What Kung Fu do you do? It is one of the broadest terms for a martial arts style there is. It has developed over 1000 years (at least) and spread to all areas of China and beyond. This is before it even left China on mass, like it has today.
Every village would have developed there own style of Kung Fu and some of those have become more prevalent and well known but most probably died out or still remain very small (in terms of numbers practicing). Within any of those styles lie many different aspects that make up the style. These can include health practices, like Qi Gong and Medicine, fighting, application, fitness, flexibility, strength, forms, striking points, body conditioning, weapons and on and on. Any of these one aspects of a style can be a lifetime of study. So you see the options are endless, which is one of the reasons I love Kung Fu so much because its endless! There is always some thing to learn
Any teacher, not just in Kung Fu but Martial arts in general, will always lean towards a particular aspect of the style they teach. A Karate teacher might love sparring and competition, or a teacher from the same exact style will love teaching forms. You could walk into a class of the same style, same association, same city, and get two very different lessons.
So where does my Kung Fu come in to this? So I started with Karate, then Jiu Jitsu, then had a back injury so moved into Chinese Martial Arts and trained in softer martial art for about 10 years. Finally I settled with Shaolin Kung Fu. I loved it and was happy doing it forever but my back wasn’t. It was already broken from Jiu Jitsu and about 5 years ago fell apart. Now, in most regular sports this would be the time to stop. No more of said sport and find something completely different to do. Not in Kung Fu. Even within Shaolin Kung Fu the options and branches are varied enough I could just change up my training and find elements of the style that I was able to do, after 2 operations and lots of rehab and physio, of course.
So now I find myself, still training Shaolin Kung Fu, but searching out the softer aspects within it. I do more Qi Gong, the breathing practice and very gentle stretching exercises. I still work on my flexibility, but rather than full on stretching to the maximum I’ll take it much easier and cherry pick the stretches I can do and don’t cause me to break in half. I search out the softer slow forms with less extreme stances. This means I can still train traditional forms without putting unnecessary pressure on my spine but still work my body and mind. I’ll keep myself fit with circuit training, sometimes Kung Fu influenced and sometimes not, but always mindful of being healthy first. Finally I’m constantly on the hunt for training drills, most I can’t do but there are still a lot I can train and finding these is part of the fun of continually training. These Kung Fu training drills include walking techniques, stance work, posture work, movement patterns, etc etc.
Having trained Jiu Jitsu, loved it, been good at it and then having to stop because my back got broken. It seemed crazy to me that because I trained hard at it, it damaged me to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. Health has got to be the most important thing and if the style takes away your health it can’t be a long term pursuit. Finding the healthy side of Kung Fu has given me a new lease of life and I’m looking forward to what it can bring me over the coming years.