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See also: Martial Arts Words and Phrases
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
醉猴功夫 is the title for Drunken Monkey Kung Fu (Gong Fu).
The martial arts style inspired by the novel, "Journey to the West".
See Also: Monkey Fist
功夫散手 is a martial arts title.
Oddly, there are multiple ways two spell/romanize this in English but in Chinese, it's written exactly the same.
Technically, the Mandarin romanizes as "gong fu san shou", for which you'll sometimes see it written "kung fu san shou" (k'ung is an old romanization for a word that sounds like gong with a vowel sound like "oh").
There is another martial arts style that spells this "Kung Fu San Soo". My guess is, this was supposed to approximate Cantonese pronunciation for which the scholarly romanization is generally agreed to be "gung fu saan sau".
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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|
|功夫||kan fu / ku fu|
kanfu / kufu
|gōng fu / gong1 fu / gong fu / gongfu||kung fu / kungfu|
|Drunken Monkey Kung Fu||醉猴功夫 / 醉猴功伕|
|zuì hóu gōng fu|
zui4 hou2 gong1 fu
zui hou gong fu
|tsui hou kung fu
|Tai Chi Wing Chun Kung Fu||太極詠春功夫|
|tài jí yǒng chūn gōng fu|
tai4 ji2 yong3 chun1 gong1 fu
tai ji yong chun gong fu
|t`ai chi yung ch`un kung fu
tai chi yung chun kung fu
|Kung Fu San Soo|
|功夫散手||gōng fu sǎn shǒu|
gong1 fu san3 shou3
gong fu san shou
|kung fu san shou
|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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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.
Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.
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