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Quick links to words on this page...
| 1. Shaolin Kung Fu
2. Kung Fu / Gong Fu
4. Shaolin Generational Poem
5. Shaolin Temple
| 6. Shaolin Chuan / Shao Lin Quan|
7. Dragon Snake Tiger...
8. Wudang Fist
9. Shorinji Kempo / Kenpo
10. Kenpo / Kempo / Quan Fa / Chuan Fa
One of the most famous types of martial arts in the world - and not just because of Bruce Lee.
Some translate the meaning as "Accomplishment by Great Effort." I think this is partially true but directly translated it literally means "Merit/Achievement/Accomplishment Man." The word "fu" can sometimes mean "husband" or "porter" but in this case, it can only mean "man." However, few in China will think "man" when they hear the word "Gong Fu" spoken.
This term is also used for things other than martial arts. In fact, it's used to refer to a person with excellent skills in crafts that require a great deal of effort such as cooking, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy.
What a lot of people don't know is that the spelling of "Kung Fu" was actually taken from the old Wade Giles form of Romanization. Using this method, the sounds of the English "G" and "K" were both written as "K" and an apostrophe after the "K" told you it was supposed to sound like a "G." Nobody in the west knew this rule, so most people pronounce it with a "K-sound." And so Gong Fu will always be Kung Fu for most westerners.
Also, just to educate you a little more, the "O" in "Gong" has a sound like the English word "oh."
The popular Chinese dish "Kung Pao Chicken" suffers from the same problem. It should actually be "Gong Bao Chicken."
Historical note: Many will claim that Kung Fu was invented by the monks of the Shaolin monastery. This fact is argued in both directions by scholars of Chinese history. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Shaolin Monks brought the original fame to Kung Fu many generations ago.
Japanese note: While most Japanese martial artists will recognize these characters, Katakana is more often used to approximate the pronunciation of "Kung Fu" with "カンフー." Some will argue as to whether this should be considered a Japanese word at all.
See Also: Bruce Lee
The Shaolin monks of China have been practicing the art of Kung Fu for thousands of years. While there are many schools of Kung Fu in China, Shaolin are one of the more religiously devout and disciplined.
The title of Shaolin actually refers to a specific Buddhist monastery. It should be noted that the Shaolin were famous in China long before the Kung Fu TV show. Their fame in China is due to the monks' heroic and swift rescue an emperor during the Tang Dynasty. Most Chinese people are not keenly aware of the Kung Fu TV show, and have no idea who David Carradine is or anything about his character, Kwai Chang Caine.
Note: The literal meaning of these two characters is "little forest."
The fame of the Shaolin has spread all over Asia, as even though this is a Chinese title, the same characters are used in Japanese with the same meaning.
This is a poem, including title, that celebrates the tactics and virtues of the Shaolin Kung Fu Monks for future generations.
少林寺 is the full title of the Shaolin Temple.
This refers to the Buddhist monastery famous for its kung fu monks.
少林寺 is also known in Japanese where they use the same characters but romanize it as Shourinji or Shōrinji.
Some believe this monastery and temple represent the place where Bodhidharma sat with his face to a wall for nine years leading to his discovery of enlightenment and establishment of Buddhism.
少林拳 is the title of the martial art (style of Kung Fu) that is taught to the monks and students in the Shaolin Buddhist Monastery. The addition of Chuan or Quan which means fist is what signifies that you are talking about this school or form of martial arts.
龍蛇虎豹鶴 is a list of the Chinese characters for the five animals of Shaolin Kung Fu in a comfortable order (meaning that they are in the proper order and will simply "feel right" to a Chinese person who views this arrangement).
少林寺拳法 is a specific type of martial arts in Japan that claims origins in the Kung Fu practiced in the original Shaolin Monastery of China.
The first three characters mean "Shaolin Monastery" and you might notice the Japanese is pronounced in a very similar way. 少林寺拳法 is because many words were "borrowed" from the original Chinese when Japan did not have a written language and simply absorbed Chinese characters into their language around the 5th century. When a Japanese word did not exist, the Chinese pronunciation was often absorbed as well as the written form.
The last two characters mean "fist law" or "method of the fist." It has long been argued as to whether the Japanese for these characters should be Romanized as "kempo" or "kenpo." The official method should be "kenpou" but it's common to drop the "u" that comes after the "o."
I imagine if you are looking for this title, you already know what it means, so the above is simply extra information that a student of Shorinji Kempo might want to know.
This form of martial arts can be translated in several ways. Some will call it "fist principles" or "the way of the fist," or even "law of the fist." The first character literally means fist. The second can mean law, method, way, principle or Buddhist teaching.
Kempo is really a potluck of martial arts. Often a combination of Chinese martial arts such as Shaolin Kung Fu with Japanese martial arts such as Karate, Jujutsu (Jujitsu), Aikido, and others. You may see the term "Kempo Karate" which basically means Karate with other disciplines added. In this way, Kempo becomes an adjective rather than a title or school of martial arts.
These facts will long be argued by various masters and students of Kempo. Even the argument as to whether it should be spelled "kenpo" or "Kempo" ensues at dojos around the world (the correct Romaji should actually be "kenpou" if you precisely follow the rules).
The benefit of Kempo is that the techniques are easier to learn and master compared to pure Kung Fu (wu shu). Students are often taught basic Karate moves, kicks, and punches before augmenting the basic skills with complex Kung Fu techniques. This allows students of Kempo achieve a level where they can defend themselves or fight in a relatively short amount of time (a few years rather than a decade or more).
