уторак, 01. јануар 2019.

External training in internal arts

Prevalent opinion among majority of “internal” martial arts followers is that no strength training is needed and they will get necessary power form “internal” sources which they “cultivate” through different kind of exercises which do not involve any hard work. Many of the teachers of these arts hold a position that strength training of any kind will actually damage “Internal” training and slow down if not completely stop students’ advancement in internal skills development. More than just have such claims, there are actually a whole bunch of pseudoscientific explanations why strength training damage and is opposed to “internal’ training.

How and why people started to believe in these claims is a matter of long social, historical, economical and psychological study and far beyond the format of one blog article. The main point is that reality of fighting and historical sources as well as a large number of teachers who still preserve traditional way of training show completely different picture. In violent times of Qing dynasty rule martial arts were in deed a tool of survival and no one cared about “internal cultivation” of anything, the only thing people were considered about was efficiency of their arts. In fact there was no such a thing as “internal” or “external” martial arts at the time, that classification came to existence in the 1920’s. No matter what style someone practiced basic requirements for successful fighting were same as today-punching power, kicking power and overall body strength to successfully execute grappling techniques must be at certain level, even more , because people at the time didn’t fight for sport but for survival.

Let’s take a look at the most famous “internal” art today, Tai Chi. Common perception of Tai Chi is that art is slow, effortless, doesn’t require any physical strength. On the other hand Tai Chi teachers spread stories how heroes of the past fought using this very art and defeated countless enemies and they manage to do that by “cultivating” (I really hate that word used in martial arts context) “internal” powers. Of course , all these stories are pure lies. Like it was said before, ‘internal” development was not part of martial arts at the time, Qigong was mixed with kung fu by the very end of Qing dynasty rule and republican period. Also, Tai Chi teachers today fail to mention how those old masters actually practiced their arts.  

Chenjiagou Village, in China’s Henan province, is the place where style today known as Tai Chi was created. Many Chen family members made their living as bodyguards or merchant caravans escort. In more recent times Chen villagers protected the region from roving gangs of bandits, several major battles between Chen villagers and bandits are well documented .
Practice in Chenjiagou allows to cut through many misunderstandings about Tai Chi and to see firsthand acquiring skills process. In essence Tai Chi is a close range throwing and grappling system. While highest level of proficiency really do not use too much physical power they are extremely hard to achieve and only few lucky ones with enough of time can come that level. But achieving that level is impossible without passing all lower levels of proficiency and they all include strength. It is impossible to build real combat reflexes that respond to real attacks without using any kind of power. At the beginning it will be strength against strength technique execution, which is completely normal and this, as any other step cannot be skipped. Next level can roughly be explained as strength plus technique in execution that will ensure the victory. Over time, as reflexes become better and experience grow the amount of strength used in technique execution will decrease, but will never stop completely, not in the realistic condition of fighting (whether it is a competition match or self defense situation).  In the past strength training of Tai Chi was much more rigorous than today but it is still pretty demanding.

Tai Chi stone lifting exercise

As in many other styles, lifting heavy stones is done as a means to training the waist and lower body. There is still 80 kg stone used by Yang Lu Chan when he was learning Tai Vhi in Chen village . Tai Chi  Ball training is used to strengthen the torso, condition the muscles, and in- crease physical power. Stories are handed down of past masters training with stone balls weighing 60kg. Students in the Chenjiagou today use a basketball filled with sand to train the system’s unique  rotational movement.

Tai Chi stone ball

Weapons training is another means of developing strength in the Chen Tai Chi curriculum. Today’s practitioners use weapons ranging from a few kilograms to more than twenty kilos.
Training with heavy pole weapon characteristic for almost all kung fu styles , Tai Chi , Ba Gua and Xing Yi included

Xing Yi, one of the” major three” representative of internal arts uses a lot of strength training. For beginning Xing Yi practitioners are doing lots of pushups, ab exercises, variations of squatting exercises, partner resistance work, isometrics and bag work,. If we look at many of the traditional Xing Yi neigong sets (, we will find many exercises that serve the function of strengthening the body, in addition to training other specific aspects of that particular art. Weights of different size and shape are used in this arts for various training purposes

Wight training in Xing Yi

Ba Gua training in Taiwan and China has a lot of conditioning and strength training. In addition to lots of pushups , sit ups and squats Ba Gua has some specific exercises and training tools for developing power. A 3m-long resistance cord is used, with the two ends fixed to something solid. The practitioner should try to move slowly with the cord resisting the arms, legs or waist. One can practice this on the spot or with moving steps.  Spring cord is similar to the above exercise, with the cord attached to springs rather than a solid wall. Heavy iron ball is also used in training for developing certain physical  attributes in this style 

Using iron balls in Ba Gua training 

Baji quan uses a vast array of different exercises for conditioning with emphasis on legs and core muscles. There are a lot of two man resistance drills, as well as a lot of general physical fitness exercises and weight training. Using heavy versions of traditional weapons and heavy poles is also used.
Bjiquan , training shoulder strike on a tree

As we can see, traditional practicing approach in “internal” styles include lots of pure “external” physical conditioning and strength training which is necessary if given art is to be used in competition or real life confrontation.  

недеља, 23. децембар 2018.

White Crane battle array

Tainan, the first settlement build in Taiwan and capital of the island for centuries still holds honorable title as the "cultural capital".

People in Tainan area worked on their lands and were devoted to farming and fishing thus they established a profound connection with this land and the ocean. In order to provide everything necessary for stable life, like good weather, enough rain, protection against typhoons and pirates, a culture full of customs, worshiping gods, pilgrimages, religious and magical rituals developed over time and it is still deeply rooted in this area. The pace of modernization perhaps did not go too fast in Tainan, or perhaps the effect of mass rural life did not fully destroy the relationship between man and land, in any case Tainan is perhaps the last oasis of true, untouched by progress, traditional south Chinese traditional culture and way of life.

