It is one of the many names used to generically name Chinese Martial Arts. In western society the term is the most popular although the Chinese Government want's to replace it with the term Wushu. It can also mean (and this is the term Shaolin Kung Fu Academy uses), "an individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work", ie you have good kung fu. We use the capitalized version (Kung Fu) to depict the art and the lower case version (kung fu) to depict the meaning. But there are many different styles and types of Kung Fu that developed over the some 8 millennia of Chinas written history. As most Chinese (99%+)could not write until last century, most of these styles were not recorded and only some passed down from Master to best students. Many, many were lost.
Note - We have tried to keep the information brief and easy to read; but often comes at the cost of quality. Therefore some of the subject, at the end, finish with 'more...'. Click on this and more information will be revealed. Click on it again and the additional info will close again!
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Why is it called 'Kung Fu'
The name was popularized through the 70's series with David Carradine called "Kung Fu". Rumored to be the brain child of Bruce Lee, who was declined in favorer of David, who made the role his own over a period of 4 seasons from 1972 to 1975. The series was very influential in the forming of western opinion about Chinese martial arts showing the wisdom (see video clip ---->), grace, beauty, justice and power of the art. Hong Kong cinema took up the subject in the 70's too but chose to focus on the blood, gore, death and fighting aspect of Chinese martial arts and history. This had a significant impact on the view of Chinese martial arts even to the point where it was rumored that the Olympic Committee would not allow a Kung Fu (Wushu) demonstration at the opening of the Olympic games due to this violent depiction of kung fu. It was deemed inappropriate for popularization. Tai chi was chosen although the crafty organizers slipped in some aspects of Kung Fu/Wushu.
Chinese have many names for the martial arts and much as were influenced by public media. In China you may hear the term wushu, gongfu, kungfu, karate and box, used to term martial arts in general and Chinese martial arts in particular. The official term of Chinese Martial Arts (in an effort to unify Chinese thinking and differentiate from the western term of kung fu is Wu Shu or "War Art".
Although Mandarin and Cantonese are the dominant dialects in spoken Chinese they are only two of the some 400 variations in the Chinese Language and 85,000 characters developed over more than 5 millennia. China was not always being the one country; most of it was unified under Emperor Chin around 2nd Century BCE (much like the EU is doing now or how the United Stated become United). I has/had many different races and religions with many different languages most of which though had similar base, had many unique sounds and meanings. There are/were many characters representing the concept of martial arts in each language and often with both the same (Homonym) and different meanings (synonym), many had it's own unique and slightly different meaning, much the same as in the English language. For example the word Bow;
a violin is played with a bow
an arrow is shoot from a bow
a ships front is a bow
a birthday gift may have a ribbon around it with a bow
a tree may have to bow in the wind so as not to break
to bow someone is to exercise a controlling and powerful influence on someone
bough is found in a tree
bo is the term for a Chinese Staff.....
Thus when China become one (more or less, ie. Tibet and Taiwan) many different terms rolled in with this; many that sounded the same (ie. kung fu, gung fu ) and many different including war art, fighting art and such.
Shaolin Academy uses the traditional Shaolin term which is also pronounced (more of less) Kung Fu meaning "Perfection through hard work" or "Hard work with the aim of leading to perfection". The Shaolin character and spirit of Kung Fu is that of working towards internal perfection rather than external dominance.
So what is Shaolin Kung Fu?
Although not unique to the Shaolin Temple the principles of Eastern philosophy linked to the effective form of self defence combat made quite an impression. After the freedom of thinking movement of the 60's, the west was ready to embrace different concepts. The introduction of the Dao - Yin and Yan, The principles of Buddhism and the three treasures and even the application of these made the series very 'life changing' to many of that generation. The linkage of all this eastern philosophy to the Shaolin temple fairly immediately placed the Shaolin and principles at the fore front. The relatively unique and effective fighting style of the main character made a lasting impression.
The another bench-mark movie came out just before the 1st screening of Kung Fu the Series, Bruce Lee's Big Boss (71). Public media was really ready for this and Bruce Lee became a cult hero with the following 3½ films. Although Lee's films had nothing to do with Shaolin, it added to the mystique and fascination of Chinese Kung Fu.
