We arrived with a bit of delay to our first stop, due the snowstorm of the last two days, but, finally, we can learn something about Chinese martial arts. The first stop of our journey within martial arts is, indeed, a general explanation of Chinese martial arts.
Over the centuries, in China, different kinds of martial arts were developed, known as “kung fu” or “gung fu”, but also as “wushu”, the Mandarin Chinese term.
The term “wushu” means martial arts and it is totally related to general martial activities. In 1949, in fact, this term was adopted to call the modern sport of wushu, a full-contact sport of bare-handed and weapons forms.
It’s interesting analyse the Chinese term “kung fu”; it is used in relation to the martial art since the late 20th century, before and nowadays, it can be used also to refer to any individual skill cultivated through long hard work.
Fist stop of our journey within martial arts: Chinese martial arts
However, we cannot focus our research just on the meaning of the terms, it’s important to know also the history of the Chinese martial arts. Indeed, the birth of this martial arts was attributed to the need for self-defense, hunting and military techniques. At first, it was characterized by an hand-to-hand combat and weapons practice to train the Chinese soldiers.
The legend explained a different birth of the Chinese martial arts, according to legend, it born during the semi.mythical Xia Dynasty more than 4,000 years ago. The Yellow Emperor Huangdi introduced the first fighting system in China, after writing treatises on medicine, astrology and martial arts.
The first references to Chinese martial arts were found in the “Spring and Autumn Annals” in 5th century BCE, in which there were written notions of “hard” and “soft” techniques.
Chinese martial arts have also philosophical influences and strong influences from the Republican Period. In fact, after the Republican Period, Chinese martial arts became more accessible to the public, were born training academy and published training manuals. The Republican government, in 1932, organized provincial and national competitions to promote Chinese martial arts. In 1936, a group of Chinese martial artists demonstrated their skills at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, promoting internationally their art.
The history of China merged with the history of Chinese martial arts, as a matter of fact, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a lot of aspects of traditional Chinese life were discouraged as well as martial arts. These arts were subjected to a radical transformation by the People of the Republic of China. Wushu substituted schools of martial arts and, in 1958, the government decided that the All-China Wushu Assosiation had to regulate martial arts training. In that period all the sports, in China, were politicize since the changes of government policies in 1998.
However, Wushu is a defensive use of combat. The movements of Wushu include kick, boxing, wrestling and seizing; even if it is used in exhibition and competition and include acrobatic jumps and movements to emphasize visual effects.
Nowadays, some traditionals believed that the traditional and original Chinese martial arts had been lost over the centuries to be replaced by a commercialized version.
After this long parenthesis about the history of China and Chinese martial arts, it’s time to look at the different types of martial arts. Within the Chinese martial arts, there are hundreds of different styles, these styles mimic movements from animals or are inspired by Chinese philosophies, myths and legends.
Chinese martial arts can be slit into various categories according to external and internal; to northern and southern; to their province or city. The main difference between northern and southern styles is that the northern styles focus more on fast and powerful kicks, high jump and fluid and rapid movement. However, the southern styles emphasize strong-arm and hand techniques, stable and fast footwork. Generally the northern styles is kick-based and the southern use more the upper-body techniques. As the old Chinese saying goes “In the north, Shaolin Kungfu is primarily recommended. While in the south, Wudang Kungfu is especially valued”. These lines emphasize on the external practice for Jing (genuine energy), Qi (vital energy) and Shen (spirit) and internal practice for muscle, bone and skin.
Shaolin Kung Fu, indeed, is considered to be the authentic Chinese martial arts, created by monks in the high mountains. Shaolin Kung Fu includes boxing, stick art, spear art, sword art and so on. While, wudang Kung Fu is related to the Chinese native religion: Taoism.
Chinese martial arts are not defined just as self-defense and mental training, but also as a system of ethics.
The contemporary Chinese martial arts cannot be refer just to the fighting techniques, they play a role in the literature, known as wuxia; in the Chinese opera and cinema.
That’s the general introduction to the Chinese martial arts, that could be longer and more specific, anyway we don’t need to be bored from long explanations. For this reason, next week our journey within martial arts will arrive to his second stop: Japanese martial arts.