Introduction to Kung Fu

The origins of Kung Fu (also written as Gung Fu , and today bearing the meaning of a Chinese martial art) are hidden behind many myths of outrageous deeds and impossible folklore. Much of its recorded history has been lost, with only a few fragments surviving.

Its beginnings can be traced back more than three thousand years in China, when personal combat first developed into a science. But it is only during the Han Dynasty (around 200 CE) that records of empty-hand and empty-hand against weapon combat techniques and strategies are printed in a chapter of Han Shu I Chih. The earliest records of martial arts schools date back to the era of the Six Dynasties (264-581 CE). The next major chapter in the history of Chinese martial arts is traced back to contributions from Ch'an Buddhism, and the foundation of the infamous Shaolin Temple.

Shaolin is the name of a Temple on Mt. Songshan at Dengfeng in Henan Province. This temple was originally built for the Indian Buddhist monk Ba Tuo by Emperor Wen Di of the Liu Song period in 495. Later, in 527, it became highly significant with the arrival of the Indian monk Bodhidharma (Ta-Mo in Chinese). Ta-Mo, the twenty-eight Buddhist patriarch, noticed upon his arrival that many monks displayed symptoms of improper nutritio nand lack of exercise, and thus could not concentrate properly during meditation. Ta-Mo reasoned that a healthy body lead to a healthy mind and ultimately to the full development of Qi, or one's vital energy.

It is believed that TaMo retreated to meditate upon this problem. In a cave on Wu Ru peak behind the temple, he stayed in intense meditation for nine straight years. This meditation lead to the conception of Ch'an Buddhism and of the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu. His initial contribution consisted of two forms of qigong (breathing and energy development) and one fighting form: yijinjing (the muscle tendon change classic), xisuijing (the marrow washing) and Lohan shi bas hou (18 hand methods of the Lohan). Accordingly, Shaolin kungfu therefore encompasses both internal and external methods of development.

While many fighting styles had existed for centuries, Ta-Mo's contribution at Shaolin Temple is considered by many to be the birth of the first truly systemized martial art. His profound contributions would eventually elevate combat skills to be much more than simple fighting techniques. Kung Fu became a vehicle for spiritual transformation.

As Shaolin's reputation grew, martial artists would travel great distances to this temple to become monks. Each would bring his unique martial skills with him. Additionally, generals and other warriors would retire to the temple as monks, and brought their styles and expertise with them. The Shaolin system thus became a dynamic system that was always evolving.

Over the last 1500 years, Shaolin Temple has been burned down 3 times. Each time it was rebuilt. Each time, the surviving monks would escape the destruction and teach their Shaolin kung fu to others. Consequently, pieces of the art of Shaolin were widely spread. Many Chinese Kung Fu styles, and many non?Chinese fighting styles alike, now trace their roots to this temple.

The Meaning of Kung Fu

The words Kung Fu do not translate to mean martial art. Instead, they speak of skill developed through much time and effort. Thus, one who has devoted many hears towards learning, executing and refining a trade or skill (such as cooking or knife making), can be said to be practicing Kung Fu. The proper term for Martial Art in Chinese is Wu Shu (fighting art). However, in most of the world today, Kung Fu is used as a generic term for Chinese Martial Arts or exercises.

Styles taught at Wing Lam Kung Fu

Following are the descriptions of the various martial styles taught at the Wing Lam Kung Fu School.

Hung Gar - With a focus on deep stance training and iron hard strikes and blocks, the Hung style was well suited for fighting on boats and wet ground. Today, its techniques are still suprisingly appropriate and effective.

Northern Shaolin - Long range technique and flowing, circular movements characterize this style from the temple. Devastating kicks complement the powerful strikes and efficient blocks.

Taijiquan - Also spelled Tai Chi Chuan, this internal style focuses on energy development and "soft" power. The strikes have been likened to "iron wrapped in cotton". Two styles are taught at Wing Lam Kung Fu: Yang Style and Sun Style Taijiquan

Xing Yi - Succinct and economical, practitioners focus the entire body and mind in this internal style. Linear movement unites with a Yang exterior and a Yin interior.

Bagua - Energy focused like a wire mesh ball, the bagua form is smooth, circular and coordinated. With movement imitating the Taoist Bagua symbol of the I-Ching (Book of), a pratitioner able to rapidly change directions to evade the opponent while using the hands to distract the opponent from devastating kicks and throws.

Lion Dance - The Wing Lam Kung Fu Lion Dance Team performs traditional Southern style Lion Dance for Weddings, Banquets, Store Openings, and of course, Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations. For information on booking a liondance for your event, please contact Lynn Lam at (408) 244-2831.