Today, MMA, UFC and K1 matches swept across the 21st century. We can perhaps identify unique technique from various martial art schools from those participants except traces of Kung Fu. This is perhaps because very few Chinese Kung Fu exponents willing to participate in real combats.
My question is that since Kung Fu has next to none real combat results, why is it that people still believe that Kung Fu is still relevant today?
Maybe we need to look further back into the development of contemporary Kung Fu. I have identified four important periods that had changed Kung Fu forever:
The first period happened during the Ching Dynasty when those Manchu nobles suddenly thought that they too wished to learn Kung Fu and employed many Kung Fu masters.
As I have mentioned that the original Kung Fu means hard work. Those Manchu nobles couldn't take the harsh Kung Fu training so the Kung Fu sifus had to 'simplify' those Kung Fu training to suit those living in comfort Manchurian.
Naturally, those Manchurian started to teach others those simplified Kung Fu too.
So, slowly and over time, the market is filled with those simplified Kung Fu.
The second was the period when the army of 8-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing.
Before the invation, most of the Kung Fu experts worked as bodyguards for the rich and famous. Their Kung Fu training were really hardcore. For example: These experts would need to run 12 miles a day, took horse stance (马步) for 3 hours, punching sand bag 1000 times, lifting heavy weights etc. All in all, Kung Fu training was just similar to the current physical exercises.
People were not practising patterns (套路) but individual stances just like those basic movements in Western boxing. Once those basic stances were mastered, then the Kung Fu artists would engage in 1-1 combat.
Since there weren't any flowery movements and the Kung Fu exponents must show physical strengths, their killing power was then certainly undoubted.
An incident during the 8-Nation Alliance occupancy changed the perception of Kung Fu in old China:
A Bagua-palm (八卦掌) exponent Chen Yanhua (陈延华) were shot and killed by Western firearm and this incident has considerable effefct on the belief of Kung Fu as a means of effective self-defence technique. The firearm was victorious after all...
Consequently those boxers gradually became jobless and they had to resort to teach Kung Fu to general public to earn a living. This behavorial change has resulted in more and more Kung Fu stances and patterns being developed.
Kung Fu has at this point being converted from a self-defence technique to just 'exercise for a strong nation' (强国建民).
Since a Kung Fu master needs to earn a living by teaching Kung Fu and that no one will be willing to spend money on a Kung Fu loser; Kung Fu sifu started to shy away from real Kung Fu matches...
The third stage happened during the cultural revolution:
Many Kung Fu experts were killed or tortured. Many precious Kung Fu knowledge were lost.
Finally, with the advent of Kung Fu shows in the 60's triggered Kung Fu fevers all over the world; the phrase 'Kung Fu' is almost equivalent to money. Whatever related to Kung Fu sells. Shaolin Temple turned into a business venture that attracted many Western folks to pilgrimage and learn Kung Fu.
Shaolin Kung Fu schools were set up across the world and to say the least, Kung Fu is indeed a gold laying hen.
When money is involved, those Kung Fu masters again become more careful in participating in actual combat. And as a resort to save face, they have chosen to 'oral-fight' over the mass media.
We will not fail to come across those boastful talks on how powerful a master is that he/she can make 10 people fly by swinging his/her hands slightly... Those boastful words could never be verified in real situation of course.
Well, hat was a fairly quick introduction of what has become of our Kung Fu today. My take is still that the best Kung Fu is fast and power straight punches.
It is no magic that a boxing exponent can knock down 10 people in a roll by throwing punches. Of course, flying kick works too... it is only that you can only kick once in the air.
Interested in Kung Fu? Think about it again, please.