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A Guide to Chinese Martial Arts

  • martial arts
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A Guide to Chinese Martial Arts
By Li Tianji and Du Xilian
Paperback, English
Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1995

A Guide to Chinese Martial Arts is divided into three chapters. The first chapter is about the origin, development and present situation of wushu; the second introduces different styles of wushu, the eighteen weapons, methods of wushu practice, the value of Chinese wushu; and the last explains the main wushu styles such as chang quan (extended boxing), taiji quan (great ultimate boxing) and shaolin quan (shaolin boxing) with illustrations.

Written by wushu master Li Tianji, the former General Coach of the China Wushu Team, and his assistant, Du Xilian, the book with about 500 illustrations is useful for learning how to practice wushu or simply to learn more about this ancient Chinese martial art.

Actually Chinese term for martial arts is Wu Shu, which denotes military arts, training for self-defense and bravery. Wu Shu" (also known as kung-fu or martial arts) is one of the typical demonstrations of traditional Chinese culture. Perhaps it is one of the earliest and long-lasting sports, which utilizes both brawn and brain. The theory of wushu is based upon classical Chinese philosophy. Throughout its long history it has developed characteristically with a unique combination of healthy push, practical self-defence, self-discipline and art. In sports such as field and track, ball sports, weightlifting, and boxing, an athlete typically has to retire from full participation in his 30s, due to failing physical vigor. He often will have sustained injuries he was not aware of that effect his health in middle age and older, because of overexertion when young. In Chinese kung fu, however, a distinction is made between "external" and "internatl" kung fu. It is said that "In external kung fu, you exercise your tendons, bones, and skin; in internal kung fu, you train your spirit your qi, and your mind." In addition to training to achieve a strong body and nimble limbs, there is also an "internal" training to adjust body and mind, strengthen internal organs, and increase circulation of one's qi, or flow of vital energy. Progressing from movement to stillness, from firmness to softness, the older one getes, the more adept one becomes at kung fu. And the higher one's level of achievement in kung fu, the better one is at maintaining good health and living a long, active life.

The skills of Chinese wushu consist of various forms of fighting: fist fights, weapon fights, and other fighting routines (including such offence and defence acts as kicking, hitting, throwing, holding, chopping and thrusting) and unarmed combats. According to Statistics, there are over 100 schools of Chinese boxing alone. Many individual styles within each of these schools.

Yongchun Quan (Eternal Youth Boxing) originated in Fujian Province, later spreading south to Guangdong, Macao and Hong Kong. Yongchun Quan is just one of a number of styles under the general term, Nan Quan, the Southern School of Boxing, a vigorous and aggressive school popular south of the Yangtze River. Of the many styles of Nan Quan, the most well-known are Hongjia Quan, Liujia Quan, Caijia Quan, Lijia Quan, and Mojia Quan, "the Five Great Schools." Other schools of Nan Quan are: Tiger and Crane Boxing, Eternal Youth Boxing, Knight Boxing, Hakka Boxing, Buddhist Boxing, White-Eyebrow Boxing, Confucian Boxing, Souther Skills Boxing, Kunlun Boxing, House of Kong Boxing, Han-Exercising Boxing, Diao School of Teaching, Yue School of Teaching, and Song School of Teaching.

Bei Quan, the Northern School of Boxing is a generic term for those schools in the provinces north of the Yangtze River. Characterized by speed and strength, the Northern School emphasizes variations of kicking and footwork, hence the common saying "Southern fists, Northern legs." The major styles of the Northern School are: Shaolin Boxing, Wheeling Boxing, Zha School of Boxing, Essence Boxing, Flower Boxing, Cannon Boxing, Hong School of Boxing, Full-Arm Boxing, Maze Boxing, Six-Harmony Boxing, Springing Legs, Jabbing Feet, Eight-Ultimate Boxing, Great Ancestor Extended Boxing and Silk Floss Boxing.

There also the popular Taiji Quan and Chang Quan, the energetic Xingyi Quan (Imitation Boxing), the flowing Bagua Quan, the vivid Hou Quan (Monkey Boxing) and Zui Quan (Drunken Boxing), the acrobatic Ditang Quan (Tumbling Boxing), and more. Each has its own characteristic skills.

Chinese wushu involves practice with weapons as well as the standard bare-hand skills "Weaponry" includes nine kinds of long weapons and nine short, such as knives, spears, swords, and clubs, which together constitute what is called the "Eighteen Types of Martial Arts." The majority of these weapons have been adapted from traditional weapons, hence the use of the term the "eighteen military weapons." This term was already widely used during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Ming novel, Outlaws of the Marsh mentioned it frequently. One version of the book records the "eighteen military weapons" as the lance, mallet, long bow, crossbow, jingal, jointed bludgeon, truncheon, sword, chain, hooks, hatchet, dagger-axe, battle-axe, halberd, shield, staff, spear and rake. Today, the term generally refers to the broad-sword, lance, rapier, halberd, hatchet, battle-axe, shovel, fork, jointed bludgeon, truncheon, hammer, harrow, trident, staff, long-blade spear, cudgel, dagger-axe and wave-bladed spear. This is only a general term, since military weapons were never restricted to just eighteen forms. Other weapons frequently used include the rope-dart, Emei dagger named after the Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province from which the style originated, as well as the bent-handled club and hook. Today, the wide variety of weapons used in wushu practice fall into four groups: 1. Long Weapons: Longer than the height of a person and wielded with both hands during practice. They include the lance, staff, great broad-sword, spear, halberd, fork, trident and spade. 2. Short Weapons: Shorter than the height of a person and wielded with one hand. These include the broad-sword, rapier, hatchet, hammer, truncheon, jointed bludgeon, dagger and shield. 3. Soft weapons: Rope, chains, or rings are used to create linked weapons which are able to strike close or far and are wielded with one or both hands. They include the nine-sectioned chain, three-sectioned flail, flying hammers which is tow iron balls linked by a long iron chain, the rope dart, flying claw and the ordinary flail. 4. Twin weapons: Here a pair of weapons are wielded, one in each hand. These include twin broad-swords, handled clubs, twin lances, twin hatchets, twin daggers, double-bladed daggers, Panguanbi (Twin rods with fist-shaped heads) and duck and drake battle-axes.

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