Kung Fu developed in the Hunan province of China in the 5th Century AD. A famous Buddhist monk,
Da Mo, came from India to China and spent many years teaching Buddhism at the Shaolin Temple. During this period of
his life he developed a system of physical and breathing exercises which developed into what is now known as Kung
Fu. The physical exercises were devised by watching and imitating the movements of different animals. Da Mo took
the best of what nature had to offer and combined it into a system which mankind could use and understand.
Breathing exercises were developed to improve health and strength to the bodies inner organs. Although physical
exercise can strengthen the body and limbs, Da Mo knew he needed to keep the inner organs healthy since they
provided the fuel to keep the body going. As a persons breathing becomes better and his or her organs become
stronger, that person will begin to develop "Chi". Chi is the ability to reach inside and draw power from within
the body itself. This power comes directly from the "Dan Tien" which is located in the lower abdomen. Da Mo
developed these breathing patterns which are still used today in Kung Fu, Yoga and other Eastern forms of exercise
By the 13th Century AD Shaolin Kung Fu had developed and expanded throughout Asia. In Japan it
evolved into Karate, and in Korea it was known as Taekwando, all Asian martial arts evolved from Kung Fu. Kung Fu
developed into many different styles. All current styles are off shoots of the original Shaolin Kung Fu from
Southern China. The six popular systems are as follows.
1. Hung Fut School
Southern Shaolin Hung Fut Pai was created over 350 years ago in the footsteps of the Nine Lotus
Mountains in Fujian Province China by the Hung Fut Pai founder Lei Jo Fune a monk from the Southern
Shaolin Temple, Lei Jo Fune studied Hung Gar Kung Fu from the Hung Gar founder Hung Hei Goon and
blended the hard, strong, external and low strong rooted stances of the Hung Gar system with the
softer, swift, circular, explosive techniques of the Fut Gar training he mastered in the Shaolin temple
and blended them together thus creating the Hung Fut Pai that has been passed down from grandmaster to
student for generations and continues to thrive today across the globe.
2. Praying Mantis School
The Praying Mantis Style was developed by Master Wang Lang. He lived during the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
AD. One day the Wang Lang observed a battle between a praying mantis and a larger insect. The monk was
amazed at the skill of the smaller insect, using its long limbs and small body to defeat a much larger
enemy. He incorporated the moves of the praying mantis into his style of Shaolin Kung Fu and the
Praying Mantis style was born. This style uses the hands and feet to develop great speed and agility to
defeat an opponent.
3. Southern Shaolin School
The Southern Shaolin School was developed during the Ching Dynasty 1644-1912A.D. During this time the
Shaolin Temple became known as a center for new ideas. As the monks of Shaolin influence grew
throughout China, the emperor became worried that the peaceful monks were a threat to his power. The
emperor ordered the Shaolin Temple burned and all the Shaolin monks killed. Most of the Shaolin monks
were killed in battle to save the Temple. Five of the monks were able to escape this persecution by the
Emperor's army and escaped to southern China. One monk was named Chih Shan. He escaped to the south and
began to teach Shaolin Kung Fu under different names. The Southern Shaolin style developed raw power
and followed the tiger and the crane. Since the southern people were shorter their Northern countrymen,
they developed their power from twisting their bodies and using their low center of gravity. This style
harnessed the power of the Tiger with the softness of the Crane. In any style of Kung Fu, the pinnacle
of an artists ability is to be hard and soft at the same time. Over the years the Tiger style was
refined and improved.
4. Hung Gar School
The Hung Gar School evolved during the Ching Dynasty. This style was taught by a student of Master Chih
Shan, named Hoong Shee Kuan. This style is the closest style to the original Shaolin Style. This style
was known for a very powerful fist and its solid horse and bow and arrow stance. Hung Gar specialized
in inside fighting. Hung Gar students would let their opponent move to an inside position getting very
close to their body, before they strike. Hung Gar takes some of its style from the Dragon, Snake,
Leopard, Tiger and the Crane. The Lau Gar syllabus - related to Hung Gar, consists of very few
sets since Master Lau put heavy emphasis on there being no substitute for sparring practice, and so the
style fell from favour during the period when martial arts training was banned in China as there were
so few elements of the syllabus which could be practised as a simple "exercise" routine. To this day it
is impossible to find a teacher in China who teaches only Lau Gar. The sets of Lau Gar were
incorporated long ago into the Hung Gar syllabus and it is here one has to look to find a Chinese
Master of Lau Gar.
5. The Wing Chung School
The Wing Chung School was developed by a women disciple of the Shaolin Temple. This style was developed
at the end of the Ching Dynasty some time around 1830A.D. The disciple's name was Yen Yoong Choon. She
softened this style to adapt for the difference in physical characteristics between men and women.
Since women have powerful hips and legs and do not have great upper body strength, the Shaolin Style
was modified to yeild and counter attack at the same time rather than pushing your opponent away and
attacking head on. This style developed technique to give a small and less powerful opponent, an
advantage over a strong an more powerful opponent.
6. The Choy Lei Fut School
The Choy Lei Fut School was founded by Master Chen Harng. Mater Chen learned from one of the disciples
of Master Chih Shan this school evolved in the mid 1800's in Southern China. This style has
incorporated wide stances and a series of sweeps and wide kicks, punches and Jabs. Master Chen created
this style by combinding the styles from three different Kung Fu families into one school. The three
families were the "Choy" family, the "Lei" family and the Buddha family which descended directly from
one of the five original five Shaolin Monks. His family name was "Fut" which literally translated means
Kung Fu can trace its origins back some 4000 years to 2674 BC, when Emperor Huang Ti of China used a rudimentary
form of martial arts called Chiou Ti as a form of individual combat and military tactic. In 2600 BC a new style of
combat named Go-Ti came into being which had wrestling as its main focus. At the same time monks developed Gong Fu.