It was the 1982 movie Shaolin Temple starring Jet Li in his debut role that really excited the martial art world (at least) thus cementing Shaolin Temple, it's philosophies and martial arts in Western and Eastern society.
With the success of this Shaolin Movie, Hong Kong cinema refocused it's direction from Slash and Crash movies to movies somewhat based in historical fact. These included the 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Shaolin Wooden Men (with Jacky Chan), New Legend of Shaolin, Ten Tigers of Shaolin and some very dubious titles such as Shaolin grandma.
The usage of the term Shaolin continued in yet another arena. Full stage production of the live show Shaolin Temple Warrior Monks started touring with great success around the world demonstrating the skills of Chinese Wushu Actors sometimes performing incredible feats of skill, speed and strength, live on stage. This was so successful that even now almost 20 years later there are still Shaolin temple Warrior Monks Shows continually being put together and making world tours. And it doesn't end there
US cinema has made good use of recasting old movies also that the original Shaolin Temple Movie was recast and remade in 2010, again with Jet Li and Jacky chan and a host of contemporary Chinese stars..
Shaolin Kung Fu is the termed used for the Kung Fu style that derive from the Shaolin Temple and is training and practiced in accordance with the Principles of the Shaolin Temple. Shaolin Kung Fu is a Health and Fitness style that uses Kung Fu movements, exercises and principles to help Shaolin Monks and other practitioners to find their true inner self and thus seek the path to Enlightenment.
Many, many, many! Eight Thousand years in a landmass 25 million sq Km's housing 20% of the world population often waging war internally but also being attacked from the outside, many styles developed. In addition, China was poor on metal ore deposits and thus weapons were scarce and very expensive. This is one of the reason that many, many ways of defence and attack were developed. Some estimates suggest that there are still now 1000 major styles with upto 10,000 family or house styles. It may be better to look at some 'generic' types of kung fu.
Often Chinese refer to Yin/Yang driven style descriptions such as Long vs Short Fist, Northern vs Southern (although the mid point for where the center between north and south varies), Hard vs Soft, Fist Style vs Feet based, Traditional vs Modern, Internal vs External Focus etc. Although these have meaning for the individual calling them so, often there is no set standard and thus one mans Long Fist is another mans Northern Style and then another's Hard Style. There is another way of looking at these styles.
Tiger and Crane combination is a powerful Kung Fu art!
In the last few years the Mixed Martial Arts have come into style. The key to a good Mixed Martial Artists is high proficiency in Boxing, Martial Arts and Grappling. This is a very good starting point but we have a better one with the Shaolin System of Animals whereby they defined 5 types of styles;
Hand and Feet Based
Non Hand & Feet (Forearms, Shins, Elbows, Knee, Head
Holding, Throwing, Pinning and Off-the-Ground
Pressure & Vital Point Attack and Defence (one movement arts)
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu was possibly one of the first to recognized that there is not just one-way of doing things and that contributed to the development of the 5 Animal Style. That required though for the availability of many masters each specializing But tat is another subject. There is also another way of looking at different styles of Kung Fu based on their generic sources;
Temple/Lager-Organization Styles; including Shaolin, Wudang, Fukien, Emai Shan.
Military Styles; such as the almost forgotten Imperial Eagle Claw.
Village and Family Styles which have survived from generation to generation.
Champion based Styles; that were made famous by a person with great skill such as White Eyebrow and Jeet Kun Do.
Assassin and Killing Styles; obviously not so well know in the general world of martial arts and so it should be.
Shaolin Academy Styles
The Shaolin Academy's core styles are the 5 Temple styles for the first 5 levels then the Animal Styles leading to Black Sash. Although everyone needs to learn the basics through the temple levels, members have c choice with their progress towards black sash. Following are some of the styles taught in the Shaolin Academy.
It depends on what you want from your martial art AND why type of person you are. Some think, strike first and hard and you will always win; others think that this thinking causes much conflict. Some think that you wait until the person attacks and then retaliated; others think that you need to be very confident for this type of thinking. Some think that you need to out-think your opponents; others think that action speaks louder than words and then again some think that we have Laws and Police who manage violence; others say, read the newspapers.
