Chinese Martial Arts

China, the world’s largest country by population, is widely regarded as the home of martial arts and is the birthplace of numerous diverse styles.

Modern Chinese martial arts can trace their origins to a number of sources, including ancient military skills, the Buddhist martial arts that evolved out of the Shaolin temple, the Daoist martial arts that originate from the Wudang temple in Hubei province, and a number of other techniques used by bandits, militia, secret societies, invaders, and marauding pirates throughout China’s turbulent history.

According to legend, the Indian monk Bodhidharma (known as “Da Mo” in China) traveled from southern India to China in the 6th century CE carrying sutras (collections of dialogs and discourses). He then settled in the Shaolin temple in Song Shan, and introduced martial exercises and Zen Buddhism to China. However, there is evidence to suggest that the practice of martial arts in the country dates back to well before that time.

A longer history

Although Bodhidharma may well have been one of the first to record martial-art techniques—he also introduced techniques such as meditation to existing fighting systems—experts believe that Chinese martial arts gradually developed from ancient hunting skills and from one tribe’s need to defend itself from another. These fighting forms developed slowly over the years: punches and kicks were incorporated and, in time, so was the use of weapons.

The first evidence of martial-art practice in China comes in 2698 BCE during the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, who developed the practice of jiao di (“horn-butting”) among his soldiers. In the 5th century BCE – some 1,000 years before Bodhidharma’s arrival in Song Shan – Confucius mentions martial arts in his texts; Daoist literature from the 4th century BCE contains principles applicable to martial arts; and there is evidence to suggest that physical exercises similar to taijiquan have been practiced in the region since at least 500 BCE. In contrast, the earliest textual evidence of Shaolin martial arts comes in 728 CE.

Putting soldiers to the test

The development of martial arts in China is indelibly linked to the military. The first military martial-arts tests were established in 702 CE. These challenged a soldier’s physical strength, horsemanship, and skills with a lance, spear, and bow and arrow. Such a premium was placed on them that regular soldiers were categorized according to their ability and courage in hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills, particularly their swordsmanship.

Various military generals have added their expertise to China’s martial-arts mix. Even Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior whose armies had conquered much of South Asia— including all of China—by the 13th century, believed that bkyukl bokh was the best way to keep his troops ready for battle. Two styles of the art are still practiced today, one in Mongolia, the other in Inner Mongolia.

Boom in popularity

It was not until the Republican Period (1912-1949), a time when China was recovering from the fall of the Qing dynasty, the invasion by Japan, and the Chinese Civil War, that martial arts became more accessible to the general public. In a wave of national pride, the Chinese government classified all martial arts under the banner “guosho,” meaning “national art.” Martial artists were encouraged to teach, numerous training manuals were published, examinations in martial arts were created, and demonstration teams started to travel the world— the first martial-art demonstration in front of an international audience took place at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

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Source: http://www.isnare.com/?aid=324914&ca=Sports

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