The Art of Kung Fu

chin_na_fa.jpg=500The term kung fu doesn’t generally mean the fighting arts in Chinese, but rather means skill, ability and hard work. It also is comprised of three major areas of development: self defense, health and fitness, and character training.  

Kung fu and Chinese martial arts in general encompass a wide variety of subjects for study.  Most Chinese martial arts have, to one degree or another, all of these subjects: basics, combinations, self defense, forms, partner sets, weapons, pressure points, joint locks, sparring, chi kung,  herbal medicines, and basic first aid. Below is a synopsis of each of the major subjects of kung fu.
    
Basics are individual techniques that are practiced by students to perfect the form, coordination, and power for each technique.  Some of these techniques are punching, blocking and kicking.
    
Combinations are basic techniques that are put together to develop greater coordination and concentration.  The student should have a good foundation in basics before trying to do the combination techniques.
    
Self defense is the process by which you learn to use the moves against specific attacks and attackers.  

The basic idea of kung fu is to move like the wind or the water… continuously.  This continuous movement can create tremendous force like a tidal wave or hurricane. This continuous movement also means that the student never has to rely on one technique to handle a self- defense situation.  That way if he misses with one or the attacker moves or does something different, the student already has countered the movement or flows to the next defensive technique without any hesitation and never has to worry about what do to next.

Forms are the encyclopaedia of your kung fu techniques.  They contain all the movements in combination with each other.  Forms can be as short as 10 moves or as long as 1000’s of moves.  Forms are similar to combinations, but much harder to do because now you have to perform a long series of moves in combination with each other and maintain the proper basic technique elements (see basics above).  Forms help the student to develop tremendous concentration, coordination, and discipline.
    
Partner Sets, like forms, are a series of movements put together in a sequence that can run from ten to hundreds of moves long.  The difficulty of partner sets is that they are done with a partner as if one is actually fighting the other.  Partner sets come in two types: open hand (without weapons) and using a variety of weapons.
    
Weapons are taught as part of the Chinese kung fu tradition.  Though these weapons are not used today, they play an important part in the development of strength, dexterity, concentration and coordination.  Chinese weapons are classified into several major groups: long, short, and flexible weapons to name a few.
    
Pressure Points are used to maximize the potential of grabs, strikes and kicks.  Pressure points are weak points on everyone’s body, so kung fu practitioners can defeat attackers much larger or stronger than themselves.
    
Joint locking is the art of attacking the joints to either break, sprain, or cause extreme pain.  Joint locks are usually combined with pressure points to make the kung fu practitioner a very well- rounded martial artist and self defense expert.
    
Throwing techniques use the body, hip or legs to throw or knock the person off-balance.  This gives you great advantage for in-close fighting situations.

Sparring is the actual one-on-one practice of using the techniques against another opponent randomly.  The student uses all of his techniques in a controlled environment to practice his throws, pressure points, locks,  punches, and kicks against another student who’s trying to do the same thing.  This teaches the students control, distancing, application, and counters.  

Chi kung means “breath work” or more commonly “internal work.”   Kung fu practitioners know that having a strong mind and body doesn’t just rely on the strength of your muscles, but also on the strength of your internal organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc.)   

Herbal medicines were a necessary ingredient in Chinese martial arts to prevent injuries to muscles and bones and also to heal injuries that practitioners might receive.  Herbal remedies are passed down from Sifu to Sifu and most formulas are kept secret within each style.
    
Conclusion
In ancient China, kung fu practitioners were revered as scholars and medical doctors because of the vast knowledge that they possessed.  As you can see from this basic outline, kung fu practitioners learn more than just simple punching and striking.  They learn an entire art for keeping their minds and bodies healthy…and isn’t that most important thing in today’s fast-paced and stressful society?