Kung fu is a Chinese form of martial arts that work towards refining the mind and the body. It is a popular form of martial arts and made popular by the different films that have been based on such fighting techniques. Different kinds of styles have been incorporated across the world in kung fu and there are two broad camps, a Shaolin form of kung fu and a more ancient form.
Origin of the name
It is interesting the way kung fu is spelled, which is often spelled as gong fu or gung fu. The spelling variation exists as trans-literary efforts have led to variations by which this form of martial arts is referred to. In the 19th century or early part of the 20th century, the Wades-Giles system was used for transliteration of the Chinese language. In such a system the g sound in Chinese was transposed with k. in many places such as Taiwan and China in its certain parts, the Wades and Giles system is still used where k is replaced with g.
Different forms of kung fu
If you look at Shaolin kung fu, it originated in the fifth century. Most martial arts originated in religious temples as monks’ devised ways to discipline their body and mind. Hence, apart from being a fighting style which most people associate kung fu with, it had a religious beginning as it incorporated religious practices as well as mental exercises that were aimed at balancing the body and the mind. Kung fu works on the fundamental principle of aligning the life force or chi that exists around all living beings.
Shaolin temples also resembled religious seats of learning or universities. There were traditional styles in Shaolin form of kung fu known as Praying Mantis, Hung Gar, Crane, Wing Chun and others which incorporate knowledge from diverse fields and have distinct meditation and healing techniques. There are other styles of fighting under the kung fu banner which is known as Eagle Claw, Pa-Kua, Eight Drunken Immortals and others. These disciplines are not as rounded as the original Shaolin styles as these focus primarily on fighting.
Kung fu, in essence, comprises of self-defense tactics. The energy of the attacker is turned back to the person attacking. Techniques comprise of punches, kicks, throws, grapples, and others, such as a use of staff as a weapon. Kung fu also teaches the importance of honor and respect and the importance of a balanced life.