Kung Fu boasts versatile functions
As a human practice which stresses cultivation of moral characters and demonstration of spirit and temperament, Kung Fu is cinducive to developing good manners and conduct. It also helps adjust one's psychology. The moral characters and etiquette are held in esteem by all schools of Kung Fu masters. Kung Fu practitioners can master various offence and defence techniques of armed and unarmed combat for self defence through a great number of training exercises. Many of the Kung Fu techniques can also be utilized in military and police training programs. Taiji Quan, one of the traditional schools of Chinese shadow boxing, and the various still standing exercises emphasize the adjustment of one's breathing, thinking and psychology. These exercises have been proven to have good curative and rehabilitative effects on sufferers of chronic diseases of many kinds. As these exercises help strengthen the coordination of the human body and its immunity, they are ideal for preventing and curing diseases.
The practice of the basic exercises and routines of Kung Fu are effective methods for improving the pliability of the joints and the suppleness of the back and legs. The generation of energy, the jumping and leaping and the changes from one stance to another, all help enhance human strength and speed of movement. kung Fu, therefore, can be taken as the basic exercise for other sporting activities. The graceful movement of the body, especially the typical oriental charm revealed during exercises and practice of Kung Fu, has an impressive artistic effect and provides visual delight. People can benefit mentally as well as physically from the display of the Kung Fu offence and defence skills and the exertion of forces through the display. While stressing the development of physical prowess, Kung Fu also emphasizes the exercise of thinking. By adjusting various human functions, Kung Fu also helps improve the nervous system and is therefore good for intellectual development.
Solo practice is the basis of Kung Fu. This includes exercises for basic movements and skills and various still standing exercises. Some are aimed at developing the physique of Wushu practitioners, while others are aimed at strengthening the circulation of air flow inside the body so as to keep the practitioners in good health. Still others stress improving their standard of fighting skills.
Kung Fu basics include the movements of shoulder, arm, waist, leg and hand as well as footwork, jumps, leaps and balancing. Both Kung Fu amateurs and professionals have sorted out many good methods of doing exercises and gradually formed a complete and systematic set of basic skills and techniques. Through the exercises of Kung Fu basics, Kung Fu practitioners can have their entire bodies trained and improved to meet the demands of the special martial arts. The basic exercises help lay the foundation for learning and mastering the fighting skills and for improving their Kung Fu arts standard. Doing the basic exercises in a regular way will enchance the pliability and suppleness of joints and ligaments of the body, and the control and increment of the necessary elasticity of the muscles, so as to enable Kung Fu practitioners to execute their acts with quality and to speed up their mastery of Kung Fu skills. These exercises can prevent and reduce injuries likely to occur during exercises.
The standing exercises are the unique method of practising Kung Fu. It is an arts of using stillness to control motions and movements. The muscles and nerve system are more coordinated and the power is more fully developed through the standing exercises. While practising standstills, the practitioner is advised to dispel unrelated thoughts from his mind in order to concentrate, and keep his body in a fixed posture for a comparatively long time. By so doing the practitioner can better mobilize the inner circulation of air flow and guide it to reach out to all extremities in order to synthesize the external and internal forces. Standing exercises focus on exercising the mind, and call for natural breathing, high concentration, and proper posture of the body. Unadvisable or stiff movements should be avoided. The standing exercises have health enchancing as well as fighting functions. Different standstills are done for different purposes.
The bare-handed fighting routines take such fighting skills as kicking, hitting, wrestling and holding as basic offence and defence techniques. They are then organized in line with the needs of the physical exercises for different parts of the human body into different routines for offence and defence, incorporating actions and stills, substantial and insubstantial blows, charge and retreat, fast and slow movements. The shadow boxing routines have a long history and are seen in urban and rural China in various forms, such as Shaolin Chuan, Taiji Quan, Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Nan Quan, Chuojiao, Xiangxing Quan, etc..
