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Mantis Kung Fu(螳螂拳)

Mantis Kung Fu (螳螂拳) is one of China’s most famous Kung Fu systems. Even famous people and movie stars such as Bruce Lee (李小龙), Jet Li (李连杰), and Jackie Chan (成龙) have all studied Mantis Kung Fu. The Mantis Kung Fu style Master Sun Deyao (孙德尧) teaches is called Plum Blossom Mantis Kung Fu which is also known as Plum Flower Mantis Kung Fu. Mantis Kung Fu is also known as Mantis Boxing and “螳螂拳 tángláng quán” in Chinese.

Biography of Master Sun Deyao (孙德尧)

Sun-Deyao1Master Sun Deyao (孙德尧) was born on May 16th 1953 in Qingdao China and is the grandson of Master Hao Henglu (郝恒禄). Since childhood he followed his Mother’s brother Master Hao Bin (郝斌) and studied Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing for decades with relentless hard work. He was the overall champion winning 1st place in the first, second, and third Jinan International Martial Art Invitational Tournaments in 1993, 1996, and 1998. In particular in 1999 for the fourth Jinan International Martial Art Invitational Tournament he was awarded first place and overall winner of the Grandmasters Championship. In the 1997 Italian International Martial Art Competition he received 1st place. In 2001 he received first place in the United States Masters International Invitational Tournament. Furthermore, he was invited to travel to the United States, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Russia, Korea, and Hong Kong as a judge for Martial Arts tournaments. He has students all over the world in more than 30 countries and regions. Because of the depth of the traditional teachings of Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing he was elected as a committee member of the Shandong Province Martial Arts Association as well as entered into the book “Chinese Martial Art Experts”. Now he devotes his efforts to promoting Martial Arts internationally.

Master Sun Deyao (孙德尧) 7th generation descendant of “Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing” (太极梅花螳螂拳 tàijí méihuā tángláng quán) and 4th generation descendant of the Hao Family System (郝家门 Hǎo jiā mén).

  1. Appointed as a committee member of the Qingdao Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing research association, Shandong Province
  2. Shandong, Yantai Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing association executive director
  3. Heilongjiang, Harbin Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing research association advisor
  4. Shandong, Weifang Mantis Boxing research association advisor
  5. Shandong, Tengzhou Aolin martial art school vice-principle and instructor
  6. Shandong, Taian Shenzhou martial art school advisor
  7. Shandong, Laiwu martial art school vice-principle and instructor
  8. Shandong, Laiwu martial art association vice-president
  9. United States International Supreme Ultimate Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing martial art school president
  10. Argentina Zhongba martial art school honorary chief
  11. o Flying dragon martial art school honorary chief

Jackie Chan Mantis Kung Fu:

Do you know the famous actor Jackie Chan (成龙)? He is widely known for his amazing stunt-work and Chinese Kung Fu. Mantis Kung Fu is one of the styles he has studied and demonstrated in movies.

Jackie Chan (成龙) demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉).

Bruce Lee Mantis Kung Fu:

Do you know the famous actor Bruce Lee (李小龙)? A person may think he practiced Karate (it is common to mix-up Okinawan Karate and Chinese Kung Fu). Bruce Lee practiced Chinese Kung Fu. He studied both Wing Chun Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu. Bruce Lee’s Mantis Kung Fu teacher was Shao Hansheng (邵汉生).

Bruce Lee (李小龙) demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉).

Jet Li Mantis Kung Fu:

Do you know the famous actor Jet Li (李连杰)? He is a famous Chinese Martial Art actor whose debut film was instrumental in revitalizing the popularity of Chinese Martial Arts. He studied competition martial arts as well as Mantis Boxing. One of his favorite Mantis forms is Summary Boxing #5.

Jet Li (李连杰) demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉).
From Lion’s Gate Entertainment’s 2008 movie:
The Forbidden Kingdom, Written by John Fusco
who himself is a student of Mantis Kung Fu!

