Everyone has heard the term Kung Fu and thanks to Bruce and many others, we associate it with Chinese Martial Arts. This is absolutely correct however it is only the surface of what the term actually means.
To begin, Kung Fu is the western phonetic for Gong Fu. The etymology of the phrase translates to “the practice of” in relation to reaching mastery and eventually enlightenment in a particular field.
There is Gong Fu in everything that we do. The doctor has gong fu in medicine, the musician has gong fu with rhythm composition, the chef has gong fu in cooking, the warrior has gong fu in the martial arts, the cleaner has gong fu in clearing mess. No matter what activity is undertaken, if it is done so wholeheartedly then it adheres to the concept of gong fu.
What does it mean to be wholehearted about something?
Quite simply it means to apply yourself without restriction and knowing that you will fail over and over until you reach a point of proficiency. After all the fastest way to succeed is to fail.
It is a matter of mindset. Those that fall and refuse to stand may never know how close they were to their goal. Those that never try will never fail but as such will waste their lives and nothing is worse than existing without a purpose. To those that try, fail, stand, learn and continue – nothing is impossible.
Perhaps the phrasing for gong fu became so intertwined with the martial arts because that is (well should be) the base concept of all true styles. Benevolence towards others is the root of martial arts – we train ourselves so that we can help others and evolve into better people. The origin of Shaolin tells the story of how the great monk Damo (Bodhidharma) taught the Shaolin monks martial arts because they kept falling asleep during meditation. The physical training strengthened their bodies which allowed them to steady their minds and reach a deeper understanding of the universe – this is the very essence of gong fu.
Bruce Lee stated “Fear not the man who has practiced a thousand kicks once but rather the man who has practiced one kick a thousand times.” This quote expresses the essence of gong fu showing us that repetition of techniques (in correct form) is the path to mastery and it should be applied to all fields of life.
Remember that we are always learning and growing, such is the majesty of human nature. Have a good mindset, practice wholeheartedly to embody the ideals of gong fu and nothing will be beyond you.