Chinese Martial Arts History can be traced back more 4,000 years. As many early forms of martial arts from all over the world, China’s martial arts were developed for training soldiers when fighting on the battlefield.
Ancient legend states that weapons and hand-to-hand martial arts’ techniques were propagated by China’s Yellow Emperor. When the Yellow Emperor rose to power in 2698 BC, the legend states that he personally developed hand to hand martial arts, and weapon fighting as we as astrology, Chinese medicine. Chinese Martial Arts history also claims he developed a form of Chinese Wrestling called Jiao Di, which involves strapping horned helmets to your head and wrestling someone. During the Zhou Dynasty, 1122 BC – 256 AD, this Jiao Di Wrestling with the horned helmets later evolved into Jiao Li and was documented in the Classic of Rites.
During the Zhou Dynasty, the story in Chinese Martial Arts History ramps up a gear. The philosophical trends at the time were Confucianism and Taoism, and the martial arts developed in a way that reflected these. Confucianism states that martial arts should be practised as one of the six arts for ideal worldly living. Taoism on the other hand works with the balance on Yin and Yang, Hard and Soft.
Now for one of the most famous sorties in Chinese Martial Arts history. Around 600AD, an Indian Buddhist monk arrived at the Shaolin Temple, the Chinese Martial Arts history does get a bit vague, but what seems clear is that Buddhism had already come to China and was being practiced at the Shaolin Temple. Over a time, the practice turned to Bodhidarma’s style of Buddhism and he also taught some physical exercises, probably an early form of Yoga to keep the monks physically healthy.
During the sixth century AD This area of China was riddled with bandits and Kung Fu was developed with force. Arguably for defence of the temple and for the wandering monks. The Shaolin Monks became infamous fighters and were asked to joined many military operations across China. Many monks and lay people travelled long distances to learn from the Shaolin Monks. This part of Chinese Martial Arts history continued on well into the 17th century.
Around a similar time, Tai Chi was also making waves in the Chinese Martial Arts history books. Wudang Mountain was the centre of this, being the main Taoist centre of China. Wudang Mountain had a Golden era during the Ming Dynasty but flourished in many others too. Tia Chi today is still practiced everywhere in China
Up until the early 20th century, Kung Fu was rally only practiced within the confines of a family, military elite and monks. After the invasions and subsequent negative effect of the British and French invasions, the Chinese government was keen for the Martial Arts schools to open their doors to the general public Chinese communities. Many of the myths and legend about the Chinese Martial Arts History, was created during this time and many books and movies were all helped along by the schools selling their secrets skills.
During the Cultural Revolution, Martial Arts in china were outlawed and many of the texts and building were destroyed. Martial Arts practitioners either stopped practice or fled the country. The communist party centralised Chinese Martial Arts and created approved forms of Kung Fu and Tai Chi. These still exist today in the form of WuShu and 1994 saw a relaxation on ‘Traditional Chinese Kung Fu”. Trouble it most of it was destroyed and only very slowly are the traditions and knowledge coming back into the country and being developed.