Kung Fu & Tai chi

Styles

Jow Ga

Jow Ga (or Zhou Jia) is one of the most popular and practical fighting styles of Kung Fu. It has practitioners all over the world, including the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, England, Canada, Malaysia, Poland, Germany and Australia.

Shaolin Mizong

Shaolin Mizong is a major Northern Kung Fu style that ingeniously blends the “Internal” and “External” schools of Chinese martial arts. It integrates hard and soft, as well as fast and slow movements from Shaolin Kung Fu, Bagua, Xingyi, and Tai Chi.

Yang Style Tai Chi

The Yang family style of Tai Chi Chuan is arguably the most widely practiced martial art in the world today. Formal historical records trace Tai Chi back to the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in the Henan province of Northern China.

What is Kung Fu?

Kung Fu (or gongfu) literally means “adroitness” or “a high level of skill achieved over time with effort”. In the last century, the words “Kung Fu” became associated with traditional Chinese martial artists, whose dedication and skill clearly embodied these qualities.

The Chinese martial arts have their origins on the battlefield, and have been refined for millennia throughout China’s rich and turbulent history. Kung Fu has historically appealed to many diverse groups in society: warriors have employed Kung Fu in the service of the state, scholars as a tool for self-mastery and members of monastic orders as a means of spiritual development.

Shaolin roots

Perhaps the most famous of the monastic orders to embrace Kung Fu was the Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in China’s Henan Province. Records indicate that the temple was built in 377 AD, but its connection with Kung Fu is ascribed to the arrival of the Indian monk Bodhidharma (Da Mo in Chinese) in 527 AD.

According to legend, Da Mo found the monks living at the temple incapable of the physical demands of prolonged periods of meditation, and so devised a series of eighteen exercises (symbolically linked to animals) to strengthen their bodies. From this training were developed techniques for self-defense used by the monks to protect their temple and to protect themselves on their journeys to minister to the poor.

Some legends also indicate that in later centuries the temple served as a haven for those hiding from the central authorities, many of whom possessed Kung Fu skills themselves. The skills of these asylum seekers were incorporated into the existing Shaolin Kung Fu, creating in a sense China’s first “Kung Fu University”.

Shaolin’s reputation grew during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and peaked during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). The relative stability of the Ming saw a general flowering of Chinese art and culture, and Ming Dynasty theater and literature went even further to make Chinese martial arts synonymous with Shaolin. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Temple had become a stronghold of resistance to the ruling Manchu (founders of the Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911 AD). Around 1760, in an effort to maintain control of the government, the Manchu burned the Shaolin Temple to the ground. The monks, esteemed for their fighting skills as well as for their virtuous behavior and their defense of justice, attempted to organize a rebellion to restore the Ming Dynasty. After failing to overthrow the Qing, many monks and their lay disciples were scattered throughout China and were instrumental in promoting the many styles of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Kung Fu today

Chinese Kung Fu is considered by the Chinese government today to be a national treasure, and efforts are being made to recover and catalog ancient and nearly forgotten systems. Kung Fu’s beauty, effectiveness and diversity are prized by its practitioners the world over, many of whom have devoted considerable time and effort to preserving this ancient art form.

Movies and television have done much in recent decades to popularize kung fu, although care must be taken to differentiate between Kung Fu for entertainment and the traditional arts practiced for self-defense, physical and mental fitness, spiritual cultivation and health. Just as the warriors, scholars and monks of the past each found their own meaning in the movements of Kung Fu, so today do Kung Fu practitioners train for many different reasons and with many different goals. It is a testament to the richness of this enduring art form that it has so much to offer to such diverse groups of people.

The benefits of Kung Fu are available to all who are willing to devote the time and energy to its practice and perfection, and these benefits, earned in the training hall through sweat and perseverance, are reflected in all aspects of the Kung Fu person’s life.