Perhaps the best representation diverse cultural life in Tainan area are thriving temple. From the beginning to the end of the year, from spring to fall, there are different types of temple festivals. There wasn’t a day in a year without drums bang, firecrackers burst out, procession with statues of gods. Tainan can be called the temple city because temples are literary everywhere, Almost every street has at least one temple and that is not exaggeration. Very temple holds a procession with music, dancing, kung fu performance once a year celebrating a birthday of a god  to which it is dedicated.  Of course there are many other festivals, performances and public rituals, as much as temple processions.

Tainan also has rich martial arts culture. Being a frontier area for centuries, Taiwan was “Wild West” of Chinese empire, in many ways much more dangerous and in need for fighting skills than any other place in Asia at the time. Basically, outside the walls of Tainan fortress there was no laws besides the law of the strongest. In order to survive villages organized and train their own militias to repel the pirates, head hunters and other bandits. Over time Ching dynasty established better control of the island but people still continued to practice martial arts, after centuries of constant struggle martial arts became not only part of everyday life but also a part of religious rituals, celebrations and culture in general.

One unique religious martial performance which can be found only in Tainan’s Chiku district is White Crane array.  

One group of man who followed Koshiga arrived in Tainan in 1661. Escaping government persecution they brought their families and all valuable things. Among those treasures were old statues of the deities they worshiped which had and still have tremendous impact on life and beliefs of local people. Settlers along with their precious relics changed places several times in 2 centuries to finally settle down in Shulin, Chiku district and build a temple in 1852. Temple was in later years rebuild several times and today’s final shape got in the middle of the 1980’s. 

White Crane array  was founded in 1928 , The villager Huang Dabin, who served as the village chief, worked on organization of the martial arts performance to protect the religious procession . At that time, the Taoist rituals were performed before the main ceremony to ask the Jade Emperor for signs and guidance . The village chief got the message in a dream that the two deities "White Crane" and "White Crane Boy", should the procession and protect the main deity. This is how the only White Crane battle array in Taiwan was born.  
The White Crane Array is evolved from another battle array specific for south of Taiwan, the Sung Chiang battle array.  

At the beginning , White Crane array was held every three years and that was the reason that this tradition almost disappeared .Government took steps to preserve this unique tradition and today many young people joined the White Crane group and performances were held yearly with future plans to make a tourist attraction of it and trained artisans will perform at least the parts of the array daily ad offer martial arts classes.

In essence the White Crane Array is a version of Sung Chiang battle but unlike other traditional Sung Chuang arrays, the performance of the “White Crane"  and the ‘White Crane boy”  precedes the main performance . White Crane Array includes the boy, the white crane, the 36 martial team members, and the  gongs and drums players , total of 41 people.

The protagonist of the squad is a white crane-shaped hooded prop. The main body is made of thin bamboo frame and is worn by one person. Both hands hold wings.           

and many people take turns to perform. a white crane boy who guides the white crane (this is decorated by a mask with a head), which is the leader of the white crane array, shuttles between them and jumps with the white crane  .

The white crane is made of bamboo skeleton and covered with white cloth. When it is performed, it is worn by one person, and both hands hold their wings. The walking and jumping  mimics the various postures of the white crane The white crane boy also, wearing a mask, sometimes leading the way, and sometimes dancing with the white crane. The performance of the White Cranes is always in the accompanied with gongs and drums. The soul of the array is the drummer. The crane dance and formation of martial performance changes by various drums beats.

After the procession with statute of the god is finished,  White Crane and White Crane Boy t begin to circle and then enter martial arts performances that includes individual and group weapons exercises, empty hand forms and fighting choreographies. 

This is just one of many unique and beautiful things that can be found in Taiwan and just one of many reasons why learning Kung Fu here is so special and basically necessary in order for a practitioner to fully understand traditional Chinese culture unchanged by politics and foreign influences. 

субота, 01. децембар 2018.

Wing Chun knives- were they had been worn

Butterfly swords or  'butterfly knives as they are called in English  are one of two weapons of Wing Chun. There are several different Chinese names for this weapon which belongs to  “dao” family of weapons. Word “dao” is used to designate one side bladed weapon whose primary function is to cut and slash regardless of length. Different  branches of Wing Chun have different names as well as may other styles like Hung Gar , Choy Lee Fut or White Crane. The design of the weapon, including the crossguard shape, blade profile and blade length, are specific to each style of martial arts, the precise lineage, and individual.

Traditionally, the blade of a butterfly sword is only sharpened along half of its edge – from the middle of the blade to the tip; this can be seen in all vintage specimens from the Qing dynasty. It is widely believed that blade from the midpoint down is left blunt so that it can be used to deliver non-lethal strikes and to block without damaging the sharpened edge. This believe is not true and it will be explained why later. Butterflies swords were generally commissioned for individual martial artists, not mass-produced, so every set of swords was different. Modern age and popularity of Chinese kung fu brought mass production and standardization of the blades.

There are several version of same legend how butterfly swords came to existence and how they became part of Wing Chun. Why legend? Simply because there are no evidence to support this story, it goes against common sense and the art its self showing something completely opposite.

In Wing Chun the origin of butterfly swords is attributed to Shaolin monastery , Southern or Northern depending of the linage. The butterfly swords were designed to meet the training and defense needs of Shaolin monks. In harmony with Buddhist philosophy and teachings, the monks designed the weapon for parrying, disarming, and cutting, not for killing. Consequently, the blade was structured with dull edges on  bottom to be used for interception of an opponent’s weapons. The fable goes, that the monks would keep the knives in their boots and use them to defend themselves. They were allegedly used so monks could incapacitate not kill their attackers and therefore still uphold their moral integrity. Dull blade added thickness for extra support to the structure of the sword. Having a sharpened blade on the butterfly sword was useful for chopping but because of the thin edge of the sword, the blade could easily be damaged or broken when defending against a longer, heavier weapon in combat.

