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Everything You Need to Know to Become a Chinese Kung-fu Expert

Jul. 28, 2017

Chinese General Kung-fu

1. The History of Kung-fu
In Chinese, the term 功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu refers to any skill that is acquired through learning or practice. It is a compound word composed of the words 功 (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and 夫 () which is a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings. “Kung-fu,” the way people say this word in the West, is an Anglicized version of this Chinese word 功夫 (gōngfū).

功夫 (gōng fū) Kung-fu is an ancient Chinese martial art of hand-to-hand combat. The martial art was developed to be a defense against an opponent who used any one-to-one, hand-to-hand fighting methods. This was common in ancient China in the context of military combat, when soldiers would often lose their weapons.

功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu can also be used in attack, meaning that, having repelled his opponent’s attack, the defender may then go on the offensive, delivering his own thrusts, blows, kicks, and pressure grips – as necessary – in order to overpower his attacker.

2. Kung-fu for The Masses
Even though this martial art originated for military purposes, 功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu has become popular and used by all kinds of people for self-defense and as a mental, spiritual and physical health exercise.

We always see Kung-fu as violent in the movies, but it can also be used as a yoga-like practice, and become meditative, like the discipline of 气功 (qìgōng) Qigong. Meditation of qi, or “life force,” is a large part of 功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu.

3. Types of Chinese Kung-fu
Chinese 功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu is usually divided into two main families: 拳法 (quánfǎ) boxing and weapons 武器类 (wǔqì lèi).

The Boxing family has 3 branches which are still very famous in the world:
少林拳 (Shǎolín quán) Shaolin-temple Boxing.

峨眉拳 (É’méi quán) Emei-mountain Boxing.

太极拳 (Tàijí quán) Shadow boxing.

The weapons 武器类 (wǔqì lèi) family mainly includes:
剑 (jiàn): n. sword; saber.

刀 (dāo): n. knife; sword.

枪 (qiāng): n. spear.

棍 (gùn): n. stick; wand.

4. Are You a Kung-fu Fan?
功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu has become more popular with the help of Hollywood. Do you recognize these Kung-fu movie stars?

成龙 (Chéng Lóng) Jackie Chan

We’ve all heard of Jackie Chan, as he has been acting since the 1960s and has appeared in over 150 films. He is a Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman, and yes, even a singer. His movies feature a very attractive, acrobatic fighting style, and combined with his comedic timing and improvised weapons, he is an incredible performer. His training has been in 功夫 (gōngfū) Kung-fu and Hapkido. In his movies, he is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts, which he typically performs himself.

李连杰 (Lǐ Liánjié) Jet Li

Jet Li is known for his acting career as a martial artist and as a skilled Wushu champion. He won five gold medals in the Chinese championships. Because of Jet Li’s professional martial arts expertise, he became a hot actor for action films and thriller films. His performance in the Chinese films such as “The Shaolin Temple Series” and “Fist of Legend” were wonderful. You can take a look if you are interested in Chinese Kongfu.

李小龙 (Lǐ Xiǎolóng) Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was born Lee Jun-fan Chinese: 李振藩 (Lǐ Zhènfān) in Hong Kong. He has become one of the most influential martial artists of all time and a pop icon of the 21st century. Western culture has embraced him and he is viewed as helping to change the way the East is perceived by Western cinema and culture.


1. Which of the following is not a Chinese weapon?

A. 剑 (jiàn)

B. 笔 ()

C. 刀 (dāo)

D. 枪 (qiāng)

See Answer

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —
Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.”

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