Kung fu (gong fu) is the American version of Wu-Su, or Chinese martial arts, which is thousands of years old. Fu means a person. Thus kung fu refers to a person who has good skill or workmanship. The word kung fu is not limited to the martial arts as it is usually used in the West.
Kung fu teaches that every movement must be both aggressive and graceful. There are over one thousand styles of kung fu, each with a strict code of physical and mental discipline. Essential to movements in kung fu are chi (qi, inner energy or life force) controlled actions.
According to legend, the reign of the Yellow Emperor (approximately 2698 BC) introduced the earliest forms of martial arts in China. The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous military general, who, before becoming China's leader, wrote a lengthy treatise about martial arts.
Taoist monks are claimed to have been practicing physical exercises that resemble tai chi chuan, one type of kung fu, as early as 500 BC. In 39-92 AD, Six Chapters of Hand Fighting were included in the Han Shu (history of the former Han dynasty) written by Pan Ku. Also, the noted physician Hua T'uo composed the Five Animals Play, tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, around 220 AD.
The kung fu that is practiced today developed over the centuries and many of the later additions to kung fu, such as the shaolin kung fu style, later animal forms and the drunken style were incorporated from various martial arts forms that came into existence later on in China and have accurate historical data relating to their inventors.
Today, kung fu is frequently practiced in western society to combat stress and strengthen personal health and character. The various forms have several purposes including tradition, self-defense, competition, and exercise.
Baguazhang: An internal Chinese boxing system; one of the three major internal Chinese martial arts.
Bajiquan: Features explosive power and is famous for its elbow strikes. It originated in and is mainly practiced in the Hebei province of North China.
Changquan: A general term for external Northern Chinese martial arts. In some long fist styles, the best defense is a strong offense, and in this case the practitioner launches a pre-emptive attack so aggressive that the opponent does not have the opportunity to attack. The long fist fighter likes to keep the opponent at middle to long-range distance.
Chi kung: A Chinese energy exercise where breathing and body movement recharge energy. A breathing exercise that cultivates chi and transmits it to all the bodily organs. Known in ancient China as the method to repel illness and prolong life.
Choy lay fut (choy lee fut): A hybrid Chinese martial art developed by Grandmaster Chan Heung in 1836 at Ging Mui and is highly popular in Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States. Learning the basics from his uncle, the Shaolin monk Chan Yuen Wu, Chan Heung enrolled at a Shaolin temple and, after completing a decade of training, Chan Heung developed this style.
Hung gar: A major style of southern Chinese kung fu characterized by very hard, strong techniques and stances.
Five finger kung fu: Group of exercises designed to process the cosmic force nourishing chi and directing it to the hands.
Healing light kung fu (healing hands kung fu):
A combination of cosmic energy chi kung and five finger kung fu.
Liu he ba fa (LHBF): Form of Chinese internal exercise with combat fighting applications. Its principles are associated with a water exercise method said to date from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The core exercise is usually taught in 66 forms, in two parts, for health or martial purposes. The complete system includes training derived from external styles reworked to complement the core form.
A modern style created in 1960 derived from traditional southern styles that features vigorous, athletic movements with very stable, low stances, intricate hand movements and a vocal articulation called fasheng (release shout). Power is driven from sharp waist movement with special emphasis on fast stance transition to generate power and speed in the arms.
Seminal and ovarian kung fu: A foundational component of the healing tao system. It is a mode of sexual intercourse that purportedly cultivates, conserves, and transforms sexual energy through the Microcosmic Orbit, an alleged major energy channel. For men, this involves the power draw, sex without ejaculation.
Shaolin: A method of kung fu based on eight postures and five animal forms: dragon, snake, tiger, crane and leopard.
Tai chi (taijiquan): A Chinese martial art that is based on the yin-yang principle. When moving up, one is always able to change and move down. Moving to the left, one is able to change and move to the right. Defending, one is ready to attack etc. This is why the movement in taijiquan has a flowing quality that is never interrupted during the practice.
Wing chun: Traditional Chinese kung fu for self-defense and health. Thought to be the simplest and most powerful form of kung fu.
Baguazhang, bajiquan, changquan, chi, chi kung, choy lay fut, choy lee fut, healing light, healing hands, hung gar, gong fu, gung fu, kungfu, liu he ba fa, nanquan, qi, shaolin, tai chi, t'ai chi chuan, taijiquan, taolu, xingyiquan, wushu, wu shu, wu-su.
Note: Although the term kung fu encompasses more than the martial arts, for the purposes of this monograph, only the Chinese martial arts are discussed.