For many people, especially those who are not familiar with martial arts, the question often arises on what the difference between karate and kung fu is. Upon watching somebody doing various moves, the untrained eye will find it hard to tell which style that person is doing. Even those who are just beginners may sometimes be confused about the different styles until further exposure to them will reveal just how different they really are.
Historically, the people living in the islands of Okinawa just south of Japan got exposed to Chinese martial arts due to the close proximity to China. Over time, the Okinawans and Japanese developed their own styles now known as karate from the original influence of Chinese styles.
“Jueming” are difficult and surprising techniques which, applied in correct circumstances, at the right time, can give you the upper hand in combat. With repeated practice they can be refined to incorporate something different into your repertoire. They represent the unusual and shouldn’t be confused with your typical ‘stock’ of basic, defensive, probing kicks and so on, but reserved for key, decisive moments in combat and then used to surprise your opponent.
This example originates from the ‘Jingang (Diamond) Chan’ or ‘Buddha’s Warrior-Attendant Boxing’ variant of Changquan ‘Longfist’ Kung Fu. Diamonds can withstand incredible pressures, are multi-faceted and can become polished after prolonged application–thus, techniques like this may prove decisive in trying situations.
As maximum range and leg-extension in front kicks is achieved at waist-height this represents the ideal practice-level. This can be extended slightly with a backward-leaning of the upper torso (which also removes the head from the possibility of a counter). The kick itself is a snapping kick: the thigh muscle is first contracted and then rapidly expanded to propel the foot towards its target, final effectiveness is enhanced by quickly tensing the ankle on impact. Accurate timing and estimation of distances are essential and consequently the opponent must be closely and continuously watched.
Martial arts weaponry is found in both kung fu and karate styles but different sets of weapons are utilized in each system. Much like the empty hand forms, the kata with karate weapons are also more linear compared to those with kung fu weapons which have more circular movements. As expected, there is a lot more variety of different Chinese weapons than found in the Japanese karate styles.Traditionally, practitioners of karate wear a white uniform called a gi which features the overlapping kimono-like top. Less traditional schools like those in North America will allow colored uniforms. A colored belt will be the finishing touch to the gi with of course the black belt for those at instructor level ranking. Most of the time and especially inside a dojo studio, karate stylists will not wear any shoes while training. Most kung fu stylists will wear very different looking uniforms consisting of tops with Chinese ‘frog-style’ buttons rather than overlapping fronts like the karate gi top.
The uniforms can be black or a variety of colors with often lighter fabrics such as satin and shoes are commonly worn. The modern acrobatic Chinese martial arts of wushu can feature satin uniforms with many different bright colors. Many kung fu schools simply utilize t-shirts and baggy pants as uniforms. Satin colored sashes are often worn to signify rank of students but this is actually more of a North American style as most Chinese martial arts schools in Asia do not show rankings in uniforms.