Kung Fu Unisex T-Shirt
Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
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The Birth of Martial Arts : Documentary on The Shaolin Monks and Ninja (Full Documentary)
Chinese martial arts, often called by the umbrella terms kung fu and Thong Fu (/ˈkʌŋ ˈfuː/; Chinese: 功夫; pinyin: gōngfu; Cantonese Yale: gūng fū), kuoshu (國術; guóshù) or wushu (武術; wǔshù), are multiple fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in Greater China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as “families” of martial arts. Examples of such traits include Shaolinquan (少林拳) physical exercises involving All Other Animals (五形) mimicry or training methods inspired by Old Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. Styles that focus on qi manipulation are called internal (内家拳; nèijiāquán), while others that concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness are called external (外家拳; wàijiāquán). Geographical association, as in northern (北拳; běiquán) and southern (南拳; nánquán), is another popular classification method.
Kung fu and wushu are loanwords from Cantonese and Mandarin respectively that, in English, are used to refer to Chinese martial arts. However, the Chinese terms kung fu and wushu (listen (Mandarin) (help·info); Cantonese Yale: móuh seuht) have distinct meanings. The Chinese equivalent of the term “Chinese martial arts” would be Zhongguo wushu (Chinese: 中國武術; pinyin: zhōngguó wǔshù) (Mandarin).
In Chinese, the term kung fu refers to any skill that is acquired through learning or practice. It is a compound word composed of the words 功 (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and 夫 (fū) which is a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings.
Wushu literally means “martial art“. It is formed from the two Chinese characters 武術: 武 (wǔ), meaning “martial” or “military” and 術 or 术 (shù), which translates into “art“, “discipline“, “skill” or “method“. The term wushu has also become the name for the modern sport of wushu, an exhibition and full-contact sport of bare-handed and weapon forms (套路), adapted and judged to a set of aesthetic criteria for points developed since 1949 in the People’s Republic of China.
Quánfǎ (拳法) is another Chinese term for Chinese martial arts. It means “fist method” or “the law of the fist” (quán means “boxing” or “fist”, and fǎ means “law”, “way” or “method”), although as a compound term it usually translates as “boxing” or “fighting technique.” The name of the Japanese martial art kempō is represented by the same hanzi characters.
Legend of Kung Fu Documentary — Shaolin
The genesis of Chinese martial arts has been attributed to the need for self-defense, hunting techniques and military training in ancient China. Hand-to-hand combat and weapons practice were important in training ancient Chinese soldiers.
Detailed knowledge about the state and development of Chinese martial arts became available from the Nanjing decade (1928–1937), as the Central Guoshu Institute established by the Kuomintang regime made an effort to compile an encyclopedic survey of martial arts schools. Since the 1950s, the People’s Republic of China has organized Chinese martial arts as an exhibition and full-contact sport under the heading of “wushu”.
According to legend, Chinese martial arts originated during the semi-mythical Xia Dynasty (夏朝) more than 4,000 years ago. It is said the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) (legendary date of ascension 2698 BCE) introduced the earliest fighting systems to China. The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous general who, before becoming China’s leader, wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and the martial arts. One of his main opponents was Chi You (蚩尤) who was credited as the creator of jiao di, a forerunner to the modern art of Chinese wrestling.
The earliest references to Chinese martial arts are found in the Spring and Autumn Annals (5th century BCE), where a hand-to-hand combat theory, one that integrates notions of “hard” and “soft” techniques, is mentioned. A combat wrestling system called juélì or jiǎolì (角力) is mentioned in the Classic of Rites. This combat system included techniques such as strikes, throws, joint manipulation, and pressure point attacks. Jiao Di became a sport during the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE). The Han History Bibliographies record that, by the Former Han (206 BCE – 8 CE), there was a distinction between no-holds-barred weaponless fighting, which it calls shǒubó (手搏), for which training manuals had already been written, and sportive wrestling, then known as juélì (角力). Wrestling is also documented in the Shǐ Jì, Records of the Grand Historian, written by Sima Qian (ca. 100 BCE).
