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.
The ideas associated with Chinese martial arts changed with the evolution of Chinese society and over time acquired some philosophical bases: Passages in the Zhuangzi (庄子), a Daoist text, pertain to the psychology and practice of martial arts. Zhuangzi, its eponymous author, is believed to have lived in the 4th century BCE. The Tao Te Ching, often credited to Lao Zi, is another Daoist text that contains principles applicable to martial arts. According to one of the classic texts of Confucianism, Zhou Li (周禮/周礼), Archery and charioteering were part of the “six arts” (simplified Chinese: 六艺; traditional Chinese: 六藝; pinyin: liu yi, including rites, music, calligraphy and mathematics) of the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BCE). The Art of War (孫子兵法), written during the 6th century BCE by Sun Tzu (孫子), deals directly with military warfare but contains ideas that are used in the Chinese martial arts.
Daoist practitioners have been practicing Tao Yin (physical exercises similar to Qigong that was one of the progenitors to T’ai chi ch’uan) from as early as 500 BCE. In 39–92 CE, “Six Chapters of Hand Fighting”, were included in the Han Shu (history of the Former Han Dynasty) written by Pan Ku. Also, the noted physician, Hua Tuo, composed the “Five Animals Play”—tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, around 220 BCE. Daoist philosophy and their approach to health and exercise have influenced the Chinese martial arts to a certain extent. Direct reference to Daoist concepts can be found in such styles as the “Eight Immortals” which uses fighting techniques that are attributed to the characteristics of each immortal.
Chinese martial arts training consists of the following components: basics, forms, applications and weapons; different styles place varying emphasis on each component. In addition, philosophy, ethics and even medical practice are highly regarded by most Chinese martial arts. A complete training system should also provide insight into Chinese attitudes and culture.
Source and References http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_martial_arts