Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 119, What is Kung Fu?

When you hear the word Kung Fu, this is the image that probably springs to mind.

In America we mostly know Kung Fu as a guy with fancy moves kicking the crap out of another guy. The word Kung Fu is usually used as the name of a martial art, the same way we say "Karate" or "Taekwondo."

This is pretty far from the original meaning of the word Kung Fu.

First we have the character Gōn (功), which means achievement, or to have merit. And Fu, (夫) which means man. So to have gōngfu means to be a "man of merit" or "a person of achievement." Perhaps a rough colloquial English expression would be someone who is "worth his salt."

You can see that this has very little to do with beating anyone up. Wikipedia, which is great for info but often lacking in literary style, actually has a very readable passage on this which I'll reprint here.

"Originally, to practice kung fu did not just mean to practice Chinese martial arts. Instead, it referred to the process of one's training - the strengthening of the body and the mind, the learning and the perfection of one's skills - rather than to what was being trained. It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. You can say that a person's kung fu is good in cooking, or that someone has kung fu in calligraphy; saying that a person possesses kung fu in an area implies skill in that area, which they have worked hard to develop. Someone with "bad kung fu" simply has not put enough time and effort into training, or seems to lack the motivation to do so."

I really love this meaning of the word Kung Fu, even though it is all but dead. It is how I try to do everything that comes my way, be it business, yoga, graphic design, or even keeping up this blog. Consistent effort over extended periods of time is the only way to truly master something.

The cool thing is that to have good kung fu in training isn't nearly as hard as gaining other types of kung fu. Eating right, working out the smart way, and just keeping at it is all you need. It doesn't take many months either as this blog has proved. So, on the scale of arts to master, getting in shape is a no-brainer. And the best thing is that having a fit and healthy body gives you the energy and focus to pursue those other, harder to attain goals.

So whatever it is that you're doing in your life right now, find the Kung Fu in it and do your best. This isn't just so that you'll be successful (which you will be), but will insure that you actually enjoy doing it.

(For a few more days we'll be accepting applications for round 2 of the PCP, apply and surprise yourself Thepeakconditionproject (at)


Anonymous said...

I love this post.

Nate said...

that's really cool. I'm glad I know the true meaning now