We commonly call Chinese martial art’s kung-fu but literally that means hard work for those that doesn’t know. The term kung-fu was made popular during the Bruce Lee era in which the westerners were first exposed to his amazing fighting abilities. The correct terms for Chinese martial arts are either wushu, which means martial art, or koushu, which translates to national or military art. The first written history of Chinese martial arts comes from the reign of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty (1122-255 BC).
Huangdi was a famous military general, before becoming China’s leader and wrote a treaty about martial arts. He is also known to be the founder of china’s oldest known martial art called chang quan (long fist). Chinese martial arts are often separated into two categories one is external and the other is internal. External Chinese martial arts are those that use muscular force, combined with speed and sheer strength to produce power.
External Chinese martial arts are known by their area of origin in china.
For example, famous external northern Chinese martial arts include the preying mantis, chang quan (long fist), monkey (tai shing pekwar), are mostly northern shaolin arts. Southern Chinese martial arts are mainly the southern shaolin temple arts, such as choy li fut, hung gar, wing chun and hung fut. Many northern Chinese external martial arts have military origins, because china was governed from the north, with armies originating in northern cities, then extending in southern regions to enforce the dictates of northern rules.
Southern Chinese martial arts were originally the defense methods of farmers and everyday men. Now then on to Internal martial arts. They use what the Chinese call chou jing, or wise force, to overcome their opponents. They actively combine qu (chi) energy, often considered our basic life-force energy, with muscle strength to produce power. Arts such as taiji quan (tai chi chuan), xingyi (hsing-i), bagua (pa kua) and shuai jiao (Chinese wrestling) are the best known Chinese internal martial arts.
Today’s common internal Chinese martial arts have their origins in northern china and always contain some amount of internal training alongside fighting practice. That internal training often includes standing meditation and special qi (chi) developing exercises. Chinese martial arts are known by their circular arm and hand movements. Northern styles are famous for high, powerful kicks. Many Chinese arts imitate the fighting tactics of fierce or clever animals, such as dragon, tiger, leopard, prying mantis, crane, or monkey.