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Art, Philosophy and Fight of Chinese Kung Fu

Popularity 1Viewed 3132 times 2016-5-8 01:11 |Personal category:ideas|System category:Life| Chinese, kung

Chinese kung fu (功夫) or Wushu (武术) usually refers to the hundreds of fighting styles which have been developed since early ancient China. In English, kung fu and wushu are often translated as martial arts, meaning military and art. Indeed, Chinese kung fu is indeed a form of art. At least, from the Chinese character “武” one can figure out the art.
中国功夫或中国武术通常指的是自中国古代以来发展起来的数百种搏击方式。在英语里功夫和武术被翻译成“martial arts”,其意与军事和艺术相关。事实上,中国功夫的确是一门艺术。至少,光看“武”这个汉字,你就能发现其艺术所在。


Art 艺术

“武” consists of two parts, one being “止 (stop)” and the other being “戈 (weapon, battle or war)”. The combined meaning of the two Chinese characters is stopping the battle or war; which means by practicing this form of art, we can get peace through fighting. 
“武”由两部分构成,一部分是“止”,另一部分是“戈”(从篆字里可以更明显的看出来)。这两个中国汉字合在一起就是停止战事,止刀兵的意思;也就是说,通过练习这门艺术,我们可以在使用搏击方式的情况下获得和平。

Kung fu now consists of hundreds of styles and has a great many sects, which all have their unique and meaningful names, such as Shaolin Kung Fu, Yuejiaquan (岳家拳: created by Yue Fei [岳飞], a patriot of the Song Dynasty [960A.D. -- 1279A.D.]), Taiji, Taizuchangquan (太祖长拳: considered to be created by the first emperor of the Song Dynasty), Praying Mantis Fight, Snake Fight, Monkey Fight, Crane Fight and so on. 
如今中国武术已发展到了几百种,也有许多门派,它们都有各自独特而饱含深意的名字,比如少林功夫、岳家拳、太极拳、太祖长拳、螳螂拳、蛇拳、鹤拳等。

All these martial arts have their own special fighting forms, some slow, some quick, some graceful, and some seemingly awkward. Taij or Shadow Boxing, one of the most prominent representatives, emphasizes slow movements, softness and resilience. People practicing it often say the softness defeats the hardness. Another interesting kung fu style is the Monkey Fight, which seems not be practical in battle or real fight but usually appears in Chinese drama or Monkey King-related art forms such as Peking Opera and TV series (Journey to the West is a typical example). In addition, the jump, the punch, the kick..., all have their unique styles and gracefulness. 
所有这些武术形式都有它们自己独特的搏击方式,有的慢,有的快,有的优雅,有的貌似拙略。太极拳是其中非常突出的代表,强调慢动作,柔软性和柔韧性。所以,太极拳最大的优点就是以柔克刚。另一种有趣的武术形式就是猴拳。这种拳法似乎并不适用于战场或实战当中,却经常出现在戏剧里或与猴王孙悟空有关的艺术形式当中,比如京剧和电视剧《西游记》。此外,武术当中的跳、打、踢等动作都有其独特的风格和优美性。

Philosophy 哲学

According to the traditional Chinese martial arts theory, kung fu is not synonymous with fighting, but more than that. Art, discussed in the first few paragraphs, belongs to part of it, and for Chinese kung fu, philosophy also plays an unbeatable role. 
根据传统中国武术的理论,武术不仅仅是打斗,要比打斗高一个层次。如上文所述,艺术属于武术的一部分。对中国武术而言,哲学也是其中不可或缺的一部分。

Decades ago when doing an interview with an American TV host, Bruce Lee said, “Running water never goes still.” speaking on the movements in Chinese Taiji. Also, he expressed that when people practiced martial arts, they tried to learn to express themselves honestly. These two examples just show the importance of enlightenment for a man who wants to practice Chinese martial arts. 
数十年前,当李小龙在美国电视台接受采访时,当说到中国太极拳动作的时候,他这样说:“流动的水是不会停止的。”另外,他还说,大家在练习武术的时候,是在尽力以真诚的方式来表达自己的内心。这两的例子可以说明,修习武术的人应该注重心的修为。

