Wushu and Kung Fu

Em MacIntosh

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It is my understanding that kung fu=hard work and wushu=martial skills.
I hear a lot of people refer to wushu as a martial art (an acrobatic one at that) unto itself which I think is false but I'm not sure. It is my belief you do kung fu to develop your wushu. If I'm ill informed please let me know. Preferrably someone who speaks or understands chinese (mandarin or cantonese, I'm not sure). Thank you.
 

jks9199

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It is my understanding that kung fu=hard work and wushu=martial skills.
I hear a lot of people refer to wushu as a martial art (an acrobatic one at that) unto itself which I think is false but I'm not sure. It is my belief you do kung fu to develop your wushu. If I'm ill informed please let me know. Preferrably someone who speaks or understands chinese (mandarin or cantonese, I'm not sure). Thank you.
Loosely, "kung fu" has come to refer to most of the Chinese martial arts. (I'm not even opening the can of worms about what is or isn't a martial art!) Examples could be everything from Shaolin to xingyi to hung gar and hung fut and choy li fut and lots more that just aren't popping to my mind at the moment.

"Wushu" refers specifically to the subset of fairly acrobatic, largely demonstrational/competitive Chinese martial arts, especially those sanctioned by the government in mainland China. Wushu includes weapons forms as well as empty hand, but is often accused of being divorced from functional reality. (That don't mean it's easy!)

Or at least that's my understanding of it...

One catch to remember when dealing with translations of terms like "kung fu" or "wushu" is that they're often idiomatic, and the meaning can change a lot. A common English example is "milk shake" which in some parts of the US will get you a drink containing milk, flavored syrup (and sometimes real flavorings or fruit), and ice cream -- but in others will get you a glass of milk, shaken, not stirred. If you want a tasty treat -- you need to ask for an egg cream or a frappe...
 

Xue Sheng

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It is my understanding that kung fu=hard work and wushu=martial skills.
I hear a lot of people refer to wushu as a martial art (an acrobatic one at that) unto itself which I think is false but I'm not sure. It is my belief you do kung fu to develop your wushu. If I'm ill informed please let me know. Preferrably someone who speaks or understands chinese (mandarin or cantonese, I'm not sure). Thank you.

Kung fu does translate to hard work and Wushu does translate to martial skill. Over the years things got kind of messed up in the translation by us English speakers.

Now Wushu is generally considered a forms based CMA that originally came form a rather effective CMA called Changquan (Long Fist). It has expanded a bit since then to take in other CMA styles

Kung Fu is considered the actual Martial Art but if you get to China the definition is a bit hazier and you can have a true CMA with martial arts intact called a Wushu or fighting art.
 

Flying Crane

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Xue has hit it correctly with the confusion and translations of Kung Fu and Wushu.

However, there is a distinct difference in what is known as "Modern Wushu", which tends to be what one is speaking of when using the term "Wushu".

Modern Wushu was developed and promoted by the Chinese government beginning in the 1950s. It was meant to be a national sport of China, and focuses on performance asthetics and competition thru the medium of Forms. It was based on various traditional fighting arts of China, but the fighting element was deliberately supressed, in favor of the performance asthetics and the "wow!" factor. A practitioner of wushu is NOT practicing a fighting art, even tho it may look like it on the surface. Often, the techniques were modified for asthetic reasons, which had the result of making them unreliable for actual combat. Typically, a practitioner of wushu has little or no understanding of how to apply the movements of their forms in a fighting situation. Modern wushu is very impressive from an athletic and performance perspective. It includes some pretty crazy acrobatics and stuff. And every year the leaders in Beijing push the envelope a bit further, and try to do even MORE crazy stuff, and the competitors are showing more and more injuries for it. If you want to study a real fighting art from China, wushu is not for you.

Since "Wushu" does translate into "war art" or something close to that, it is appropriate to use the term in reference to the real fighting arts of China. However, since it is used so commonly in reference to Modern Wushu, it is usually modified with the term "traditional" whenever it is used to refer to the fighting arts. So the terminology is "modern wushu" and "traditional wushu". Many people, especially in the west, continue to just use the term "kung fu" in reference to the fighting arts.

There has been a movement in recent years of some proponents of modern wushu to return to the roots and reclaim the lost fighting ability. I don't know what progress they have made, but perhaps the introduction of Sanshou is their answer. Sanshou, while a legitimate fighting method, I believe is often done in a competition format. It is not an accurate reclamation of the lost fighting techniques from the methods on which Modern Wushu is based. It is it's own method.

It seems that the Shaolin Temple and other government controlled martial centers in China are now pretty much doing Modern Wushu. If they do the traditional stuff, I suspect it is in the background. The Temple is a huge tourist attraction, and the Chinese government is using it as a revenue-generator. In addition, they are using it to push their "national sport" of modern wushu. My sifu travelled to the Temple a number of years ago, prior to my training with him. He told me that when he performed a traditional Shaolin form, some of the older monks at the temple expressed the notion that "ah, yes, we remember when this kind of thing used to be practiced here." Now, they are doing some variation of the modern performance stuff.

