Oriental Martial Arts
Martial arts have always existed. They appeared approximately in the 7th century BC with the first people on Earth. They have been developing during hundreds and thousands of years and have had their rises and falls and they are still popular nowadays. Each country has its own martial art, though some of them such as Chinese kung fu are spread all over the world. The cause of appearing of martial arts is clear. Long ago people needed to protect themselves, their territories; to get food etc. in short it is called survival instinct.

People didn't know how to fight and did not have good armor, but they had to fight to survive. That is how the history of martial arts began. However, times passed, the world was changing. Now people do not have to fight every day of their life as we live in more or less protected society that provides peaceful existence. And there are certain people who are specially thought and trained to protect their countries. In addition, we have more qualified and effective weapons than arms, sward or hammer. Nevertheless, martial arts are still well-spread and very popular with people of all ages and both sex in modern world. Thousands of people in each country go in for U-Shu, Aikido, Karate, Taekwondo, Sambo, Thaidzychuan and so on. Some men even devote all their life to become the master of martial arts and to learn all secrets of ancient fighting techniques. So the question is why martial arts still exist and have popularity even in modern world.

To begin with let me tell you about the history of martial arts. Archeological researches show that martial arts or in other words kung fu are much older than any civilization. As soon as the first people appeared on Earth, they began to fight. As soon as they began to fight people began to study different methods and techniques so that to develop their skills. Times passed and these techniques turned into first basic martial art that was the progenitor of all martial arts we know and study nowadays. The latest archeological researches proved that pieces of armors dating back to the 7th century BC have amazing accuracy and level of manufacturing and processing. That means that the art of protection was much more important for our ancestors that other crafts. Martial arts were gradually improving during thousands of years using them in a battle and training them at home people were making new discoveries. All techniques were carefully kept by masters who were passing their skills and habits from one generation to another. Even during the reigning of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when martial arts were strictly prohibited, the government failed to destroy martial arts completely. People continued to practice secretly in closed societies disguised as theatres and travelling circuses.

Talking about the history it will be important to mention the Legendary Shaolin mostly known as a cradle of all Chinese martial arts. It was built by Indian monk Batuo in 495 year AC. In 527 year in Shaolin there arrived blessed Bodhidharma who had left his mundane life to become a poor monk and to preach the ideas of Buddha in China. He found novices of the monastery too weak to practice meditation, which as you know is the cornerstone on the way to Enlightenment. So he showed them basic complex of exercises called "18 hand of Lohan" that make body stronger and the system of "internal" exercises named " Basics of muscle metamorphosis".
Shaolin was not an ordinary monastery. During centuries Chinese rulers used to leave for one of five emperors' temples situated on five sacred mountains of China to pray and to ask for peace and well-being for their people. Shaolin was considered to be the best of those temples. So it was regularly attended by emperors and famous Chinese generals. Most of them were also well-known master of martial arts and soon they transformed "18 hands of Lohan" into original fighting combinations called "Lohan's Kung Fu of Shaolin monastery". "Basics of muscle metamorphosis" was also soon converted into Ki-kung of Shaolin. Living conditions in Shaolin were perfect for everyday practicing kung fu that was not only a martial craft, but also a complicated unrepeatable art combining lots of theory and practical elements.

At first only monks of Shaolin were able to study kung fu. Nevertheless, later parishioners appeared. When the training period was over some students were going away to travel over the country. So that to teach some other people. I hope that now it is clear to you why soon Shaolin was considered to be known as the best school of martial arts. Even a proverb appeared saying:"Kung Fu of Shaolin is always the best in the world". Returning back to what I have already told you I must point out that any master of martial arts never stops. On the contrary he transforms it for himself. We may say that in fact there are as many fighting styles as there are masters of martial arts.

Now you know that most of Chinese martial arts have as their back ground Shaolin kung fu. That is why if you want to understand what any oriental martial art is you should learn the structure of kung fu of Shaolin monastery
And what is kung fu itself? In short, it is classical Chinese martial art that can be studied by people of any race, culture and religion. Though it is right it does not show and explain all scopes of using kung fu, which you cannot feel until you go in for this art. So, to understand the nature of kung fu we should look through the following for components:
- external form;
- force and skill:
- practical using or fight;
- philosophy of kung fu.
External form is one of the main components of kung fu. Most newcomers mistakenly think that it is the only one. Two typical manifestations of this form are techniques and combinations. Technique is a certain position or/and movement of arms, legs, head and corpus of a man. Sometimes techniques also can be a short series of movement. Combination usually consists of some techniques following one by one in certain order. All techniques are selected and folded into combinations because of the following causes:
For convenient memorization. That is the main cause because of which kung fu techniques are studied in combinations more often than apart, like in dzudo.

For fighting application. This or that technique is used in a fight depending on a certain situation. It is clear that most techniques are convenient to be used in specific order in which they were formed during many centuries.
For straight training. Some students are surprised that many combinations include techniques which at first sight do not have combat use. Actually, they are used for humans' muscles growth that makes whole combination much more effective.

