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Will The Real Kung Fu Please Step Forward?


Kung fu 功夫 is the generic term referring to Chinese martial arts it was the accepted and widely used term outside of China and it reached its peak usage in the 1960’s due to the spread of kung fu movies, kung fu TV series and the opening up of kung fu schools to the general public worldwide. Kung fu specifically means skill attainment or special outstanding skill it can be an outstanding skill in the art of cooking, writing, knitting, acrobatics, acting, athleticism or in this case skill in martial arts. The historical terms for Chinese martial arts were usually called Kun Tao 拳頭 meaning “fist head”, Tang Chiu 唐meaning Tang hand, Tang as for Tang dynasty another term is Bu Sut 武術 meaning martial skills. Kung fu term evolved to become the term that represent Chinese martial arts was due to lack of standardization and national institution there was not a general accepted term for Chinese martial arts then different terms were used such as Kok Sut 國術 (Guo Shu), or Jiu Sut 柔術. One thing for sure though kung fu origin started as combat kung fu.

Combat kung fu has been around thousands of years it would be during the warring States in ancient China (184 to 280 AD) during that era that kung fu heroes and villains will be made known their exploits, their skills and the weapons they wielded it will later be romanticized by novel writer Luo Guanzhong sometime in the 1300’s the novel will be a best seller up to this time “Romance of Three Kingdoms” San Guo Yan Yi 三國演義”. Some of the famous historical characters were Guan Yu, Zheng Fe, Liu Bei, Cao Cao, Dong Zhou, Zhao Yun, Lu Bu and many more it would be Guan Yu that would made famous the weapon Kwan Dao. There was also the snake spear weapon of Zhang Fei other weapons such as crescent moon lance, hook spear, long spear, horse cutting knife, sword etc. would also be novelized and become standard weapons of kung fu. These kung fu warriors and weapons pre-existed before Shaolin arrive in China.

Buddhism arrived in China sometime in 500’s AD introduced by Da Mo or Bodhidharma establishing different Buddhist temples all over China one of the famous temples would be the Shaolin temple the temple would be famous with monks training in kung fu. The original type of kung fu that was taught by Da Mo was breathing or qi it is designed to make the monks healthier through proper breathing exercises so that they can meditate better. It would later be embraced by kung fu fighters to become part of their training to develop “iron shirt” technique the ability to take and absorb hits.

It is believed that certain monks were designated to train in kung fu combat to develop the skill and physique to fight as warriors it was to have the ability to defend their temples and the villagers from bandits and pirates. Another theory that has not been deeply explore is that training in kung fu by monks was to allow those monks to have extraordinary physical strength and prowess through to allow them to succeed in performing exorcism to have the physical strength to restrain or overcome individuals that are at that time considered possess by evil spirit those individuals tend to have extraordinary physical strength they’re more stronger than normal and to restrain them successfully the monks must have the strength to do that. The body for strength, mind for the will and knowledge and spirit for the Almighty in this case Buddha the body, mind and spirit in unison as one.

Several warriors and generals would retire in monasteries seeking some sort of repentance for their wartime sins and atrocities others seeking refuge from the authorities and Shaolin temple would stand out as one of the temples that have sheltered them and have been involved in revolutionary movement against the government those kung fu retirees would bring with them their kung fu skills and knowledge to the temple.

The Shaolin temple would become a martial art depository; unfortunately, many records were destroyed when the temple was burn down by invading armies or by the established authorities to clamp down on the temple’s anti-government involvement.