Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that has existed since about 2,600 BC. According to Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu, a nonprofit organization committed to the promotion of Chinese martial arts, early Kung Fu practitioners combined Buddhist and Taoist beliefs with traditional Kung Fu philosophy, which guides apprentices toward inner metamorphosis The ancient art evolved from a form of military self-defense into an art through which practitioners develop body, soul, mind and character through the mastery of self..
Kung Fu - also known as Gong Fu, Wu Shu and Gu-Shu – is possibly the oldest of the martial arts. The name “Kung Fu” means “ability and power,” while the name “Wu Shu” translates to “martial art.” Kung Fu has become the preferred term in the United States, while Wu Shu is the preferred term in China for government-sponsored performance art based on the ancient art. Kung Fu uses hand and foot techniques in its many forms. Kung Fu forms are based on the identifying qualities observed in specific animals in battle. For instance, the Fu Hu Quan, or Tiger Fist Form, incorporates the speed and strength of the tiger.
Kung Fu originated as a way or path through which apprentices refine their mental and physical selves. Kung Fu combines the art of combat with instruction for looking inward to learn self-control instead of seeking to control over others. Practitioners learn that peace is preferable to combat, but when facing serious bodily harm of injury to allow the soul to become the warrior. Through seeking a balance between heaven and earth, you learn to empty your mind of distractions and focus your thoughts. Balance is the key to perfecting the movements and techniques taught in Kung Fu.
Historians credit Emperor Huang Di, known as the Yellow Emperor in 2,634 BC, with first introducing the form of self-defense that became Kung Fu. Legend reports that ancient Chinese used Wu Shu to fight against animals, which were physically superior, and later used the techniques man against man. Records of Chinese martial arts extend back more than 5,000 years. As Chinese combat culture moved beyond the stone age with the development of weapons, such as swords, Wu Shu became a formalized combat art and science taught throughout Chinese culture. Increasingly more civilized forms of combat competition drilled participants in striking and grabbing and evolved further to require fairness and prohibit criminal practices. Chinese martial arts became a holistic way of life with mind, body and soul components.
Wrestling Play, or Jiao Di, gained prominence around 221 BC in the Qin Period, known as the period that ushered in the unification of China. The Chinese martial arts increased in importance as a cultural representation in competitions, performances and good will efforts with other nations, including the Japanese who developed their own system of martial arts.
During the period from 190 to 265 AD, Dr. Hau Tuo added to the philosophy of Kung Fu the belief that exercise expels bad air, promotes improved circulation and prevents illness. He encouraged the use of his internal exercises based on animal behavior. Chinese martial arts incorporated Yin-Yang beliefs and the concepts of balance and personal energy. Shaolin monks use of the internal exercises to enhance meditation, promote health and strengthen the body led to the creation in 495 AD of the first Shaolin Temple, which brought together the various components of the Chinese martial arts system that would come to be known as Kung Fu.
Shaolin Hung Mei: General History
Shaolin Hung Mei: Introduction
Redmond Kung Fu: Kung Fu History
USA Dojo: About Kung Fu Styles
Types of Martial Arts: Kung Fu
Types of Martial Arts: Chinese Martial Arts
USA Dojo: Alphabetized List of Kung Fu Styles