There are several problems with this story. First Southern Shaolin never existed, all claims connected to that place simply are not true. Second, a compressive researches  covering all the weapons used by the Shaolin styles, does not show any use of the Wing Chun style Dao. Third, monks do not wear boots and having pair of big knives in the boots would hurt legs, broke boots and wouldn’t be easiest place to reach weapon in a situation when quick drawing is involved. Fourth, a pair of large knives would not be a good choice for non lethal combat. Big walking stick as it was used for centuries is far better, cheaper , safer, non-lethal self defense option. Having in mind that Northern Shaolin was famous for its pole technique and that was the only weapon practiced there for centuries monks would probably use them for travel. Fifth, short blades , even two of them are the worst possible choice for self defense weapons on open spaces. Simply these weapons have no reach  nor power to do any harm to anyone with full size weapon like a sword, spear , pike , saber … people who wield two short knives would simply be cut in pieces, on the other hand they would fulfill the nonlethal purpose of the weapon.

Who invented double knives and when will remain a mystery. Paired weapons were used in China for centuries and it is impossible to determine when they appeared for the first time. What we know is that paired weapons of different size and shape were popular in 19 century China, especially is urban areas.

How double swords became part of Wing Chun we’ll probably never know. Many theories are in circulation pointing at different martial arts or groups of people as a source of Wing Chun swords. All these theories are trying to pinpoint exact source of the weapon. The fact is, double swords were wide spread weapon at the time, ideal for fighting on the boats (and other confined spaces) and people on the Red Boats could adopt them without having any particular source, that is the most possible scenario.

There is a believe that Wing Chun was initially developed as empty hand system and knives were developed later but that is far from truth. Wing Chun as most of the other kung fu styles was developed from knife fighting, to be correct from double knives fighting. Everything in Wing Chun is made for knife fighting in confined spaces, what is now known as empty hand forms get full sense if knives are used instead of empty hands. For example, second section of the Sil Lim Tao form has large number of explanations and how should be used in empty hand fighting but it is simply a set of movements to release from the rear hold and draw the knives , or beginning of the third form, which is usually explained as a set of elbow strikes but in fact it is a way to release for various front holds and draw the knives. Of course same principles are valid for empty hand fighting.

There is also believe that double knives were worn in the sleeves of traditional Chinese clothes. While this is possible it is not probable for several reasons. First , double words(knives) usually had only one folder. To put both knives in one sleeve would be pretty uncomfortable and noticeable no matter how big sleeves are. Second to put each knife in one sleeve requires special folders and there is no historical evidence that such folders ever existed. Third, loose, large sleeves are not the best choice for quick weapon drawing . And last, traditional clothes with very large sleeves were not everyday clothes, usually people wore clothes with normal sleeves because large long sleeves are pretty uncomfortable for any kind of activity, eating, writing , fighting or anything else.

Wing Chun empty hand forms ( knives form was invented much later, probably in 1930’s or 1940’s) give very clear conclusion that knives were worn on the waist level.

уторак, 20. новембар 2018.

Wing Chun Long Pole

One of only two Wing Chun weapons and probably the last part of the system that is still a big mystery for majority of the practitioners, students as well as masters, even for many "famous" teachers and respected grandmastes.  Part of the system we are talking about today is Long Pole, also known as "Dragon pole " in some systems or "6,5 point pole"
  Long pole is weapon characteristic for Pearl river delta region in Guangdong. During 19th century the road infrastructure was almost non existent and those roads that did exist were in a poor condition and overcrowded with bandits of all kinds. For fast and safe travel people of Guangdong area used specific boats with flat bottom that used vast network of natural channels of Pearl river delta. To pilot these boat crew used poles of different length, from 2,5 meter or more.

From the necessity to pilot the boats for several days on long and slow trips specific body structure and way of generating power was develop in order to maximize power output and preserve the energy and of course to release the pressure on the body of the pilot for as long as possible and to keep the balance on the shaky boat decks. That specific structure and power generation was used to develop a fighting system which goal was to prevent unwanted people to board the boats from the shore of other boats. This body structure and power generation  will later become a foundation of Wing Chun system.

Long pole is an emergency weapon developed from a tool (it is an actual tool) with limited fighting capabilities for specific environment. It was never used as a main weapon of any style although it can be found in many styles from Guangdong. As weapon it was too long, too heavy and too slow to be used in urban environment and training with a pole was pretty much neglected when style left the boats.

Today, almost as a rule, long pole is taught at the end of training as the highest and most advanced part of the system. On the other hand, at the time when the art was still practiced among boat crews training with long pole was a part of everyday life much before training in wing chun fighting system would start. This was of course not some special approach to training but simply the way of life, on long trips people simply had to pilot the boats at the same time developing power, balance and structure.

When the left the boats pole training was not important as before and it was neglected. Many crucial things in long pole training system were forgotten. On the other hand Wing Chun knives were still relevant for urban environment and could be kept hidden, they were ideal selfdefnse weapon at the time. For that reason, training with knifes continue to develop and today is much more elaborate than pole training. In most of the styles long pole became a thing of tradition.

Key elements are simply forgotten in many styles. In training accent is put on unimportant things, teachers insist on forms and sensitivity drills and of course there is a lot of politics and arguing who has the “original” or the “best” form.  Different styles have slight differences in executing some techniques and all differences are as usual proclaimed as wrong, ineffective ect.  Argument of this kid usually shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of log pole training. Long pole by its nature does not allow many movements and form is just a choreography, it is completely irrelevant in which order movements are executed.

Today long pole is mostly used as way to develop strength. Usually heavier poles are used for this kind of exercise and practitioners execute movements as strong and as fast as possible believing that this kind of exercising is the most efficient for developing Wing Chun skills. Although strength can be developed this way it doesn’t have anything with Wing Chun. Almost 99% of Wing Chun practitioners use long pole in described manner.
For successful and meaningful pole training it is not only necessary to understand proper body structure and its usage but it is also necessary  to understand that power generation for long pole is quite different from power generation of empty hand techniques and knives. Also, long pole body structure is more elaborate and has several variations which changes in correlation with specific techniques.

