Revered for grace and power, Chinese martial arts are some of the world’s oldest and most respected fighting styles with deep traditions going back centuries. Known collectively as ‘Kung Fu,’ there are hundreds of styles sharing this common name, which is recognised worldwide.
According to legend, Kung Fu is said to have emerged more than four thousand years ago during China’s Xia Dynasty, a semi-mythical society that ruled the nation in its ancient days. A ruler known as The Yellow Emperor is said to have written down guides for martial arts, sparking the development of different styles of fighting across the vast country.
Over hundreds of years, Chinese Kung Fu styles were developed in temples by Shaolin monks, in the military by soldiers, and by individuals seeking to create their own techniques.
In modern times, Kung Fu is practised in its many different forms by millions of people in China and across the world. Movie stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan have helped spread the image of Kung Fu into popular culture, as interest in Chinese culture mirrors the nation’s rise in international prominence.
The core of Kung Fu
Though Kung Fu describes many fighting styles as an umbrella term, there are two general categories these can be separated into.
Kung Fu styles that emphasise the training of qui – a Chinese concept for life force – and the learning of philosophy are often called internal or ‘Neijia’ styles. These Kung Fu styles can be used for fighting, but the emphasis is on training the mind and soul. The best-known example of a Neijia style of Kung Fu is Tai chi, with its flowing physical movements and aspects of meditation.
The other major category for grouping Kung Fu styles is external or ‘Nèijiāquán.’ These forms of Kung Fu emphasise physical movement for fitness, the development of the body and mind and self-defence. A well-known example of external Kung Fu would be Shaolin Kung Fu, with its explosive forms of kicking, striking and jumping, as well as grounding in philosophy and meditation.
Kung Fu’s many fighting styles
Though there are hundreds of fighting styles within Kung Fu, many are historical and traditional and are not widely practised in the modern-day.
The styles that are practised widely include Drunken Boxing, Eagle Claw, Five Animals, Tai Chi Quan, Wing Chun Quan, and Baguazhang. Each style has different stances, movements and techniques, but all share a flowing, graceful yet powerful style of movement.
Where Japanese Karate and Korean Judo emphasise sharp, direct movements, Kung Fu generally emphasises a more flowing, circular style of movement that still retains speed, power and aggression.
All Kung Fu styles teach their students a wide range of basic stances from which to fight or defend themselves, as well as basic techniques such as conditioning, striking, throwing and jumping. As students progress, they can learn to use weapons such as swords, fighting sticks and other objects from China’s wide arsenal of traditional weapons.
Whatever style of Kung Fu a student chooses to pursue, the basic core of training the mind and the body remains constant, grounded in traditional philosophy and a desire to avoid confrontation until absolutely necessary.
Kung Fu in Australia
Kung Fu has been practised in Australia for many years with its history stretching back to when the first Chinese came to the nation in the 1800s
Since then, Kung Fu has grown in popularity with many esteemed teachers establishing schools to teach particular styles. Many Kung Fu schools from China have toured the nation to display their skills and promote Kung Fu and Chinese culture
Tai chi is particularly popular with seniors in Australia, who enjoy its soothing yet strengthening effects, while spectacular forms of Kung Fu such as Wing Chun have captured widespread acclaim.
Kung Fu’s combination of physical and mental challenges makes it an ideal pathway for personal development, and its effective self-defence techniques lend it real-world usefulness. Kung Fu has deep roots in Australia and will continue to grow as its prowess continues to be displayed.