Because the definition of this word is so fluid, I should make some notes here:
1. Purists in Okinawa will claim that "Okinawa Kenpo" or "Ryukyu Hon Kenpo" is the original and true version of this martial art from the old kingdom. There is actually little or no connection between Okinawa Kenpo and the way the word is used elsewhere.
2. In Chinese, where these characters are pronounced "quan fa" (sometimes Romanized as "chuan fa" because the Chinese-pinyin "q" actually sounds like an English "ch" sound), these characters do not hold the connotation of being a mixed martial art. It is simply defined as "the law of the fist."
3. In my Japanese dictionary, it oddly defines Kenpo as "Chinese art of self-defense." I personally don't feel this is the most common way that people perceive the word but just something you should know.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Shaolin Kung Fu||少林功夫||sho rin kan fu|
|shǎo lín gōng fu
shao3 lin2 gong1 fu
shao lin gong fu
|shao lin kung fu
|功夫||kan fu / ku fu|
kanfu / kufu
|gōng fu / gong1 fu / gong fu / gongfu||kung fu / kungfu|
|Shaolin||少林||sho rin / shorin||shǎo lín / shao3 lin2 / shao lin / shaolin|
|Shaolin Generational Poem||嵩山少林寺曹洞正宗傳續七十字輩訣福慧智子覺了本圓可悟周洪普廣宗道慶同玄祖清靜真如海湛寂淳貞素德行永延恆妙體常堅固心朗照幽深性明鑒崇祚忠正善禧祥謹志原濟度雪庭為導師引汝歸鉉路|
|sōng shān shào lín sì cáo dòng zhèng zōng chuán xù qī shí zì bèi jué fú huì zhì zǐ jiào běn yuán kě wù zhōu hóng pǔ guǎng zōng dào qìng tóng xuán zǔ qīng jìng zhēn rú hǎi zhàn jì chún zhēn sù dé xíng yǒng yán héng miào tǐ cháng jiān gù xīn lǎng zhào yōu shēn xìng míng jiàn chóng zuò zhōng zhēng shàn xǐ xiáng jǐn zhì yuán jì dù xuě tíng wéi dǎo shī yǐn rǔ guī xuàn lù
song1 shan1 shao4 lin2 si4 cao2 dong4 zheng4 zong1 chuan2 xu4 qi1 shi2 zi4 bei4 jue2 fu2 hui4 zhi4 zi3 jiao4 le5 ben3 yuan2 ke3 wu4 zhou1 hong2 pu3 guang3 zong1 dao4 qing4 tong2 xuan2 zu3 qing1 jing4 zhen1 ru2 hai3 zhan4 ji4 chun2 zhen1 su4 de2 xing2 yong
song shan shao lin si cao dong zheng zong chuan xu qi shi zi bei jue fu hui zhi zi jiao le ben yuan ke wu zhou hong pu guang zong dao qing tong xuan zu qing jing zhen ru hai zhan ji chun zhen su de xing yong
|sung shan shao lin ssu ts`ao tung cheng tsung ch`uan hsü ch`i shih tzu pei chüeh fu hui chih tzu chiao le pen yüan k`o wu chou hung p`u kuang tsung tao ch`ing t`ung hsüan tsu ch`ing ching chen ju hai chan chi ch`un chen su te hsing yung
sung shan shao lin ssu tsao tung cheng tsung chuan hsü chi shih tzu pei chüeh fu hui chih tzu chiao le pen yüan ko wu chou hung pu kuang tsung tao ching tung hsüan tsu ching ching chen ju hai chan chi chun chen su te hsing yung
|Shaolin Temple||少林寺||shou rin ji|
sho rin ji
|shào lín sì
shao4 lin2 si4
shao lin si
|shao lin ssu
Shao Lin Quan
|少林拳||shǎo lín quán
shao3 lin2 quan2
shao lin quan
|shao lin ch`üan
shao lin chüan
|Dragon Snake Tiger
|ryuu hebi tora hyou tsuru|
ryu hebi tora hyo tsuru
|lóng shé hǔ bào hè
long2 she2 hu3 bao4 he4
long she hu bao he
|lung she hu pao ho
|wǔ dāng quán
wu3 dang1 quan2
wu dang quan
|wu tang ch`üan
wu tang chüan
|shào lín sì quán fǎ
shao4 lin2 si4 quan2 fa3
shao lin si quan fa
|shao lin ssu ch`üan fa
shao lin ssu chüan fa
|拳法||kenpou / kenpo||quán fǎ / quan2 fa3 / quan fa / quanfa||ch`üan fa / chüanfa / chüan fa|
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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When the calligrapher finishes creating your artwork, it is taken to my art mounting workshop in Beijing where a wall scroll is made by hand from a combination of silk, rice paper, and wood.
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.
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Some people may refer to this entry as Shaolin Kung Fu Kanji, Shaolin Kung Fu Characters, Shaolin Kung Fu in Mandarin Chinese, Shaolin Kung Fu Characters, Shaolin Kung Fu in Chinese Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu in Japanese Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu in Asian Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu Ideograms, Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu symbols, Shaolin Kung Fu Hieroglyphics, Shaolin Kung Fu Glyphs, Shaolin Kung Fu in Chinese Letters, Shaolin Kung Fu Hanzi, Shaolin Kung Fu in Japanese Kanji, Shaolin Kung Fu Pictograms, Shaolin Kung Fu in the Chinese Written-Language, or Shaolin Kung Fu in the Japanese Written-Language.