Proper practicing develops body structure, “ open” joints , develops strength .It is from outmost importance that every movement is executed from the proper structure.  Long Pole structure is quite different form the structure learned in empty hand forms and wooden dummy. Structure dynamic, fluid, ever changing , adjusting for every movement .This is due the fact that there is 12 basic ways to generate power for long pole techniques. Half of this ways are circular and the other half are linear. Large number of power generation ways is a consequence of the length of the weapon and the fact that long pole doesn’t have any sharp metal parts which could induce wounds without too much force. With proper power generation a lot of force can be released .

Practicing long pole in old, original way using complete body structure and power generation can help the practitioner to improve his skill and attributes in almost all areas of Wing Chun style and also to get better perspective how human body can be used in fight. Long pole can be universal tool for Wing Chun skills development if done properly

субота, 10. новембар 2018.

Kung Fu in Chinese miltary history

From the very beginning of our species history we have waged war. Clearly the in built aggression of our species has been a tremendous driving force in our development and rapid rise to the dominate species on the planet, although countless millions have died in warfare since history began it is also clear that much of our technological and sociological development has come from war.

Armed conflict has been defined as "the logical outcome of an attempt of one group to protect or increase its political, social and economic welfare at the expense of another group", the activity of fighting a war including the weapons and methods that are used: psychological, nuclear , economic , guerrilla ,naval ,nuclear ,trench, ect is called warfare
Warfare is generally understood to be the controlled and systematic waging of armed conflict between sovereign nations or states, using military might and strategy, until one opponent is defeated on the field or sues for peace in the face of inevitable destruction and greater loss of human life. The first recorded war in history is that between Sumer and Elam in Mesopotamia in 2700 BCE in which Sumer was victorious, and the first peace treaty ever signed ending hostilities between nations was between Rameses II (the Great) of the Empire of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire in 1258 BCE. In both of these cases, war was waged, and a treaty signed, to resolve political and cultural conflicts. Warfare has been a part of the human condition throughout recorded history and invariably results from the tribe mentality inherent in human communities and their fear or mistrust of another, different, `tribe' as manifested in the people of another region, culture, or religion.

Among Kung Fu practitioners there is a prevalent opinion that martial arts payed major if not a crucial role in warfare in ancient China.  Unfortunately for these people the truth is completely the opposite.

For successful warfare two things play crucial role, economy and technology, and these two things are closely related. Without sufficient funding army simply cannot exist. Equipment and weapons, food, logistics, training, salaries and many other things necessary for war are expensive and were expensive since the beginning of history. Technology development is expensive but crucial for warfare, better weapons and equipment means better chances for victory. As a rule, army with more resources and better technology will eventually win, but resources are the most important part of successful warfare, being human or technological resources. The best example of the economy significance is WWII. Germany had better technology and initially had great success due to innovative strategy and technological superiority, eventually lost the war because all the resources were depleted, German economy simply couldn’t support the war anymore. On the other side Russia and U.S.A. had almost limitless resources in men and technology. For example , German ‘Tiger ‘ tank was far superior over any other tank in WWII but only 1347 were produced, while U.S.A. produced 50 000 “Sherman”   tanks and Russia produced unknown number of “T 34” maybe even more than Americans.

Equally important is a strategy, of course with clear idea that strategy cannot exist without economy , human resources and technology. Strategy, in warfare, is the science or art of employing all the military, economic, political, and other resources of a country to achieve the objects of war.

Next important thing in warfare is a critical relationship between military technology and   tactics of its employment. From the earliest times, success in combat of military organizations and the ultimate purpose of military technology, depends on the ability of the combatant group to coordinate the actions of its members in a tactically effective manner. This coordination is a function of the strength of the forces that bind the unit together, inducing its members to set aside their individual interests—even life itself—for the welfare of the group. These forces, in turn, are directly affected both by tactics and by technology.
Tactics is the art and science of fighting battles on land, on sea, and in the air. It is concerned with the approach to combat; the disposition of troops and other personalities; the use made of various arms and equipment and the execution of movements for attack or defense.

As we can see for the successful warfare personal fighting skills of individual soldier are completely irrelevant. Now let’s see how war was waged in ancient China.
The first military conflicts in China are recorded with the rise and fall of the Xia Dynasty (c.2070-1600 BCE). During this period bronze casting was invented but majority of everyday tools and weapons were made from stone, bone and leather. First leather armors were invented during this period. Existence of Xia dynasty is still matter of debate among historians and there is no mention of kung fu in this period.

 Shang dynasty is the earliest dynasty of traditional Chinese history supported by archaeological evidence. Shang infantry were armed with a variety of stone and bronze weaponry, including spears, pole-axes, pole-based dagger-axes, composite bows, and bronze or leather helmets. Shang depended upon the military skills of their nobility, although Shang rulers could mobilize commoners as conscript laborers and soldiers for both campaigns of defense and conquest. Aristocrats and other state rulers were obligated to furnish their local garrisons with all necessary equipment, armor, and armaments. The Shang king maintained a force of about a thousand troops at his capital and would personally lead this force into battle. A rudimentary military bureaucracy was also needed in order to muster forces ranging from three to five thousand troops for border campaigns to thirteen thousand troops for suppressing rebellions against the Shang dynasty. We have no record nor other evidence that Kung Fu existed at this time although it is certain that some kind of wrestling existed.

