What are Chinese Martial Arts?

Martial arts literally are the art of war. Although both are physical activities, Chinese martial arts are different from western sports. Martial arts are physical activities that include numerous aspects. Within martial arts there are self defense skills, ways to purify one's temperament, performance art aspects, mystical/philosophy aspects, and health maintenance/exercise characteristics.

Today, there are many styles of Chinese martial arts. They are commonly divided into internal and external systems. From a martial arts perspective, there are some things in common which all styles have and demand of their practitioners. Some of those things are:

1. The hands and arms
Hands and arms are very important in martial arts. The use of the hand and arm as a weapon includes the use of the palm, fist, fingers, arms, elbows and shoulders. Some of the techniques are: chop, push, punch, point, hook, pounce, catch, grasp and cut, etc. These techniques are very profound. When one is able to apply all of these techniques, one will be powerful and one's skill level will be high.

2. Eyes
The eyes are important in confrontation. They can see the target and determine the direction of power from the opponent. Therefore, it is often said among practitioners that the eyes should see all directions. If the eyes only see what is in front, one will be in a disadvantageous position and all movement will be controlled by the opponent. The eyes are also able to project the power to cause the opponent to be afraid and step down. Also, observing the opponent's eye movements, one can tell what the opponent will do next.

3. Body
In confrontation, the body is the most common target. Therefore, one must train the body to be flexible to neutralize strikes by turning and twisting. If one correctly fine tunes the body, every part of the body is able to counter strike. This ability is what all martial art practitioners search for their whole lives.

4. Waist
The waist is the bridge connecting the upper and lower body. It is the source of movement and power. All martial strikes rely on the waist. Therefore, if one loosens the waist, the body is able to be nimble and flexible.

5. Footwork
If one correctly applies stepping techniques, one will maintain a proper distance from the opponent. A correct step can be forward to strike or backward to defend. It does not matter how one maneuvers, one executes the counter strike based on the footwork. It is often said among practitioners that if one strikes forward without advancing the rear foot, the strike will not cause any damage. With this, one can see how important footwork is.

6. Courage
It is often said among practitioners that if one has skill, one has courage. If one has courage, the skill is even higher. It is also said that when two parties with similar skill levels confront each other, the one who has more courage will be the winner. These two examples demonstrate that courage is a very important part of one's skill. In confrontation, a person who has courage will seize the opportunity.

7. Experience
One's experience should include practical martial arts experiences as well as information about other styles. There are many styles of Chinese martial arts, each has its own techniques and characteristics. If one understands the opponent's style and that style's characteristics from experience, one will correctly apply techniques to neutralize the opponent's strike and win.

8. Qi
It is energy and power. When one cultivates the qi to strengthen the body, with the improvement of the physiologic organic functions, all movements will be fast and powerful. It is often said among practitioners that internally, one should strengthen the qi and externally, one should strengthen the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments.

9. Jing
Jing refers to the internal power generated from the integration of the body. It is different from physical power or what the Chinese call li. Jing power is controllable and is capable of doing more harm than Li. Li power has no control. If a practitioner misses the target during the strike when using li, he will lose balance as well as be controlled by the opponent. Therefore, Chinese martial arts practitioners prefer the controllable Jing power over the uncontrollable Li power.

10. Spirit
Spirit refers to the practitioner's mental condition. This is sometime dictated by the skill and situation. In confrontation, one should believe in his own skill and have confidence. To establish a mental edge and to put pressure on the opponent, some styles highly emphasize mental training.

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