Updated: Jul 19
Most of us have heard of Kung Fu used as a term to describe Chinese Martial Arts, but how do they differ from other styles such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do?
Kung Fu - A style with great depth and substance!
Many of us have had only 'main stream' exposure to Martial Arts through media, watching our favourite cartoon characters as children, or blockbuster movies on the big screen, which depict acrobatic displays of speed, power and grace, as two or more combatants thrill us with their dynamic movements as they engage in skillfully choreographed fighting scenes.
Of course to the majority of us, the style the practitioner is displaying is irrelevant, and to someone with little knowledge of martial arts, they may all look quite similar.
Almost every combat art involves an element of punching, kicking and blocking, coupled with swift footwork and explosive movements, that look fantastic in motion.
For those of us who are keen to start a program of Martial Arts though the question then becomes, 'which style would suit me best?' or 'which style is the most effective?', an age old question that I believe has no easy answer.
We are all individuals, and a particular style may appeal to some and not others.
The truth of the matter is that most Martial Arts when trained to a high level are very effective in teaching concepts of self defence, however in my opinion it is not the martial art itself, but the practitioner that can harness and display the true nature of a particular style, and make it their own.
Why did I choose to dedicate myself to Kung Fu as my preferred Martial Art?
The answer to this funnily enough is extremely simple. After having practiced Hapkido, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I eventually fell in love with Kung Fu as it offered far better benefits for health, longevity and self awareness than any of the other styles I had practiced.
Let me be the first to say that each of the other styles were great for physical fitness and self defence, but what they were lacking in my opinion was a more holistic approach to training.
The physical demands of these styles were huge, and in time caused me to suffer injuries, feel fatigued and struggle to recover from sessions, even though I was much younger then than I am now.
Kung Fu on the other hand still offered the same high intensity combat training, physical fitness and improved coordination that other martial arts offered, but also gave me a deeper insight into how to conserve my energy whilst practicing, and taught me that harnessing my internal energy or 'Qi' could help me to recover from injury, improve my state of mind and aid in deeper sleep.
I could train for longer, recover more quickly and push myself further without burning out, which was an obvious advantage, especially as I became older.
Kung Fu also does not rely on physical strength as much as some other arts do, and therefore unlike many systems where you reach a physical peak earlier in life, Kung Fu practice you will continue to grow as you age.
Another aspect though that goes far beyond physical training is the spiritual aspect of Kung Fu, and it's profound impact on my mental state and well-being.
Without going too deep into Daoist and Buddhist philosophy and the endless possibilities of meditation, Qigong and Kung Fu, let me just say that I have never found a practice that encompasses so many aspects that intrigue and encourage me to call continue to delve deeper.
Kung Fu gives me a feeling of connection to the world around me, from the blissful sense of calm whilst meditating in nature, to the awe inspiring sensations of Qi flowing through my system when I practice Taiji, the art is as much about self awareness as it is about self defence.
Couple this with the great physical fitness I get from my intense cardio sessions while sparring and doing free movement, for me it is a match made in heaven!
Whether Kung Fu or any other style is right for you is not a question I can answer, as it really comes down to your own personal preference, and goals for your training.
My best advice after many years of practice is to try a few different styles to see which one resonates with you, and inspires you to keep evolving, no matter how hard the training gets.
Kung Fu for me is a life long practice I will never grow tired of, despite the many physical and mental challenges it constantly provides, as it is an avenue I can use to further my own growth and development regardless of age.
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