Fundamental differences between Karate and Kung Fu

Ivan

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Hey guys, I am writing a dissertation on Chinese influences on the origins of Karate in Okinawa.
I have began comparing Kung Fu to Karate and come to the conclusion that due to the large amount of substyles in each martial art, I can't compare techniques. Instead, I must compare movements, training methods and philosophies.

Therefore, if you guys could give me some history lessons on traditional kung fu and karat philosophy, training methods etccc... If you guys could provide sources on any information you share, though it's fine if you can't, that'd be awesome!

Here is my 'dissertation' so far:
EPQ
 

Flying Crane

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Honestly, I dont think you can make any easy, broad comparisons in this way. At best you could compare two specific systems but even that can vary tremendously from one specific school to another. But trying to broad-stroke these two categories of systems just wont work.

The comparison is more cultural between China, Japan, and Okinawa, and even that will be messy because because there are smaller cultural groups within China, and I suspect perhaps Japan and Okinawa as well.

Sorry I dont think I can help much here.

I can describe my school: there are a handful of us who train in Sifus back yard. We all work on our stuff, which can be different from what the next guy is working on. Sifu makes corrections as he sees fit, and then pulls us together to talk about application. Sometimes we will work with partners, but often everyone is doing their own thing. Overall, there is a very casual air to our training sessions.

Ive seen other Kung fu schools that are more militant, lots of student lined up in rows practicing their fundamentals in unison.

I have seen descriptions of Okinawan schools that might be similar to what I describe in my school.

Ive seen descriptions of Japanese Karate schools that are very militant and rigid.

But I would never expect these descriptions to be accurate in every case.
 

Xue Sheng

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First, there are no "Sub-Styles" of Kung Fu. Kung Fu is a label that all Chinese martial arts are grouped under. Albeit mistaken labelled Kung Fu. In China it is Wushu. Kung Fu means hard work. There was an error in the translation somewhere along the way and it then became Kung Fu.

There are "Styles" of Kung Fu (proper name from a Chinese perspective is Wushu) within the styles there are sub-styles. Xingyiquan is a style but in that you find Shanxi, Hebei, and Hunan styles of Xingyiquan.

Here is a partial list of what you are actually talking about when you say, Kung Fu

List of Chinese martial arts - Wikipedia

If you are comparing Kung Fu to karate you are better off picking one of the kung fu styles to compare it to, example Changquan as compared to or some other Chinese martial arts style.
 

Flying Crane

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I quickly read your writing and a couple things stand out to me immediately: in a couple places to refer to Patrick McCarthy as Paul McCarthy. Better get that corrected.

You mention the fluid, dance-like aspects and tricking gymnastics of kung fu. Historically this was far less prevalent. The traditional Kung fu methods certainly pushed the envelope of physical education in the practitioner, as it is an effective form of exercise and fitness which are useful in self defense and combat, in addition to the body of directly applicable techniques and strategies and training methodologies. But the traditional methods are rooted in practical and useful combative methods, which gymnastics and tricking are not. Sometimes people like to talk about the flowery techniques of Kung fu as well, with which I also take issue. I can only speak to my own experience, which includes Tibetan White Crane, Wing Chun, Shaolin Long Fist, Taiji (Chen, Yang, and Sun families), and a touch of Hung Ga. What I can say from my experience is that there are no useless, deliberately flowery techniques that are meant only for show and performance or dance. It is all designed to be useful, as long as you understand the foundation upon which it is built.

Now getting back to the gymnastics bit. In the 1950s, the Communist Chinese government created a new cultural art form called Modern Wushu. Wushu is the proper term meaning fighting art. Kung fu actually means to have good skill derived from hard work. The skill can be in any topic, including but not limited to fighting skill. The term was mis-translated and subsequently adopted in the West in reference to the fighting methods of China. But the proper term is Wushu, which we can distinguish between Traditional Wushu as the older fighting methods, and Modern Wushu of the Chinese government. At any rate, Modern Wushu was based on the older traditional fighting methods, but was intended to be a cultural performance and competition art form. It specifically was no longer intended to be a viable fighting method and the techniques and routines were changed to emphasize their performance value and crowd-pleasing qualities. Modern Wushu continues to be popular, and much of what you would find in China today, if it is a big school with good facilities, is Modern Wushu and receives official government support. Furthermore, what the traveling Shaolin Monks do in their performances is also Modern Wushu. They are not demonstrating viable traditional combat methods.

Modern Wushu competitors train very hard. It is a very demanding discipline and they are tremendous athletes. But the method they practice is meant for performance, and is not a traditional combat method, although the art is inspired by the traditional combat methods. This is where you see the gymnastics and flowery postures.

I hope this helps.
 

Xue Sheng

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Also note that there was a lot of contact between China and Japan in the 6th century (501 - 600) in the form of Buddhism. Buddhism came from China to Japan in the 6th century, as did language.
 
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Ivan

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This has been very helpful. Thanks, I will make amendments to my writing.
 

geezer

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This has been very helpful. Thanks, I will make amendments to my writing.

As a practitioner of a Chinese martial art, I would echo points already made by Xue and Crane above. I believe you would do best to focus on comparing a particular branch or system of Chinese martial art with Okinawan Karate.