So if you see the term "wushu" all by itself, it is probably in reference to modern wushu. The fighting arts would be "traditional wushu", or "kung-fu".

Hope this helps.
 

Nobody

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Xue Sheng said:
Wushu is generally considered a forms based CMA that originally came form a rather effective CMA called Changquan (Long Fist).

This style as a whole has had a huge effect on systems like taiji, mantis an so many that it is hard to list all that have taken from this martial art. It would probably be easier to list all that have not taken from this art. Meaning the list would be shorter.

Often the term used for martial society or within the group you belong to will be chungwu(sp?).

Jinglou is meridian therapy=acupuncture. You more than likely knew all that so excuse me.
 

oxy

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It is my understanding that kung fu=hard work and wushu=martial skills.
I hear a lot of people refer to wushu as a martial art (an acrobatic one at that) unto itself which I think is false but I'm not sure. It is my belief you do kung fu to develop your wushu. If I'm ill informed please let me know. Preferrably someone who speaks or understands chinese (mandarin or cantonese, I'm not sure). Thank you.

I think you've got it spot on.

As we all know, Chinese is a highly contextual language. Even more so when Chinese words or combined-words become loan words in English and are not spoken using their meaning. I've seen a lot of this in forums discussing Chinese philosophy. There are some types who throw around Chinese concepts in the Chinese language and after time, they forget its meaning and treat the word like some kind of new concept.

To draw a parallel, it's the same as how Americans call photocopiers "Xerox machine" and "xerox" is used as a verb even for non-Xerox photocopiers IIRC. To an Australian, that is quite weird. But the same meme phenomenon applies to loan words and loan concepts.

So yes, wushu in the proper sense basically means martial art. It's not A martial art. It's martial arts. If you talk about it with Chinese, they'll be hearing "martial arts" because that's what it means. When "wushu" is used in english without being translated, it becomes a "brand name" even though it only really means martial art.
 

qi-tah

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My teacher has said much the same thing as XS and Flying Crane on the subject of wushu and it's meaning.. although i can't help wondering, if (traditional) wushu relates to martial skill in all CMA, then why is our school called the "Tai chi Wushu Institute"? Is this just a marketing ploy aimed at westerners perceptions of what Wushu is and isn't, or is Tai chi somehow considered different from other trad wushu?
 

Xue Sheng

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My teacher has said much the same thing as XS and Flying Crane on the subject of wushu and it's meaning.. although i can't help wondering, if (traditional) wushu relates to martial skill in all CMA, then why is our school called the "Tai chi Wushu Institute"? Is this just a marketing ploy aimed at westerners perceptions of what Wushu is and isn't, or is Tai chi somehow considered different from other trad wushu?

I am guessing the Taiji Wushu association teachers Yang 24 form, 48 form and basic Competition forms of Wu and Sun possibly Chen.

There are competition forms of most family styles however most of those styles were not designed by the family.

Nothing wrong with the forms, I rather liked 48 and the competition Wu I learned many years ago. I actually wish I still trained them, but unfortunately I stopped doing them a long time ago
 

qi-tah

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I am guessing the Taiji Wushu association teachers Yang 24 form, 48 form and basic Competition forms of Wu and Sun possibly Chen.

There are competition forms of most family styles however most of those styles were not designed by the family.

Nothing wrong with the forms, I rather liked 48 and the competition Wu I learned many years ago. I actually wish I still trained them, but unfortunately I stopped doing them a long time ago

Yeah, my school teaches competition forms like Yang 24 and 48 form etc(we just finished burning in the moves of the Sun 72 form last term), but i think my teacher also teaches some more offbeat Tai chi stuff as well - i'm thinking in particular of the short staff form ('cause i want to learn it! Looks brilliant and i love staff), but i know there are others too.

So to read between the lines of yr post, Tai chi only falls into the broader catagory of trad wushu when it is taught as the original Tai chi families designed them? (more or less) :asian:
 

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Yeah, my school teaches competition forms like Yang 24 and 48 form etc(we just finished burning in the moves of the Sun 72 form last term), but i think my teacher also teaches some more offbeat Tai chi stuff as well - i'm thinking in particular of the short staff form ('cause i want to learn it! Looks brilliant and i love staff), but i know there are others too.

So to read between the lines of yr post, Tai chi only falls into the broader catagory of trad wushu when it is taught as the original Tai chi families designed them? (more or less) :asian:


Basically, yes. The traditional versions of the different tai chi families is traditional wushu/kung-fu, even tho there may be several legitimate versions of each. Different students of prominent teachers sometimes went in their own direction and so you will see differences in the forms from what the Family may be doing. But it is still good, traditional kung fu.

The Chinese Government has had various competition versions created for a Modern Wushu version of Tai Chi, of probably all the different tai chi family styles. They sort of follow the main idea of the original traditional style, but often include some "theatrics" that make it more interesting for a spectator. Often, little attention is given to actual chi development, push-hands, and combat application. Instead, the focus is simply on the form, making it asthetically pleasing for competition and performance. Often, these things mean it is really just a hollow shell of tai chi. Looks good on the outside, but little substance underneath.

