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An Introduction to Chinese Martial Arts
PureInsight.org
9/15/2009

Chinese martial arts (also known as kung fu) is rooted in ancient Chinese culture and has very profound connotations. It originated from the Tao School and is therefore related to cultivation practice. Besides elevating morality and artistic skills, as well as preserving and enhancing health, it can also stop violence and ensure self-defense, in which sense the Chinese word for “martial arts” is made up of the two characters, “stop” and “spear.”

In the long history of China, martial arts made its appearance as early as over four thousand years ago in a form similar to wrestling, such as in the ancient legend of “The Yellow Emperor Battling Chi You.” During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), swordplay was developed. During the Han (202 B.C.-220 A.D.) and Tang (618-907 A.D.) dynasties, more artistic connotations were introduced into swordplay. For example, the “Three Wonders of the Great Tang Empire” referred to Li Bai’s poetry, Pei Min’s swordplay, and Zhang Xu’s calligraphy. This shows that, at that time, swordplay reached its peak in Chinese history along-side poetry.

After the Song (960-1279 A.D.) and Yuan (1271-1368 A.D.) dynasties, the Taoist Zhang Sanfeng founded Tai Chi during his cultivation practice. In the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Qing (1636-1912 A.D.) dynasties, Eight Trigram Palm and Xingyi (Free Will) Boxing were spread from the cultivation community, whereas in the everyday community, graceful and swift Waijia (Out-fight) Boxing was developed, such as the Cha, Hua, Pao, Hong and Hua styles, which all belong to the Long style boxing, as well as other styles such as Ba Ji (Eight Directions) Boxing, Tong Bi (Full-arm) Boxing, Fan Zi (Tumbling) Boxing, and Tang Lang (Mantis) Boxing. The well-known Shaolin style martial arts is divided into the Northern and Southern styles, where boxing is the distinguished feature of the Southern style and kicking for the Northern style.

During its creation and development, martial arts formed the following style categories:

1. Neijia (In-fight) Boxing, which emphasizes inner cultivation. There are forms such as Tai Chi, Ba Gua (Eight Trigram Palm), Xingyi (Free Will), etc.
2. Waijia (Out-fight) Boxing, which emphasizes external form training. It requires the gradual transformation from external form training to inner cultivation and achieves the unity of mind and body. It includes Cha, Hua, Pao, Hong, Hua, Southern Boxing, Shaolin, Tong Bi (Full-arm), Tanglang (Mantis), Fanzi (Tumbling), and Baji (Eight Skills) Boxing etc.

Regardless of it being Neijia or Waijia, Chinese martial arts includes weapons of different styles, such as the knife, spear, sword, staff, ax, tomahawk, hook, and fork, which are all called “martial arts instruments.”

Speaking of its nature, Chinese martial arts promotes the cultivation of moral character, artistic appreciation, physical fitness, and self-defense. In terms of skills and artistry, it has profound connotations. Therefore, the martial arts are an important part of the god-given traditional Chinese culture.

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