Some routines have long programs while others have short ones. Some are particular about forcefulness and valiantness whereas others stress gentleness and smoothness. Some emphasize agility and speed while others pay attention to variation and changes of actions, alteration of tempo, clear-cut acts and speed and agility. The Taiji Quan emphasizes slow and soft movements. Routines are one of the major forms of Chinese Kung Fu. When doing the exercises, practitioners are required to execute all acts with offence and defence implications; a close cooperation of eye and hand is demanded and eyes should follow the movements of hands, which should also cooperate with the feet to complete the coordination of the upper and lower body. Practitioners should let the mind lead the body, let inner circulation of air flows generate forces so as to achieve unity of mentality, breathing and action and the combination of mentality and physique. When moving, it should be fast and forceful; when standing still, it should be steadfast like a rock, defenite rhythm is asked for in both exercises.
Group practice is a collective event in which a group of people practise together bare handed or with weapons. Group practice was listed as one of the Kung Fu competitions after the founding of New China. In group practice, all practitioners are required to do exercises according to a prescribed pattern and follow every movement as closely as possible to the accompaniment of music. The exercises include demonstrations of footwork, leg techniques, movements of the body, hand techniques, jumps and leaps as demanded in the Kung Fu / Taiji arts. Group practices are highly disciplined exercises, which cakll for high concentration, skillfulness and close cooperation on the part of every praticipant. The group performances are often grandiose, impressive and captivating. Delight and pleasantness are added to by merry and rhythmic melodies of characteristic Chinese classical and folk music as well as by appropriate costumes. Fashionable group practices include bare hand exercise, sword play, sabre play, nine-section cudgel play, two-prong spear play, etc..
Neigong is classified as inner exercises and falls into two categories. One is to improve health for the prevention and cure of diseases. Exercises in this category include breathing exercises, mental exercises and standing exercises. Chinese kung Fu advocates reinforcement of the physique before beginning to learn fighting skills. Therefore maintaining good health has become one of the major concerns of inner exercises. The other catagory is concerned with improving one's ability to defend and attack. Such exercises include self-beating and self-hitting (this exercise prepares one to take and receive attack from his opponents), palming (this exercise increases the hitting force of the palm), and roving around and through wooden piles (this enchances agility of the body by meandering through piles). Neigong is unique to the Chinese Kung Fu training system. Some of the inner exercises have become independent of their original schools and styles and have mixed with similar exercises from other schools, making them more comprehensive.
Duel is the essence of Chines Kung Fu. The categories of duel now in practise are: Sanshou ( free sparring ), and weapon fighting.
Sanshou is a new modern Kung Fu variety which is based on the tradition of martial arts. Attack is the essence of kung Fu. In ancient times, there were combative contests. In view of the development of kung Fu both at home and abroad, the Chinese Kung Fu Association made extensive investigations and practices before making Sanshou an official competition event. The first international Sanshou invitational tournament was staged at the 1988 International Wushu Festival. In Sanshou the contestants compete with such techniques as kicking, hitting and wrestling under certain regulations. They are permitted to use both hands and feet, which facilitates flexible moves and tricks. to keep themselves safe, they have to wear safety gear ( head gear, boxing gloves, groin cover and shin guards ).
Hand pushing is one type of grappling which depends upon pushing, shoving, elbowing, leaning against, pressing, shouldering, thrusting and jamming, to get the better of one's opponent. Hand pushing can enhance the combative ability of hand pushers and increase their combative insight and flexibility. Hand oushing usually means the hand pushing of Taiji Quan. Some other fist fighting styles also have hand pushing exercises.
In weapon fighting, combatants use various long and short weapons to fight in accordance with certain regulations. At present, weapon fighting is not as popular as Sanshou or hand pushing. Major programs of weapon fighting include duels between short weapons sucg as sabre and sword, and between long weapons like spears and cudgels
Sparring is one participates in by two or more Kung Fu practitioners either unarmed or armed. The routines for sparring include such offence and defence techniques as kicking, wrestling, holding, beating, thrusting, chopping, lifting, axing, finger-hitting at certain parts of the body, jumoing and leaping. Sparring can help participants to further understand the implication of the acts they have learned through solo practice and promote their standards of martial arts. Because they demand real combative atmosphere and skillfulness as well as close cooperation, sparring helps practitioners to cultivate bravery, intelligence, agility and cooperation. Sparring falls into three categories: unarmed, armed and unarmed versus armed.
