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Qigong (Chi Kung) is considered an essence of Chinese Kung Fu. Comparing with other Kungfu styles, it has a more extensive connotation. It is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical exercise, breath control and mental training. The name is made up of two Chinese characters. Qi means the life force or energy that exists throughout the universe. Gong means Kungfu skills that are cultivated through continuous training. Therefore, Qigong means cultivating energy, which is a beneficial exercise way to strengthen the physical conditions, increase vitality and keep people healthy.

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Southern Fist (also Southern Boxing or Nanquan) is a type of traditional Chinese Kung Fu with a history of 400 years. It is so named because it originated in the southern China, especially in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces. Due to its popularity and distinction, it has occupied important positions in the Kung Fu novels and movies.

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BaguazhangEight-Diagram Palm, Baguazhang in Chinese, is a boxing style characterized by continuously changing palm styles. It is so named due to the practising walking route like the traditional Chinese Eight Diagrams. As one of the three famous schools of Internal Boxing Arts (Neijiaquan), it is good for fitness, body-building and self-defense.

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Tai chiA Kung Fu style and sports event, Tai Chi (also known as T’ai Chi Ch’uan or Taijiquan) is a perfect combination of Chinese dialectic ideology, art and martial arts. It bears a close relation to Chinese ancient Taoism, under the guidance of which a series of practice methods were formed for learning martial arts. It is characterized by attacking, by accumulating the strength, by conquering the unyielding with the yielding skills and defeating the dynamic with the static. Moreover, this Kung Fu style is a good regimen method to cultivate shape, breath, strength, quality and spirit of the human body. Due to these distinctions, it is considered the quintessential Chinese culture.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_QingchengSchool.jpgEmei Martial Arts originated from the pre-Qin period (the 21st century - 221 BC) in the famous  Mt. Emei of Sichuan Province. It was created by a Kung Fu master named Situ Xuankong, who once imitated the behaviors of the white apes to create the White Ape Sword Skills. The Southern Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279) saw its forming to which the White Cloud Buddhist Master (Baiyun Monk) and the White Eyebrows Taoist (Baimei Taoist) made great contributions. Together with Shaolin and Wudang, Emei is one of the three main schools of Chinese Kung Fu.

Major Schools

The famous Five Flowers of Emei Martial Arts refer to Green City School (Qingcheng School) in Mt. Qingcheng of Chengdu, Iron Buddha School (Tiefo School) in Iron Buddha Temple of Chengdu, Black Ox School (Qingniu School) in Fengdu of Chongqing, Dianyi School in Fuling of Chongqing, and Yellow Forest School (Huanglin School) in Rongchang and Longchang, Sichuan.

Qingcheng School emphasizes emptiness encouraging the practice of the superior Kung Fu. It holds that as long as the superior skills are grasped, the easy ones will naturally be taken in. Besides, it appeals that the mind should be quiet and bear no ill will against anybody. At present, some skills are recorded in the Qingcheng Annals, such as Converse Means of Yin and Yang, Return of the Heaven and the Earth, Nine Approaches for Casting Swords and others.

Yellow Forest School is named due to a legend that during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), many Kung Fu men were arrested by the imperial court, as a result they were forced to take refuge in Nine-Peak Mountain, where they compared notes and improved the skills of different schools to form a complete Kung Fu series. Later, many followers that went there for learning found the ground covered with the yellow leaves of many Ginkgo trees each autumn. For the beautiful scenery, people call this school Yellow Forest.

Features and Skills

Emei Martial Arts is characterized by the movement of hands or feet, especially the motions of feet changing constantly, quickly and forcefully. The changing styles take both offence and defence into consideration. The movements are usually stretched, steady and powerful, full of ups and downs. The essential is “following strict regulations when learning and using freely according to specific situations”. It emphasizes both strength and softness, whilst the styles are stronger than Wudang School and softer than Shaolin School.

Emei School has 1,093 bare-hand fighting skills, 518 skills with weapons, 41 pair practice routines and 276 practice methods. Based on different contents, forms, characteristics and functions, the major Kung Fu skills include boxing, weapons, Sanshou or Sanda and others. Boxing has four sorts (High Stake Boxing, Short Stake Boxing, Kejia Boxing and Faxiang Boxing), eight small schools called Eight Leaves (Seng, Yue, Zhao, Du, Hong, Hua, Zi and Hui) and eighteen styles (Firedrake Boxing, Yu Family Boxing, Sword Boxing, Arhat Boxing, Monkey Boxing, Tiger Claw Boxing and others). 

