Kungfu, (also known as Wushu or martial arts) is a traditional Chinese sports which has developed over a long historical period. It is probably one of the earliest and longest lasting sports which utilize both brawn and brain. The theory of Kungfu is based upon classical Chinese philosophy.
As a traditional form of spiritual expression and refinement in China, Kungfu can be divided into two main categories: external and internal. The former are the generally fast-moving and focused on physical ability. Internal martial arts such as Taiji Quan focus on awareness of the mind, body, and spirit. Both forms are practiced today not only for their health benefits, but also for their grace, their beauty, and the spiritual understanding they bring.
The movements in Kungfu include kick, boxing, wresting and seizing, which are performed by rules. Sects of martial arts are various. Generally speaking, Shaolin Sect and Wudang Sect are the most famous two. Both of Shaolin and Wudang Kungfu lay emphasis on the external practice for Jing (genuine energy), Qi (vital energy) and Shen (spirit) and internal practice for muscle, bone and skin.
Being an important part of Chinese traditional martial arts, Shaolin Kungfu is considered to be the authentic Chinese Kungfu. Originally, Shaolin Kungfu was developed from the Shaolin Temple, in Henan Province. While cultivating in the thick forest of the high mountains, monks created a set of body-building exercises by learning the postures of flying, jumping and running from birds, beasts and fish. Gradually, these body-building exercises developed into a sort of boxing through long practice and improvement, which is generally called 'Shaolin boxing'.
Shaolin Kungfu includes boxing, stick art, spear art, sword art and so on. Shaolin boxing is strong and powerful. It is a combination of attack and defense thus making it practical for real fights. Stick art played an important role in wars. It can not only defeat the enemy and achieve victory, but also improve health and promote longevity.
Wudang Kungfu arts are greatly related to the Chinese native religion - Taoism. Wudang Kungfu emphasizes the strengthening of bones and muscles and internal cultivation, and encourages the use of softness to conquer the unyielding. It doesn't advocate attack but at the same time it is hard to defeat. Shadow boxing, Bare-hand fighting in six steps, Wuji boxing are all types of Wudang Kungfu. Wudang Sword is regarded as Wudang's priceless treasure.
Taiji Quan is a Taoist internal martial art for both internal power and longevity. In terms of the Taoist principle of yin and yang, what was revolutionary about Taiji Quan was the incorporation of the yin element to fighting. In Taiji Quan one uses a balance of yin techniques with yang techniques, a balance between yielding and attacking. It is for this reason that Taiji Quan is described as "a needle hidden in cotton" or "hardness concealed in softness".
Presently Taiji Quan is rapidly growing in popularity for the tremendous health benefits which come through practice. Clinical studies have shown that Taiji Quan practice can lower blood pressure, reduce nervous tension, and benefit the immune, digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.