Sparring without weapons is a sparring routine of fist, hand, leg and body movements and actions of the same style as in the solo practice. The combative arrangements include offence, defence and counterattack. The Chang Quan (long-style boxing) sparring includes in its program, jumps, leaps, hops and rolls, and the program requires practitioners to be quick and agile. The holding practice is an exerise which uses catching, seizing, holding, locking, moving and pointing at certain parts of the body to arrest, control, or extricate oneself, by forcing the opponent to maneuver their joints in reverse directions.
Armed sparring is one in which two participants exercise together, using similar or different weapons. Different weapons result in different styles. Sabre sparring displays the characteristics of valour, resolve and speed. Sword play stresses the combination of hardness and softness as well as gracefulness. The sparring between spear and long-handed sabre demonstrates braveness and intrepidity. The sparring between three-section articulated cudgels requires compactness and speed, which make the practice intense and exciting. Weapon sparrings also include such sparrings as broad sword versus spear, dagger versus spear and cudgel versus spear. These sparrings are between long and short, single and twin weapons.
The sparring between the armed and unarmed are ones which are often programmed for the unarmed to try to deprive the armed opponent of his weapon. Such sparring programs include unarmed versus sabre, unarmed versus spear, unarmed versus twin spears, unarmed versus sword etc.. The practices require that the armed side should be good at using his weapon. These practices also require that the unnarmed side should be quick at dodging the attacks by the armed side, and look for chances to counterattack. The technical programming of weapon practices generally takes into consideration the following points: Rational offence and defence. Army side of the duet must wait for the attack launched by the other side to decide what defence to use and how to counterattack, otherwise he has to act aimlessly and may even disrupt the duet program. Correct moves and tricks. Kung Fu sparring are simulated combats, not real ones. All attacks, defences and counterattacks are symbolic. This point is very important in weapon practices. The spear man is required to use his weapon as in real combat but has to be sure that he will not injure his partner. to do so, the spear man has to be sure as to where to direct his weapon so as to make the duet look exciting but safe. Identical rhythm. The two sides must cooperate by tacit understanding. If one side is faster than the other, the rhythm of the duet may be broken while the partners may sustain injuries or even get killed by mistake. The participants, therefore, are required to act in perect time either in attack or defence. Appropiated distance. The participants must adjust the width of their steps, for if they stand too far away from each other, the attack and defence will not look real and the actions and movements will be sloppy, but if they are too close to one another, neither can move freely and their acts will be affected.
Capture skills ( Chin Na ) are a kind of close combat skills used to subdue the enemy with skillful movements and ingenious exertion of strength. The basic principle in capturing the enemy is to seize, with either or both hands, a certain joint in the enemy,s limbs in order to have total control not only of a part of his body but also of his entire body, before you finally tie him up. Sucessful capture depends on daily and prolonged practice on the part of the combatant because, as the Kung Fu manual has it, "methods may be acquired from without, but ingenuity is achieved from within.". Only through repeated practice can the combatant make a correct judgement of the situation, seize the best opportunity and reach the acme of perfection in an actual combat. The following is a brief introduction to the eight essential points for the employment of capture skills.
It is common knowledge that one should be sharp-eyed and quick-moving in boxing. This is all the more true for the employment of capture skills. A pugilist should keep his eyes and ears wide open, use the sharp and stern eyesight to pierce into the enemy's intentions and be well prepared to quickly react to the possible movements of the enemy. The sharpness of the eye has a special significance if you wish to catch a fast-moving enemy in a fierce combat. This is because only when your eyes are sharp enough to detect the instantaneous opening in the enemy's body will it be possible for you to effect a successful break-in and capture.
This analogy tells of the speed of the handwork involved in effecting a capture. The combatant mainly uses his hands in capturing the enemy, with coordinated movements of his wrists, elbows, shoulders, as well as some other parts of the body. The importance of handwork can be seen from the fact that all the 36 techniques used in the capture skills, namely, Chan, Bie, Ban, Pi, Rao, An, Diao, Kou, Nie, Cuo, Tie, Kao, Fen, Duan, Dun, Ya, Cuo, He, Dian, Tao, Jia, Wa, Quan, Wo, Jiao, Shi, Shun, Ni, Feng, Yin, Gu, Qian, Suo, Gua, Ti, Hua are techniques of the hand. The speed of the handwork should, therefore, be so quick that it looks like an arrow taking off from a bow. The "arrow" can hit the target as soon as the "string" rings, and the enemy does not have time to parry or stop your capture movements.