  • The essence of High Stake Boxing lies in the perfect combination of skills and methods, getting strength by adjusting breath and energy, using internal and external strength together, changeable between power and softness and also between dynamic and static states. Once in a combat, the quick hands attack can be fully presented.
  • Short Stake Boxing stresses one-side offence and defence. With steady steps, the learners need to use the combination of short and swift fists and the palms and fingers to attack. It emphasizes “slow moves of the steps and quick attacks of fists”. The main offence skills are twining, lifting, cuddling, knocking, buckling etc. and the defense features are evading, stretching, pronating, withdrawing etc.
  • Kejia Boxing features quick moves and the combination of strength and softness. The main styles include hacking, butchering, hanging and others, especially laying much emphasis on the practice of feet, hands, bodies, steps, spirits, strength and skills. Nearly 100 Kung Fu styles belong to this sort, such as Hongmen Palm and others.
  • Faxiang Boxing (Animal Imitation Boxing) is a Kung Fu style imitating the animals. It has distinctive skills to sneak attack. When preparing the attack, many imitating moves are made to harass the opponent’s view to fail to tell the real and virtual offence and suddenly the moves are extended to attack. It includes Monkey Boxing, Snake Boxing, Duck-Shape Boxing, Ox Horn Boxing and others.
  • Sanshou has been very popular since the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 - 1911) when boxing contests were usually held. The skills are abundant including various boxing skills featuring quick, hard, pointed and steady attack. Therefore, fists, palms, elbows and knees are complexly applied in Sanda.
  • Twelve-Stake Boxing was created by the White Cloud Buddhist Master connecting the situations of Yin and Yang and the physical conditions of human’s body with the martial arts. It emphasizes the twelve skills practiced in a certain order according to Tian, Di, Zhi, Xin, Long, He, Feng, Yun, Da, Xiao, You and Ming. Tian, literally meaning heaven, requires the fighters to train their ability to raise the breath and energy in the body, while Di, the earth, requires to lower the breath and energy; Zhi means to open the breath and show the inner power out, while Xin, literally mind, means to conserve the energy; Long (dragon) here asks the fighters to train their masculinity, while He (crane) here asks for femininity; Feng (wind), features the speed, while Yun (cloud) features the slowness; Da (big) shows the quietness, while Xiao (small) shows the jerkiness; You, literally meaning loneness, requires the practitioners to be peaceful in mind, while Ming, meaning meditation, requires clear observation and thinking.

There are six special static Emei skills, including the Tiger Steps, Heavy Beat, Shrinking on the Ground, Capsule Suspension, Finger Dim Mak and Nirvana Practice. Weapons used in Emei Martial Arts include sword, spear, Jingang Buddhist Cane, Thirteen Whips and also some featured hidden ones like the hairpin and the needle. The pair practice emphasizes both offence and defence without paltering with any movement. The practice methods are all traditional ways including Qigong, Yinggong and Ruangong. All these methods benefit self-defence, body-building and fitness.

 

 

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Taekwondo.jpgMost of my teaching now is done by seminars so one thing that I get very often is afterwards people tend to come up to me and ask questions like, “this has made me want to start taking martial arts lessons, what style or school do I recommend?” I get asked for recommendations on martial arts schools and styles quite often and I have two responses that I typically give.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_wudang.jpgWudang Martial Arts were created in the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) by a Taoist named Zhang Sanfeng. It combines the essence of the Book of Changes and the Tao Teh King (Daodejing) of Laozi (an ancient well-known philosopher). Originated in Mt. Wudang, a Taoist holy land, it is of great value to fitness and body-building. By now, it has become popular in China and worldwide, as a kind of fitness sport.

Together with the Shaolin School in the north, Wudang School in the south is the most typical representative of traditional Chinese Kung Fu. At present, its major skills are well presented by Tai Chi (Taiji), Form/Intention Boxing (Xingyiquan) and Eight Diagram Palm (Baguazhang).

Guidance of Taoist Ideology

Wudang Martial Arts were created based on the Taoist ideology. Taoism holds that there are basic, everlasting and supernatural principles in the earth which are called “Tao” suggesting softness, quietness, emptiness, unification, fairness and harmony. All these can be presented according to Tai Chi, Yin and Yang, the Five Elements (water, gold, fire, wood and earth) and the Eight Diagrams tactics. Under the direction of these philosophical theories, this Kung Fu style gains good effects in the boxing and sword skills.

