Terms and definition

kung fu term An important spect of Chinese culture, and one that its roots in the prehistoric past, is the development of classical systems of sparring and grappling.
The diversity of these systems is astonishing.
Frequently, however, there is considerate confusion about their nature because of the great variety of terms that are used to identify and to describe them;
different Chinese dialects us different terms to describe similar systems. Another reason for the confusion is the fact that some of these systems are intended to be used only for combat, others primarily for the promotion of health, and still others largely for theatrical performances. It is helpful, therefore, to begin any serious study of Chinese hand-to-hand systems with a short survey of Chinese martial terminology. Wu-kung is a Mandarin expression that denotes any and all types of martial endeavor performed in a skillful and dedicated manner.
This term refers to the effective use of force in martial matters; it is less applicable to effort used for the promotion of health or those made in theatrical performance.
Wu-kung thus encompasses the techniques and tactics of the fighting arts, as well as the martial ardor of the exponents who engage in them.

Wu-shu, another Mandarin expression, literally means « martial art » or « martial arts ».
This term is used to describe all Chinese fighting arts collectivity, including both weapon and weaponless systems, but it does no refer specifically to the martial ardor of the people engaged in them.
Wu-shu thus has a more general meaning than wu-kung. Two other Mandarin expressions are popular among the adepts of Chinese hand-to-hand systems.
These are Ch'uan-shu and Ch'uan-fa, both of which imply « artful use of the fist or fists ».
These two terms are best used to describe unarmed tactics.Originally these terms were intended to refer fighting art, but in more modern times ch'uan-shu and ch'uan-fa have come signify all manner of sparring, both Chinese and non Chinese, and thus include system used for combat, sport, the promotion meaning « Chinese fist-art », is more specific.

Another Mandarin expression, kuo-shu, which means « national art », is also used to denote all Chinese methods of hand-to-hand tactics, no matter what their purpose. Another term that describes Chines hand-to-hand systems is the word Kun-tao. This word belongs to the Hokkien dialect.
It is a generic term that, like wu-shu, encompasses the study and practice of both empty-hand and weapon tactics, but expresses little of the martial spirit behind them. The ideogram for Kun (also spelled koon) means “fist”, and that for tao (also spelled tow or tau) means “head”; thus kun-tao means “the head of the fist”. The definition, however, does not indicate the broad scope of Kun-tao methods. Furthermore, it is not accurate to use the term to describe only empty-hand methods of fighting, since a substantial portion of kun-tao techniques makes use parts of the body other than the fist; nevertheless, the term is a popular one, being in common use among the hundreds of million of Chinese and Malay people in Southeast Asia. In fact, in Southern-east Asia the expression kun-tao is more commonly used than wu-shu, ch'uan-shu, or ch'uan-fa, which are terms preferred by the people of Northern China.
Today the Cantonese expression Kung-fu is much in use.
But Kung-fu refers only to the effort a person makes when he devotes himself seriously to some task.
Whether or not the effort produces physical action is immaterial, so long as that effort is a dedicated one made in a serious frame of mind. A certain degree of skill is also inherent in the meaning of kung-fu.
Thus, a person who paints his house, tends his garden, or does other domestic chores, or who applies himself assiduously to his trade or profession, is said to exhibit kung-fu. Kung-fu also connotes a creative spirit, as in the kind of effort made by an artist who sketches or paints, or by an artisan who molds ceramics or works with mental; wood, or other materials and produces skilled work of any kind; kung-fu is definitely not a system of self-defense, nor any fighting art per se.
It is not even proper to use the term kung-fu to describe the strenuous effort that must be made in training in or applying a fighting art; in the case, only he expression wu-kung is appropriate.
But when an effort is made not specifically in connection with fighting arts, then it is proper to describe that effort as an example of kung-fu.
For this reason the expression kung-fu may be correctly applied in connection with training in Chinese hand-t-hand systems whose purpose in sport, the promotion of health, or theatrical performance.


By master Tjoa Khek Kiong in Djakarta and Donn Draeger(Shantung Black tiger book).Possiblity buy book Black tiger secondhand. Contact website sifumag.