Kung Fu or Gung Fu is essentially a deep Chinese philosophy. It is the acquiring of skills without the influence of the intellect or emotions. Kung Fu is a self –discipline. It is the application of intense concentration to any study, learning of practice that requires patience, energy or time. In China a person’s Kung Fu could be cooking or horse riding.
The term was adopted by the West to refer the Chinese Martial Arts. Kung Fu was perceived by the west to be a primarily unarmed Chinese form of combat, involving muscular coordination and resembling Karate. Today China too has adopted this perception of Kung Fu.
Chinese Martial Arts, now known as Kung Fu, were practised in China since the time of the Zhou Dynasty (1111 to 225 BCE). Kung Fu imitates the fighting style of animals. These are five basic foot positions, the normal upright posture and the four stances – dragon, frog, horse riding and snake.
Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969). It is a modern Japanese Martial Art; a synthesis of martial studies, philosophy and religious beliefs.
Aikido is rooted in the Martial Arts Jujutsu, Kenjutsu and Kendo. The Spiritual roots are Omoto-Kyo, Kototama. Over the years many different branches of Aikido have emerged. They include Aiki Budo, Shin’ei Taido, Yoseikan, Yoshinkan, Akikai, Iwame Ryu and Nippon Kan.
Aikido defines itself as ‘a way of unifying life energy’. The techniques involve entering and turning movements to redirect the momentum of the opponents attack, or a throw or lock that terminates the technique.
Students of Aikido wear the white uniforms of the martial arts, with white belts. They are the kyu. They progress through a series of grades, each earning them a bar on the belt or a different coloured belt depending on the Aikido school. There is no standard procedure. After a series of testing procedures, students earn degrees and eventually the black belt of a dan or instructor. A dan usually wears an indigo or black trouser.
Aikido is based on defence. It is not strength for strength art. The defender does not make use of his/her strength to subdue the attacker. It is less aggressive than all forms of Kung Fu.
Kung Fu treats the body as a weapon. It is a more aggressive form of defence. Every part of the body is transformed into a weapon to subdue the opponent in the least possible time with the least possible damage to oneself.
The term Kung Fu in Chinese means achievement and skill. Training in Kung Fu when referring to the martial arts, refers to sharpening one’s fighting skills while strengthening one’s mind and body.
Aikido is essentially a defence technique. Attack moves are not part of the techniques. Deflecting the attacker’s aggressive movements and using his/her momentum against him/her is the basic idea. It is not a passive technique, if is defensive. It is a handy skill to have when attacked by a rapist or hoodlum in a dark alley. Aikido being passive does not have much sporting value.
Kung Fu has many aggressive attack moves that are used in defence. Moves like using the fingers to poke the opponents eyes and other gouging techniques, do have audience appeal and Kung Fu contests draw large crowds.
The basic difference is then that of an attacking defence and a defending defence, a Chinese technique and a Japanese one.