Difference Between the Various Martial Arts

By: gbrajput

For those of you whom have stayed around long enough to figure out the differences, there still may be some of you who do not know what this title means. After many years of research, study and first hand experiences I have found a lot about the reasons for training and what styles to train under. Why are we taking any type of self defense course? Why do we train in this style of Kung Fu? Why not just join the armed forces? All of these questions and many others will be answered in this article.
Kung Fu or Wu Shu?
There have been many students that asked me "What is the difference between kung fu and wu shu?" Let us first go into the translation of these words from Chinese into English: "Kung Fu" = Time and Energy. Then "Wu Shu" = War like Technique. Neither of these two words separately can be translated onto a fighting style or some type of self defense. However, placed together they represent generalized Chinese martial arts.
Kung Fu: A term normally used in the Chinese language for anyone who gains a skill through time and effort. A carpenter would have good kung fu in laying carpets, a tailor would good kung fu in sewing clothes, a fighter would have good kung fu in defending himself.
The term "Kung Fu" got it's connection with martial arts and Shaolin in the 1960's when Bruce Lee and other movie actors used the phrase: "Your Kung Fu is good" which actually meant that there skill was good, not to say that kung fu was there style. From that point onward most average people thought kung fu meant a type of fighting style like karate or tae kwon do.
Kuo Shu: Kuo = National and Shu = Technique. National Technique, a term used starting in early to mid 1900's by the Chinese government. They were trying to unify the martial arts into a public sport. Later the term Wu Shu would replace Kuo Shu as the term most of us recognize.
Wu Shu: A modern term used for the martial sport popular in China today.

Wu = War like and Shu = Techniques. War Techniques or Wu Shu became popular in the 50's - 60's and China has now made an application for Wu Shu to become an event in the 2008 Olympics.
Modern / Traditional?
There are plenty of arguments of what is considered modern and what is considered traditional. The only difference between the 2 should be: Something made or developed long ago or Something made or developed recently.
Modern kung fu or martial arts seam to focus on the needs of the people today. Which for the most part is health and fitness and a little bit of self defense. There are very few hard core individuals interested in the brutish power and aggressive nature needed to become proficient in any type of worth while street defense.
If you look at everyone on a whole, 75% of us will never get into a fight or need martial arts in our lifetime. There is a 25% chance that some of will get into some type of self defense situation or you could look at some woman and children being physically assaulted. Most likely you will never need kung fu skills to defend yourself. For the most part, today's society is gun happy and you can not effectively use martial arts against firearms.
Anything that has to do with an older, more original way to do something can be considered "traditional". In that respect, kung fu styles that use older more original forms and techniques could be considered traditional.
However, due to the destruction of all the old records and manuscripts, it is virtually impossible to correctly know if a kung fu style is authentically "Traditional" or not. Many kung fu teachers claim to be teaching traditional styles but, are only using this ploy to lure prospective students into their schools. There are also many teachers who may not actually know if their style is traditional or not, they just teach the kung fu that was taught to them by their teacher or father.
For most people here in India, modern or traditional may not even matter. Our society is relatively peaceful in nature. There are no civil wars going on right now. Our government is not an evil tyrannical regime that constantly thwarts the people at every turn. So the need for all people to be at their top kung fu skill just to stay alive is practically none. So this peaceful society usually leads most people to martial arts, not to stay alive, but to get in shape or to get some self defense in. For parents, kung fu can build confidence, discipline for their children.
Fighting Art / Performance Art
I have heard many say "I wish to learn a art form". An Art Form can be anything from dancing, opera, gymnastics or Kung Fu. As we look at kung fu, the art form most people see is the "Form or Pattern". This Form are techniques linked together to create a pattern or sequence. Older more traditional forms are more practical, but still are beautiful and graceful to watch. Newer forms such as in the style of Wu Shu are a bit more gymnastic / acrobatic in nature. The practitioners of Wu Shu look spectacular as they do a dazzling array of jumps, flips and aerial kicks. There are those who say that Wu Shu is just a performance art and not a real kung fu style. That is a wrong assumption. As most of us go to competitions or demonstrations, we tend to see the modern Wu Shu player as only doing the "Form" and not fighting or sparring at all. If taught correctly and with traditional fighting values, Wu Shu can be an effective and devastating kung fu fighting style. Just because something looks beautiful does not mean it is not deadly.
No matter what reason you think you are supposed to be taking kung fu, whether it's for self defense or for the "Art Form" or just to get into shape. Just take kung fu because you enjoy what you are doing. Keep training hard and don't worry about anything else.

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