Zhou Dynasty. (ca. 1050–256 B.C.) brought further development in military technology, tactics and strategy. State still depended on aristocracy to train and equip the army. Just like in previous period warfare was seen as an aristocratic affair, complete with protocols that may be compared to the chivalry of the European knight. In this period chariots were introduced and used to great extent in warfare making infantry made of conscripted commoners virtually useless.
   The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history from approximately 771 to 476 BC. During this period, the Zhou royal authority over the various feudal states started to decline, as more and more dukes and marquesses obtained regional autonomy, defying the king's court in Luoyi, and waging wars amongst themselves.
The Warring States period was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimately led to the Qin state's victory in 221 BC as the first unified Chinese empire, known as the Qin dynasty
 The chariot remained a major factor in Chinese warfare long after it went out of fashion in the Middle East. Near the beginning of the Warring States period there is a shift from chariots to massed infantry, possibly associated with the invention of the crossbow. This had two major effects. First it led the dukes to weaken their chariot-riding nobility so they could get direct access to the peasantry who could be drafted as infantry. This change was associated with the shift from aristocratic to bureaucratic government. Second, it led to a massive increase in the scale of warfare. When the Zhou overthrew the Shang at the Battle of Muye they used 45,000 troops and 300 chariots. For the Warring States period the following figures for the military strengths of various states are reported:
1,000,000 infantry, 1,000 chariots, 10,000 horses;
same numbers;
200–360,000 infantry, 200,000 spearmen, 100,000 servants, 600 chariots, 5,000 cavalry;
300,000 total;
several hundred thousand;
Technological advances such as iron weapons and crossbows put the chariot-riding nobility out of business and favored large, professional standing armies, who were well-supplied and could fight a sustained campaign. The size of armies increased; whereas before 500  BC Chinese field armies numbered in the tens of thousands, by 300  BC armies regularly included up to a couple of hundred thousand drafted soldiers, accompanied by cavalry. For example, during the Battle of Changping the state of Qin drafted all males over 15 years of age. Although these conscripts with one to two years of training would be no match individually against aristocratic warriors with years of experience, they made up for it with superior standardization, discipline, organization, and size. The Warring States period saw the introduction of many innovations to the art of warfare in China, such as the use of iron and of cavalry.
Warfare in the Warring States period evolved considerably from the Spring and Autumn period, as most armies made use of infantry and cavalry in battles, and the use of chariots became less widespread. The use of massed infantry made warfare bloodier and reduced the importance of the aristocracy, which in turn made the kings more despotic. From this period onward, as the various states competed with each other by mobilizing their armies to war, nobles in China belonged to the literate class, rather than to the warrior class as had previously been the case. The various states fielded massive armies of infantry, cavalry, and chariots. Complex logistical systems maintained by efficient government bureaucracies were needed to supply, train, and control such large forces. The size of the armies ranged from tens of thousands to several hundred thousand men. Iron weapons became more widespread and began to replace bronze. Most armor and weapons of this period were made from iron. The first official native Chinese cavalry unit was formed in 307 BC during the military reforms of King Wuling of Zhao, who advocated 'nomadic dress and horse archery'. But the war chariot still retained its prestige and importance, despite the tactical superiority of cavalry.
The crossbow was the preferred long-range weapon of this period, due to several reasons. The crossbow could be mass-produced easily, and mass training of crossbowmen was possible. These qualities made it a powerful weapon against the enemy.
Infantrymen deployed a variety of weapons, but the most popular was the dagger-axe. The dagger-axe came in various lengths, from 9 to 18 feet; the weapon consisted of a thrusting spear with a slashing blade appended to it. Dagger-axes were an extremely popular weapon in various kingdoms, especially for the Qin, who produced 18-foot-long pike-like weapons.

In 221 BC, the Qin unified China and ushered in the Imperial Era of Chinese history. Although it only lasted 15 years, Qin established institutions that would last for millennia. Qin Shi Huan, titling himself as the "First Emperor", standardized writing systems, weights, coinage, and even the axle lengths of carts. To reduce the chance of rebellion, he made the private possession of weapons illegal. In order to increase the rapid deployment of troops, thousands of miles of roads were built, along with canals that allowed boats to travel long distances. A national conscription was devised: every male between the ages of seventeen and sixty years was obliged to serve one year in the army. During the Warring States period, all the states in China were trying to draw more power and prestige to themselves. The states of Qin and Chu were the strongest which was due, in part, to the locations of these two states being able to command vast resources. They were also able to expand their borders without fear of immediate conflict, unlike the other states, and so could obtain still further resources. This benefit, and others such as the size of the Qin army and their expert use of the chariot, contributed to their success in warfare. The Qin had all of the resources and advantages but what finally gave them victory over the other states was their ruthlessness in battle. The Qin statesman Shang Yang (356-338 BCE) advocated total war and a disregard for the polite policies of battle which Chinese generals had always adhered to. His lessons were implemented by Ying Zheng, King of Qin, who emerged victorious from the Warring States period and proclaimed himself Shi Huangdi - `first emperor' - of China in 221 BCE. About 230 BCE, when the final campaign to unify China began, it is estimated that Qin controlled one-third of all the land under cultivation in China and one-third of China’s total population.
During the Warring States Era (475-221BC), chariots followed by infantry were still important, but a new way of battling had been invented from nomads: cavalry. Horseriding was first developed in east Asia by nomads in the north-eastern regions of modern China in Eastern Zhou times, but cavalry only seems to have been invented and brought up by the Chinese in the mid 4th century.
A field army was composed of four parts: chariots, infantry, cavalry and archers, as displayed in Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. Cavalry played important roles in campaigns that were under the rule of the First Emperor, but judging by the numbers of cavalry horses and men in the warriors’ pits, cavalry still seems to have had a good functioning in battle, by supplementing the main fighting force of infantry and chariots. Interestingly, the Qin cavalry horses don't have any stirrups to help the rider mount and give him stability in the saddle.
According to one ancient military document, these early cavalry would have acted as scouts or raiders who could find out an enemy’s formation, destroy his ferries or boundary gates, cut off and burn his supply train and lines of communication, and make sudden strikes at unexpected places, either during a pitched battle or when the opposing armies were on the march. This is why Calvary was so important and helped the Qin a lot.
The Qin army is not only well motivated, but well armed. Millions of men, criminals and prisoners of war were enslaved in huge amounts and forced to make weapons. The Qin, lacking significant iron, copper or tin deposits, were also very careful with their metal and set up an official post to ensure that no metal go to waste. The Qin culture also prevented the use of metals to make instruments for rituals or musical instruments. All would go for weapons or agricultural tools. The Qin get their ritual pieces by defeating other states. The Qin army rarely had to worry about food when it comes to attacking other states. The Qin's agriculture was extremely successful. Some regions  made fertile productive through wise and long term investments in water works, and even Zheng Guo was made to apply his genius in making the Canal of Zheng Guo which helped to create vast tracts of arable land to feed the armies of Qin. A well fed army fights better than a half-starving army. The Qin army is known for their crossbowmen. From the terracotta army we see that there's warriors in ranged units with both archers and crossbowmen. The Qin army is well organized with a clear distinct hierarchy. A unit leader is responsible for his men, and his men are responsible to him. In any given moment, a Qin unit is entirely independent as he sought to kill the enemy and at the same time cohesive as breaking any military law means death. The Qin was so powerful during battles because they advanced without fear and were ready to risk their lives without hesitation.
During Qin dynasty wrestling and weapon competitions were particularly popular, still , these cannot be considered as Kung Fu in a way we know it today.

Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China (206 BC–220 AD). Han period is considered by scholars and the ancient Chinese themselves as the golden era of Chinese culture, would have lasting effects on all who followed, particularly in the areas of government, law, philosophy, history, and art. To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to themselves as the "Han Chinese" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters". It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han.
Han army was made of , male commoners who were liable for conscription starting from the age of 20 until the age of 56. Some convicts could also choose to commute their service by serving on the frontier. Conscripts trained for one year and then served for another year either on the frontier, in one of the provinces, or at the capital as guards. A relatively small minority of these conscripts would also have served in the cavalry division in the north, which was primarily composed of volunteers from families of superior status, or water borne forces in the south. Conscripts were generally trained to arrange themselves in a formation five men deep. After finishing their two years of service, the conscripts were discharged. During Western Han times discharged conscripts could still be called up for training once a year but this practice was discontinued after 30 AD. The Northern Army was a professional force of full time soldiers which had existed since 180 BC. It originally consisted of eight regiments and around 8,000 troops, but was later reorganized from 31 to 39 AD into a smaller force of five regiments, around 4,200 troops.
During Han dynasty wrestling fencing and “sword dance” were very popular , but these activities could not be considered Kung Fu.

Six Dynasties, (AD 220–589), in China, the period between the end of the Han dynasty in AD 220 and the final conquest of South China (589) by the Sui (established in 581 in North China).
       The Three Kingdoms (220–280) was the tripartite division of China between the states of Wei, Shu and Wu. It started with the end of the Han dynasty. The Three Kingdoms period is one of the bloodiest in Chinese history. A nationwide census taken in AD 280, following the reunification of the Three Kingdoms under the Jin shows a total of 2,459,840 households and 16,163,863 individuals which was only a fraction of the 10,677,960 households, and 56,486,856 individuals reported during the Han era. During this period many technological improvements were made, most notably ,from military point of view, repeating crossbow and further development in metallurgy which enabled better weapons and armor.
 As the Han dynasty fell its system of conscription and checks on military leadership broke down, giving local leaders the autonomy to recruit their own personal armies. At the heart of each army was a group of trusted Companions consisting of family members, close friends and clansmen. There was no need for conscription as the conflicts of the late Han dynasty created willing recruits who sought protection under a strong army. This type of soldier, characterized by a lack of loyalty to state or nation, primarily concerned with survival, made up the majority of the army in this period. There was no training at this time, the majority of soldiers recruited during the early stages of the Three Kingdoms period were thus neither disciplined nor well trained in the use of arms. Formations and drill still existed, but these were the exceptions rather than the norm, and there is no evidence of troops engaging in a regular training system or large scale exercises.
Till the end of Six Dynasties period China was in constant internal turmoil and at same time fighting with external enemies. The intervening four hundred years of Six Dynasties Period, was marked by political struggle and military strife on a level not seen in China in over a millennium. Yet while many histories describe the Six Dynasties era as a China's version of Europe's "dark ages," it was also a period of great cultural intermingling.

Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD) In 589 CE, after almost four centuries, China was reunited for the first time since the end of the Han era. Though the Sui dynasty ruled only for approximately thirty years, much was accomplished by the first emperor Wendi (reigned 581-604), formerly a general for the Northern Zhou dynasty. Among Wendi's many accomplishments was a restructuring of the government to simplify internal administration, a revision of the penal code, and a number of public work projects, including the creation of a complex canal system joining the Yellow, Huai and Yangzi Rivers. Wendi was also a supporter of Buddhism, and encouraged the spread of the religion throughout his domain.
The basis of  Sui militaries was the fubing militia system, These militia units also served as reserves, and could be mobilized quickly in times of war or political instability.The system involved a network of militia who were assigned tracts of land. Men between 21 and 60 years of age were eligible. Officers received permanent commissions, but regular troops reported for duty at the province capital on a rotation system that varied upon living distance. Those who lived 500 li from the capital served one month every five months, and those over 2000 li away served for two months every 18 months. When off-duty, they would farm their land, but when a war occurred, they would be re-mobilized. This supplemented the equal-field system, which assigned all households a share of land to farm. These units subsequently became hereditary military families, and ushered forth vast militarized settlements and communities     

Tang Dynsty(618-907AD) China under the ruling of the Tang Emperors, became the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. Particularly, in this glorious period, the economy, politics, culture and military strength reached an unparalleled advanced level. The national strength and social development reached an unparalleled prosperity - economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries.
At the beginning basis for the Tang army was the fuping militia system. The Tang maintained 600 militia units, each containing between 800 and 1,200 men who were liable to serve between the ages of 21 and 60. Soldiers were largely exempt from taxation and labor service. Each soldier was given land that he or his family and serfs could work. He was expected to supply his own basic arms and provisions, with armor and more elaborate weapons provided by the state. By the year 737, Emperor Xuanzong discarded the policy of conscripting soldiers that were replaced every three years, replacing them with long-service soldiers who were more battle-hardened and efficient. It was more economically feasible as well, since training new recruits and sending them out to the frontier every three years drained the treasury. By the late 7th century, the fubing troops began abandoning military service and the homes provided to them in the equal-field system. The supposed standard of 100 mu of land allotted to each family was in fact decreasing in size in places where population expanded and the wealthy bought up most of the land. Hard-pressed peasants and vagrants were then induced into military service with benefits of exemption from both taxation and labor service, as well as provisions for farmland and dwellings for dependents who accompanied soldiers on the frontier. By the year 742 the total number of enlisted troops in the Tang armies had risen to about 500,000 men. At this period more elaborate individual fighting techniques were developed but only to be used in infantry formations. These techniques were weapon based and far from what we know as kung fu today.