Capture skills require that the combatant has as solid a Zhuang gong (the skill to be steadfast under push or kick) as that of a crouching tiger. The stableness of stepwork reflects the basic skills of a combatant. Ann effective capture can hardly be realized for lack of steadfastness or Zhuanggong in the lower part of the body. If you display an unsteady Zhuanggong in the combat, the enemy might take advantage of the situation and make a sudden counterattack to turn the tables. The employment of capture skills requires, therefore, that the combatant have correct stepwork and solid Zhuanggong, just like a crouching tiger awaiting its prey. Also required are the coordinated movements of the upper and lower parts of the body, the timely advance and retreat and the other appropriate movements of the body to assist in the capture.
This refers to the bodywork as required for the employment of capture skills. In addition to the sharpness of the eye, swiftness of the hand and steadfastness of the step, the application of many capture skills demands a direct coordination of the waist movements. This is especially true for tumbling capture skills and capture skills involving drastic movements of the body and requiring a high flexibility of the waist. In a combat which involves all the seven methods of kick, hit, throw, pounce, push, bump and capture, the combatant has to rely on a highly coordinated bodywork to realize such tactical movements as advancing and retreating, crouching and leaning, turning and twisting, sidestepping and dodging, before he can succesfully capture the opponent. Proper and flexible waist performance is a key factor in the completion of the above movements.
The practice of capture skills should be coordinated with the practice of Qigong, or breathing exercises, which forms the basis for the attainment of inner strength and skills. Without the inner cultivation of Qigong, there can be no inner skills or inner strength. Each of the seven combat methods is closely related to the practice of Qigong. The boxing manual has it that "In a combat, victory goes to the deep breathing combatant, not the shallow breathing one," and that "only when the breath circulates in the entire body can one concentrate and direct his skills and strength on an intended part of his body." These explain the importance of the inner skills and inner strength. The art of directing one's breath is the art of the concentration of one's strength, and therefore a well-trained combatant with deep breathing skills is at his ease in actual combat, devoid of any signs of breathlessness or unsteadiness that might lead to failure. When inner strength is exerted onto a charging arm, siad arm is immovable under push or pull from the opponent. Such strength may easily come and go, concentrate and disperse, combine and separate at your heart's content. The combatant who lacks the training of Qigong cannot master the quintessence of capture skills, neither can he perfect his techniques.
Before the exertion of one's strength in effecting a capture, the combatant has to carefully find out the enemy's weakpoints or loopholes. Once such weakpoints or loopholes are accurately located, the combatant immediately makes an abrupt and unexpected explosive attack as quickly as lightning or as a bullet. The combatant should consolidate and develop, with further fierce and resolute tactics, his superiority over the target part by tightening up his grip to such an extent that the enemy is unable to retreat from or thaw, escape, and avoid the grip, thus bringing his entire body under control.
"Knowledge and experience" here refers to the level of one's combat consciousness when the capture skills are used and one's skillfulness in the employment of the seven basis methods of the combat art. In actual combat, the enemy is bound to resist and make a desperate counterattack. Lack of knowledge and experience about the various changes in the combat art will render the combatant to a vulnerable position. One must have a clear understanding of the situation in a combat before he makes up his mind to capture or to fight. He should also coordinate his movements and be ready to change strategems by using any of the seven methods in order to make the enemy lose his ability to counterattack and prevent him from breaking away. No capture skills, no matter how superb they may be, can be effectively applied without the coordination of the other six combat methods. An inexperienced and short-sighted combatant does not know how to make a skillful and coordinated capture and often becomes himself a hitting target and captive.
Presence of mind in a combat is of great importance for the correct judgement of the situation and a quick decision to choose the appropriate tactics. A boxing manual has it that, "He who is highly skilled has the presence of mind; he who is not skilled loses his mind". Calmness and presence of mind are of special significance under the combat situation of one against two, of a bare-handed combatant using short weapons against an enemy with long weapons. The combatant who fails to break into the enemy's loophole or retreats when it is time for him to advance is often unskilles and lacks the presence of mind. Presence of mind shows one's combat spirit and is an embodiment of not only skill but also power. With overwhelming spirit, the combatant can exert enough strength to his muscles and bones to tackle with even iron and stone. Will and spirit have the power to kill.