“How’s karate?”, I am sometimes asked. Or, by analogy, another martial art / sport. I’ve noticed that some of my classmates get annoyed by these confusions, but I’m not that interested in them. It is not so important to me that those around me remember the term correctly, because actually the questioners mean the right thing. For those who want to know a little more, I will try to explain the terms.
The term ‘Kung Fu’ means ‘hard work’ and is usually used in the context of martial arts. However, Kung Fu is a very broad field. Various styles have developed in this very old art. Among other things, we distinguish between northern and southern styles. Both are then divided into many sub-styles.
Modern Wushu is often thrown into the pot, but it has little to do with traditional Kung Fu.
The term ‘Wushu’ means nothing other than martial arts. It is therefore not wrong to group martial arts under this term. Modern Wushu, however, is a branch of its own. Throughout history, kung fu has been used not least to resist injustice. Accordingly, practitioners were persecuted for many years. Under Mao, the Chinese government changed its strategy. He organised tournaments to find the greatest masters. (Chiu Kau, father and teacher of Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling, won in 1957.) Along the way, he began to unite and defuse the arts in a sports club. The focus was (and still is) on aesthetics and acrobatics, not on efficiency. Philosophical aspects were thus also pushed into the background.
Kuoshu means ‘national art’. This is the term used today to describe traditional kung fu. The World Kuoshu Federation is the umbrella organisation of the national associations of traditional kung fu.
Hung Gar or Hung Kuen is the style of Kung Fu I learn. Other styles include Wing Chun or Tai Chi, to name two familiar ones. (Yes, Tai Chi is Kung Fu.) Hung Gar is also called Tiger Crane Kung Fu. The style looks back on a long tradition, which began in the southern Shaolin monastery.
Everything can be Kung Fu
But the concept does not end with fighting. Handicrafts or poetry (just as examples) can also be Kung Fu, if they have been worked hard and with passion.