Kung Fu: Its Real Meaning

December 5, 2003
Originally published in Kung Fu Fundamentals

Kung Fu is made up of two characters: the first, kung, can mean skillful work, hard training, or endeavor. The second, fu, means time spent. The two together mean time spent at skillful work or hard training. In no way does this term express Chinese martial arts, but because training in Chinese martial arts requires a lot of time and hard training, the term somehow began to be used to describe martial arts.

Wu Shu is probably the most correct term to associate with Chinese martial arts. Wu means war. Shu means art. So, wu shu means war art, or the art of war. This is appropriate since the study of traditional Chinese martial arts involves not only the skillful use of kicking and striking, but wrestling, grappling, weapons training, and strategy in combat.

In mainland China, the term wu shu is now used to categorize all aspects of Chinese martial arts and wu shu is China's national sport. However, modern wu shu, as it is now being taught in China, has lost many of its original functions and martial applications, and it has become more of a sport and less of a martial art.

Many other terms exist that are often used to describe Chinese martial arts: Quan Fa, Chang Guo Quan, Quan Shu, Guo Shu, etc.

Today, Kung Fu is practiced all over the world by many people from many cultures. It is evident, with the current growth of Kung Fu and the efforts that are being made to promote it by the mainland government, Chinese martial arts will, within the next ten years, rise in popularity above the other Asian martial arts.