What is Kung Fu?
Kung Fu is used to describe a collection of Chinese Martial Arts, and a series of hard and soft fighting styles that has developed over a long period of time. Modern Kung Fu classes teach self-defence techniques drawing from different styles as set out below, with kicking, punching and sometimes the use of weapons.
However, the Chinese term Kung Fu isn’t just about Martial Arts. It can be used to describe an individual accomplishment or refined skill that’s achieved after hard work. So it can be used to describe any skill obtained in this way.
Originally developed over 4,000 years ago, Chinese Martial Arts Kung Fu was initially just utilised as a form of wrestling before having strikes, throws and joint manipulation added in as the combat system evolved. For newcomers to the sport, Kung Fu may seem very similar to Karate, but Kung Fu forms use graceful, circular techniques. Whilst the arts were developing they were heavily influenced by, and often intertwined with, religious and symbolic beliefs through the cultural advancement of China. For example, the Taoist beliefs of Ying and Yang, symbolising universal opposites helped to develop the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ techniques within the Martial Art.
What are the different Kung Fu styles?
Chinese Kung Fu has had a rich and varied history and so has over 400 sub-styles developed from northern and southern influences. The northern styles tend to focus on kicks and wider stances, whereas the southern Kung Fu styles tend to involve techniques based around the hands and smaller stances.
Some of the most prominent northern styles are:
- Shaolin Kung Fu – Shaolin Kung Fu developed as a religious Martial Art. It was originally used to demonstrate religious symbolism and allow Shaolin monks to defend themselves and the region. Shaolin Kung Fu schools teach a focus on empty hand forms as well as ‘Qi Gong’, which is the manipulation of energy to benefit the body.
- Chang Quan/Long Fist – Long Fist Kung Fu is generally seen as a beautiful Martial Art, in that the practitioner’s movements are often harmonious and exquisite to watch. This sub style focuses on striking movements however still teaches joint locks and grappling as a standard.
- Eagle Claw – The creation of the Kung Fu sub-style Eagle Claw is attributed to a General Ngok Fei who lived during the Song Dynasty (1127-1279), who as a child was taught various fighting styles by Martial Arts masters. He used this training to teach his troops a unique fighting style that took aspects of everything he had learned. This fighting style later came to be known as Eagle Claw. Unlike other Kung Fu styles that tend to focus on distance, the fighting style of Eagle Claw involves large amounts of grappling and hand techniques.
- Monkey - Monkey Kung Fu utilises monkey styled movements as part of its techniques. Developed by a man called Kou Si at the end of the Qing Dynasty, whilst imprisoned Kou Si studied a group of primates form his cell as they imitated the movements of the guards surrounding him. From this he followed their mimicry and began adapting and incorporating their movements into the Martial Arts concepts that he had learned. It is performed using all manner of techniques, dependant on the type of Monkey Kung Fu being utilised.
Some of the most prominent southern styles are:
- Wing Chun – This is the Martial Art that Bruce Lee studied under the master tutelage of Yip Man. Wing Chun is fought with a focus on balance and defence around the centre line, making attackers go outside and forcing weak spots to open up.
- Hung Ga – Hung Ga came about during the 17th century in China, originating from the fighting in the Qing dynasty. When the Northern Shaolin temple was destroyed, the survivors fled to the Southern temple where they could practice their Martial Arts in secret. This created a mix of Martial Arts styles that eventually transcended into Hung Ga. Hung Ga typically involves deep, low stances and strong hand techniques.
- Choy Li Fut – Choy Li Fut has a rich and fabled history stemming from the Martial Arts training bestowed upon a man called Chan Heung. In 1836 Heung combined his vast Martial Arts knowledge together to create his own Martial Arts style, in doing so he honoured his previous teachers and named it ‘Choy Li Fut’ after his three most influential teachers. Choy Li Fut is generally a striking style that utilises a variety of stances, although they tend towards lower stances and increased movement.
Why should I go to Kung-Fu classes?
Kung Fu classes not only provide students with a great knowledge of ancient self-defence Martial Arts techniques, but they’re a great form of high-intensity workouts. The range of kicks, punches and grappling techniques that you’ll typically learn in a Kung Fu class will provide students of all ages with enhanced flexibility, resistance conditioning, and improvements to physical strength, endurance and overall fitness levels too. Benefits of Kung Fu classes include:
- Improves strength, stamina and mental attitudes
- Helps burn body fat through intense cardiovascular workout
- Improves muscle tone
- Improves co-ordination and balance
- Improves confidence and self-esteem
- Relieves stress and improves mental health
- Great social activities to meet like-minded individuals
What will I learn from Kung-Fu classes?
Kung Fu is practiced using a variety of methods, due to its many sub styles. The most prominent ways in which it’s practiced are through traditional development, focusing on stances and basic forms with a promotion of meditation to help further the abilities of the practitioners. When basic and more advanced techniques have been obtained, the use and study of weapons training is introduced.
What are the Kung Fu grades?
There is no authority that oversees the requirements based around grades or ranks for Kung Fu as there is with other types of Martial Arts. The belts colours sometimes vary depending on the type of Kung Fu being studied. However, broadly the colours and approximate order may include:
Your local Kung Fu school will be able to give you more information on how they differ.
Who can take up Kung Fu classes?
Kung Fu classes are popular for all ages of Martial Arts students – from young children to older participants, both male and female. Regardless of your background or fitness levels, you’ll be welcome along to your local Kung Fu club.
Depending on the particular Kung Fu school’s criteria, lessons tend to start with children as young as 5 years old, and there is no upper-end to the scale.
You don’t need to have any previous experience of the sport. Many Kung Fu clubs will accept participants who have never who have never tried this or any Martial Arts – in fact, the sport tends to be popular with those who want to try something completely new. Even if you think you’re unfit or perhaps lacking in a bit of confidence, then you’ll be welcomed at your local Kung Fu club.