History of Chinese Martial Arts

September 7, 2011

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history of chinese martial arts

History of Chinese Martial Arts

Chinese martial arts (also known as Wushu in Chinese), is also popularly known as Kung Fu in Western countries. Through the history of Chinese martial arts in China, Kung Fu is often passed down from one generation to the next within a close family system or clan, almost like an heirloom. Skills are rarely passed to members outside of the clan or family, with the best or ultimate fighting technique solely inherited by the strongest member of family (also usually the eldest) when the previous leader passes on. If this member was killed or died without an inheritor, the clan’s history of Chinese martial arts secret technique dies along with him.

History of Chinese Martial Arts – Hunting


The history of Chinese martial arts began in China when there is a need for skills and techniques used for hunting for food and self-defense against attacking animals. Hunting weapons such as the spear and dagger can be said to contain the oldest history of Chinese Martial Arts.

 History of Chinese Martial Arts –Civilization and War

As the Chinese settle down into colonies and countries with leaders to follow, war began as these leaders seek to expand territories. This could be due to a need for land to grow food, for citizens to live in, to increase their strength and power or sometimes, as what some historical bibliography of Chinese Emperors portrayed, simply for women and sheer pleasure. So much for the history of Chinese martial arts!

While most common military weapons such as the sword were used for military training in the history of Chinese martial arts, internal conflicts and strife were also common among farmers and commoners against the unscrupulous nobles, gangsters, robbers and occasionally, overthrowing an empire. This is when they pick up their farming tools such as the shovel, plougher and fork knife and turn them into weapons made lethal with Chinese martial arts techniques.

History of Chinese Martial Arts –The Origins of Kung Fu

Although we can see how the history of Chinese martial arts was derived from the the need for survival and power, the origins of the Chinese martial arts and the fighting system we see today is often a debated issue. While many would say that all Kung Fu originate from Shaolin, some sources claim that it was the famous Yellow Emperor who introduced the earliest fighting systems to China.

History of Chinese Martial Arts –The Earliest Fighting Systems to the ones we have Today

The earliest references to the history of Chinese martial arts were found to be around 500BC. Hard and soft (think Tai Chi or Wing Chun) techniques were already recorded then. The fighting systems also include the practice of Qi Gong, strikes, throws, joint manipulation and pressure point attacks.

It was only until the Ming Dynasty (ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644) when the modern concepts of Wushu were fully developed to the ones we see today.

History of Chinese Martial Arts –Today

Today, the history of Chinese martial arts had conceived hundreds of different styles, each with its own set of ideology, techniques and history. Despite the vast differences in styles, Chinese martial arts pracittioners today have differentiated and classified most styles into Northern and Southern styles, with some styles that do not fit into the first two classifications classified as styles that mimic animals and nature (Xiang Xing Quan).

To learn more about the Northern and Southern Chinese martial arts style, this article may be useful for you.

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About Qi

Qi began learning Wushu at a young age of 11 and has been practising for more than 12 years now. Her passion for Wushu is fueled by the beauty and strength of the Chinese Martial Arts form.

View all posts by Qi

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