The History of Chinese Kung Fu

Chinese Kung Fu is a large system of theory and practice. It combines techniques of self-defense and health-keeping.

It is estimated that Chinese Kung Fu can be dated back to primeval society. At that time people use cudgels to fight against wild beasts. Gradually they accumulated experience of self defense. When Shang Dynasty began, hunting was considered as an important measure of Kung Fu training.

During Shang and Zhou Dynasties (17th Century BC- 221 BC), martial arts evolved to be a kind of dancing. Usually the dancing of martial arts is utilized to train soldiers and inspire their morale. During Zhou Dynasty, martial-arts dancing was designated as a component of education. The application of wrestling techniques at the battlefield received much attention from various states during the period of Spring and Autumn. The then emperor held twice wrestling contests every year respectively in spring and autumn so as to select excellent people of martial arts. At the same time, the skill and technology of sword forging as well as sword ceremony achieved rapid development. In Qin (221 BC – 207 BC) and Han (202 BC – 220 AD) Dynasties, wrestling, swordplay, and martial arts dancing were very popular. A well known instance was Xiang Zhuang’s Sword Dancing in Hongmen Banquet at the same period. His performance was very close to today’s martial arts. The application of spear play in Han Dynasty reached its summit along with the appearance of many other techniques of spear usage. It is said the Five-animal-style exercise was another innovation by Hua Tuo on the development of Chinese martial arts.

Starting from Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), Kung Fu examination was proposed and implemented. Excellent candidates would receive titles and awards through the examination, largely propelling the development of martial arts. By then martial arts had evolved to be an artistic form and an independent genre. It was gradually introduced to many countries in Southeast Asia. Today Kung Fu were honored as the ancestor of kickboxing, karate, aikido, and judo.

Song (960 - 1279) and Yuan (1206 - 1368) Dynasties witnessed the climax of Kung Fu development. Practice of Kung Fu by civil organizations became more and more popular. Some organizations or clubs centered on the use of spear play and cudgel, and they were called Yinglue Organization; while others majored in the practice of arching and therefore called Arching Origination. Besides, there appeared another genre called Luqi People. They made a living as performer of martial arts all over the country. Usually their performance was carried out by a single person or two persons as a pair.

Chinese Kung Fu achieved larger development in Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1636 - 1911) Dynasties. In Ming Dynasty, a lot of genres came into being and numerous books on martial arts were published. In Qing Dynasty, the ruling empire banned the practice of martial arts, and the folk had to set up various clubs or societies to pass down feat secretly. Therefore tens of schools of martial arts came into being, such as taiji, xingyi shadowboxing, eight–diagram shadowboxing, etc. Qing Dynasty is the times of integration among different martial arts genres. Wrestling techniques were introduced into martial arts, facilitating the improvement and mature of martial arts. This period is the shed between genres for appreciation and those for actual combat.

In 1927, Central National Martial Arts Society was established. In August, 1936, Chinese Martial Arts Team went to Berlin to participate Olympics. In 1956, Chinese Martial Arts Association set up Martial Arts Teams. In 1985, International Marital Arts Invitational Tournament was held in Xi'an with the establishment of International Martial Arts League. In 1987, the first Asian Martial Arts Tournament was held in Hengbin. In 1990, martial arts were for the first time listed as a competition event in the 11th Asian Games. In 1999, International Martial Arts League was invited as a member of International Individual Events Federation by International Olympic Committee. That was the sign of Chinese Martial Arts walking global.

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Hi, I'm Ruru Zhou
I updated this article on June 7, 2013
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Questions and Answers About The History of Chinese Kung Fu

Rizwana 2012-12-09
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ni hao i am just learning Chinese for few days i want learn kung fu because i want my self in jack of all trades

Hi Rizwana, you can join a Kungfu tour to experience it first. Then go to a Kungfu school or download some videos to learn by yourself. Please check here for our Kungfu tours: If you are interested in any of them, welcome to contact me.

Whitney Liao replied on 2012-12-10
Muhammad Ramzan 2012-10-24
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Please let me know if I travel to China for kung-fu, what should be my travel period length at least e.g.1 month etc and what budget atleast should I target. Thanks

Hi Muhammad. it depends on whether you just wish to take a Kung-fu tour or learn it. For the tour, 7-10 days is enough. But if you would like to learn it, then it is hard to say. And the price depends on the number of people in your group and hotels you'd like to stay in.

Whitney Liao replied on 2012-10-25
Muhammad Ramzan 2012-10-24
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I am 40 years old and in Pakistan, can I learn kung fu for self defense as well as for others. Further, can I have some home guide type techniques which help me to start at home, initially.

Hi Muhammad, yes, you can learn it yourself. You can download some Kungfu vedios to guide you at home.

Whitney Liao replied on 2012-10-25
gopal rav 2011-11-01
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Can i learn kungafu in china as i don't know there language
Hello Gopal, I think Kongfu is no boundery, people from all over a world can learn Kongfu as long as they use it in a right way. Lee guest replied on 2011-11-04
of course you can learn~my brother is a shadowboxing teacher,he can help you~ guest replied on 2011-12-18
igor 2011-03-28
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i eherzise wing chun i love so much after that i choyse many martial arts byth my carakter dont like ataks from wing chun i learn that my natyral is defens, im very happi for that, peple who atacs is not good for heam something wrong is crayze is not good many people want to now aboyt japanis martial arts buts i say chaines martial is the best, like example tray to drive car aboyt 30 mile and go directly in a wall or try and you go in hospital beackoyse you atack me i defens. This ehamle shoot to now many coyntru in world
Hello. Glad to know that you like Chinese Kungfu. Keep practising, and it is good for both health and mind. Mia Yang replied on 2011-04-11
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