These principles can be combined with each other in any possible combination. For example at initial stage some combinations can be aimed at increasing strength, when later they are used in a fight.
Speaking about force, I should say that it can be "basic" and "special". "Basic" is the force we are confronted with in everyday life, the force that belongs to the whole human body and flows from one part to another. "Special" appears and concentrates in one separated part of the body for certain action. This force cannot be transferred to some other bodies' parts. Absence or presence of force can negate or multiply the effectiveness of your techniques. Force does not have external form, it is invisible and is formed formed from accuracy, power and speed. At higher level force is usually the main factor determining victory. Real master is estimated by the skill of concentrating force, not by using techniques.
Practical using or demonstration of kung fu in a fight is the third component of this art. Each person who studies kung fu must be able to use it in everyday life. Kung fu becomes absolutely useless if you take away its fighting aspect. That does not mean that pupils have to fight as often as they can to improve their martial art. Nevertheless, everyone should be able to apply correctly his fighting skills in everyday life, to remain calm and to maintain clarity of thoughts even in extreme situation.
The fourth component of kung fu - philosophy which implies understanding and correct using of priceless philosophic knowledge gained over centuries by the best kung fu masters. Without it one probably will not deeply feel the whole essence of kung fu. Kung fu is a practical earth art; its philosophy can help you to look at the world in a new way. Studying kung fu philosophy a person will:
Acquire necessary theoretical base without which correct understanding of any martial art is impossible;
Avoid many mistakes (which he could have made) and spare more time for practical trainings;
Join the richest cultural heritage of our ancient ancestors;
Open such a fantastic abyss of wisdom that even hard to imagine.
A touch to sacred sources of ancient knowledge will certainly clean your soul and teach you to understand the world around in the right way.
After we have found out what kung fu is it will be right to tell you about the use of going in for martial arts. I should emphasize that some people go in for kung fu for a long time, but do not achieve any significant results when others succeed in a very short period of time. That happens because the first do not have certain aim and their trainings are useless, while others as a rule know from the very beginning what they want to get in the end of each certain stage.
In general, the use of going in for kung fu is in:
Mastering of your self-defense;
Improving of your health;
Developing your characters;
Widening your general outlook;
Affecting your spiritual development;
Besides each person has also to have his own aims and goals which he has to choose by himself and strive for them during his trainings. Of course, the main idea of kung fu is self-defense. To take away its body and to turn it into a simple physical culture will mean to destroy it completely. There are some students and teachers who sometimes say that they go in for kung fu just to improve their health, not to fight. It is possible to have such a point of view, but they must remember that kung fu will forever remain a martial art. Though it does not mean that you should demonstrate your knowledge and to fight every day of your life. Old masters always taught us to be humble. We have to avoid battles by any possible way. Nevertheless, real ability to protect yourself and your nearest in case of danger has always been a good skill.

As for improving one's health, of course, you should not hope that training kung fu will provide your ideal health and absolute immunity from all diseases of the world. But going in for kung fu you will soon sleep sweetly, have a good appetite and more than that you will enjoy your work and have a clear head. Good physical condition does not mean that you will have a magical power of fairy-tale heroes. But you will learn how to run quickly and how to jump high, to stand the heat and cold and to concentrate on something when it is necessary.

You will be able to reach all these goals only if you always remember that you are going in for martial art. If you do not pay attention to all aspects of martial arts and go in for kung fu like a physical culture you of course won't lose your health but you won't reach that level of physical abilities either.
A person who is a real master of kung fu is able to stand hours of fight, to defeat enemy who is much stronger and taller than he does. Master of martial art can stand cold and save a clear mind even in a period of death danger. Do you think it is worth going in for kung fu to achieve all this?
Kung fu is much more useful than any other kinds of sports. Going in for boxing, gymnastics or tennis you will hardly avoid injures which may make you a very sick person later. But doing kung fu your physical abilities become stronger because they include Ki king and meditation that develop internal skills of body and concentrate life energy and force.

As for me I started going in for kung fu when I was about 8 years old. I had some problems with health and the only way out was starting some trainings which include breathing exercises. At that time I probably knew nothing about martial arts. But it so happened that I was lucky to meet a woman, a master of Wing Chun Kung Fu, who helped me to choose the right martial art. I just have fallen in love with it. Now it has been 7 years already since I had my first lesson and I cannot imagine my life without trainings. I recovered from my decease, became stronger and healthier. Nevertheless, I still continue mastering my physical abilities, because in martial arts there is no final point.

I hope I could convince you that martial arts have various aspects which help people to see the world in some other way, they help to concentrate your life energy and force which help people to live a long and healthy life. And besides to protect themselves in danger. I would like you to think about what I have just told you and decide if you should change your life a little bit to make it more enjoyable.


This research project was composed and written by Tyurina Varvara, a student of Bench Oksana Olegovna, in 2010 year.