What is Kung Fu?


By Shifu Shi Yan Ming

Today, with science and technology moving forward so quickly, people should be smarter. People should live in the moment, living a life of knowledge and understanding. Still, a lot of people confuse themselves or let people confuse them. Lots of people try to be lazy themselves or let other people make them lazy. A lot of people make excuses for their lives, or take any chance to let people make excuses for them. People say, “I don’t feel good today,” “I have a light headache,” “I ate something wrong last night,” “it’s raining and nasty outside,” “it’s cold outside, I don’t want to go out,” “it’s too hot outside, too windy,” or “Yesterday in the office someone wasn’t nice to me.” Whatever reason people can find, they use to slow their lives down, they don’t want to move forward.

That’s why a lot of time I use different ways to wake people up. For example, I don’t want to let you read Confucius, because you’re already confused. What is true martial arts? Look at the Chinese words – “wushu”. The character “wu” is made up of two other characters, “halberd” (a kind of weapon) and “stop”. It means stop using the weapons, stop using the mental art or physical art against other people and against yourself.

Instead of doing this, be a good person, be positive, use your mental and physical art to help yourself, help others, and help the world. Today, martial arts is used by many people to maintain good health. When you practice physical training, you must practice mental training as well. Understand that life is beautiful. Life is precious. We can’t afford to waste our beautiful life time.

Speaking about martial arts, even today many people are confused and never understand what martial arts means to them. A lot of people still believe “monkey style,” “drunken mantis style,” whatever style you think of, can be used in a real fight. That’s wrong. In a real fight, there is no style. You knock someone down as soon as possible – that’s a fight. You can use just one finger to knock people down, your palms, fist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, foot, head – there are no rules in a real fight. People are still confused because many instructors are cheating people, teaching them applications. For example, “you’re supposed to punch with your left fist, then kick with your right leg.” Let me tell you something – in a real fight, nobody tells you which part of their body they are going to use against you. Of course, in a different case, if you have 100% confidence in yourself and have spectacular skills, yes you can tell your opponent what you’re going to do.

At this point, I believe you want to know why we practice basics and different styles, forms, stretching, or martial arts choreography and fighting forms. Those things are to develop your flexibility, harmonies, reflexes, and confidence in yourself. They look fantastic, and are wonderful for performing, enjoyment, and expressing yourself. Just like Bruce Lee –  and that’s why I respect him very much –  even 40 years ago he tried to spread the wonderful messages to the world martial arts practitioners. People never get it. 40 years later, Handsome Shifu continues sending messages to let people realize “everything can be nothing, nothing can be everything.” That’s why when you practice your physical training, you have to practice the mental training as well. There’s no difference.

Also, “Gongfu” means “from early morning to late evening, sharpen your blade.” Look at the Chinese words. First, “gong” is made up of two parts. The left side is also pronounced “gong”, like “gongzuo,” to work. The right side is “li”, and means power. If you take off the small stroke sticking up at the top, you get “dao”, knife. The other character, “fu,” is used in many words, “zhangfu” – “husband”, also “wife” – “furen,” a very traditional and respectful way for a man to call their wife. Also, doctors are called “daifu.” Before the Qing dynasty, the warriors and fighters rode on horses to fight, and used martial arts against their enemies, at that time if you wanted to become different from others, you had to have the best gongfu. Look at the character “fu”, it is very similar to the character “tian,” meaning the sky or heaven. The difference is the small stroke sticking through the top. That means you have to pop up above, become special, as if your head was even higher than the sky. Be the horns of an ox. An ox has millions of hairs, why would you want to be that? Be the horns. If you can’t be the horns, be the hooves. A lot of power. Or even the eyes, or the ox tail. Push yourself higher.

Not only is gongfu gongfu, if you know how to cook food, your cooking gongfu is good. If you know how to play music, your music gongfu is good. If you know how to write, your writing gongfu is good. One with good writing gongfu can write upside-down or even horizontally while walking. You can write “pink is black” and “red is white.” Just as the little pen can be a sharp blade, your mouth can be used to speak fantastic knowledge to teach and help people, to help the world, and make wonderful relations with people. You can also use it to speak horrible things to destroy people, destroy yourself, destroy the relations, and destroy the world. Your mouth is the sword that can kill people or give people a good kiss, love. Everything is gongfu if you understand that – do things differently than others. I want to remind you to be honest with yourself and be honest with other people. Life is so beautiful, don’t waste it. Cherish it. Amituofo.