As with many forms of martial arts, the origins can be attributed for an early need for self-defense, military needs as well as hunting. Of course, martial arts became an integrated part of the Chinese culture over time and as such, the term “Kung Fu” became a universal name for Chinese martial arts all together. As a result, the origins of Kung Fu can be considered the origins of Chinese martial arts themselves.
Many people believe that during the year 2698 B.C., the Yellow Emperor (a man known by the name of Huangdi) introduced martial arts for the first time in China, he wrote many treatises on several topics, including early forms. The earliest forms of Chinese fighting included moves such as grappling, kicks, punches and throws as well as joint-locks and the utilization of pressure points to one’s advantage to defeat an opponent.
As the development of Chinese martial arts continued, the incorporation of several philosophies and even more techniques soon followed. Yin and Yang play an important part in the creation of Kung Fu, this philosophy embodies both “soft” and “hard” techniques that balance each other and when put into effect can create a balanced martial art.
In congruence with the Yin and Yang philosophies, the Taoist people play their part in the creation of Kung Fu by adding softer elements from the martial art known as Tai Chi. Tai Chi places a great deal of importance on the health and wellness of the body, spirit and mind and it is these elements that have also been incorporated into Kung Fu.
Kung Fu began to gain in popularity around the year 1912 (during the Republican Period and the dissolution of the Qing Dynasty) when martial arts masters were encouraged to spread their knowledge and help teach their art form to the general public and basically to anyone willing to learn it.
It was in Berlin during the year 1936 that Chinese masters first performed Kung Fu for a large, multi-cultural audience during the Olympics that year. This too helped spread interest in Chinese martial arts for the first time.
Many masters, however, began to migrate to other cities and countries to evade the Communist rule that dominated China during that time and with them, of course, went their knowledge and teachings of martial arts. Of course, this solidified the spread of Chinese martial arts across the globe and this is when it truly molded into the “Kung Fu” as we know it today, no longer were these amazing combinations of martial arts bound by ethnicity or anything else.
Masters were free to teach the art and students were free to learn it. Westerners became particularly interested in Kung Fu due to the fact that many movies during that time were created and featured many techniques that came directly from Kung Fu or were derived from it. In spite of its murky origins, however, it remains one of the most popular martial arts in the modern world.