Every kung fu master started as a very beginner
Practicing martial arts is a great activity and a privilege. Kung Fu for beginners can sometimes can be tough because all the movements are foreign to you. Beginners learning Kung Fu will be clumbsy at first and likely be out of shape, but stick with it and in the end it will sincerely pay off!
Originating in China, Kung Fu has a prestige of possibly being the oldest martial art, which was perfected during ages past and now has more than 300 styles, of which Wing Chun is the most popular and most widely practiced.
Origins of the Name "Kung Fu"
Credit: photo credit: larique via photo pin ccThe name: Kung Fu, which is sometimes spelled and pronounced Gong Wu, basically means “achievement of man”, since “gong” means peak, climax, and “wu” simply means man. The term perfectly describes what this art is all about: to achieve something with your own effort. As simple as that. To a Chinese, kung fu is broader term including various practices, but when we say Kung Fu we mean only one thing: a specific martial art.
The origins: Since it had so many styles, and China is a large country, there was no consensus what Chinese martial arts really are. In the partially biographic movie “Fearless”, starring Jet Li, we learned about the founder of wushu, Huo Yuanjia, who united scattered Kung Fu schools into a single association. When we say Kung Fu, we might not be aware that we refer to Huo Yuanjia’s wushu.
Popularization: The West hardly knew about Kung Fu until Bruce Lee reached Hollywood. He presented an attractive style, which was his personal style Jeet Kune Do, derived from Kung Fu, but personalized. Then, people started paying attention. Bruce Lee was a star and died young (presumably by poisoning or heart attack), but his legacy lives on. Thanks to him, we all know about Kung Fu and many talented actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li continue to make great Kung Fu movies.
The Five Animal Styles of Kung Fu
Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Dragon. These five animals are built into ancient Chinese tradition and, as symbols, are used in medicine, astrology and many other dimensions of life. They are also used in kung fu, as practitioner of a certain style tends to copy the moves of a certain animal. Today, moves from all styles are combined into many modern schools so it is rare to find a master who knows only one animal style – he usually knows a few, but his own fighting style is a mixture of all of them.
Philosophy of Kung Fu for Beginners
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathankosread/6829305136/The philosophy of kung fu is basically a Taoist philosophy. The forces of yin and yang, the feminine and the masculine, make a whole. They never find eternal balance. It was presumed that nature is like that, and man also. So he always continually strives to find that balance by practicing and discipline, but man never succeeds. He only perfects himself through practice which is the whole point of kung fu!
The Intelligent Art of Kung Fu for Beginners
It is said that kung fu cannot be practiced by stupid people. And that is true. You need to understand the concepts, to understand the moves. You need to be persistent. So kung fu is an art for balanced people who possess persistence and intelligence. People are trying to teach kung fu to children. And while it is a good start, because a child will keep its flexibility and be physically more prepared for later practice, the full potential of kung fu can be achieved only when the child gets older. Kung fu is like wine – it gets better then age. Don’t worry if you are starting kung fu late, maybe in your mid-twenties: you have the advantage of intelligence and experience, which gives you a good head start into the world of this noble discipline!
The Foundation of Kung Fu for Beginners
Most kung fu styles emphasize the importance of legs, and that’s why stances are practiced thoroughly. Masters compare it with house: if a house has a strong foundation, if it is concrete and not sunk into mud, then the structure can be good. If, however, a house has weak foundation, the structure could be as pretty as fairytale but it will collapse and is worth nothing. The teacher of kung fu is called sifu (pronounced she-foo), and any good sifu will work with you on stances and basic moves thoroughly.
Stances, Kicks, Punches of Kung Fu for Beginners
Credit: photo credit: larique via photo pin ccThe most important stance is called mabu, “horse stance”, pronounced maah-boo. Your feet are glued to the ground, set by 90 degrees and thighs form a little more than 90 degrees angle with lower legs – you should stay at this position at least for 3 minutes, being unable to be knocked over by a push. This stance is inefficient in a fight, so there are other stances, similar to every style and can be found in other martial arts also. There are punches similar to classic boxing punches, but you will be able also to punch with open hand and fingers (that comes later), elbow and knee strikes are also available to learn. This of course depends on your teacher and on your effort to learn basic things first.
Today's Kung Fu for Beginners
The artistic dimension of kung fu is mostly emphasized, arranged fights and attractive forms are used for demonstration. There are shows which feature kung fu practitioners, seminars during which they show to other what their club has to offer, and it is usually done in a friendly atmosphere. Due to its attractiveness, this martial art is used in many movies, especially newer ones – you will be surprised how much! The real kung fu is seemingly gone from the face of the earth, but there are clubs that teach traditional styles, some teach sports kung fu which is called Sanda, and was part of the Olympic Games until mid-1970’s when people got injured and killed in a ring. Not on purpose of course, it is simply a dangerous art. Some schools teach lightning-fast and intelligent defense techniques, while other engage into Wing Chun, a simplified and grossly popular but not less effective style that puts all effort into developing hand movement.
The Myth and Legend of Kung Fu for Beginners
Of all martial arts, kung fu and ninjutsu seem to be veiled in mystery the most. There are rumors that somewhere there is a kung fu master who can kill with a touch of a finger, who can take out a hundred men on his own, and while those rumors seem unlikely they are not impossible. If someone had studied both kung fu and acupuncture, took it to perfection, then he might be able to kill with a finger, but those things don’t happen because to reach to that level, a practitioner has to deserve it with his moral qualities also. Kung fu is rarely a sellout, as most modern sports and martial arts tend to be. But, it is always presumed that there is “something” mysterious in this art – and there is. But we have to discover it for ourselves and our efforts, it cannot be given to us!
Kung Fu's Most Notable Locations
Credit: photo credit: larique via photo pin ccThe most notable places that are linked to kung fu practice surely are Shaolin – a Buddhist kung fu monastery, and WuDang – a Taoist monastery that focuses on “soft” styles of kung fu. Soft styles are those that emphasize our inner discipline, and the other name for them is “inner styles”. Tai Chi is one example, and it is practiced all over the world primarily as a therapy practice and meditation, but there is much more in it than that, since it is also a form of kung fu, it also demands our effort and our strivings toward perfection. Those who remain in kung fu long enough shall discover its true richness and true richness of their inner selves. Just like in the movies, but not as theatrical as that, though.