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Chinese Martial Art

Kung fu and wushu are popular terms that have become synonymous with Chinese martial arts. However the Chinese terms kung fu (pinyin: gōngfū) and wushu (pinyin: wǔshù) have very different meanings. Wushu can describe greatly varying martial arts traditions. Kung fu can be used in a context without any martial arts whatsoever. Colloquially, kung fu (or gung fu) alludes to any individual accomplishment or cultivated skill obtained by long and hard work. In contrast, wushu is a more precise term that refers to general martial activities. The term wushu has also become the name for a modern sport similar to gymnastics involving the performance of adapted Chinese bare-handed and weapons forms (tàolù) judged to a set of contemporary aesthetic criteria for points.

History

The origins of Chinese martial arts are traced to self-defense needs, hunting activities and military training in ancient China. Hand to hand combat and weapons practice were important components in the training of Chinese soldiers.From this beginning, Chinese martial arts proceeded to incorporate different philosophies and ideas into its practice - expanding its purpose from self-defense to health maintenance and finally as method of self cultivation. In return, influence of martial arts ideals can be found in poetry, fiction, and film. Chinese martial arts are now an integral element of Chinese culture.

According to legend, the reign of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi, traditional date of ascension to the throne, 2698 BC) introduced the earliest forms of martial arts to China. The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous general who, before becoming China’s leader, wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and the martial arts. He allegedly developed the practice of jiao di or horn-butting and utilized it in war.

Shoubo kung fu, practiced during the Shang dynasty (1766-1066 BC), and Xiang Bo (similar to Sanda) from the 600s BC,are just two examples of ancient Chinese kung fu. In 509 BC, Confucius suggested to Duke Ding of Lu that people practice the literary arts as well as the martial arts thus, kung fu was practiced external to the military and religious sects by ordinary citizens; (pre-dating Shaolin by over 1,000 years). A combat wrestling system called juélì or jiǎolì is mentioned in the Classic of Rites (1st c. BC).This combat system included techniques such as strikes, throws, joint manipulation, and pressure point attacks. Jiao li became a sport during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE). The Han History Bibliographies record that, by the Former Han (206 BCE – 8 CE), there was a distinction between no-holds-barred weaponless fighting, which it calls shǒubó, for which "how-to" manuals had already been written, and sportive wrestling, then known as juélì or jiǎolì . Wrestling is also documented in the Shǐ Jì, Records of the Grand Historian, written by Sima Qian (ca. 100 BC).

A hand-to-hand combat theory, including the integration of notions of "hard" and "soft" techniques, is expounded in the story of the Maiden of Yue in the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue (5th c. BC).

In the Tang Dynasty, descriptions of sword dances were immortalized in poems by Li Bai. In the Song and Yuan dynasties, xiangpu (the earliest form of sumo) contests were sponsored by the imperial courts. The modern concepts of wushu were fully developed by the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Martial arts are also mentioned in Chinese philosophy. Passages in the Zhuangzi, a Daoist text, pertain to the psychology and practice of martial arts. Zhuangzi, its eponymous author, is believed to have lived in the 4th century BCE. The Tao Te Ching, often credited to Lao Zi, is another Daoist text that contains principles applicable to martial arts. According to one of the classic texts of Confucianism, Zhou Li, Archery and charioteering were part of the "six arts" (pinyin: liu yi, including rites, music, calligraphy and mathematics) of the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BCE). The Art of War, written during the 6th century BCE by Sun Tzu, deals directly with military warfare but contains ideas that are used in the Chinese martial arts. Those examples shows that over time, the ideas associated with Chinese martial arts changed with the evolving Chinese society and over time acquired philosophical basis.

Taoist practitioners have been practicing Tao Yin, physical exercises similar to Qigong that was one of the progenitors to Tai Chi Chuan, at least as early as 500 BCE.In 39-92 CE, "Six Chapters of Hand Fighting", were included in the Han Shu (history of the Former Han Dynasty) written by Pan Ku. Also, the noted physician, Hua Tuo, composed the "Five Animals Play" - tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, around 220 BCE.Taoist philosophy and their approach to health and exercise might have influenced to certain extent the Chinese martial arts.