Yu Chenghui Mantis Kung Fu:

Do you know the famous actor Yu Chenghui (于承惠)? He is a famous Chinese Martial Art actor whose debut film “Shaolin Temple” was instrumental in revitalizing the popularity of Chinese Martial Arts. In the film he played the famed double-handed straight-sword-wielding antagonist villain Wang Renzi (王仁则) while co-starring alongside Jet Li (李连杰) who played the protagonist hero Jue Yuan (觉远). He studied the Chinese government’s standardized sport known as “competition martial arts” as well as the Hao Family System of Mantis Boxing. He became famous for his double-handed straight-sword skills which he learned from the Hao family system. He went on to become a famous actor appearing in numerous movies and television shows. He is also well known for his creation of the Chinese government’s “competition martial arts” double-handed straight-sword competition routine which is based on the Hao family’s sword fighting system as well as his own innovations.

Yu Chenghui’s (于承惠) Hao family mantis boxing lineage is:

  1. 李秉霄 Li Bingxiao 
  2. 赵珠  Zhao Zhu 
  3. 梁学香 Liang Xuexiang 
  4. 郝宏  Hao Hong 
  5. 郝恒禄 Hao Henglu 
  6. 郝斌  Hao Bin 
  7. 张万福 Zhang Wanfu 
  8. 于承惠 Yu Chenghui 

Yu Chenghui (于承惠) demonstrating his Hao family mantis boxing special fist-shape which utilizes the middle knuckle of the middle finger for attacking. This hand shape is the traditional way of striking in Mantis Boxing.

Kung Fu Panda the movie:

In Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, and Kung Fu Panda the video game there are several styles of Kung Fu demonstrated: Mantis Kung Fu, Tiger Kung Fu, Snake Kung Fu, Crane Kung Fu, Monkey Kung Fu, Leopard Kung Fu, Tai Chi Kung Fu, and many more Kung Fu styles. The famous actor and comedian Seth Rogen played the character Mantis. 

Mantis demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉).
The original character design of Mantis for Kung Fu Panda
by Oliver Malric.
Property of Dreamworks SKG, All rights Reserved.

Chuck Norris and David Carradine Mantis Kung Fu:

A few little known facts about Chuck Norris:

When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.

Faster than a speeding bullet… More powerful than a locomotive… Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… These are some of Chuck Norris’s warm-up exercises.

It is believed dinosaurs are extinct due to a giant meteor. That’s true if you want to call Chuck Norris a giant meteor.

David Carradine demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉) with Chuck Norris.

Kung Fu in Atlanta, GA

Karate in Atlanta, GA

Taekwondo in Atlanta, GA

Martial Arts in Atlanta, GA

What is Karate?

Sometimes people think that Chinese Kung Fu is Okinawan Karate. Even if you are looking for Karate in Atlanta Georgia you might actually be looking for Kung Fu in Atlanta Georgia. Both Kung Fu and Karate are two broad terms that both refer to Asian Martial Arts. Often times outside of Asia these terms are interchangeably mixed by common people. Okinawan Karate was originally called Chinese Hand (唐手) (The characters 唐手 are pronounced as “Karate” in the Japanese language) because an Okinawan ancestor learned his Martial Arts in Fujian province China. This person began teaching his Fujian province Chinese Martial Arts (唐手) in Okinawa around the beginning of the 1800’s. The martial arts of his descendants later evolved to emphasize more rigid movement, hardness, and power.

Karate practitioner Ōno Hikaru (大野ひかる) demonstrating the Mantis Kung Fu move Mantis Catches the Cicada (螳螂捕蝉).

A brief history of Karate:

Japan vs Ryukyu

Prior to 1879 Okinawa was the capital island of the country of Ryukyu which was a tributary state of both China and Japan. Being a tributary state of China allowed the residents of Okinawa to engage in trade with people in mainland China. The nearest point of entry into China from the island of Okinawa is China’s Fujian province. Okinawa is almost exactly the same distance from China as it is from Japan. Although China and Japan have had numerous wars with each other Okinawa was seen as a middle ground between China and Japan. Because of this the Japanese were able to do trade with China by trading with the country of Ryukyu through their capital island of Okinawa. In the 1870’s Japan and China attempted to divide the islands of the Country of Ryukyu between each other and leave the central island of Okinawa as the independent country of Ryukyu. This failed and Japan seized control of all of Ryukyu’s islands by 1879 which greatly angered the Qing government of China.

