Kung fu (term)

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Kung fu or gongfu or gung fu (功夫, Pinyin: gōngfu) is a Chinese term often used in the west to refer to Chinese martial arts.[1] Its original meaning is somewhat different, referring to one's expertise in any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial. The Chinese literal equivalent of "Chinese martial art" would be 中國武術 zhōngguó wǔshù.[2]

In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill. Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining (gōng) meaning "achievement" or "merit", and (fū) which translates into "man", so that a literal rendering would be "human achievement". Its connotation is that of an accomplishment arrived at by great effort. In Mandarin, when two "first tone" words such as gōng and are combined, the second word often takes a neutral tone, in this case forming gōngfu.

Originally, to practice kung fu did not just mean to practice Chinese martial arts. Instead, it referred to the process of one's training - the strengthening of the body and the mind, the learning and the perfection of one's skills - rather than to what was being trained. It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. You can say that a person's kung fu is good in cooking, or that someone has kung fu in calligraphy; saying that a person possesses kung fu in an area implies skill in that area, which they have worked hard to develop. Someone with "bad kung fu" simply has not put enough time and effort into training, or seems to lack the motivation to do so. Kung fu is also a name used for the elaborate Fujian tea ceremony (Kung-fu cha).

The term kung fu was not popularly used in the sense of "Chinese martial art" until the 20th century, thus the word would be seldom found in any ancient texts.[citation needed] The term was first known to have been reported by the French Jesuit missionary Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, in the 18th century. The term was uncommon in the mainstream English language until the late 1960s, when it became popular due to Hong Kong films, Bruce Lee, and later the television series Kung Fu. Before the 1960s Kung Fu was referred to primarily as "Chinese boxing".

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