In the Tang Dynasty, descriptions of sword dances were immortalized in poems by Li Bai. In the Song and Yuan dynasties, xiangpu contests were sponsored by the imperial courts. The modern concepts of wushu were fully developed by the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The ideas associated with Chinese martial arts changed with the evolution of Chinese society and over time acquired some philosophical bases: Passages in the Zhuangzi (莊子), a Taoist text, pertain to the psychology and practice of martial arts. Zhuang Zi, its eponymous author, is believed to have lived in the 4th century BCE. The Tao Te Ching, often credited to Lao Zi, is another Taoist text that contains principles applicable to martial arts. According to one of the classic texts of Confucianism, Zhou Li (周禮), Archery and charioteering were part of the “six arts” (Chinese: 六藝; pinyin: liu yi, including rites, music, calligraphy and mathematics) of the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BCE). The Art of War (孫子兵法), written during the 6th century BCE by Sun Tzu (孫子), deals directly with military warfare but contains ideas that are used in the Chinese martial arts.
Taoist practitioners have been practicing Tao Yin (physical exercises similar to Qigong that was one of the progenitors to T’ai chi ch’uan) from as early as 500 BCE. In 39–92 CE, “Six Chapters of Hand Fighting”, were included in the Han Shu (history of the Former Han Dynasty) written by Pan Ku. Also, the noted physician, Hua Tuo, composed the “Five Animals Play”—tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, around 208 CE. Taoist philosophy and their approach to health and exercise have influenced the Chinese martial arts to a certain extent. Direct reference to Taoist concepts can be found in such styles as the “Eight Immortals,” which uses fighting techniques attributed to the characteristics of each immortal.
Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 AD)
Shaolin temple established
In 495 CE, a Shaolin temple was built in the Song mountain, Henan province. The first monk who preached Buddhism there was the Indian monk named Buddhabhadra (佛陀跋陀羅; Fótuóbátuóluó), simply called Batuo (跋陀) by the Chinese. There are historical records that Batuo’s first Chinese disciples, Huiguang (慧光) and Sengchou (僧稠), both had exceptional martial skills. For example, Sengchou’s skill with the tin staff is even documented in the Chinese Buddhist canon. After Buddhabadra, another Indian monk, named Bodhidharma (菩提達摩; Pútídámó), also known as Damo (達摩) by the Chinese, came to Shaolin in 527 CE. His Chinese disciple, Huike (慧可), was also a highly trained martial arts expert. There are implications that these first three Chinese Shaolin monks, Huiguang, Sengchou, and Huike, may have been military men before entering the monastic life.
Shaolin and temple-based martial arts
The Shaolin style of kung fu is regarded as one of the first institutionalized Chinese martial arts. The oldest evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is a stele from 728 CE that attests to two occasions: a defense of the Shaolin Monastery from bandits around 610 CE, and their subsequent role in the defeat of Wang Shichong at the Battle of Hulao in 621 CE. From the 8th to the 15th centuries, there are no extant documents that provide evidence of Shaolin participation in combat.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, at least forty sources exist to provide evidence both that monks of Shaolin practiced martial arts, and that martial practice became an integral element of Shaolin monastic life. The earliest appearance of the frequently cited legend concerning Bodhidharma’s supposed foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu dates to this period. The origin of this legend has been traced to the Ming period‘s Yijin Jing or “Muscle Change Classic”, a text written in 1624 attributed to Bodhidharma.
References of martial arts practice in Shaolin appear in various literary genres of the late Ming: the epitaphs of Shaolin warrior monks, martial-arts manuals, military encyclopedias, historical writings, travelogues, fiction, and poetry. However, these sources do not point out any specific style that originated in Shaolin. These sources, in contrast to those from the Tang period, refer to Shaolin methods of armed combat. These include a skill for which Shaolin monks became famous: the staff (gùn, Cantonese gwan). The Ming General Qi Jiguang included a description of Shaolin Quan Fa (Chinese: 少林拳法; Wade–Giles: Shao Lin Ch’üan Fa; lit. ‘Shaolin fist technique’; Japanese: Shorin Kempo) and staff techniques in his book, Ji Xiao Xin Shu (紀效新書), which can translate as New Book Recording Effective Techniques. When this book spread across East Asia, it had a great influence on the development of martial arts in regions such as Okinawa and Korea.
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