieving heath, self-defense skills, mental discipline, recreational pursuit, as well as competition. [1]

Kung Fu

The differences between the concepts of Wushu and Kung Fu[edit]

“Wushu” is the general term for all Chinese martial arts, therefore kung fu and wushu were originally the same. However in the last 30 years, wushu in Mainland China was modernized so that there could be a universal standard for training and competing. In essence, much emphasis has been placed on speed, difficulty and presentation rather then actual fighting. Kung fu, or traditional wushu remains the traditional fighting practice, and is different from wushu because it is for actual combat. [1] Another saying is that the term "kung fu" doesn't refer to martial arts specifically, the word "kung" means "skillful work", and "fu" means "time spent". Therefore "kung fu" together means skills developed through long, hard practice. Kung fu also means mastery, the level of attainment when basic form has become so ingrained that the master no longer needs to think to react to an opponent, or perform a technique for the situation. [2]

The History of Kung Fu/Wushu[edit]

If one goes with the more literal translation of wushu as a term describing the Chinese martial arts, then the history is vast and somewhat clouded in mystery. Generally, the martial arts in China go back thousands of years and were formulated for the same reasons they were nearly everywhere- to aid in hunting and protect against enemies. One of the early formalizations of the arts seems to have occurred under Emperor Huangdi, who took the throne in 2698 B.C. Specifically, a type of wrestling was taught to troops at that time involving the use of horned helmets. This was called Horn Butting or Jiao Di. [3]

Early Roots[edit]

Wushu is an accumulation of centuries’ worth of fighting. Chinese martial arts started 6,000 years ago, when the ancient Chinese learned the techniques to attack and block attacks. As Buddhism spread from India to China, monks were taught the basics of wushu, for the purpose of building strength and protecting their temples from the attacks from the outside. [4]

Modern Wushu[edit]

Modern wushu was derived from the concepts created in 1949, and is transformed from a fighting method to a sport. China integrated different martial arts styles such as Tai Chi, Shao Lin within the sport. According to Stanford University, wushu gained the world's attention after the Asian Games 1990. [4]

Future[edit]

Stanford University explains that the summer Olympics may eventually open a spot for wushu, as 56 countries have active teams as of 2010. Wushu is taught by martial arts professionals worldwide, and is generally a contact sport, so unlike other sports derived from martial arts, such as tai chi, you generally need an partner to practice wushu. [4]


Different Types of Kung Fu/Wushu[edit]

Baguazhang[edit]

Baguazhang can be literally translated as Eight Trigram Palm. It is one of the three Nei Jia Quan, meaning "internal styles of China" in Chinese. The other two internal styles are Xing Yi Quan and Tai Chi. Similar to Xing Yi and Tai Chi, Bagua generates Chi (internal energy) for both health and combat purposes. Baguazhang uses palm techniques exclusively, and this is reflected in the name, "Eight Trigram Palm". Therefore Baguazhang is different from Xing Yi or Tai Chi with its incorporate fist techniques. [5]

Zui Quan[edit]

Zui Quan, literally translated as Drunken Fist, also known as Drunken Boxing or Drunkard's Boxing. It is a traditional Chinese martial art which imitates a drunkard in its movements. Zui Quan's postures are created by momentum and weight of the body, and imitation is generally through staggering and certain type of fluidity in the movements. It is considered as a higher level or more difficult wushu styles due to the need for powerful joints and fingers. When practicing Zui Quan, the boxer falter, waddle, fall and sway just like drunkards. Like many other wushu styles, Zui Quan can be used for both fighting and maintaining health. Zui Quan boxers blend a series of movements, action and skills of the martial arts and would try to confuse their opponents with special skills which often lead to surprise triumphs. [6]

Jeet Kune Do[edit]

Jeet Kune Do is simply to simplify. It avoids the superficial, penetrates the complex, and goes to the heart of the problem. Many claims have been made over the years with regards to the definition of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. Some people believe it is a process of "change", others see it as just a modified version of Wing Chun, and many recognize it as a mixture of different elements from numerous western and eastern fighting styles. Jeet Kune Do is the complete body of technical (physical and scientific) and philosophical (mental, social and spiritual) knowledge that was studied and taught by Bruce Lee, the founder of Jeet Kune Do, during his lifetime. A distinction is made between the body of work, and the individual student's own personal process of self discovery through the martial art, as students are encouraged to use all techniques, some or none of Bruce Lee's teachings to assist them. Jeet Kune Do is considered as the "root" that was established by Bruce Lee, and is not the ultimate goal of any practitioner, because students are expected to modify, add and delete all aspects of Jeet Kune Do until they can develop a completely unique fighting style for their own. [7]

Tai Chi[edit]

Today, Tai Chi is practiced by the world. It can be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined, because just like yoga, Tai Chi has a number of forms or sets, which consist of a sequence of movements. It is believed that many of the Tai Chi movements are originally derived from the natural movements of animals. Although the movements in Tai Chi are usually performed in a slow and soft way, Tai Chi can still be used for combat. But for many practitioners today, the focus in doing Tai Chi is not for actual combat or self-denfense, but as a meditative exercise for the body. [8]


The origin of Tai Chi is still a myth. One of the explanations is that one day the Taoist monk Chang San-feng was disturbed by the sounds of a snake and a crane fighting in his courtyard. Every time the crane's rapier-like beak stabbed, the flexible snake twisted out of reach. And the crane uses its wings as shields to protect its long neck from the snake's striking head. According to the myth, Chang San-feng developed the art of Tai Chi by observing this battle, so Tai Chi is based on the concept of yielding in the face of aggression. [9]

Wing Chun[edit]

Wing Chun is a very unique and effective martial art. It is the only Chinese martial art created and made famous by a woman, named Ng Mui. As a Shaolin nun, Ng Mui developed the system of Wing Chun because she realized that most of the techniques in Shaolin or kung fu were useless for a small woman to use against a stronger and larger man. She also knew that a woman could not match a man's stamina in a long fight, therefore she developed a system that enabled a smaller, weaker person, like herself to destroy a bigger, stronger person in a few seconds.


Wing Chun immediately became famous in Southern China, and is quickly spread throughout Asia. About three hundred years later, when Asian martial arts began to spread to the West, Wing Chun became popular in the US. It's popularity continues to grow and more and more students are drawn by its simplicity and effectiveness. One of the most famous Wing Chun masters in the history is Yip Man. During his lifetime, Yip Man made the arts of Wing Chun even more famous, and had several students who became famous martial art teachers themselves later on, including Bruce Lee. [10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "What is Wushu?". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Peterson, Susan. "DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WUSHU & KUNG FU". Demand Media. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Rousseau, Robert. "What is Wushu?". About.com. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Moore, Kristeen. "THE HISTORY OF CHINESE WUSHU". Demand Media. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "What is Baguazhang?". Bagua Productions. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Zui Quan Drunken Fist | Martial Arts Database". Martial Arts Database. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Ciapparelli, Robert. "So What is the Art of Jeet Kune Do?". WWW.FIGHTINGMASTER.COM. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "WHAT IS TAI CHI?". Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "What is Tai Chi?". Publications International. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Lau, Jason. "What is Wing Chun?". Jason Lau Wing Chun Kung Fu Training Center. Retrieved 17 May 2013.