Bringing Chinese martial arts to Japan

In the late 1700’s an Okinawan man named Sakugawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀) went to China’s Fujian province for trade and studied a martial art known as Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) from Master Xiāng Jūn (相君 Sō Kun). He brought back to Okinawa his Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) and began teaching in 1805. His nickname was Chinese Hand Sakugawa (唐手佐久川 Karate Sakugawa). His nickname “Chinese Hand (唐手)” is pronounced as “To-di” (also romanized as “to-te”) in the Okinawan language. However, in the Japanese language it is pronounced as both “To-te” and alternately as “Kara-te”. Because of this the Okinawan martial arts which trace their lineage back to him are known as Karate out of respect for Sakugawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀). Over the years and through successive generations his Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) began to change and undergo new development. Karate was often taught in secret as it was banned by the government and because of this and Japan’s new control over Okinawa it almost came to extinction. In an effort to save these teachings a grand-student of Sakugawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀) named Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) began teaching the art in the Okinawan school system in 1901. In 1905 Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) created what is now known as modern day Karate which he taught in Okinawa Prefecture Middle School (now Okinawa Prefecture Shuri High School) (沖縄県立中学校(現・沖縄県立首里高校)). Because of the efforts of Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) spreading modern Karate in the school systems the style became widespread throughout the rest of Japan and flourished. While Itosu Ankō’s (糸洲安恒) new martial art has its roots in China’s Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) he developed it into something uniquely his own.

Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) second row second from left. 1909 Group photo of Okinawa Prefecture Middle School (Currently · Okinawa Prefecture Shuri High School) (沖縄県立中学校(現・沖縄県立首里高校)). Image property of the Okinawa Prefecture Library (沖縄県立図書館) donated by Kinjō Hiroshi (金城裕).

Changing the name from Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) to Empty Hand (空手 Karate)

唐手 The original characters for Karate. Writing by Nakasone Genka (仲宗根源和) in 1938.

In Okinawa, where Chinese Hand (唐手) was developed, the characters for Chinese Hand (唐手) are pronounced as Todi. In the Japanese language however the characters for Chinese Hand (唐手) can be pronounced alternatively as either Tote (Toti) or as Karate and the pronunciation of Karate was more widely used. In fact, some Japanese have been surprised when visiting Okinawa to learn that Chinese Hand (唐手) is actually pronounced as Todi in the Okinawan language. However, in order for Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) to flourish after Japan’s invasion of China on September 18th 1931 (followed by Japan’s well documented, though extremely horrific World War 2 atrocities against the Chinese people) the characters for the name of his style needed to change as not only had Japan conquered Ryukyu and Okinawa about 50 years prior to this time but now China itself was under Japanese invasion. The political climate of the time involved many horrific atrocities committed by Japan against innocent Chinese people including the biological and chemical lethal human experimentation prison death camps (including Unit 731 set up by the Japanese in Harbin China in 1934, Unit 1855 in Beijing, Unit 1644 in Nanjing, Unit 8604 in Guangzhou, and others), countless massacres (including the well known horrific Nanjing Massacre of 1937), raping of Chinese and Korean “comfort women“, and worst of all the killing of nearly 20,000,000 innocent Chinese people in total. Hitler’s massive genocide against the Jews totaled just 1/7th of what Japan did to China.

The 1936 Meeting of the Okinawan Karate Masters

Karate Great Treasure Reflection (空手道大宝鑑) by Tōyama Kanken (遠山寛賢)