Five Dynasties. (907–960) The Five Dynasties was an era of political upheaval in 10th-century China. Five states succeeded one another in the Central Plain. More than a dozen states, referred to as the Ten Kingdoms, were established elsewhere, mainly in south China. Five Dynasties is viewed as a period of judicial abuse and excessive punishment. Other abuses included the use of severe torture. Some important developments were still made despite the apparent political chaos. These include the first use of gunpowder on the battlefield. It was essentially a time for desperadoes and soldiers of fortune.

Song Dynasty. (960–1279) In terms of culture, the arts and commerce, the Song dynasty was the greatest dynasty China has had, and no other dynasties have lived up to its legacy. During the Song Dynasty technology was highly advanced in fields as diverse as agriculture, iron-working, and printing. Indeed, scholars today talk of a Song economic revolution. The population grew rapidly during this time, and more and more people lived in cities. The Song system of government was also advanced for its time. The upper-levels of the government were staffed by highly educated scholar-officials selected through competitive written examinations.
The Song inventors were especially good at concocting varieties of gunpowder to use for different purposes. The varieties of gunpowder and gunpowder products were important inventions including the evolution of the early flamethrower, explosive grenade, firearm, cannon, and land mine. This new technology enabled the Song to ward off their enemies until the Song's ultimate collapse in the late 13th century.
The structure of the army, both its bureaucracy and its units, was completely populated by military officers. The majority of soldiers and officers were illiterate, and most of those who were functionally literate were not highly educated. The ability of the famous general Cao Han (92492) to compose a poem at court on one occasion surprised the emperor and his civil officials. We are almost completely uninformed about the tactical training and organization of the Song army. The basic weapons of the army were swords, spears, bows, and crossbows. Later gunpowder weapons, fire spears, grenades and bombs, fire arrows, and even guns were added to the arsenal. Government arsenals exclusively manufactured gunpowder and gunpowder weapons. Song rulers were in constant fear from rebellion so they developed the system that does not allow commanding officers to stay at one place for a longtime and bond with soldiers. Song rulers were so afraid of rebellion that they persecuted their most talented and competent generals, notably Yue Fei. There are no evidence that kung fu as we know it today existed during Song dynasty period while it is possible that elaborate systems of weapon fighting were developed at the time. In biography of Yue Fei written by his grandson 60 years after his death there is no mention of any specific style of fighting , only that Yue Fei was master archer and master with a spear.

Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) During the Yuan dynasty, China—for the first time in its long history—was completely subjugated by foreign conquerors and became part of a larger political entity, Mongolian empire. They maintain their separateness from the native population and utilized foreigners to staff the government bureaucracy. Revolts in the mid-14th century led to the final overthrow of the Yuan in 1368, making it the shortest-lived major dynasty of China.
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)  The Ming founder Zhu Yuanzhang set up a system of soldiery that was largely hereditary. Hereditary soldiers were meant to be self sufficient. They provided their own food via military farms (tun tian) and rotated into training and military posts such as the capital, where specialized drilling with firearms was provided.
The spear was the most common weapon and soldiers were given comprehensive training in spear combat, both as individuals and in formation. A complete spear regimen lasted one hundred days. The dao, also called a saber, is a Chinese category for single edged, curved swords. It was the basic close fighting weapon of the Ming dynasty. During the Ming dynasty, most soldiers did not wear armor, which was reserved for officers and a small portion of the several hundred thousand strong army.
During the early Ming period larger and more cannons were used in warfare. In the early 16th century Portuguese breech-loading swivel guns and matchlock firearms were incorporated into the Ming arsenal. In the 17th century Dutch culverin were incorporated as well and became known as hongyipao. At the very end of the Ming dynasty, around 1642, Chinese combined European cannon designs with indigenous casting methods to create composite metal cannons that exemplified the best attributes of both iron and bronze cannons.While firearms never completely displaced the bow and arrow, by the end of the 16th century more firearms than bows were being ordered for production by the government, and no crossbows were mentioned at all. The percentage of gunners climbed  and by the 1440s it reached 20 percent. In 1466 the ideal composition was 30 percent. During late Ming first styles of fighting started to appear. These styles were very different from what we know today, they were weapon oriented, simple, had no connection to religion, philosophy and traditional medicine. Also these styles didn’t have names, nor were transmitted in a way kung fu is taught today. Martial schools if even can be called that way were reserved for future military officers. Teacher would have only few students at the time. Style of fighting were determined by teacher’ s name as it was said before styles didn’t have names nor fixed curriculum. This is also period when first empty hand styles of fighting started to form but just like in the case of weapon fighting styles they were far from modern kung fu. Also, empty hand fighting was not used in the army, nor practiced by military.