In Chinese kung fu there is one style named Baguazhang (八卦掌: Eight Trigrams Fight), which originated in China’s yin and yang theory, since Bagua or Eight Trigrams is an important product of the yin and yang theory. Shaolin Kung Fu stresses that when meeting hardness, you use softness to fight and vice verse. 
中国武术当中有一种拳法叫八卦掌,其来源就是中国的阴阳学说,因为八卦就是阴阳学说的一种产物。而少林功夫则讲究“逢刚柔化”、“逢柔刚进”这两种搏击技巧。

Fight搏击
The origin of Chinese kung fu can date back to 4,000 years ago when people of that time fought nature to survive including hunting wildlife. Later kung fu was used in battle but military strategies were often seen when different kingdoms, warriors and warlords fought against one another. 
中国武术的起源可以追溯的到4000年前,当时人们在与自然斗争时(包括捕猎)获得了最初的武术形式。后来,武术应用到战争当中,但是诸侯国、军士们以及军阀混战时,军事策略则起到了更大的作用。

In military battles, average soldiers were trained with simple kung fu styles, but some of the excellent generals in Chinese history learned martial arts and even became kung fu masters. One of the most accelerated masters is Yue Fei (岳飞), whose Eagle Claw and Xingyiquan (形意拳) have been widely practiced and spread. According to history, his army always won when fighting against the armies of the Jin Dynasty (1115A.D. -- 1234A.D.). In the Ming Dynasty (1368A.D. - 1644A.D.) Qi Jiguang (戚继光) and his army learned lots of martial arts to fight the Japanese gangsters robbing and killing the residents living along the coastal line of South China. 
在军事战争当中,一般的士兵会修习简单的武术,但是中国历史上的一些优秀的将领们修习过高深的武术,并在后来成为了武术大师。其中最著名的代表就是岳飞将军,他传下来的鹰爪功和形意拳被广泛练习和传播。据历史记载,岳家军在与金人作战的时候一直取胜。在明朝,戚继光手下的戚家军修习了比较深的武术,他们用这些武术来抗击骚扰中国沿海地区居民的倭寇。

However, kung fu is in fact more of a self-defense method rather than a skill for large armies of soldiers to fight in battle. It requires a long period of training of certain skills and movements of the body. It is a complicated and time-consuming way of practice. Large troops cannot do that very well but individuals can. Additionally, practicing kung fu can make you become healthier since it is a kind of sport that helps your body move and all your organs coordinate to work with one another. According to my humble knowledge, a good kung fu master can easily defeat several common people with what he learns. But kung fu movies which show us that one master defeats  dozens of people by himself in one room are nothing but a lie. 
然而,武术更多的是一种自我防卫的方式,而非适用于大规模战争的一种技能。因为修习武术需要很长时间对具体的技能和身体的动作进行训练。这一过程比较复杂,而且消耗时间。 大部队很难把它修习的很好,但是个人就可以。另外,练习武术可以强身健体,因为武术是一种运动,能帮助人体进行活动,可以使身体各个器官协调工作。就我个人所知道的情况而言,一位优秀的武术大师可以容易地使用自己所学的东西打败好几个普通人,但是功夫电影里所展示的一个人在一个房间里打败数十人的场景不过就是一个笑话。

Note: This article I wrote in English and then translated into Chinese is also shared on TourBeijing0 (WeiChat ID). If some of you are willing to read it on your mobile through WeChat, you can visit this WeChat account to read. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report SEARU 2016-5-14 16:21
Thanks for your wonderful writing that has unique Chinese character!
But I disagree with your explaining about the character 武,which lower part 止 should be thought as “your two legs and feet' jsut as the Chinese character 足 shows!---------the 武 in your picture looks like a soldier carring the weapon 戈 who is going to battle ground and we could only see the lower part of his body!  武 may mean "practise exercise‘, ’fighting‘ or "laughing a war“ .  That is an action verb through which we could not judge his purpose:maybe he is fighting for self-defense,or for some evil destination.
Reply Report ampraxu123 2016-5-19 22:44
SEARU: Thanks for your wonderful writing that has unique Chinese character!
But I disagree with your explaining about the character 武,which lower part 止 s ...
Thanks for your smart explanation of your different view. Actually I am not the owner of the explanation of 武, for I found this meaning from Baidu Encyclopedia. I love this explanation and so I showed it here.
I had never though Wu is something that can stop fighting, but that explanation from the encyclopedia sounds reasonable and good. I agree to it.
I appreciate your explanation.

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