My sifu had a conversation with Madame Sun one day, while they were judging at a tournament, or something. A competitor did a Modern Wushu version of a tai chi form, which included some deep, single-leg squats, stuff that you just don't see in traditional tai chi. It was clearly just trying to "spice up" the form for competition. Madame Sun turns to my sifu and says something like "I've been practicing tai chi for 60 years, and THIS is what we are reduced to!"
 

Nobody

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You know i meant chenwo = martial society you belong to.not this
Nobody said:
will be chungwu(sp?).

Yea, i have seen some of those competition forms it was funny an boring.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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...My sifu had a conversation with Madame Sun one day, while they were judging at a tournament, or something. A competitor did a Modern Wushu version of a tai chi form, which included some deep, single-leg squats, stuff that you just don't see in traditional tai chi. It was clearly just trying to "spice up" the form for competition. Madame Sun turns to my sifu and says something like "I've been practicing tai chi for 60 years, and THIS is what we are reduced to!"


That says it all.
 

7starmantis

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A common English example is "milk shake" which in some parts of the US will get you a drink containing milk, flavored syrup (and sometimes real flavorings or fruit), and ice cream -- but in others will get you a glass of milk, shaken, not stirred. If you want a tasty treat -- you need to ask for an egg cream or a frappe...

And still in other areas of the country you might get a nice show :)
"My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard..."

Sorry, couldn't resist...
7sm
 

MaartenSFS

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It's hardly as complicated as you gents make it seem.

In China both Wushu and Gongfu (Spell it right, damnit - both Mandarin or both Cantonese, CHOOSE ONE) are used interchangeably, just as Sanda means free fighting, but many people see it as Chinese kickboxing/wrestling. You have to remember that 99% of Chinese really have no idea how low their martial lineage has sank and that competition Wushu or learning actual fighting applications are really an entirely different thing.

That said, I'd like to elaborate the term Gongfu. Gongfu = skill obtained through hard work AND skill being obtained through hardwork in the present (Like a verb). I.E. Your cooking gongfu is very good! I.E. You will need more gongfu to complete your goal.

Finally, though 99% of Wushu sucks, some of the best CMA in China are also called Wushu, so it's highly variable. Good luck sorting it all out. ;)
 

Tames D

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It's hardly as complicated as you gents make it seem.

In China both Wushu and Gongfu (Spell it right, damnit - both Mandarin or both Cantonese, CHOOSE ONE) are used interchangeably, just as Sanda means free fighting, but many people see it as Chinese kickboxing/wrestling. You have to remember that 99% of Chinese really have no idea how low their martial lineage has sank and that competition Wushu or learning actual fighting applications are really an entirely different thing.

That said, I'd like to elaborate the term Gongfu. Gongfu = skill obtained through hard work AND skill being obtained through hardwork in the present (Like a verb). I.E. Your cooking gongfu is very good! I.E. You will need more gongfu to complete your goal.

Finally, though 99% of Wushu sucks, some of the best CMA in China are also called Wushu, so it's highly variable. Good luck sorting it all out. ;)
This is what I've been wanting to say...
 

bakxierboxer

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It's hardly as complicated as you gents make it seem.

In China both Wushu....

At one time or another, I've run across the occasionally interchanged term "sot/sut", which might make for "WuSut".

... and Gongfu (Spell it right, damnit - both Mandarin or both Cantonese, CHOOSE ONE) are used interchangeably....
I'm unsure how advisable it is to try to squeeze what was once a Cantonese colloquialism into the Mandarin/PRC milieu.

... just as Sanda means free fighting....
I've also pondered/considered the seeming similarities of the Chinese "San" or "free" with the Latin "Sans" or "without".... and the English meaning of both as regards "products", as in "salt-free", "fat-free", etc.
Taken with this meaning, you might have "San Da" meaning "without (meaningful) hitting" and "San Shou" as "without hands/skills".
 
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Em MacIntosh

Em MacIntosh

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I prefer the term gong fu but nobody seems to know what I'm talking about so I just say kung fu so non MAists know what I'm referring to.
I like to take most words litterally. No need to complicate a meaning with everyone's percieved meaning. Wushu=martial arts skills. To develop wushu you need hard work=gong fu. If your wushu isn't good enough you need to invest more time for gong fu. Minor corrections aside, that's my stance. Chinese performing arts should be given a different name, IMO.
 

Tames D

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I prefer the term gong fu but nobody seems to know what I'm talking about so I just say kung fu so non MAists know what I'm referring to.
I like to take most words litterally. No need to complicate a meaning with everyone's percieved meaning. Wushu=martial arts skills. To develop wushu you need hard work=gong fu. If your wushu isn't good enough you need to invest more time for gong fu. Minor corrections aside, that's my stance. Chinese performing arts should be given a different name, IMO.
Agreed.
 
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