“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.” said Daniel Dafoe, the famous English writer of Robinson Crusoe. Even great minds seem to agree that the body and the soul must be crafted in order for it to be seen as a fine sculpture. On one hand, the body is considered a tangible form of science and art. Every dance and every strike transfers energy from within to an external point, formed by muscle movement and nerve conduction. But one may ask, how does the body hold for long? What would keep it going? The soul. The fire generated by one’s own friction. When the body yields, the soul wraps around frail bones before it could break.
Martial arts, depending on the intention, is said to feed both the body and the soul. Although its origins are hard to trace, its history and legacy leaves the modern society a channel to form the body and soul in unison. Aside from artifacts, the most primitive evidence of martial arts comes from battles depicted in early illustrations and literature—like ancient Egyptian sculptures depict a form of struggle and Vietnamese drawings depict use of swords, sticks, bows and spears. Asia has always been considered to be the origin of martial arts, however, it is not the birthplace of all martial arts, as multiple texts show early use of martial arts in Europe and India. But one must agree that the most renowned martial art—which is Kung Fu—comes from Asia.
Type of Martial Arts
There are various forms of martial arts, which are categorized accordingly. One way to classify them is through its technique—unarmed or armed. Striking martial arts is a form of unarmed combat, popular in sports and competitions. Although considered a major sport, Boxing is one form of a striking martial art originating from Ancient Greece. It involves weakening an opponent until they get knocked out through punches with the use of gloves, though historically bare. Taekwondo and Capoeira are also popular striking martial arts, which makes use of kicking. Influenced by Chinese martial arts and Karate, Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, which combines the use of multiple traditional martial arts from its country origin. Capoeira, a variant of kicking martial arts from Brazil, involves elements of dance and acrobatics. It is widely known for its agile and complicated techniques incorporating kicks, spins and mobile movements. Other popular striking martial arts combine these two elements like Karate in Japan and Muay Thai from Thailand. Another classification of unarmed martial arts is grappling martial arts. Popular examples of this type are Judo and Sumo. Judokas, a name used for Judo practitioners, practice the use of throwing and pinning an opponent on the ground. Originating from Japan, Judo practices involve making the opponent submit through joint-lock and immobilization. Sumo, another martial art from Japan, involves throws and strikes aimed to hurl an opponent out of the ring. Most Sumo wrestlers or Rikishis would use all parts of the body except their feet.
While most popular martial arts involve unarmed combat, there are well-known armed martial arts practiced in the present day. Traditional and modern armed martial arts alike include the use blades weapons like swords and spears and others like polearms, staves and bows. Some examples of prominent armed martial arts include Fencing and Kendo, both of which use a variety of swords. Fencing involves a short sword with three specialized types one could master. Arnis is a famous Filipino martial arts, which includes the use of sticks for self-defense. Over time, these martial arts mixed unarmed and armed combat forming the modern martial arts practiced today. However, it is not only through combat wherein martial arts shape the body and soul. Some martial arts have been used for medical and spiritual purposes—especially in religion and spirituality.
The Art of Kung Fu
One of the greatest modern influences of martial arts is Chinese Martial Arts or Kung Fu. With the “Kung Fu” trend set by practitioners, and actors, like Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan in film, Chinese martial arts became the most known form of martial arts. In primitive times, Chinese ancestors produced a form of self-defense that included a lot of tumbling, kicking and jumping. Most Modern Chinese Martial Arts were during the Shang (1600-1050 BCE) and Zhou (1046-256 BCE) Dynasties. It was during the Qin (221-206 BCE) and Han (206 BCE-220 CE) Dynasties when weaponry came into play and was further polished during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Among the several forms of Kung Fu, narrowing them down to specific classifications is difficult as the country has a record of 300 forms of martial arts. One way they are classified is through the training methods practiced in a martial art. Nei Jia Quan and Wai Jia Quan are polar examples of these, being internal martial arts and external martial arts respectively. Geographical origin is another example of classification. The northern and southern China has different techniques in martial arts. The Southern Fist, which prevails mostly in southern China, and Shaolin are examples of names coming from its geographic origin. Shaolin martial arts are the most widespread of all Chinese martial arts. Greatly considered as part of the Chinese culture, Shaolin combines its fighting style with Kung Fu and Buddhism. Schools that represent this art are Nanquan and Beitui. Shaolin covers unarmed and armed combat for self-defense and bodybuilding. Another Chinese martial art school that is as influential as Shaolin is Wudang, created by Taoist Zhang Sanfeng. Influenced by Taoism philosophy, they advocate peace. Martial Arts that represent Wudang are Tai Chi, Form/Intention Boxing and Eight Diagram Palm. Other examples of Kung Fu include Qigong and Emei Martial Arts.
Chinese martial arts are so widespread that it’s hard to name them all. Its worldwide influence has left an impact on society that a great deal of schools has been established for training. These arts require sculpting of the body, the mind and soul. In order to say someone has mastered Kung Fu, one must establish their refinement and study under the discipline of their art as enlightenment follows soon thereafter.