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Kung Fu: Chinese martial art with multiple meanings

Kung fu, or gong fu, which means "skill acquired through practice" is an umbrella term used in the West to refer to the various martial and health practices of Chinese origin. It owes its popularity mainly to Bruce Lee's films, shot in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the television series entitled "Kung Fu". The discipline has therefore made many followers and has been added to the martial arts already known such as muay thai, judo, karate or aikido. The history of kung fu dates back to the sixth century when an Indian monk, Bodhidharma, founder in China of Chan sect Buddhism, taught shaolin monastery kung fu techniques consisting of both spiritual elements and martial techniques. It is from this legend, true or not, that dates the reputation of the Shaolin monks as fighters mastering this practice which relies as much on meditation methods as on martial techniques. These are mostly composed of the many Chinese martial traditions consisting of box feet fists, and often including the handling of very diverse weapons, in particular the spear, the stick and the sword. According to tradition, there are more than three hundred and fifty styles of boxes, most of which are still practiced today. We owe this profusion to the fact that each style can only be transmitted in the family and that a student who does not benefit from this transmission must invent his own style, starting from the common base to the struggles of kung fu but also enriched by his own experience. The set of martial arts, referred to by the generic term wushu, is the subject of a significant craze throughout the world, respecting the principle of the creation of personal styles and leading to the multiplication of schools. This is the reason why there is no federation or organization that can bring together all kung fu fighters and allow them to confront their styles. Similarly, while the Chinese government has twice attempted to define a synthesis and classification of different styles, it has never succeeded in imposing a single style. However, the fashion of kung fu allows the Chinese to improve their image internationally and earn foreign exchange thanks to the many students attracted by this movement. For example, the famous Shaolin Temple, which offers courses and training to practitioners around the world and is experiencing significant economic growth. Hong Kong cinema has always been an important vector of publicity for kung fu, because after Bruce Lee, it was Jackie Chan or director John Woo who knew, following him, to perpetuate this craze for kung fu. However, it is regrettable that this movement has become above all a combat sport, abandoning the meditation techniques that traditionally accompanied it, both in China and in the rest of the world. Kung fu has become a spectacle, and tends towards the demonstration of gymnastic prowess that are both aesthetic and impressive, rather than the search for a certain martial efficiency or therapeutic benefits. However, these remain alive in traditional Chinese martial arts and their teaching continues to expand around the world.