History of Chinese Martial Arts


Chinese Kungfu, also called “martial art”, or “wushu”is a sport item created by the Chinese people during a long time of historical development.

Chinese Kungfu

Legendary origins

According to legend, Chinese martial arts originated during the semi-mythical Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BCE) more than 4,000 years ago. It is said the Yellow Emperor, Chinese Han people’s ancestor, introduced the earliest fighting systems to China. The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous general who, before becoming China’s leader, wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and the martial arts. One of his main opponents was Chi You who was credited as the creator of jiao di, a forerunner to the modern art of Chinese Wrestling.

Early history

It is generally estimated that the origin of Chinese marital arts can be traced back to the primitive society. At that time human beings were outnumbered by animals due to harsh natural conditions. At that time, the principle of “survival of the fittest in natural selection” couldn’t be truer. In the grim struggle for survival, people naturally developed some basic offensive and defensive movements like beating, kicking, seizing, striking, rolling and jumping etc. Later, people gradually learnt to make and use stone and wood tools as weapons. And some fighting and hunting skills with or without weapons were developed. This is the budding of martial arts.

In the Shang Dynasty (1600–1029 BCE) field hunting came into being and was further regarded as an important way of martial art training. During the period of Shang and Zhou Dynasties, martial art was a form of dancing. “Martial dance” was used to train the soldiers and boost their morale.

Ever since the Western Zhou Dynasty (1029-771 BCE), practical Wushu training has included basic skills, such as strength training, fencing, staff sparring, spear training, etc., and it has also included training by using forms, such as the Shaolin Eight Methods, with the basic form supplemented by weapons forms, two-man forms, staff forms, etc.

The emphasis and importance of this type of martial training has played an important role throughout Chinese history. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), which was one of the most powerful periods of Chinese history, warriors were actually chosen through martial competition and officers were promoted through this same sort of competition. Since at that time communications were well established with many neighboring countries; Chinese Wushu had a pronounced impact on these countries. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), various forms of Wushu were well established in Korea, Japan, Tibet, and many other countries. What is called “Karate” is actually a descendent of Southern Chinese boxing forms, and similarly, Judo can trace its origins to the importation of Chinese wrestling and Qinna, the precursor of Jiu-jitsu.

This spreading of Chinese Wushu has interested martial-arts researchers; some researchers have found many rare martial arts styles from records or isolated practitioners in neighboring countries.

Modern history

Currently, Wushu styles are being openly taught, with martial artists sharing their knowledge and comparing their styles. This movement has brought harmony to the martial community and has encouraged the polishing of the individual styles.

In addition, many martial arts training manuals were published, training academies were created, National examinations were organized as well as demonstration teams travelled overseas and numerous martial arts associations were formed throughout China and in various oversea Chinese communities. Eventually, those events lead to the popular view of martial arts as a sport.


by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com


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