The entire meeting was recorded and later detailed in the 1960 publication Karate Great Treasure Reflection (空手道大宝鑑) by Tōyama Kanken (遠山寛賢): On October 25 1936 at 4:00 pm at the Showa Hall in Naha City Okinawa (沖繩那霸 昭和會館) a meeting was organized by a political activist (involved in Japan’s socialist movement) and Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) practitioner named Nakasone Genwa (仲宗根源和). In attendance were respected teachers Chibana Chosin, Gusukuma Shimpan, Hanashiro Chomo, Kiyoda Juhatsu, Kyan Chotoku, Miyagi Chojun, Motobu Choki, as well as respected others Andoh Shigeru, Fukushima Kitsuma, Furukawa Gisaburo, Goeku Chosho, Kita Ezio, Matayoshi Yasukazu, Nakasone Genwa, Oroku Chotei, Ryukyu Shinposa, Sato Koichi, Shimabukuro Zenpatchi, Yamaguchi Zensoku, and two others. The first person to take the floor at the meeting was Nakasone Genwa (仲宗根源和). He immediately brought up the primary reason he gathered everyone there which was his strong desire for everyone to agree to officially change the characters of Karate from Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) to Empty Hand (空手 Karate). This was politely debated but a decision was chosen to not be made on that very day. However, not long after this the name was officially changed. Understanding the political situation at the time is important in understanding why some people (especially Nakasone Genwa (仲宗根源和)) did not want the political stigma of practicing and teaching Chinese martial arts (Chinese Hand (唐手)) while Japan was simultaneously invading China and committing the horrific atrocities mentioned earlier.

Photo from 1937. From left to right – Front row: Kyan Chōtoku (喜屋武朝徳), Yabu Kentsū (屋部憲通), Hanashiro Chōmo (花城長茂), Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順); Back row: Shiroma Shinpan (城間真繁), Maeshiro Choryo (真棠城朝亮), Chibana Chōshin (知花朝信), and Nakasone Genwa (仲宗根源和).

Shaolin Style Chinese Hand (少林流唐手 Shōrin-ryū Karate) – aka Shuri (district) Hand (首里手 Shuri-te)

Chibana Chōshin (知花朝信)

While Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) created his martial art in 1905 there became new branches of his art which developed their own unique systems of martial arts. To differentiate his martial arts from the other newer branches that were being developed his student Chibana Chōshin (知花朝信) began calling the style Shaolin Style Chinese Hand (少林流唐手 Shōrin-ryū Karate) in 1928.

A note on the name Shaolin:

The usage of the name “Shaolin” in this instance was used by some people to claim a heritage of Fujian province White Crane Boxing to the extremely famous Shaolin temple in Henan province China. This false claim of a Shaolin temple heritage was partially made as an attempt to hide rebellious anti-Qing-government sentiment and was partially made because of the fame of Shaolin temple. The martial art was actually created in Fujian province and not in Shaolin temple in Henan province. It was common for rebellious members of anti-Qing government societies to say they are going to Shaolin to practice their martial art which was used as a secret code to refer to wherever their headquarters or practice area was located. The anti-Qing sentiment was known as “Overthrow the Qing Dynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty” (反清复明 fǎn Qīng fù Míng) and was highly prominent among martial arts in Southern China as they viewed the overthrow and replacement of the Ming government by the Manchurian (满族) foreigners from the far north-east as illegitimate and infuriating.

In summary:

What is known as modern day Karate was created in 1905 by Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒).

The full name of his system is:
Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate)

Another way to translate (唐手 Karate) is:
Chinese Boxing or Chinese Martial-arts

To differentiate it from newer styles created later on it became known as:

Shaolin Style Chinese Hand (少林流唐手 Shōrin-ryū Karate)
which is also translated as:
Shaolin Style Chinese Boxing
and alternatively translated as
Shaolin Style Martial-arts

After 1936 at the emphatic request of a political activist named Nakasone Genwa (仲宗根源和) the name was officially changed from:
Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate)
also translated as Chinese Martial Arts
to:
Empty Hand (空手 Karate)

Because this lineage was commonly taught in the Shuri (首里) district of Naha City (那霸市) on Okinawa Island (沖縄) (the small district area where the castle of the King of the former country of Ryukyu is located) descendants of this lineage sometimes also referred to their martial art as the Shuri (district) Hand (首里手) which is also translated as the Shuri (district) Martial Art and as the Martial Arts of the Shuri District.

The lineage of Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒) is:
相君 Xiāng Jūn (j. Sō Kun) – Teacher of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán)
佐久川寛賀 Sakugawa Kanga – Teacher of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán), Nickname: Chinese Hand Sakugawa (唐手佐久川 Karate Sakugawa)
松村宗棍 Matsumura Sōkon – Teacher of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán)
糸洲安恒 Itosu Ankō – Founder of Chinese Hand (流唐手 Karate)

Because the style became known as Shaolin Style Chinese Hand (少林流唐手 Shōrin-ryū Karate) and its roots come from China’s Fujian province White Crane system sometimes people may mistake Okinawan Karate as Chinese Kung Fu. In reality the White Crane system is just one of hundreds of different systems of Chinese martial arts which are colloquially grouped together and known as Chinese Martial Arts / Chinese Kung Fu.

Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate) – aka Naha (city) Hand (那覇手 Naha-te)

Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順). Founder of Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate).

It is also important to mention out of respect another style of Karate that was created and officially named in 1929 that was developed from a newer branch of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) called Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) independent of the lineage of: Xiāng Jūn (相君 Sō Kun), Sakugawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀), Matsumura Sōkon (松村宗棍), Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒). This newer style is called Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate) and it was created by Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順) as a combination of his studies of the Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) he learned from Higaon’na Kanryō (東恩納寛量) and his further studies after traveling to Fujian province China.

In the 1936 meeting Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順) outlines that at this time there are currently two different styles of Karate: 

  1. Shaolin Style Chinese Hand (少林流唐手 Shōrin-ryū Karate) – referring to the martial art taught in Shuri district of Okinawa from Itosu Ankō (糸洲安恒).
  2. Bright Spirit Style Chinese Hand (昭霊流唐手 Shōrei-ryū Karate) – referring to the martial art taught in Naha district of Okinawa from his teacher Higaon’na Kanryō (東恩納寛量).

Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順) went to China twice and studied Chinese martial arts in Fujian province. In the 1936 meeting Shimabukuro (島袋) asked Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順) about this. Here are their exact words:

島袋:「宮城長順先生,您曾到中國學習武術嗎?」
Shimabukuro (島袋): Mr. Miyagi Chōjun, did you go to China to study martial arts?

宮城長順:「最初我沒有計畫到中國學『功夫』,但有一天我發現『功夫』非常棒,所以我就出發學習!」
Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順): At first I didn’t plan to go to China to study Martial Arts. However, one day I found out that Chinese martial arts is extraordinarily strong and wonderful. Therefore I immediately started to study it.

“…I found out that Chinese martial arts is extraordinarily strong and wonderful. Therefore I immediately started to study it.”
-Karate Master Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順)

After studying Chinese martial arts he combined what he learned in China with his native Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) that he learned from his teacher Higaon’na Kanryō (東恩納寛量) and officially founded the style Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate) in 1929. From this point on his teacher’s martial art which was commonly referred to as Bright Spirit Style Chinese Hand (昭霊流唐手 Shōrei-ryū Karate) became known as Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate).

However, the newer Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) branch of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán), which serves as the basis of this style, was brought to Okinawa nearly a hundred years after the older Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán) was first brought to Okinawa.

History of Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) and Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate):

Lin Shiwei (林世威) (also known as Lin Shixian 林世咸 ) was a 6th generation descendant of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán) which he taught to Lin Dachong (林达崇). Lin Dachong (林达崇) was located in Fujian province Fuzhou City Southern Suburban area Panyu Village (福州市南郊潘屿村). Because Lin Dachong’s (林达崇) seniority among his siblings was 8th and he lived in Panyu village (潘屿村 pānyǔ cūn) he was nicknamed Panyu 8th (潘屿八 Pānyǔ bā). He had also studied southern Arhat Boxing (罗汉拳 luóhàn quán) (completely different and unrelated to Shaolin temple’s famous Arhat Boxing). Later Lin Dachong (林达崇) combined Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán) and southern Arhat Boxing (罗汉拳 luóhàn quán) to create a new system called Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán). He later taught Xie Ruru, courtesy-name Chongxiang (謝如如,字崇祥) [Xie Chongxiang]. Xie Ruru (謝如如) later taught a Ryukyu person from Okinawa named Higaon’na Kanryō (東恩納寛量). Later Higaon’na Kanryō (東恩納寛量) taught Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順) who in turn created his own system of martial arts which is known as Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate). Because this lineage was also commonly taught in Naha City (那覇市) on Okinawa Island (沖縄) it is sometimes referred to as (那覇手) which translates as Naha (city) hands, Naha (city) martial arts, and the martial arts of Naha (city).

The Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate) was founded by Miyagi Chōjun (宮城長順).
His lineage is:
06. 林世咸 Lín Shìxián – Teacher of Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳 Fújiàn báihè quán)
07. 林达崇 Lín Dáchóng – Founder of Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán)
08. 謝如如,字崇祥 Xiè Rúrú, courtesy-name Chóngxiáng – Teacher of Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán)
09. 東恩納寛量 Higaon’na Kanryō – Teacher of Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán)
10. 宮城長順 Miyagi Chōjun – Founder of Hard-soft style Chinese Hand (剛柔流唐手 Gōjū ryū Karate)

Newer styles of Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) / Empty Hand (空手 Karate):

A great number of new systems of Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) / Empty Hand (空手 Karate) were developed in Okinawa and Japan by later generations of people. However, virtually all of the newer styles of Karate can trace their lineage back to at least one of these two aforementioned lineages. Additionally, both the older Fujian White Crane Boxing (福建白鹤拳) and the newer Fujian Whooping Crane Boxing (鸣鹤拳 míng hè quán) branch still trace their lineage back to the same common ancestry.

This highly oversimplified brief summary could never do justice to the vastly complex history of Okinawan and Japanese Karate. This summary mainly serves to highlight the misunderstandings and confusion of common people about these systems of martial arts and why some people mistake Karate as Kung Fu and vice versa.

Taekwondo Atlanta, GA

Sometimes people think that Chinese Kung Fu is Korean Taekwondo. Even if you are looking for Taekwondo in Atlanta Georgia you might actually be looking for Kung Fu in Atlanta Georgia. Both Kung Fu and Taekwondo are two broad terms that refer to Asian Martial Arts which outside of Asia are sometimes interchangeably used to refer to the same thing. Korean Taekwondo is a relatively new martial art. It was officially created on April 11 1955 by a Korean General who had previously studied Okinawan Karate. He later changed his Okinawan Karate to focus primarily on the kicking movements.

A Brief History of Taekwondo 跆拳道 / 태권도

Taekwondo was created by the northern Korean born (before the division of Korea) General Choe Honghui (최홍희) in 1955 after studying Shōtō-kan Chinese Hand (松濤館唐手 Shōtō-kan Karate) from Funakoshi Gichin (船越義珍). He decided to focus his style on the kicking aspects of Shōtō-kan Chinese Hand (松濤館唐手 Shōtō-kan Karate). Note: The original name of Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) was later changed to Empty Hand (空手 Karate) both of which are pronounced as “Karate”.

Lineage:
Xiāng Jūn (相君 Sō Kun): Teacher of Chinese Fujian White Crane Boxing
Sakugawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀): Chinese Hand Sakugawa (唐手佐久川 Karate Sakugawa)
Matsumura Sōkon (松村宗棍)
Itasu Anzō (糸洲安恒): Founder of modern day Karate
Funakoshi Gichin (船越義珍): Founder of Shotokan Karate
Cuī Hóngxī (崔泓熙) / Choe Honghui (최홍희) Founder of Taekwondo

General Choe Honghui (최홍희) later went on to establish the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) in 1966 in South Korea. He moved his organization’s headquarters to Vienna Austria after his exile from South Korea. He passed away in 2002 in Pyongyang North Korea.

Although General Choe Honghui (최홍희) originally intended for his son Choe Junghwa (최중화) to take over his International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) he later chose to deny his son this leadership role. Subsequently General Choe Honghui (최홍희) chose North Korean Chang Ung to continue leading his International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). 

After General Choe Honghui (최홍희) denied his son Choe Junghwa (최중화) the leadership of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) his son chose to establish his own independent organization instead. However, instead of choosing a new name for his new organization he unfortunately chose to also use the name of his father’s federation and named his new organization also the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). This new organization is based in Canada. Additionally a Vietnamese person named Trần Triệuquân established another organization also with the name of International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). The addition of these two new organizations often causes confusion among people as they both use the same name of General Choe Honghui’s (최홍희) actual Vienna based International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). In an effort to alleviate this confusion in 2009 General Choe Honghui’s (최홍희) widow Choi Chunhi spoke at the 19th ITF Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia stating, “I wish you would support Prof. and Dr. Chang Ung, and be with him with one mind and one will for the brighter future of the ITF”. In 2014 Chang Ung was executed by the leadership of North Korea after they accused him of corruption. It is unknown if Chang Ung was actually corrupt or whether he simply refused to allow the North Korean government influence over his organization.

