(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans15b/jul15-1.html)
Kungfu is for fighting — using kungfu techniques, not kick-boxing or techniques of other martial systems
I want to learn kungfu.
— Ali, Pakistan
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Many people want to learn kungfu, but end up learning kungfu forms or kick-boxing instead. Learning kungfu forms or kick-boxing is fine, but it is different from learning kungfu.
Before you learn kungfu, or any art, it is wise to know what that art is. This may sound trite or unnecessary, but it will not only save you a lot of time but also prevent you from much injury.
For convenience we may classify kungfu into three types: ordinary kungfu, good kungfu, and great kungfu.
Ordinary kungfu is for self-defence. There are also other arts of self-defence, like kick-boxing, karate and taekwondo. The main difference is their forms. Kick-boxing uses kick-boxing forms, karate uses karate forms, taekwondo uses taekwondo forms, and kungfu uses kungfu forms.
There are different styles of kungfu, like Shaolin, Taijiquan, Praying Mantis and Baguzzhang. Praying Mantis kungfu forms can be very different from Baguazhang kungfu forms.
About 90% of those who say they practice kungfu only perform kungfu forms. Strictly speaking they do not practice genuine kungfu because they cannot apply their kungfu forms for fighting. Many of them may not admit this fact. Some may not even realize it.
Of those who practice only kungfu forms and cannot use their kungfu forms for fighting, 70% of them perform their kungfu forms for demonstration. Past masters referred to such demonstrative kungfu forms as â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€. 30% of them use kick-boxing or other martial techniques, but not kungfu, for fighting.
I would like to clarify that personally I have nothing against them. What and how they choose to practice is their right and business. Actually many of those who practice â€œflowery fists and embroidery kicksâ€ are very nice people â€“ the type of people I would like to have tea with, though I disagree with their concept and practice of kungfu.
So, kungfu is quite rare. Kungfu is for fighting. But the great majority of those who say they practice kungfu, cannot use their kungfu for fighting, though some of them are good fighters using kick-boxing or other martial techniques.
For every 100 persons who say they practice kungfu, only about 10 can use their kungfu for fighting. In our classification, we call this ordinary kungfu.
But kungfu is not just for fighting, though combat efficiency is its most basic requirement. Good kungfu contributes to health, vitality and longevity. While the percentage of those who practice genuine kungfu is low, only about 10%, amongst those who practice genuine kungfu, the percentage of good kungfu is high, about 70%. So about 7 out of the 10 practitioners of genuine kungfu have good health. They also have high moral values.
Amongst those who practice â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€, the percentage of good health is also very high, about 90%, or about 63 of 70 practitioners. But they cannot be said to practice good kungfu, not even ordinary kungfu, because they cannot use their kungfu for combat.
Why is the percentage of good health amongst â€œflowery fists embroidery kicksâ€ practitioners, 90%, higher than that of genuine kungfu practitioners, 70%? It is because genuine kungfu practitioners engage in combat where they may tense their muscles to generate mechanical strength. Those who practice kungfu forms but use kick-boxing or other martial techniques for combat do not have good health because they sustain a lot of injury which is routinely left unattended to.
Great kungfu, which is not only for combat and good health but also for spiritual cultivation, is very rare. Only 1% of those who say they practice kungfu may have a chance to practice great kungfu.
Please take note that spiritual cultivation is different from moral cultivation, though they are closely related. A morally cultivated person is kind and considerate, but he may or may not believe in his own spirit. He may think that he is only a physical body. Spiritual cultivation is the cultivation of the spirit. A spiritually cultivated person is relaxed, peaceful and happy, and at high levels may have glimpses of Cosmic Realty.
Please also take note that spiritual cultivation is non-religious. Any person of any religion or without any professed religion can cultivate spiritually. Spiritual cultivation will enable a religious person to be a better follower of his own religion because it makes his religions teaching come alive.
To sum up, kungfu is rare. Most people practice only kungfu forms, and use kick-boxing or other martial techniques when they have to fight. Genuine kungfu may be ordinary, good or great. Ordinary kungfu is for fighting. Good kungfu is for fighting and good health. Great kungfu is for fighting, good health and spiritual cultivation.
It is a golden opportunity to be able to practice great kungfu. But because kungfu today is so debased, the public generally does not have a good impression of kungfu practitioners. They think of them as rough and aggressive. In fact it is the reverse. A genuine kungfu practitioner is gentle and considerate to others, relaxed and happy to himself.