With regards to the Shaolin style of martial arts, the oldest evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is a style from 728 CE that attests to two occasions: a defense of the Shaolin Monastery from bandits around 610 CE, and their subsequent role in the defeat of Wang Shichong at the Battle of Hulao in 621 CE From the 8th to the 15th centuries, there are no extant documents that provide evidence of Shaolin participation in combat. However, between the 16th and 17th centuries there are at least forty extant sources which provided evidence that, not only did monks of Shaolin practice martial arts, but martial practice had become such an integral element of Shaolin monastic life that the monks felt the need to justify it by creating new Buddhist lore.References of martial arts practice in Shaolin appear in various literary genres of the late Ming: the epitaphs of Shaolin warrior monks, martial-arts manuals, military encyclopedias, historical writings, travelogues, fiction, and even poetry. However these sources do not point out to any specific style originated in Shaolin.These sources, in contrast to those from the Tang period, refer to Shaolin methods of armed combat. This include the forte of Shaolin monks and for which they had become famous — the staff (Gun, pronounced as juen); General Qi Jiquan included these techniques in his book, Treatise of Effective Discipline. Despite the fact that others criticized the techniques, Ming General Yu Dayou visited the Temple and was not impressed with what he saw, he recruited three monks who he would train for few years after which they returned to the temple to train his fellow monks.

The fighting styles that are practiced today were developed over the centuries, after having incorporated forms that came into existence later. Some of these include Bagua, Drunken Boxing, Eagle Claw, Five Animals, Hsing I, Hung Gar, Lau Gar, Monkey, Tiger, Bak Mei Pai, Praying Mantis, Fujian White Crane, Wing Chun and Tai Chi Chuan.

The present view of Chinese martial arts are strongly influenced by the events of the Republican Period (1912-1949). In the transition period between the fall of the Qing Dynasty as well as the turmoils of the Japanese invasion and the Chinese Civil War, Chinese martial arts became more accessible to the general public as many martial artists were encouraged to openly teach their art. At that time, some considered martial arts as a means to promote national pride and build a strong nation. As a result, many martial arts training manuals were published, a training academy was created, 2 National examinations were organized as well as demonstration teams travelled overseas and numerous martial arts associations were formed throughout China and in various oversea Chinese communities. The Central Guoshu Academy (Zhongyang Guoshuguan) established by the National Government in 1928 and the Jing Wu Athletic Association founded by Huo Yuanjia in 1910 are examples of organizations that promoted a systematic approach for training in Chinese martial arts. A series of provincial and national competitions were organized by the Republican government starting in 1932 to promote Chinese martial arts. In 1936, at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, a group of Chinese martial artists demonstrated their art to an international audience for the first time. Eventually, those events lead to the popular view of martial arts as a sport.

Chinese martial arts started to spread internationally with the end of the Chinese Civil War and the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Many well known martial art practitioners chose to escape from the PRC's rule and migrate to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of the world. Those masters started to teach within the overseas Chinese communities but eventually they expanded their teachings to include people from other cultures.

Within China, the practice of traditional martial arts was discouraged during the turbulent years of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1969-1976). Like many other aspects of traditional Chinese life, martial arts was subjected to a radical transformation by the People's Republic of China in order to align it with Maoist revolutionary doctrine. The PRC promoted the committee-regulated sport of Wushu as a replacement to independent schools of martial arts. This new competition sport was disassociated from what was seen as the potentially subversive self-defense aspects and family lineages of Chinese martial arts previously exhibited by the Boxer Rebellion. Rhetorically, they also encouraged the use of the term "Kuoshu" (or Guoshu meaning "the arts of the nation"), rather than the colloquial term gongfu, in an effort to more closely associate Chinese martial arts with national pride rather than individual accomplishment. In 1958, the government established the All-China Wushu Association as an umbrella organization to regulate martial arts training. The Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports took the lead in creating standardized forms for most of the major arts. During this period, a national Wushu system that included standard forms, teaching curriculum, and instructor grading was established. Wushu was introduced at both the high school and university level. The suppression of traditional teaching was relaxed during the Era of Reconstruction (1976-1989), as Communist ideology became more accommodating to alternative viewpoints. In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to reevaluate the teaching and practice of Wushu. In 1986, the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established as the central authority for the research and administration of Wushu activities in the People's Republic of China.Changing government policies and attitudes towards sports in general lead to the closing of the State Sports Commission (the central sports authority) in 1998. This closure is viewed as an attempt to partially de-politicize organized sports and move Chinese sport policies towards a more market-driven approach.As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the Chinese government.

