Kung Fu is a term which actually means the “mastery of a difficult task to a standard of excellence.” Although Kung Fu is more popularly known as an art of self defense, there is much more beneath its surface.
Kung Fu is the origin of the majority of Asian martial arts and includes far more than street fighting and self defense techniques. It is also an art which focusses on the development of the complete person. It is a method of achieving and attaining the highest mental and physical development of the individual.
The Shaolin Temple, located in northern China, is the birthplace of our art and most other Asian martial arts. The Shaolin monks, prompted by the need to stay fit during long periods of meditation, developed and practiced sets of exercises for the purposes of physical and mental development. The monks often needed to defend themselves from attacks by bandits and such, so the training methods originally designed for developing body strength, discipline and mental awareness, became a forceful means of self protection. The development of human attributes of humility, perseverance, self-control, respect and discipline are still stressed in present day training.
The Northern Shaolin styles are characterized by the usage of the entire body and limbs. Many of the movements, in contrast to Southern styles, make use of various kicks, jumps and floor fighting techniques. A Northern Kung Fu stylist constantly moves in on an opponent from all directions with various combination of techniques, using both circular and linear patterns. The movements of Kung Fu are not stiff or static, but natural, alive and fluid. The emphasis on fluid motion and high and low combination techniques characterize our system of Northern Shaolin, known as Mi Zong Lo Han, lost track monk style.
Traditional training in Kung Fu makes use of classical Kung Fu forms. Kung Fu forms combine proper offensive and defensive techniques, while training the student to move from one position to various positions. Individual movements or positions are blended together and executed with balance and precision, while maintaining proper focus and power. A form is a flowing picture of strength and grace when performed by a skilled person. The forms taught in our system are centuries old, and when practiced diligently, increase an individual’s agility, balance, speed, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness.
Self defense training in Kung Fu makes use of punches, strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws. Students of Kung Fu learn self defense as an outcome of their training. The main objective of training is self development and improvement.
Sparring, both pre-arranged and free style, is also taught in the kwoon (training hall). However, sparring is encouraged at a time other than the formal instructional period.
Kung Fu training begins with conditioning, training the student to use their body and limbs, and later progresses to weapons training. Weapons training in Kung Fu makes use of particular forms for each traditional Chinese weapon. By practicing the weapons forms, the student learns to use the weapon as an extension of their natural body. The student also learns body discipline by combining precision, control and grace while performing the defensive and offensive movements with the weapon.
According to tradition, there are three types of Kung Fu practitioners: the student, the disciple and the master. The student is concerned with learning the fundamental physical movements of Kung Fu, while the disciple has already demonstrated his/her physical ability and has exhibited dedication and loyalty to the school’s ideals. The disciple also shows a willingness to perpetuate the art. The master not only has become an expert in the art of Kung Fu, but has learned to integrate the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of his/her art.
There is no belt ranking system in traditional Kung Fu. There are of course, different levels of proficiency between and among students. However, to establish arbitrary student classifications by using belt colors or a similar ranking system is improper in keeping with the true philosophy of Kung Fu. No student will be categorized but accepted and treated as an individual.
Serious students of Kung Fu should supplement their class lessons with daily home practice. There is no set length of time to become proficient in Kung Fu. The time varies with each student’s natural abilities and devotion to the art. Hard work, determination and perseverance are the keys to success in the art of Kung Fu.