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The wide variety of Chinese martial arts


The name kung fu ('Gung fu') is a modern designation for all Chinese martial arts. Its origins are actually not to be found in China, but rather in America, from whence it developed into a collective term in general use for the Chinese styles of martial arts. The literal translation of kung fu is 'hard work' and refers to the effort and strength that has to be put into perfecting the art.


In China people mostly refer to 'wushu' (Chinese: 'martial art'). In earlier times it was the generic term for the Chinese martial arts. Today, it is used for martial arts that were selected by the communist government in the 50s and which right up to now have been promoted as a symbol for China's national culture. The sportive and acrobatic aspects are of uppermost significance and less so those relating to fighting or to spiritual matters. For this reason, they are not even accepted by traditional martial arts teachers as martial arts within the original meaning.


Whilst the multitude of Taoist martial art styles, of which taiji, bagua and xingyi are the most well known, originate from the Wudang mountains, the art of the Shaolin styles is rooted in the Buddhist tradition of Shaolin monasteries. For several centuries, these monasteries were cultural centres  – as well as being political hubs, which preserved and handed down ancient knowledge and secret skills. Although the origins of the Shaolin skills extend much further back, they are attributed to the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who came to China in the first half of the sixth century and settled in the Shaolin monastery. In order to improve the monks' physical and spiritual state, he taught them 'Lohan', a series of 18 gymnastic and energetic exercises. Today, they are regarded as the basis for the Shaolin styles.


The Taoist inner martial arts place great emphasis on the communication of inner spiritual development processes. Establishing its exact origins appears to be impossible, but significant elements were handed down over several millennia and were part of the philosophical discussion under the heading of cultural development. Since for a long time an influential cultural impression had emanated from China throughout South East Asia, its meditative practices, plus the linked knowledge handed down of the inner styles, influenced the development of the spiritual background of martial arts in general.


The debate on the philosophy and the intellectual and spiritual background of the martial arts was very important to Andy. He was aware that the integrated traditions were not to be reduced to the sport aspects and he always sought possibilities for linking internal and external processes.


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