Qing dynasty(1644-1911) is the period when modern Kung fu as we know  today appeared for the first time. This is also the time when the highest number of people who practice martial arts before 20th century. In second half of 19th century during Qing dynasty and that number was below 1% of general population. This also a time when after Taiping rebellion and realization how cold weapons is completely useless, Kung Fu undergone radical change and in few decades from purely weapon fighting systems became empty hand fighting system with weapon practice preserved only as a tradition. Before Qing dynasty number of people who practiced something that could be called Kung fu was extremely low. During Ming dynasty we have first traces of martial systems that vaguely resembles to modern Kung Fu , still this ancient systems of empty hand fighting did not used any weapons , on the other hand completely developed systems of weapon fighting reached their peak during Ming dynasty period and from these systems modern Kung Fu evolved few hundred years later. For older dynasties we simply have no evidence that anything that even resembles kung fu existed. Of course some form of empty hand fighting did existed , like everywhere in the world . Before Qing dynasty martial arts were reserved only for soldiers
Before 19th century, although Imperial army had large number of fire arms, some portion of cold weapons were still in use ,especially in Manchu part of the army called banners. Green Standard army that made majority of Qing tropes were poorly trained and poorly equipped. Manchus never trusted Han people so they used Green Standing Army mostly for a police work , border guards ect.  Green standing army simply became utterly useless for any significant task. There are several reasons for this
1) soldiers' pay did not rise with inflation, requiring most to seek outside employment to support their families
2) wide dispersion of posts prevented centralized training while the armies' policing and civic responsibilities left little time for drilling
3) during war forces were created by taking small numbers of soldiers from numerous existing units rather than using existing units, leading to "divisive influence, poor coordination, and operative inefficiency"
4) vacancies in the armies' ranks were either left unfilled so officers could pocket the missing soldiers' allowances or filled with personal proteges
5) rampant gambling and opium addictions
6) the practice of allowing soldiers to hire substitutes, often beggars, to train and fight in their place 7) infrequent drilling
8) lax discipline due to a lack of respect for inept officers often appointed due to favoritism or nepotism.
As we can see in this atmosphere there was no place for any serious training of anything. Of course, we have to have in mind that these soldiers didn’t practiced kung fu as we know it, first because it didn’t still exist and second ,majority of people were armed with rifles. If and when they trained, they trained classical infantry skills like moving in large groups, using mainly spears ,shields, sabres  and rifles. The only part of the army that took their training seriously were Manchus but they were trained in their traditional skills like riding, archery and fencing. If any of them practiced any form of kung fu, that was purely on individual level . As we can see kung fu didn’t have any influence on any military campaign during Ching dynasty period, nor it was practiced on large scale.  
During last hundred years of Ching dynasty rule some social groups started to practice martial on regular bases. This became possible for two reasons, first kung fu finally appeared in form that was similar to what we know today and with social changes under the influence of the west. People who practiced martial arts were bounty hunters, caravan escorts, street performers and mercenaries.

As we can see, only people who trained full time were officer core and units of professional soldiers like imperial guards and similar units. Having full time training is expensive and that doesn’t include only tuition fees. Having large number of people training full time would drain country’s resources very quickly. Food, clothing, equipment, settlement, salaries for large number of people training full time would be impossible task even for modern economies. For large campaigns armies were mostly made of conscripted soldiers who were trained certain period in basic infantry tactics. Even today many countries still use same system while keeping the small core of professionals  active full time. Most of the soldiers in ancient Chinese armies were simple peasants who had no time, nor resources to train any kind of fighting, their efforts were aimed at pure survival. Kung fu didn’t even exist before Qing dynasty and certainly had no influence on any military campaign or event in history of China besides “Boxer’s rebellion” which lead to death large number of people
On the other hand Kung fu did play significant role in history of China but not in the way most people think. Kung fu had significant place in modern history of China, especially during “Republican” period. After fall of Ching dynasty new government used martial arts to boost national pride. Many government funded schools opened all over China teaching various styles of Kung Fu. This period was also a “golden age for Kung fu literature, thousands of books were printed on various subjects concerning the art of fighting ,authors mostly presented their forms and applications and many styles are today known only from these books. There were also historical books, or at least they were considered as such at the time. Also that was the time of great pulp fiction popularity. Many heroes and “historical” characters were born on the pages of these cheap editions. It is interesting how much these novels influenced common view on history and development of martial arts in China. All “histories” of different styles and their origin appeared in this period, and only histories but most of the “old” ,”traditional” styles were either formed or got their final shape. Republican period is the time when Kung Fu as we know it today was actually came to existence. Government, under the slogan that healthy nation is a strong nation, handsomely supported this course of Kung fu development in all its aspects, especially “historical” part which held great significance to official government and their efforts to homogenize different ethnic group and build a strong feeling national pride and collectivism. Stories about Shaolin, whether southern or northern were intentionally invented in order to give to something to what all different people who practiced Kung Fu at the time could relate. Few years later, story about Wudang was launched with same purpose. While there are “histories” as much as there are Kung Fu styles, all these stories share one base message, Kung Fu was invented by Han Chinese hero to fight Manchu invaders. There are many beautiful stories, with quite high literary value but vast majority of the styles share basically one story that differ only in few details and majority of the styles share same “ancestors” or at least place where those styles came to existence.
In the first half of 20th century Kung Fu with all its aspects was carefully designed for the needs of current socio-political situation few decades later similar thing happened but this time to introduce Chinese culture to the world. Even before Bruce Lee’s untimely death Kung Fu found its way to the west but when young actor passed away a social and cultural phenomena known as “kung fu craze” took over the planet. Suddenly everyone wanted to be like Bruce Lee and Kung Fu schools were popping out like mushroom after rain. Main source of information about everything related to Kung Fu were Hong Kong and in much smaller portion Taiwanese action movies. Common view and believes were based in these movies and simply things stayed that way till today. Kung Fu suddenly became good business and extremely large numbers of “masters” appeared offering everything western consumers were expecting to find. Kung Fu was considered far superior than any other martial arts that reached or were practiced on the west and offered something other arts didn’t have or had in small proportion comparing
to Kung fu , it offered philosophy (instant philosophy), eastern mysticism ( watered down and changed so western consumers can easily understand it ) as in not so rare cases esotery. Kung Fu evolved from purely fighting system to a form of pseudo religion or at least a way of self-development and self-realization.   
During cultural revolution Kung Fu in China was forbidden and many practitioners simply killed. Last few decades, realizing how much influence Kung Fu may have and is for decades part of popular culture, China put effort in rebuilding Kung Fu and attracting enormous amount of foreigners who are interesting in learning traditional Chinese martial arts. Chinese also realized the power of popular media and they are using Kung Fu as vehicle to achieve certain political goals. Large amounts of money are invested in film industry and today’s Chinese cinematography is not behind Holywood production. Excellent historical spectacles were in recent years along with modern action movies. All these movies, just like Holywood spectacles portray China and Chinese as always  righteous, peace loving, morally and ethically above others, compassionate … but also fierce warriors with superior skills and now days superior technology , usually fighting traditional historical enemies like Japanese or modern criminals who are always westerners. 
As we can see Kung fu played and still plays important social, political and economic role along with all the benefits that actual practice brings. This all happened in 20th century and continued to the present day.