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Chinese Martial Arts
Meaning of the Words
There are several definitions for martial arts in Chinese: wushu, quanfa, gongfu (kungfu). Most popular in the West is kungfu, which originally had no such a meaning; it primary means "skill", and when the stars of Chinese movies said "I'll show you my kungfu!" it actually meant "I'll show you how I'm skilled in fighting". But the word kungfu became very popular in the West, so it returned again to China as a synonym to wushu and is used widely, especially in the westernized Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Now the official name for whole variety of Chinese martial arts is wushu; moreover, "martial arts" is exact translation of wushu.
Quanfa means "fist techniques" and is applied to fighting without weapon. It generalizes the techniques of emty-hand fighting that are common for many traditional schools of wushu.
Internal and External Schools
There are so many schools and styles of Chinese wushu that no one can exactly list them. Among several nationwide ones, there are much more regional modifications and even those which are practicized by members of not more than one family. Due to this, Chinese wushu cannot be classified formally. In fact, all schools of wushu are divided in two: waijia, or "external family", and neijia, or "internal family".
The schools of waijia concentrate on developing stamina, agility, physical force, strenghtening of body parts exposed to strikes. The neijia schools give priority to psycho-physical training and qigong (mastering of qi). Using a metaphor, waijia is training of body and neijia is training of spirit.
Such a division is rather relative, because every school of wushu has these two sides of training. The matter is the proportion between them.
Traditionally, external schools are under influence of Buddhism; internal schools are inspired by Taoism - the most famous one, known as Wudangpai is named after Mt.Wudang, the sacred place of Taoism.
The Chinese names of wushu styles and schools are formed of two parts: first is the name of style properly, and the second usually is quan (fist), less usually pai (school), jia (family), zhang (palm); very rarely there is dao (way) - this is common for Japanese but not Chinese martial arts.
Shaolinquan - the most famous class of wushu. Elaborated by Buddhist monks of Shaolin Temple. Legend says that the process was initiated by Bodhidharma. Can be divided into Beishaolin (Northern) and Nanshaolin (Southern), according to Shaolin Monastery of Henan Province and its affiliate in Fujian (which promptly became almost equally important) respectively. There are also so called "animal styles" (Tiger Style, Monkey Style, Crane Style etc.) within Shaolinquan. Nonetheless, those styles are often treated as independent ones.
Tanglangquan (praying mantis style) - stand-alone of animal-imitative styles, unlike styles of tiger, crane, monkey, leopard and dragon, which belong to Shaolin stream.
Zuijiuquan (style of drunk) - most funny of imitative styles. All the movements imitate behavior of the drunk. They are impulsive and look very unlogical. Wushu experts count this style as a very effective one.
Changquan (long fist) - a style derived from Shaolin roots. Its primary purpose was to train soldiers of emperor's troops. Compared to Shaolin, it is simplified and formalized.
Nanquan (southern fist) - this style take roots from Southern Shaolin. Unlike Changquan, greatly grounds on jeopardizing instead of straight attack.
Yongchun (wingchun) - this style became very famous in the West through the efforts of legendary Bruce Lee. The style is named after its lady-founder's name, which means "eternal spring". Distinguished by short economic movements and "sticky hands" techniques. Practiced outside continental China mainly.
Wudangpai (school of Wudang) - most famous of Taoist wushu styles. On its combat side, pays great attention to techniques of lethal points.
Baguazhang (Pa Kua, "palm of eight trigrammes") - school based on ideas contained in famous Yijing (book of changes). The great master of Baguazhang Sun Lutang wrote a book Baguazhang Xue (Study of Baguazhang). This book is considered as a primary manual by contemporary Baguazhang masters and was reprinted recently.
Xingyiquan (Hsing-I Chuan, "Fist of mind form") - famous neijia school, widely practiced in China and abroad.
There are good descriptions of many wushu styles here: http://cclib.nsu.ru/projects/satbi/satbi-e/glavmenu.html.
© Dmitry Alemasov
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