Kung fu means accomplishment through effort that comes as a result of hard work or practice. Kung—accomplishment, fu—effort. The term applies to all kinds of expert performance and not just to the martial arts. “Wushu” is a more correct designation of Chinese martial art, but the term “Kung fu” has become popular, and describes a broad spectrum of martial arts practices in which fighting techniques, physical fitness, performance routines and weapons training combine. There are hundreds of Kung fu styles, and attempts to classify them in detail are futile. Nonetheless it is useful to identify our own practice at Kung fu Academy by relating it to some specific aspects of this complex background.

Shaolin Temple represents a first organized attempt to blend fighting techniques with moral and spiritual principles in an effort to understand violence and to deal with it in ways that best promote the virtues of compassion and peace recommended by Chan Buddhism. The difficulties and significance of this spiritual and moral challenge have remained fascinating until the present day, and at Kung fu Academy we see ourselves as continuing to address this challenge as it was formulated at the ancient Shaolin Temple.

A distinction is often drawn between Northern and Southern styles of Kung fu, perhaps Reflecting the location of the two Shaolin Temples. The Northern style is usually described as hard, concentrating on legs; by contrast, the Southern style is soft, concentrating on hands. It is doubtful if this contrast was in so clear-cut, but distinctions between hard and soft, external and internal are themselves useful, and at Kung fu Academy we attempt to achieve a balance between them, recognizing also that different students might have aptitudes in one or other of these directions.


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