What is Kung Fu?

Kung fu or gongfu or gung fu is a generic name given to Chinese Martial Arts. It is roughly translated into "hard work" or "skill". In 1975, the term "kung fu" was used to describe Chinese martial arts in, "Kung Fu for Young People: The Ving Tsun System", by Moy Yat, Russell Kozuki, and Douglas Lee. Before this, Chinese martial arts was primarily referred to in the West as "Chinese boxing", rather than "kung fu".

People in China now call their martial arts Wushu as Kung Fu was forbidden for over 3 centuries and only trained in secret. Also, depending on which background it comes from (North, South, Cantonese, Mandarin, etc) it can be pronounced Gong Fu, Kung Fu and other similar variations (same as Wing Chung, Vin Tsung, etc.).

There are five main areas that Chinese Martial Arts come from;

  • Village or Family style
  • Imperial: used and taught by the Emperor's Guards
  • Shaolin: this includes many styles
  • Shaolin derived: mainly post 1645 (2nd burning of Shaolin)
  • Secret Society & Vagabond styles: assassins and the resistance; triads