I might suggest Fukien White Crane specifically, since this system (or group of systems) is often cited as being an ancestor of Okinawan Te, even to the extent that they have forms with the same name, such as Saam Chien/ Sanchin. It would be interesting to look at their historical links, as well as to compare and contrast their divergent development over time. Also, there is quite a bit of material available on this, ranging from books and articles to videos on Youtube. Good Luck :)
 

Buka

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A lot of us here have gi pants that are way older than Ivan. Our outlook, opinion and information base is going to be different than that of a young man.

I was lucky enough to write two terms worth of papers, usually one a week, for an English class. I was nineteen. I wrote them on Martial Arts. I'd probably be a little shocked, or at least amused, if I could read them now.

To Ivan - just write it. Tell them what you know and show your love for what your writing.

That and good punctuation will get you a better mark than just facts.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Saam Chien/ Sanchin.
Agree! I have helped a Uechi-Ryu instructor to translate a white crane book many years ago. There are a lot of similarity there. That Uechi-Ryu instructor and I even did the same "3 stars (hit arm against arm)" training.

I will be interested in the "similarity (not the difference)" between Karate and Kung Fu.



 
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JowGaWolf

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Patrick McCarthy as Paul McCarthy. Better get that corrected.
Just maybe.. lol

3805553-4388201815-12806.jpg



balancing.jpg
 

JowGaWolf

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Agree! I have helped a Uechi-Ryu instructor to translate a white crane book many years ago. There are a lot of similarity there. That Uechi-Ryu instructor and I even did the same "3 stars (hit arm against arm)" training.

I will be interested in the "similarity (not the difference)" between Karate and Kung Fu.



Some of that looks familiar to me. This is one of the reason why I like discussing techniques. You can see some similarities and in my case sometimes it the similarities that help me to better understand what I train.
 

_Simon_

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The primary and main difference is that karate practitioners wear a gi.

And that Kung fu practitioners SHOULD wear a gi!
 

JowGaWolf

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Can people tell which MA style those guys are doing? Kung Fu, Karate, TKD, MT, or ?

Hurts my eyes and my ears lol. I saw a little bit of everything but nothing that would identify as a specific Kung Fu style. The only reason I say Kung Fu is because Kung Fu practitioners are always on the extreme ends for uniforms. Either fancy PJ's or t-shirts lol
 
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When you dislike the Chinese so much, you change the meaning of one of your words. :p


i do personally find that slightly amusing.
 

Buka

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Can people tell which MA style those guys are doing? Kung Fu, Karate, TKD, MT, or ?


Kind of looks like some Pa-Kua guys who used to throw me around back in the day. But my view was different then. I was always looking up at them from the floor.
 

punisher73

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I agree with the above statements in regards to a broad brush approach between kung fu and karate.

Okinawa had its own martial arts, which they called "te", meaning hand. Due to trade with China and some Okinawans going there and other Chinese going to Okinawa, information was exchanged and the Okinawans added the elements of kung fu to their own arts, which they refered to as "Kara-te", which originally meant "China Hand".

There are some legends that katas like Kusanku and Chinto were pass directly from Chinese martial artists. To my knowledge, there has never been a chinese form in a kung fu style that looks like those two katas. This leads into the other theory, that those katas were based on fighting techniques and ideas passed on by a Chinese martial artist, but were created by the Okinawans based on those teachings.

So, if you had to summarize the "difference". It would be that Chinese martial arts influenced the Okinawan martial arts and elements were added to what they did, but there was no "direct transmission" of a set style from China to Okinawa that has been passed down. For example, an Okinawan version of Hung Gar. The closest style to that would be Uechi-ryu under Kanbun Uechi who always maintained that what he learned in China was exactly as it was passed on by him. Even with Uechi-Ryu though, there have been no styles discovered in China that are a direct correlation to Uechi-Ryu.
 

isshinryuronin

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My understanding of Kung Fu (chuan fa?) development was that the early north Shaolin style (Arhat boxing/ Monk Fist?) was a hard style, the movements of which were possibly derived from India's martial arts as brought to China by Bodhidharma (Daruma). As the centuries passed and Taoist influences entered the art, it became softer and more flowing (maybe mostly in southern China?). Not being a Kung Fu student. I do not know if there exists today hard and soft styles reflecting this, or if they have been blended together.

Some old forms may have disappeared from China, but live on in altered forms in Okinawa. Sakugawa, Matsumura, Higaonna and other early to mid 1800 masters travelled to China and perhaps studied under the likes of Kusanku, Chinto and RyuRyuKo (presumably some sort of Crane based stylists) They must have learned some katas. It is possible the katas disappeared from China after they were transmitted to Okinawa. Who knows what katas will be popular a century or two from now?

Too bad there was no video of what they learned so we can compare to what we have today. Even among Okinawan styles, Kusanku and Chinto katas look quite different, with only a few distinctive moves making them recognizable as being something I'm familiar with. Each generation of masters no doubt left their own mark on whatever they were taught. The waters of MA history are certainly murky - We may never know the real story, but the specific facts do not change the concept, spirit, or tradition of the MA - We love it just the same.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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My understanding of Kung Fu (chuan fa?) development was that the early north Shaolin style (Arhat boxing/ Monk Fist?) was a hard style, the movements of which were possibly derived from India's martial arts as brought to China by Bodhidharma (Daruma). As the centuries passed and Taoist influences entered the art, it became softer and more flowing (maybe mostly in southern China?). Not being a Kung Fu student. I do not know if there exists today hard and soft styles reflecting this, or if they have been blended together.
"Chuan Fa" is used by Japanese. CMA doesn't use that term.

CMA has nothing to do with India monk. Bodhidharma didn't bring MA to China.
 
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