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Semantic meaning and phonetics


In most of the largely spoken Chinese language varieties, the word kung fu (功夫) is pronounced phonetically as [kʊŋ fu] with an unaspirated [k] and a [ʊ] sound. However, in many other parts of the world, including most of the English-speaking world, the pronunciation, kung fu, has remained predominant.

Semantic meaning

See also: Kung fu (term)

In terms of semantic meaning, kung fu and wushu are loanwords from Chinese that, in English, are used to refer to Chinese martial arts. However, the Chineseterms kung fu and wushu listen (Mandarin) (help·info); Cantonese: móuh-seuht) have distinct meanings. The Chinese equivalent of the term "Chinese martial arts" would be Zhongguo wushu (Chinese: 中國武術; pinyin: zhōngguó wǔshù (Mandarin).

In Chinese, the term kung fu (功夫) refers to any skill that is acquired through learning or practice. It is a compound word composed of the words 功 (gōng) meaning "work", "achievement", or "merit", and 夫 (fū) which is a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings.

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), adapted and judged to a set of aesthetic criteria for points developed since 1949 in the People's Republic of China.

Quan fa (拳法) is another Chinese term for Chinese martial arts. It means "fist principles" or "the law of the fist" (Quan means "hand", or "body" and fa means "law", "way" or "study"). The name of the Japanese martial art Kenpō is represented by the same characters.

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