Kung Fu (pinyin: Gōng-fu, 功夫 in Chinese) literally means 'hard work', 'learned skill', or 'mastery through application of time and effort', and is often used for the enormous variety of martial arts native to China. The widely accepted idea about the number of distinct styles of Wu Shu in China is that there are currently more than 1000.
The word "wushu" is sometimes used as a rough synonym for kungfu. Wushu is often called "modern" or "bad kung fu" when the speaker means a performance sport promoted by modern China (People's Republic of China). However, the word "wushu" has a long and honorable history in the world of Chinese letters. It is the umbrella term that names all skills and techniques used in hand to hand combat.
Chinese martial arts can be classified in many ways. One division is that made between "Internal style" and "External style." The most famous internal style is the smooth constant-flowing Tai Ji Quan, which translates to Great Ultimate Fist, and examples of external styles are Wing Chun, which emphasizes short-range punches and blocks, Shaolin Quan with attacks ranging from the quick, explosive, and powerful, to the high-kicking aerial maneuvers which resemble those of Korean Tae Kwon Do.
Chinese martial arts theory often emphasizes the use of the "Qi" (氣, lifebreath), internal styles paying more attention to this dimension of the martial arts than do the external styles. Qi is the inner energy that flows through the body. The restoration of proper balance and flow of qi in the human body is said to be the basis of acupuncture.
One's Qi energy can be improved and strengthened with regular practice of various physical and mental exercises known as Qigong. Kinaesthetic studies of this energy are common, and tend to provide proof that while Qi exists, it is not a supernatural force, but is instead a manifestation ofthe overall control of the mental, nervous, endocrine, breathing, muscular, and other dynamics of the human body.
Many Chinese (and, consequently, Japanese) martial arts claim to have originated ultimately from the teachings of Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Buddhist monastery. Researchers regard the claim that all components of Chinese martial arts derive from Bodhidharma with considerable skepticism, since history records earlier sources for some techniques and schools, but the Shaolin Temple, located in the Henan province nearby the city of Deng Feng, has had a centuries long tradition of fostering the martial arts due to the gathering there of martial artists with widely differing techniques from all over China. Today it is still one of the largest gathering of Wushu schools in China, with hundreds of schools and over 20,000 practicioners in the area. Much has happened at Shaolin as of late, and the tourism has changed it forever. It has definitely contributed to the popularity of Chinese martial arts, but many dislike its current state, saying that it's not what it used to be. No one can argue against that, but the fact remains that it is a place that gives many people a chance to devote their lives to Chinese martial arts, and a place where tourists can go watch them train, or pay to train themselves for a short period of time, for the better or the worse.
In modern times Chinese martial arts have spawned a popular genre of films. The films of Bruce Lee were instrumental in the initial burst of Chinese martial art's popularity in the West, and lately, actors such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan have appeared in many Western films. This type of martial art films is often referred to as "Kung Fu movies" (see Martial arts film, Wu Xia film). A cult television series of the early 1970s called Kung Fu starred David Carradine and also served to popularize the martial art on television.