What Is Chinese Kung Fu    (and Hopefully – what it Isn’t)

Chinese Kung Fu is the general term used to identify Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. Kung Fu simply means “difficult effort” or “hard work”. One of the things that makes Chinese Martial Arts truly unique is the holistic approach to physical conflict. The Japanese & Korean martial arts are subdivided into specific art systems. That is, thumb in Judo/Ju Jitsu, ask throwing techniques are almost exclusively used. In an extremely high percentage of Karate systems, information pills very hard strikes & very hard blocks are the only techniques used. Two or three kicks in total, & only to below- the-waist targets. Tae Kwon Do, the national sport of Korea, has the same approach to combat, but with an emphasis on the feet, & kicking above the waist. Arts from these countries place the main emphasis on power. Pure speed, & pure power. There are a few arts from Korea & Japan that incorporate portions of other martial aspects within the same framework, but they are both uncommon, & still, to a certain degree, lacking. Martial arts from Japan & Korea simply do not have the 5000 years of tried & true technical study that kung fu has to offer.

Most Korean & Japanese Bu Do (martial+ways) have a very limited repertoire despite all of the homogenization that has gone on during the last 50 years with the advent of kung fu on the national scene. All Chinese kung fu is comprised of entire systems of Chin Na, Shuai-Jiao, Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, etc.) that are truly only sub-systems to the actual specific martial art being taught. In the greater realm of kung fu, there are both hard & soft styles, the difference between which should not be confused with the idea of Internal vs. External kung fu styles. Each style has it’s own blend of hard & soft, multifarious weapons skills, throwing/grappling/wrestling arts, pressure point strikes, etc. There has never been a kung fu system that excludes any of these, even the more streamlined & economic styles such as San Soo or Wing Chun. (Emin Botzepe-Behind Ya All The Way.)

Chinese Kung Fu, Hard & Soft
   Chinese martial arts consist of thousands of styles, both hard and soft. Shaolin is by no means limited to being a “hard” style. In the Black Mountain Spirit system of kung fu, the curriculum encompasses styles that are commonly categorized as both hard & soft. So the common bias that most Taiji & Bagua stylists hold against Shaolin practitioners – & vice versa – for the sake of seeming somehow superior doesn’t exist here. The common contention is that Internal stylists are the only people that use Ch’i. All styles of kung fu develop & utilize Ch’i for their own purpose, as varied as they are.
     By the same token, stylists from Japan & Korea are the first to point out that Shaolin kung fu is too “soft”. In the cases where Shaolin looks pathetically soft (Inconceivable yet sadly, they exist), it’s easy to see where instructors were not properly trained as students. Their own instructors obviously passed on poor training habits, & obviously could not pass on the true nature of the techniques & routines being taught. There is a vast amount of information that surrounds a Chinese kung fu system, & if the quality of teaching drops just one single percent, then in 100 generations there is nothing left but mimickery & charlatan arts.

      In another even yet more deplorable category are those ‘Kung Fu Instructors/Schools’ that are a thrown together hodge-podge of decent-to-good fighting techniques borrowed from other sources for the sake of self-agrandizement. For Traditionalists, these situations are easily identified simply by the lack of cohesion in the choreography of the system & lack of coherency in the advancement of a students’ learning from Beginner to Advanced Practitioner. Not to mention the lack of a philosophical & methodological content maintaining congruency throughout the system. But prospective students trying to develop themselves cannot be held accountable for falling for the antics of pretenders that are really good at marketing & promotion. The moment you hear about ‘Masters’ capable of giving 3rd degree burns with one hand & poisoning you with the other, jumping off of buildings, or routines/forms that are so ‘Sacred’ & ‘Ancient’ that only a select few people are Worthy of learning – & the best way for you to show your worthiness is through HUGE monetary COMMITMENTS (like – In Writing-!) remember to make no sudden moves, ask about a trophy or something in the window & as soon as you’re close enough Run Out Of The Door! True instructors, despite all of the quirky behavior that each human being has, are usually not pompous & loudly out-spoken. They never seem to get around to starting a chain of martial arts ‘studios’ & teaching aerobics’ classes.
      The legendary exploits held to be true of Chinese kung fu practitioners come from the years of serious, intensive practice that are required for one to attain the skills which have become the mythos of the kung fu practitioner. So for both ourselves & others the task becomes one of self-tutelage first. Learning what you are truly looking for, & looking until you find & settle for only that. From standing, singly against impossible numbers, fighting unarmed against opponents with sword & shield, spear & halberd, the stories of one against the many for the cause of right are innumerable. This is the catalyst for Black Mountain Spirit practitioners.

All too many schools only teach acrobatics, physically athletic movements that are pretty to look at, but have no other developmental functions. This is not the legacy of true kung fu. Most styles of martial arts, especially the Japanese & Korean styles during this last century, have incorporated movements from traditional systems so that they may attract a larger clientele. But there is no further development of the mental or spiritual aspects of being.