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Kung fu/Kungfu or Gung fu/Gongfu is a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete, often used in the West to refer to Chinese martial arts, also known as Wushu. It is only in the late twentieth century, that this term was used in relation to Chinese Martial Arts by the Chinese community. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term "Kung-fu" as "a primarily unarmed Chinese martial art resembling karate." This illustrates how the meaning of this term has been changed in English. The origin of this change can be attributed to the misunderstanding or mistranslation of the term through movie subtitles or dubbing.

In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial arts. The Chinese literal equivalent of "Chinese martial art" would be 中國武術 zhōngguó wǔshù.

In Chinese, Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining (gōng) meaning "work", "achievement", or "merit", and (fū) which is alternately treated as being a word for "man" or as a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings (the same character is used to write both). A literal rendering of the first interpretation would be "achievement of man", while the second is often described as "work and time/effort". Its connotation is that of an accomplishment arrived at by great effort of time and energy. In Mandarin, when two "first tone" words such as gōng and are combined, the second word often takes a neutral tone, in this case forming gōngfu. The word is also sometimes written as 工夫, this version often being used for more general, non-martial arts usages of the term.

Originally, to practice kung fu did not just mean to practice Chinese martial arts. Instead, it referred to the process of one's training - the strengthening of the body and the mind, the learning and the perfection of one's skills - rather than to what was being trained. It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. This meaning can be traced to classical writings, especially those of Neo-Confucianism, which emphasize the importance of effort in education.

In the colloquial, one can say that a person's kung fu is good in cooking, or that someone has kung fu in calligraphy; saying that a person possesses kung fu in an area implies skill in that area, which they have worked hard to develop. Someone with "bad kung fu" simply has not put enough time and effort into training, or seems to lack the motivation to do so. Kung fu is also a name used for the elaborate Fujian tea ceremony (kung fu cha).

However, the phrase 功夫武術 (kung fu wu shu) does exist in Chinese and could be (loosely) translated as 'the skills of the martial arts'.

Twelve Forms of Wushu martial ArtsEdit

Waves, Mountain Peak, Monkey, Magpie, Chicken, Pine Tree, Wheel, Bow, Leaf, Iron, Hawk, Wind.

The Twelve Forms Refers to:

  • Movement
  • Stillness
  • Getting up
  • Falling down
  • Standing up
  • Strength
  • Turning
  • Bending
  • Lightness
  • Weight
  • Slowness
  • Quickness

The twelve forms are usually remembered in the following poem:

Moving like wavesEdit

-          refers to the fact that one should know how to flow like water in the midst of battle.

Still as a mountain peakEdit

-          refers to being immovable in a fight, unwavering in body and mind

Getting up like a monkeyEdit

-          refers to how one should move quickly to higher places

Falling down like a magpieEdit

-          refers to how you should descend upon your opponent

Rise up like a roosterEdit

-          refers to how you should be able to bounce back from a fall quickly

Stand straight like a pine treeEdit

-          Standing straight will give you balance and prevent you from falling and add to power.

Turn like a wheelEdit

-          refers to how you should always be in motion like a wheel

Bending and curvingEdit

-          be flexible

Light as a leafEdit

-          be able to move at a moments notice

Heavy as metalEdit

-          be able to plant youself to the earth at a moments notice

Slow as the falconEdit

-          be patient in deciding your actions, decide them wisely

Quick like the windEdit

-          move with great speed

KataEdit

Moving like waves and still as a mountain peak. Getting up like a monkey and falling down like a magpie. Rise up like a rooster and stand straight like a pine tree. Turn like a wheel while bending and curving. Light as a leaf while being heavy as metal. Be slow as the falcon but quick like the wind. The whole essence of martial arts is resumed in those twelve characters. It’s by having these concrete examples in mind that you must train yourself to perfect your postures and movements along with your rhythm speed and power.

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