Styles

China has one of the longest histories of continuously recorded martial arts tradition of any society in the world, and with hundreds of styles probably the most varied. Over the past two to four thousand years, many distinctive styles have been developed, each with its own set of techniques and ideas. There are also common themes to the different styles, which are often classified by "families" (jiā), "sects" (pai) or "schools" (men) of martial art styles. There are styles that mimic movements from animals and others that gather inspiration from various Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put most of their focus into the harnessing of qi energy, while others concentrate solely on competition and exhibition. Each style offers a different approach to the common problems of self-defense, health and self-cultivation.

Chinese martial arts can be split into various categories to differentiate them: For example, external and internal. Chinese martial arts can also be categorized by location, as in northern and southern as well, referring to what part of China the styles originated from, separated by the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); Chinese martial arts may even be classified according to their province or city.The main perceived difference about northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork. Examples of the northern styles include Changquan and Xingyiquan. Examples of the southern styles include Nanquan and Wing Chun. Chinese martial arts can also be divided according to religion, imitative-styles, and more. There are distinctive differences in the training between different groups of Chinese martial arts regardless of the type of classification.

Training

Chinese martial arts training consists of the following components: basics, forms, applications and weapons. Each style has its own unique training system with varying emphasis on each of those components. In addition, philosophy, ethics and even medical practise are highly regarded by most Chinese martial arts. A complete training system should also provide insight into Chinese attitudes and culture.

Basics

Basics are a vital part of the training, as a student cannot progress to the more advanced stages without them; without strong and flexible muscles including the management of the concept of "Chi" (breath, or energy) and proper body mechanics, many movements of Chinese martial arts are simply impossible to perform correctly. Basics training may involve a series of simple movements that are performed repeatedly over a short interval; examples of basics training include stretching, stance work, rudimentary conditioning, meditation and basic kicking and punching techniques.

Stances

Stances (steps) are structural postures employed in Chinese martial arts training. They represent the foundation and exaggerated form of a fighter's base. Each style has different names and variations for each stance. Stances may be differentiated by foot position, weight distribution, body alignment, etc. Stance training can be practiced statically, the goal of which is to maintain the structure of the stance through a set time period, or dynamically, in which case a series of movements is performed repeatedly. The horse riding stance (qí mǎ bù,mǎ bù) and the bow stance are examples of a stances found in many styles of Chinese martial arts.

Meditation

In many Chinese Martial Art systems, meditation is considered to be an important component of basic training. Meditation can be used to develop focus, mental clarity and can act as a basis for qigong training.

Forms

Forms or taolu (pinyin: tào lù) in Chinese are series of predetermined movements combined so they can be practiced as one linear set of movements. Forms were originally intended to preserve the lineage of a particular style branch, and were often taught to advanced students who were selected to preserve the art's lineage. Forms were designed to contain both literal, representative and exercise-oriented forms of applicable techniques which would be extracted, tested and trained by students through sparring sessions.

Many believe that Kung Fu form needs to be both practical, usable, and applicable as well as promoting flow, meditation, flexibility, balance and coordination. Often kung fu teachers are heard to say "train your form as if you were sparring and spar as if it were a form."