Wudang Boxing, a kind of Internal Boxing Art (Neijiaquan), observes the ideas in the Book of Changes and takes the changes of Yin and Yang as presuppositions. It is created to benefit health and fight against the enemy in associating movement and stillness as well as might and weakness. The Eight-Diagram Palm, also named Circuit Palm, presents the self-defence skills by the practice of moving in a circle. The learners cultivate the skills by circuit walking, which seems to move along the lines of the Eight Diagrams, an important Taoist characteristic. Sometimes, the walking trace looks like the inner or external profile of the Eight-Diagram tactics. This special skill takes advantages of the palm strength to give full play to the strength of the hand.

Taking Fitness as the Purpose

Although the Taoist theurgy and alchemy are full of mystery, the basic principles are to mintian fitness. Wudang Kung Fu includes many boxing styles and weapon skills which are all created to adapt to the human body. Practising these skills is beneficial to the stimulation of blood circulation. It relaxes muscles and joints, nourishes the physical organs and cultivates physical and mental health.

Tai Chi is the best example of its fitness function. The practice pace of Tai Chi is slow. It functions to defeat the strong in a weak way and beat the moving in a standstill manner. Qigong used in Tai Chi cannot only practise the Kungfu skills, but also develop wisdom and strengthen the body. The Taiji Sword is an important part of Tai Chi concerning the characteristics of Tai Chi and swordplay. On the one hand, its motions need to be agile and soft emphasizing the fitness spirit as Tai Chi; on the other hand, it has to be elegant and flexible showing the vivid manner of sword playing.

Advocating Peace not War

Despite its mighty skills, advocating peace is the essence of Wudang Martial Arts. The Taoist ideology teaches that war is immoral and unfair. Accordingly, Taoism holds that Kung Fu is learned for protection and not destruction.

The basic Kung Fu spirit is to value the martial power while at the same time upholding virtue, which has been advocated by martial arts performers from generation to generation. Chinese Kung Fu is just like a knowledgeable teacher from whom people can learn a lot in order to survive in this complicated world.

Way of Life with Moral Disciplines

The disciples of Wudang School must abide by some admonishments at the onset of learning martial arts .The fundamental ones are Three Pieces of Obedience, Five Restrictions, Ten Prohibitions and others. The Three Pieces of Obedience refer to belief in Taoism, observing 36 pieces of Taoist scripture and complying with the direction of the Taoist master. The Five Restrictions are no killing, no stealing, no drinking and no meat, no lying and no wickedness. The Ten Prohibitions include that it is forbidden to disobey parents and teachers/masters, to kill or trap livestock or peoples’ life, to betray one’s country, to be prurient, to abandon the seniors and so on.

Natural Styles

Kung Fu skills vary from one school to another. Wudang Kung Fu is characterized by softness and harmony: The Eight-Diagram Palm skills are coherent and diversified; Form/Intention Boxing features its linking styles and Tai Chi sees the waist as exercise axis. Besides, some skills are named after various animals, such as the Twelve Shapes Boxing.

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shaolinmonks1.jpgChinese Kung Fu (Martial Arts or as popularly referred to as Gongfu or Wushu) is a series of fighting styles which has developed over a long historical period in China. Nowadays, it is regarded as a traditional sport gaining more and more popularity and even stands as a representative for Chinese culture. Styles including Shaolin, Tai Chi and Qigong have many followers worldwide. Some westerners think that all Chinese people are Kung Fu masters. That’s not true, but this traditional heritage has its unique existence in modern times and left much influence on the locals’ lifestyle.

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chinese kung fuTo discover the origins of the Chinese martial arts styles, one has to go deep into the past.  We're talking well before Christ here.  That said, the martial arts have been a part of China for so long that it's truly hard to pinpoint their origins in the country.  In other words, there's a good deal of educated guessing going on.

What we do know, however, is that things and names like Bodhidharma, kung fu, the Shaolin monks, and more are connected to the Chinese martial arts.  But let's get more specific. That's right- let's list and detail the Chinese martial arts styles for your reading pleasure.

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Before we begin talking about the history of Shaolin Kung Fu, we should note what the term kung fumeans in China. You see, despite popular opinion, it's really a term that refers to any individual accomplishment or refined skill that is achieved after hard work. So for example, if you really work hard to drop a sparring partner with a spinning back kick, that's kung fu.

Seriously, though. Despite its specific definition in China, the term is widely used to describe a significant portion of the Chinese martial arts. Therefore, when we speak about Shaolin Kung Fu, we're really talking about the Chinese martial arts styles that started with and continue to be tied to the Shaolin monks and monastery.

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