Martial Arts have been developing in China for over 4000 years.
The Ancient Egyptians had a stylised form of unarmed fighting recodered in tomb murals as early as 3500BC
The Greek poet Homer (8th Cent) has very detailed descriptions of fighting method, and Plato (428-348 BC) describes a kind of shadow boxing called skiamachia.
Some believe that Alexandra the Great brought Martial arts to China
The Yellow Emperor – Huang Ti believed to be a shaman and the originator of the first recorded Martial Art. So the marriage between Martial Art, Spirituality and Self-realization was born at the outset.
Some legends say it all began when a stern Indian Monk, known as Bodhidharma (or Dot Mor) who came to the Shaolin Temple in 527 AD.
What ever the legends and history books say, I’ll guess no-one will be sure for certain, but the amount of trade China has had with the rest of the world over the last 4000 years, it’s very likely that Chinese Kung Fu have been influenced continuously as much as it has influence other martial arts that have spread out all over the world.
The martial arts aspect was developed through a necessarily for defence as much as anything else and vulnerable villages, temples, all worked on a way to defend themselves. Some became complete systems and have been handed down through family lineage or schools until the present day.
My interpretation is that during long times of peace and more health philosophy naturally developed, hill people had the time and during warring times, much harder fighting styles developed. Ths is probably true for all styles of martial arts around the world.
The term ‘Gung Fu’, or ‘Kung Fu’ was created by Chinese who migrated to California for the 1800’s Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Seperately Kung means energy, and fu mean time. Kung Fu (or Gung Fu, in Cantonese) can be interpreted to mean ‘Hard Work’, ‘task’ or ‘always learning’. So this phrase can also be applied to other skills such as music, and art. The more common terms in China are ‘Wu Shu’ meaning Martial Art, or ‘Chuan Fa’ meaning fist fighting. Sometimes the term Wu Kung is used which transaltes as Martial Kung Fu.