Common Chinese Martial Arts (Kung Fu) Terms Explained

Kung Fu

The Chinese work for Kung Fu is 功夫 or Gong Fu, meaning skilled techniques. Kung Fu is the main term referring to Chinese originated Martial Arts.

Internal and External

There are two main factions and mentality of Kung Fu, although different and opposite, eventually a Kung Fu master will master elements of both factions.

Internal arts focuses on relaxing the body and muscle, strength is gained by forcing the body’s power to a single point. Energy flows through the body and strikes opponent using power like a spring.

External arts focuses on hardness and toughness of muscle, skin and density of bones. External arts can be envisioned as brute force to take down an opponent.

Tai Chi

One of the three and the most popular internal style of martial arts. The essence of Tai chi (or Tai ji 太极拳) is using your opponent’s power against themselves.


Baguazhang or Bagua or 八卦掌 is an internal Kung Fu with distinct feature of gaining power through circular energy. Opponent falls to Baguazhang users as their power is lost to the spiral energy.


Xingyi 形意拳is the last of the three internal Kung Fu, distinguishing to Bagua as Xingyiquan is about brute forcing forward using internal mechanisms of body power.

Wing Chun

A style of Kung Fu used by Bruce Lee and originated from southern China and Hong Kong region. Wing Chun (咏春) focuses on the centerline concept to gain an advantage on opponent.


Shaolin is one of the most famous exterior Kung Fu originated by the Monks from Shaolin temple.


Qi is referred as air or gas, it is the very fundamental concept of Kung Fu as this is how kung fu practitioners gain power. Qi has similar importance to “muscle” if we would compare this to western style combat.

Dan Tian

The body part two inches below the belly button. Dan Tian (丹田)is often referred by Qi, you will often hear the term Qi Chen Dan Tian, meaning guiding the Qi to the Dan Tian area.

Original Article



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