Types of Forms

There are two general types of forms in Chinese Martial Arts. Most common are "solo forms" which are performed by a single student. There are also "sparring" forms, which are choreographed fighting sets performed by two or more people. Sparring forms were designed both to acquaint beginning fighters with basic measures and concepts of combat, and to serve as performance pieces for the school. Sparring forms which utilize weapons are especially useful for teaching students the extension, range and technique required to manage a weapon. Today many styles of Kung Fu, as well as styles of Wushu, consider forms to be one of the most important practices in Chinese Martial Arts. Traditionally, forms played a smaller role in training combat application, and were eclipsed by sparring, drilling and conditioning. Forms gradually build up a practitioner's flexibility, internal and external strength, speed and stamina, and teach balance and coordination. Many styles contain forms using a wide range of weapons of various length and type, utilizing one or two hands. There are also styles which focus on a certain type of weapon.

Controversy of Modern Form Work

Even though forms in Chinese martial arts are intended to depict realistic martial techniques, the movements are not always identical to how techniques would be applied in combat. Many forms have been elaborated upon, on the one hand to provide better combat preparedness, and on the other hand to look more aesthetically pleasing. One manifestation of this tendency toward elaboration which goes beyond combat application is the use of lower stances and higher, stretching kicks. These two maneuvers are unrealistic in combat and are utilized in forms for exercise purposes.[citation needed] Many modern schools have replaced practical defense or offense movements with acrobatic feats that are more spectacular to watch, thereby gaining favor during exhibitions and competitions. This has led to criticisms by traditionalists for endorsing the more acrobatic, show-oriented Wushu competition.

Appearance has always been important in many traditional forms as well; forms were often performed for entertainment purposes long before the advent of modern Wushu. Throughout the history of Chinese Martial Arts, practitioners have looked for supplementary income by performing on the streets or in theaters.

Many traditional Chinese Martial Artists, as well as practitioners of modern sport combat, have become critical of the perception that forms work is more relevant to the art than sparring and drill application.

Another reason why the martial techniques often appear different in forms when contrasted with sparring application is thought by some to come from the concealment of the actual functions of the techniques from outsiders.

Modern Forms: Wushu

As forms have grown in complexity and quantity over the years, and many forms alone could be practiced for a lifetime, styles of modern Chinese martial arts have developed that concentrate solely on forms, and do not practice application at all. These styles are primarily aimed at exhibition and competition, and often include more acrobatic jumps and movements added for enhanced visual effect compared to the traditional styles. Those who generally prefer to practice traditional styles, focused less on exhibition, are often referred to as traditionalists. Many traditionalists consider the evolution of today's Chinese martial arts as undesirable, saying that much of its original value is lost.

Application

Application training refers to the training of putting the martial techniques to use. Chinese martial arts usually contain a large arsenal of techniques and make use of the whole body; efficiency and effectiveness is what the techniques are based on. When and how applications are taught varies from style to style; in the early stages of a student's training, most styles focus on drills in which each student knows what range of combat is being practiced and what attack to expect. Gradually, fewer and fewer rules are applied, and the students learn how to react and utilize technique. 'Sparring' refers to the major aspect of application training, which simulates a combat situation but usually includes rules and regulations to reduce the chance of serious injury to the students.

The subject of application training is a controversial one, and is the subject of a raging debate between the Neo-Traditional Martial Artists and Sports and traditional martial artists. In the neo-traditionalist view, martial arts training should eventually lead to and be proven by actual combat as well as being governed by a moral philosophy; neo-traditionalists often believe sparring to test techniques is either irrelevant because of their disbelief in the validity of a regulated test setting, or because the system's techniques are supposedly too dangerous to use outside of a real combat situation. In contrast, the sport-competition and traditionalist view suggests that all of the techniques in Chinese Martial Arts should be repeatedly time-tested through sparring to insure their effectiveness.

An example of this approach in the Chinese Martial Arts is the tradition of Lei tai (raised platform fighting) and Sanda or sǎnshǒu.Lèitái represents public challenge matches that first appeared in the Song Dynasty. The objective for those contests was to knock the opponent from a raised platform by any means necessary. San Shou and Sanda represents the modern development of Lei Tai contests, but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial arts schools teach or work within the rulesets of San Shou and Sanda, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.