This was a form of medical gymnastics designed to keep body healthy, mind alert, and spirit tranquil.
In about 600 BC, Confucius declared it necessary to cultivate the martial arts. Lao Tzu (a
Taoist sage), living at the same time, composed the Tao Te Ching (The Power and the Way), the original book and
foremost source of Taoism. Taoism (pronounced "Daoism") is a philosophical system, but also a way of life and a
method of achieving higher consciousness. Legend has it that it was passed down from a legendary culture, known as
the "Sons of Reflected Light" some 14000 years ago. It taught scholarship, meditation and alchemy. Taoist
principles are today still considered an important and relevant study, and many of its principles have been
understood to be similiar to theories in modern, cutting edge, quantum physics and biology.
Taoism became enmeshed with the arts of Gong Fu and Go-Ti, which by this time had become fused
into one system. Taoist monks became Gong Fu/Go-Ti experts, and martial arts practitioners began to follow Taoism.
This Gong Fu/Go-Ti system formed the beginnings of what we now know as Kung Fu. Although the term has many
meanings, for example "hard work", it can be best understood as "patient accomplishment" - the mastery of a skill
through the investment of time and energy. (Kung means "energy" in Chinese and Fu means "time"). Therefore when a
person has mastered a particular skill, he may be said to have "kung fu". The term became associated with martial
arts because the mastery of any martial arts system requires years of dedicated practice.
In 527 AD, Da Mo, an Indian Buddhist prince came to preach in the Buddhist Shaolin Temple, a
Buddhist monastery. He saw the Shaolin priests were weak and sickly and sought to help them. Legend has it that he
meditated in front of a wall for nine years. The results of this meditation were written in two books. The Yi Gin
Ching taught ways to increase the strength and health of the physical body. An exercise regimen known as the "18
Movements of the Arhan Hands" or "18-Monk Boxing" which was practiced by the monks was based on this work. The Shi
Sui Ching was primarily a religious treatise explaining methods for developing the Buddhist spirit by using Chi
energy. These teachings were incorporated into kung fu and made a great impact on the art. From Da Mo comes the
mystical concept of "empty mind" and other meditations. Breathing techniques in kung fu were also further developed
in Da Mo’s teachings.
The next major development followed a drift away from the Buddhist influence and back into the
Taoist influence. In 1417 a Taoist monk Chang San-fung invented a radical new element of kung fu known as "soft
fist" or "internal style". This is a slow, relaxed and mystical style, as opposed to the older styles, which were
hard and externally orientated. Chang San-fung believed that the intensive physical exertion of the former styles
of Kung Fu was against Taoist philosophy. The focus instead should be on internal energy and harmony. Taoist
temples became centres of Kung Fu knowledge. One such existing internal style derived from the Taoist way is "Tai
Chi Chuan" or "Mind Fist".
In 1530, the Shaolin Temple once more gained great influence in the growth of Kung Fu. A Shaolin
Temple priest named Chueh Yuan decided to rejuvenate Shaolin martial art and restore it to its former glory. Chueh
created five animal styles or forms: Dragon - to cultivate spirit, Tiger - to develop tough bones, Leopard - to
build strength, Crane - to strengthen sinew, and Snake - to generate chi. Chueh combined hard and soft techniques
in his forms.
After this restoration, the major milestones of development of Kung Fu became inextricably bound
with historic events involving international influences on China. In 1644, the Manchurians invaded China and
replaced the Ming Dynasty with the Ch'ing dynasty. The Shaolin Temples became hives of revolutionaries. In order to
counteract the threat from these insurrectionists, the Manchurians destroyed the Shaolin Temples. The inhabitants
of the Temples fled, and in this way Kung Fu knowledge was spread. At the same time, however, it became diluted
amongst the masses and hundreds of new styles developed.
MODERN KUNG FU
In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion against the Manchurians occurred. Kung fu practitioners joined the
struggle against the invaders. However, their fighting skills were no match for the now sophisticated Manchurian
army. Despondent, Kung Fu practitioners turned to crime. Hence the once-esteemed esoteric Kung Fu societies of a
forgotten age became mafia-like crime organisations known as the Triads. During World War II, Japan invaded China
and gave representative power to the Triads. As a result, these organizations became very powerful. After World War
II, Kung Fu knowledge spread to the West, and hundreds of new forms evolved to make up the myriad of Kung Fu
systems that exist today. These systems are sometimes as different from each other as Judo is from Karate.
The 1960’s marked not only an awakening in the socio-cultural and political ideology of the West
but also of the martial arts world. The 60’s brought the revolutionary influence of the late Bruce Lee. Lee is
famous because of his appearance in numerous movies, but many people are unaware of his major influence on the
martial arts. Lee’s profound contribution was the release of Kung Fu from its traditional bounds. He placed less
emphasis on forms and particular techniques as ends, and more on training as a means toward physical and mental
health, self-growth, inner harmony, and peaceful inner simplicity.
Bruce Lee’s principle "Absorb what is useful and reject that which is useless" has become one of
the most quoted statements in martial arts circles in recent years. Lee did not have one particular style that he
trained. He taught that one must not bind oneself to the restrictions of a single style. He learned various martial
arts including numerous styles of Kung Fu, Thai Boxing, Kali, Judo, Ju Jitsu, and Aikido. He also practiced western
boxing, wrestling, fencing and French Savate. Bruce Lee’s impact spread far and wide, and has radically awakened
the consciousness of many martial artists all over the world.