It is also important to mention out of respect that another organization was established in 1973 by the country of South Korea known as the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in the city of Seoul in an effort to avoid North Korean influence on Taekwondo. Unfortunately this fear of North Korean influence became apparent to the public in 1983 when General Choe Honghui’s (최홍희) son Choe Junghwa (최중화) was convicted and sent to prison for hiring two agents to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doohwan (전두환) in 1982. He finished his prison sentence in 1991. (Click here and here to read more). 

The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) focus is largely on sporting competition as it is the governing body of Taekwondo in the Olympics. The curriculum of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is completely different from what General Choe Honghui (최홍희) created in 1955 although the general movements are similar. Additionally several newer Taekwondo federations were later created which are now completely separate from General Choe Honghui’s (최홍희) International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) and South Korea’s World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). However, the curriculum of these newer federations are now different and independent from both federations (ITF and WTF) and because of this the belt ranking and achievements are frequently (though not always) non-transferable between the various franchise schools of the various Taekwondo federations.

Because Taekwondo was developed from Shōtō-kan Chinese Hand (松濤館唐手 Shōtō-kan Karate) whose roots come from China’s Fujian province White Crane system sometimes people may mistake Korean Taekwondo as Okinawan Chinese Hand (唐手 Karate) or Chinese Kung Fu. In reality the Chinese White Crane Kung Fu system is just one of hundreds of different Chinese martial arts which are colloquially grouped together and known as Chinese Kung Fu / Chinese Martial Arts.

This highly oversimplified brief summary could never do justice to the vastly complex history of Korean Taekwondo. This summary mainly serves to highlight the misunderstandings and confusion of common people about this martial art and why some people mistake Korean Taekwondo as Chinese Kung Fu and vice versa.

What is the difference between Kung Fu, Karate, and Taekwondo?

Please read the above brief histories of Karate and Taekwondo for a better answer. A short and simple answer cannot be accurate and will not do justice. However, a common simple answer typically looks like the following:

Historical differences:

  • Kung Fu is a category which refers to hundreds of different martial arts systems from China.
  • Karate is a martial art system from Japan.
  • Taekwondo is a martial art system from Korea.

Examples of Categories of Martial Arts:

  • Chinese Martial Arts (also known as Chinese Kung Fu)
  • Japanese Martial Arts
  • Korean Martial Arts

Examples of Systems of Martial Arts:

  • Mantis Boxing
  • White Crane Boxing
  • Karate
  • Taekwondo

Examples of Styles (branches) of a Martial Art System:

  • Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing
  • Seven Stars Mantis Boxing
  • Whooping Crane Boxing
  • Feeding Crane Boxing
  • Shorin Ryu Karate
  • Shotokan Karate
  • ITF Taekwondo
  • WTF Taekwondo

Evolution from White Crane Boxing to Karate to Taekwondo:

  • White Crane Boxing was created in the mid 1600’s in China.
  • Karate was developed in 1905 based off of White Crane Boxing.
  • Taekwondo was created in 1955 based off of Karate.

Technical differences:

  • White Crane focuses on hand techniques using both hard strength combined with smooth flexible technique.
  • Karate focuses on White Crane Boxing’s hard strength and conditioning.
  • Taekwondo focuses on Karate’s Kicks.
  • Although the root of Japanese Karate comes from China’s White Crane Kung Fu system some Karate practitioners practice additional techniques from other Chinese Kung Fu systems as well such as Mantis Boxing.

Notes:

  • White Crane is just one of hundreds of different systems of Chinese martial arts.
  • Some Chinese martial arts specialize in kicks, some specialize in hand techniques, and some have their own unique attributes.
  • Kung Fu is not a single martial art. It is a category encompassing hundreds of very different martial arts.
  • All martial arts are good and all utilize punches, kicks, and various other techniques. Where they differ is how they go about their training and what they emphasize.