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Kung Fu / Gung Fu, Popular Chinese Martial Art

Updated on January 31, 2011

When used in martial arts, kung fu means "inner power," but in Western culture, it has been a generic term for Chinese martial arts from the internal disciplines of taijiquan (tai chi ch’uan), baguazhang (pa kua ch’uan), and xingyiquan (hsing i ch’uan) to the external arts of Northern and Southern Shaolin.

Outside China, the label kung fu sometimes denotes only forms of martial arts that emphasize striking over grappling techniques, such as Shaolin Temple arts. Some experts suggest that the term comes as a cautionary advice to practice diligently and, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, referred to wugong, or fighting skill.

Kung fu, aslo gung fu or gongfu, is a Cantonese term that in general usage mean either "hard work," or "skill" depending on context and applied connotations.

Ladies practicing Kung Fu in Beijing
Ladies practicing Kung Fu in Beijing

How Kung Fu became popular

The phrase kung fu has been popularized by Hong Kong movie star Bruce Lee and a 1970s TV show, Kung Fu, starring David Carradine. In fact, kung fu appeared 3 years before Lee’s initial appearance on U.S. TV in 1966, as a generic term for Chinese martial arts.

Another phrase, used as a substitute for kung fu, is Chinese boxing that derives from a translation of the Chinese term quanfa (ch’uan’ fa), or "way of the fist," referring to fighting with bare hands.

Although the Mandarin term wushu, or war art, was adopted to denote the national fighting arts of China by the National People's Party in the 1950s, kung fu hasn't lost its popularity and is still used in Hong Kong and other areas outside mainland China, as well as in the international media and global popular culture.

Wing Tsun Kung Fu Demonstration Video


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      Budi 4 years ago

      Now if it was like some of the festivals in Spain... they bring in tkucrs filled with peas, which the drunken young Pea Enthusiasts then proceed to throw at each other.Well, I'd all for that.The modern frozen baby peas are pretty popular in our house. Our kids will pour them cold into a bowl and snack on them.And a "Pie Floater" is popular here. A meat pie swimming in mushy canned peas. All your meat and vegetables in a convenient pre-chewed form.