By Young Master Joseph Ngaruiya Njogu (Kenya Kung Fu Wushu Federation)
Chinese Kung Fu is a series of fighting styles that were developed over a long historical period in China. Kung Fu has been part and parcel of Chinese traditional culture, which espoused values like self discipline and humility and emphasis on a strong body and mind. Nowadays, Kung Fu is regarded as a traditional sport gaining more popularity across the world.
Kungfu was developed by Chinese ancestors in order to survive in an extremely harsh environment at the time. They developed primary means of defense and attack that included leaping, tumbling and kicking. However, it is the philosophy, ethics and even the medical practice that is highly regarded by most Chinese Kung Fu artists. A complete training system can provide insight into the depth of Chinese attitudes and cultural backgrounds.
Kung Fu is a combination of actions and meditation, which advocates virtues of peace, not aggression or violence. This has been the common value upheld by Kung Fu artists from generation to generation. Despite the highly sophisticated movement sets that include boxing styles, weapons skills and fighting stunts, Kung Fu keeps its original function of self-defense. Nowadays, its main value lies in body building, friends bonding and physical and mental fitness.
Most Kenyans and the majority of non-Chinese people tend to believe that all Chinese people are Kung Fu masters. That is not entirely true, but the Kung Fu heritage has its unique existence in Chinese people’s daily lives and has left much influence on the local’s lifestyle.
KUNG FU IN KENYA
Growing up in Kenya in the 80’s and 90’s, we were introduced to Kung Fu by the famous Chinese martial artists Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a combination of a handsome face, a strong body, heroic fighting skills, and a heroic image. He brought most of us a lot of joy and inspiration. Bruce Lee was a true ambassador of Chinese Kung Fu. His legacy has been carried on by other famous Chinese actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li among others. These actors provided a window into Chinese culture, values and traditions.
It was a common narrative in Kung Fu movies that the hero who was usually a humble person is picked on or placed in danger, but after studying Kung Fu, they come out stronger, faster, and wiser than before and easily took on the enemy.
The beauty of Kung Fu at the time was that apart from entertainment value, it taught us how to persevere in the face of adversity. The spirit of perseverance, persistence and tenacity as portrayed by Kung Fu actors are revered cultural traits in Chinese historical culture that continue to guide and drive the Chinese people to greatness.
It is the same values and lessons that draw hordes of followers towards Kung Fu. Even today, these values help us to examine ourselves and our situations and find the best ways through challenges.
Whereas many have adopted the word Kung Fu to refer to Chinese martial arts, the practice of Kung Fu also refers to the process of one’s training that includes the strengthening of the body and the mind, and the learning and perfection of one’s skills rather than to what is being trained.
It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. This meaning is evident in Chinese classical writings, especially those of Neo-Confucianism, which emphasize the importance of effort in education. The literally meaning ‘Gong fu”, in China refers to any set of practices that cultivate a skill through hard work.
In recent years, Kung Fu has grown more and more popular among people of different ages and nationalities. Kung Fu training centers and clubs have been established all over the world and the demand is still growing. Although Kung Fu has not been fully embraced in Kenya, the demand for physical and mental fitness is on the rise and therefore, Kung Fu offers an alternative overall source of physical and mental well being. Chinese Kung Fu is now an integral element of Chinese culture, and it also has global appeal.