So again, it depends on why 'type' of person you are to what is the best style for you. Shaolin 5 Animal System recognizes that there different types of people. There are also many criteria to consider. Many people train martial arts for reasons other than fighting and self defence and thus, depending what your primary motivation is you may want to think which may be best to do. Some examples of this are (generic interpretations of styles and just some examples);
Focus - Tough, Hard, Practical
Focus - Style Based, Sharp
Focus - Gentle, Slow
Focus - Spectacular, Aerial, Visual
Focus - Situation Management
Focus - Variety, Safety
An additional problem to choosing the "best" martial art (for you) is change. The reason you start a martial art is often not the reason you stay with it past the honeymoon period (6 months or so) and then the reason you may continue past the 2/3 year point is also different! So what you want to do is chose a style that has many facets and options.
Before any consideration, a martial art should be safe not just accident free. Many, many martial arts that work on a specific speciality tend to damage that part of the body long term. Children sent to kicking style often end up with ankle and knee difficulties. Hard punching style practitioners often develop hand joint problems. Most grappling and falling style martial artists end up with back problems; yes they learn to fall but one fall in 100 that goes wrong and over a couple of years you have chronic back problems. Joint lock and arrest styles end up with joint problems too. Athletic styles tend to cause the usual athletic overuse problems. And fighting styles just send the wrong message! So how do you choose a martial art?
What is it for; self defence, confidence, fitness, interest, trying out.......define for yourself what you want out of your training. And even if you are not entirely sure there are some very important points to guide your decision;
Safety - is the style safe or will it cause you health and injury problems. Most free styles, fighting styles, tough styles, hard styles will cause some damage and may cause sporting injuries. So if you do not wish to walk into work with a Black Eye or have to go to the doctor for blood tests avoid those. Also avoid styles that push you into competitions. To win in competitions you have to put it on the line; and the 'it' is your health. Also, an Academy or Studio is more likely to be safe if it has been around and no-one has sued it out of business for injury or malpractice! An industry accreditation and government recognitions are also a benefit as are a professional locations (other than garage, park or back yard).
Variety - is the key to avoid repetitious strain injuries and chronic conditions; it is also the key for keeping you interested for longer if there is a wide variety of choice of forms, technique and movement.
Benefits - it needs to provide those benefits you are looking for; focus, fitness, self defence, breathing and meditation exercises and such. This list you need to develop; what is most important to you!
Style - It needs to be a style that suits you; who you are, what your outlook in life is, your body shape and your spirit. Rather than making an aggressive bully out of you a good style will allow you to discover and develop the style, way, method that is best for you. Remember, the reason you start a martial art is not always the reason you continue and continue. If the 'style' is not adaptable you may have to start all over again.
The Three Tests
Would you have the instructor over to meet your friends, parents or work colleagues? If yes, he then represents the type of person you can respect and are happy to be influenced by.
Would you hold your next family, friends or work colleagues celebration at the venue where you will be training? If yes, the place is probably not dingy, smelly and unsuitable for long term usage.
Has the instructor the professional and/or educational level suitable to your needs? Or will you be developing some new habits and interesting vocabulary? THIS is especially important when choosing a martial art for your children; for this person will have a lot of influence on your offspring. If he is a strong language red-neck, don't be surprised if your children start browsing guns sights on the internet.
For Whom is Shaolin Academy Kung Fu best Suited?
We are a lifestyle art, a whole of life actively that focuses on nothing in particular and can be adapted to most anything. Shaolin Academy students have been Security Personnel, Police, Stage & Screen Actors, State & National Champions, Executive Aids, Executives, Business Persons/Managers, over 80 years old, in Wheel Chairs, missing an arm, Managers, Airline Pilots, and more.
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu recognizes that there is a great variation of personalities, body types and attitudes within humans. No one style can fulfill the needs of the diversity of human nature, kind and way. By allowing a progression though different aspects of the 5 Animal Style, each person can find their own aspect or speciality. In a three stage process Shaolin Kung Ku practitioners are first taught the mechanics of Shaolin Kung Fu, then these 'Mechanics' are applied to the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu style. Finally, upon reaching Black Sash, much like a university level, practitioners choose what they wish to specialize in.