Weapons training

Most Chinese styles also make use of training the broad arsenal of Chinese weapons for conditioning the body as well as coordination and strategy drills.Weapons training (qìxiè) are generally carried out after the student is proficient in the basics, forms and applications training. The basic theory for weapons training is to consider the weapon as an extension of your body. The same requirements for footwork and body coordination is required The process of weapon training proceed with forms, forms with partners and then applications. Most systems have training methods for each of the Eighteen Arms of Wushu in addition to specialized instruments specific to the system.

Martial arts and morality

Traditional Chinese schools of martial arts, such as the famed Shaolin monks, often dealt with the study of martial arts not just as a means of self-defense or mental training, but as a system of ethics. Wude can be translated as "martial morality" and is constructed from two Chinese characters, "wu" which means martial and "de"  which means morality. Wude deals with two aspects; "morality of deed" and "morality of mind". Morality of deed concerns social relations; morality of mind is meant to cultivate the inner harmony between the emotional mind (Xin) and the wisdom mind. The ultimate goal is reaching no extremity (Wuji) (closely related to the Taoist concept of wu wei), where both wisdom & emotions are in harmony with each other.

    * Morality of deed
          * Humility
          * Loyalty
          * Respect
          * Righteousness
          * Trust
    * Morality of mind
          * Courage
          * Endurance
          * Patience
          * Perseverance
          * Will


Use of qi

The concept of qì or ch'i, the inner energy or "life force" that is said to animate living beings, is encountered in almost all styles of Chinese martial art. Internal styles are reputed to cultivate its use differently than external styles.

One's qi can be improved and strengthened through the regular practice of various physical and mental exercises known as qigong. Though qigong is not a martial art itself, it is often incorporated in Chinese martial arts and, thus, practiced as an integral part to strengthen one's internal abilities.

There are many ideas regarding controlling one's qi energy to such an extent that it can be used for healing oneself or others: the goal of medical qigong. Some styles believe in focusing qi into a single point when attacking and aim at specific areas of the human body. Such techniques are known as Dim Mak and have principles that are similar to acupressure.

Popular culture

References to the concepts and use of Chinese martial arts can be found in popular culture. Historically, the influence of Chinese martial arts can be found in books and in the performance arts specific to Asia. Recently, those influences have extended to the movies and television that targets a much wider audience. As a result, Chinese martial arts have spread beyond its ethnic roots and have a global appeal.

Martial arts plays a prominent role in the literature genre known as wuxia. This type of fiction is based on a Chinese concepts of chivalry, a separate martial arts society (Wulin) and a central theme involving martial arts.Wuxia stories can be traced as far back as 2nd and 3rd century BC, becoming popular by the Tang Dynasty and evolving into novel form by the Ming Dynasty. This genre is still extremely popular throughout East Asia and provides a major influence for the public perception of the martial arts.

Martial arts influences can also be found in Chinese opera of which Beijing opera is one of the best-known examples. This popular form of drama dates back to the Tang Dynasty and continues to be an example of Chinese culture. Some martial arts movements can be found in Chinese opera and some martial artists can be found as performers in Chinese operas.

In modern times, Chinese martial arts have spawned the genre of cinema known as the martial arts film. The films of Bruce Lee were instrumental in the initial burst of Chinese martial arts' popularity in the West in the 1970s. A U.S. network TV western series of the early 1970s called Kung Fu also served to popularize the Chinese martial arts on television. With 60 episodes over a three-year span, it was one of the first North American TV shows that tried to convey the philosophy and practice of Chinese martial arts.

Martial artists and actors such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan have continued the appeal of movies of this genre. Martial arts films from China are often referred to as "Kung Fu movies", or "Wire Fu" if extensive wire work is performed for special effects, and are still best known as part of the tradition of Kung Fu Theater (see also: wuxia, Hong Kong action cinema).

The use of Chinese martial arts techniques can now be found in most TV action series, although the philosophy of Chinese martial arts is seldom portrayed in depth.

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