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Kung Fu and Wushu PDF Print E-mail
Written by C Fautsch   
Tuesday, 17 February 2009 10:34

Kung-Fu 功夫

 The term Kung Fu, also known as gongfu under its pinyin-romanized script, is commonly used to refer to Chinese martial arts in general. In fact, it's the most commonly used term in the west to alude to them. However, Kung Fu is not a concept exclusive to martial arts; actually it can be defined as a skilled achieved after spending time and effort. The concept of Kung Fu, then, can refer to any skill, not necessarily martial, gained by spending time and working on it. To refer to martial arts in particular, the more precise term is wushu or zhongguo wushu, martial arts or chinese martial arts respectively.

Wushu 武术

Literally "martial skill" (wu: martial, shu: skill), this term is now commonly translated as "martial arts". It is a word that refers to the group of fighting systems developed by the Chinese peoples out of necessity by being subjected to the side-effects of power struggles between contending dynasties during the history of what we now know as China. It's important to clarify that there are two different concepts of wushu: traditional wushu has as its primary objective to develop martial skill, whereas competitive wushu develops and demonstrates rutines of martial gymnastics.

History of Wushu

Ideological Context:

  • Existence of the Yin/Yang theory which represents the oposite poles of the Whole: feminine and masculine, negative and positive, black and white, etcetera.

  • Lao Tzu (Laozi) creates the basis for Daoism (school of thought which, at one point in its history, delves into achieving longevity or even immortality). Martial arts adopt alchemical practices, focus and meditation, thus the schools of martial arts are further classified as belonging to the waijia or neijia, external or internal schools respectively.

The beginnings of Wushu:

Starting in the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 b.C.), the martial arts started to take its place within Chinese culture. But it was until the Zhou dynasty (1122-256 a.D), in particular in the difficult Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, in which the martial application of martial arts was emphasized. TheZhou dynasty military established examinations for what was then called Jiji (lit. attacking techniques) along its ranks.

The Qin (221-206 b.C) and Han (206 b.C.-220 a.D.) dynasties, with their constant wars, had numarous advancements as far as weaponry and martial techniques. Later, as the region we now know as China stabilized, martial arts started to focus on protecting that stability, in reality representing the thought permeating at the times of stopping the existent conflicts. The martial arts took then the name Wuyi (martial arts or, more specifically, arts for stopping conflict). The term Wuyi included not only techniques for self defense but also the study of everything related to war, including strategy, tactics,cavalry, etcetera. In these times the creation of taolu or martial forms, and the martial arts themselves, was promoted as a method for health improvement.

Wushu is born:

It was around the year 500 a.D., in the Southern Dynasty, that the term Wushu (martial skill or, in modern times, martial arts) arose. The term Wushu continued having the same meaning until the end of the Qing dynasty.

Coming into the Song dynasty, as military technology advanced, it became evident that it was easier to train someone in firearm usage that to train that person in martial arts. But the Chinese people refused to discard Wushu, being part of their culture, and thus continued cultivating it. Not only did it non dissapear but it grew with the development ofsoft or internal martial arts aside from utilizing wushu as a means for health promotion and public exhibition.

Wushu en in Modern Times:

During the last years of the Qing dynasty, the Jingwu Athletic Association was formed and, in 1911, after the revolution which ended the said dynasty, wushu was promoted as a form of exercise. In 1936 the Chinese wushu team made a demonstration at the Berlin Olympic Games.

There are now two main types of wushu:

  • Competitive Wushu: Officially sanctioned by the Chinese government and practiced by an enormous number of people around the world. It is, in essence, martial gymnastics.

  • Traditional Wushu: Having perhaps a lesser number of practitioners, its practice is now growing again and is promoted by more traditional martial artists. It seeks to maintain the original spirit of the Chinese martial arts.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2012 14:52
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