Below is the Traditional 5 Animal Style system which you learn the basics when preparing for the Black Sash and which you can choose as a specialization after Black Sash. Further below we have some other aspects that people can choose and sometimes have chosen as a specialization for their 2nd Degree Black Sash and beyond!
The Tiger -
is for strong, big and powerful people, the directness, energy and force of the Tiger. The pure power and dominance of the King of the Animals, the leader, main provider and dominant force. This stylist usually relies on the strength of character, force of will and power of the body! They can be a bit of a Bull in a China Shop.
The Panther -
is for people who like to use their Mind Powers, prefer indirect confrontations and like to put things in their own order. Usually quiet, Panther style people usually are physically well endowed although not large; they are usually quite adaptive but prefer their own ways. This stylist usually relies on their mind, perseverance, cunning and Minimalism. Sometimes, these people tend towards ultimate minimalist and do nothing. The Consummate Minimalist gets everything doing whilst seeming to do nothing themselves.
The Crane -
is for people who are very social, consider the herd/family to be more important than the individual. Usually very social, amicable and pleasant in nature, they often disregard their own needs for the needs of others. This stylist usually relies on Patience, Timing, Speed & Coordination and Elegance. They will never seek conflict and usually, if offered to them will not fight. their skill is in overcoming the invincible, toppling the mighty and teaching the willful; "Like Water Wearing Away Rock". The elegant Crane stylist can loose their being doing for others.
The Snake -
is for people who like wisdom, tried and true ways; means and methods of proven value and result. They consider that taking risks is for young pigheaded fools who do what they do due to ignorance and lack of guidance. Snakes prefer the moment, the well proven based in wisdom devoid of trial and error. They are the Law Givers, the Wise, the keepers of the faith and path. Snakes hate change and will be highly resistant.
Some of the other styles can be animal combinations; following are some of the possibilities
Eagle Kung Fu -
If you have attitude and like directness (Tiger) but have the body of a dancer (Crane); Eagle specializes in an elegant Hit and Run action and thinking.
Monkey Kung Fu -
Say you have a Short, Strong Body (Tiger) and a bit of a 'boisterous' nature (Panther); Monkey is brilliant for that developing your skills of confusion and creating chaos.
Turtle Kung Fu -
You don't like hitting and would prefer only defence, but you are reasonably and reasonably flexible; Turtle like to take it's opponents to the ground and hold them there until they settle down.
Mantis Kung Fu -
You like minimal action, (Snake) but do not like waiting (Tiger); Mantis is the ideal trap setter that maneuvers themselves into and ideal position to be attacked, exactly as they want.
These are just some examples; you can also specialize in Showmanship (Forms/Paterns/Katas) for Shows, Movies, Competitions. Spearing for winning championships, Teaching to become a Sifu, traditional Chinese Weaponry, Self Defence, technical Focus, Strategies..... there are many, many options at the Shaolin Kung Fu Academy
Shaolin Kung Fu Academy
At the Shaolin Kung Fu Academy we continue in style and spirit of Shaolin. Teaching 5 Animal Kung Fu in a responsible, effective and personal way that allows students to customize their training to their needs. Those who are interested in the physical aspect to focus on this, on the strength and flow of the techniques, or on the timing and precision, the beauty and grace, function and effectiveness or all of these. Those who need kung Fu as an intelligent form of self defence can focus on this learning how to manage confrontations (physical, verbal and at work) not just win them. If you are interested in the mental aspects, like strategy, usage, application, than this is also given. And if it is for health and fitness, for stress relief and balance; with almost 20 years injury free history the Shaolin Academy is the right place. And, if you seek the spiritual side of Shaolin Kung Fu, train with Sijo, Master of Martial Arts, professional Mentor (life-coach), former Executive Manager, Engineer and practicing 5 Animal Kung Fu Master. You will learn about yourself, your possibilities and how to get the most from what you want!
Call us! We give you the first three session of training for free, no tricks, no problems. Our number is 1800 SHAOLIN which is 1800 742 654 between 11am to 5pm Tuesdays to Fridays and all day Sunday!