Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term wushu (simplified Chinese: 武术; traditional Chinese: 武術; pinyin: wǔshù) and popularly as kung fu (Chinese: 功夫; pinyin: gōngfu), are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as “families” (家, jiā), “sects” (派, pài) or “schools” (門, mén) of martial arts. Examples of such traits include physical exercises involving animal mimicry, or training methods inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. Styles which focus on qi manipulation are labeled as internal (内家拳, nèijiāquán), while others concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness and are labeled external (外家拳, wàijiāquán). Geographical association, as in northern (北拳, běiquán) and southern (南拳, nánquán), is another popular method of categorization.
Kung-fu and wushu are terms that have been borrowed into English to refer to Chinese martial arts. However, the Chinese terms kung fu and wushu listen (Mandarin) (help·info); Cantonese: móuh-seuht) have distinct meanings; the Chinese literal equivalent of “Chinese martial art” would be Zhongguo wushu (traditional Chinese: 中國武術; pinyin: zhōngguó wǔshù).
Wǔshù literally means “martial art”. It is formed from the two words 武術: 武 (wǔ), meaning “martial” or “military” and 術 (shù), which translates into “discipline”, “skill” or “method.”
The term wushu has also become the name for the modern sport of wushu, an exhibition and full-contact sport of bare-handed and weapons forms (Chinese: 套路, pinyin: tàolù), adapted and judged to a set of aesthetic criteria for points developed since 1949 in the People’s Republic of China.