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.
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.
Different styles of kung fu follow:
Baguazhang is 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 is a general term for external Northern Chinese martial arts. According to 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 is a Chinese energy exercise where breathing and body movement purportedly recharge energy. Advocates suggest the exercise cultivates chi and transmits it to all the bodily organs. It is known in ancient China as the method to repel illness and prolong life.
Choy lay fut (choy lee fut) is 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 is a major style of southern Chinese kung fu characterized by very hard, strong techniques and stances.
Five finger kung fu is a 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) is a combination of cosmic energy chi kung and five finger kung fu.
Liu he ba fa (LHBF) is a 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.
Nanquan is 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 is considered 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 is a method of kung fu based on eight postures and five animal forms: dragon, snake, tiger, crane and leopard.
Tai chi (taijiquan) is a Chinese martial art that is based on the yin-yang principle. When moving up, one is always able to change and move down. When moving to the left, one is able to change and move to the right. When defending, one is ready to attack. This is why the movement in taijiquan has a flowing quality that is never interrupted during the practice.
Wing chun is traditional Chinese kung fu for self-defense and health. It is thought to be the simplest and most powerful form of kung fu.
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The concept of chi or the inner energy or life force that is said to animate living beings, is encountered in almost all styles of Chinese martial arts. Advocates for kung fu suggest that one's chi can be improved and strengthened through the regular practice of various physical and mental exercises.
There are many ideas regarding controlling one's chi energy to such an extent that it can be used for healing oneself or others. Some kung fu styles believe in focusing chi into a single point when attacking and aim at specific areas of the human body (similar to the study of acupressure), to cause maximum damage or disable certain functions of the body. Some go so far as to think that at an advanced level it is possible to cause harm without even touching the opponent.