Kung Fu to Karate?
Kung Fu to Karate, for there are more similarities than one would suspect. They are both fighting disciplines arts, and karate is actually descended from kung fu. To really understand the differences one needs to consider the evolution from kung fu to karate.
In the beginning, those beautiful, refined kung fu forms were most likely hard core training drills done by peasant conscripts who were given spears and told to fight or die. Is it too much to swallow that certain of the warriors, weary and tired of war, would find their way to the Shaolin temple, where the art blossomed and transformed into a path of enlightenment?
From the Shaolin Temple the arts flowered, spreading across China, and manifesting concepts and taking on different shapes. This was the genesis of such arts as wing chun (vin tsung) kung fu, Long Fist (Choy Lee Fut, Hung Gar, and so on), and the various animal styles.
Basic histories aside, we can see a certain tendency in this evolution of martial art. Hard, workable techniques tend to become softer, more flowing, and people discover that the art can be learned without over reliance muscular kung fu. Thus, the arts evolve from hard fist techniques to slipping and sliding, turning and flowing, whole body techniques.
Oh, sure, every once in a while you will see a resurgence of old, hard style kung fu; you will have Chinese boxers, full of vim and vigor, wanting to return to the good, old punch in the face fighting style. For the most part, however, the people who espouse such a return are young and pleasantly guilty of youthful exuberance.
For the most part, however, you will see fighting tricks become more polished and, eventually, making a transition to a softer, easier to work technique. Thus, hard style karate, even such as shotokan or kyokushinkai, will require less effort and require more intelligence. It is an interesting concept, that the hard core karate of today will evolve into the flowing style of shaolin kung fu in a few hundred years.
Could that bassai dai and bassai sho kata of today eventually become the bassai tai chi of tomorrow? Could those young men doing their makiwara training eventually become like the old men of Chen village tai chi chuan, doing their shuto uke and mae geri as if they are swimming in molasses?
This writer believes it is inevitable. The effects of age slow men down, and there is a combination of factors that will translate the hard into the soft, the karate into the kung fu, and the overzealous into the temperate. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go drill my sochin kata slow style.