Difference Between Kung Fu and Wushu

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Wushu and Kung fu are two terms that are often used to describe various martial arts that have evolved and developed in China over a period of thousands of years. There are many who consider Kung fu to be superior to Wushu. This is in part due to the immense popularity of Bruce Lee movies in the west that helped in people getting a lot to know and learn about Kung fu. There are many similarities between Kung fu and Wushu also that confuse the people. However, despite similarities, there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.


The word Wushu literally means martial arts as it is made up of two Chinese words Wu meaning martial or military and Shu that means skill or method. However, it has been incorporated in English as a single word meaning martial art. Wushu is also a contact sport played at international level. Wushu has been the phrase that is being promoted by the Chinese authorities ever since Chinese reform movement started. Wushu has been turned into a contemporary sport that the Chinese are trying to get included in summer Olympics.

Kung Fu

Kung fu is a word in Chinese that roughly translates into skills achieved with time and effort. Thus, the word in Chinese society could be used for not just a martial art exponent but also for exponents of different skills such as a carpenter, tailor, electrician, or a karate expert. It was in the 60’s that Bruce Lee popularized the phrase in the west and people accepted it as a fighting style. He was the king of Kung fu as far as Hollywood was concerned. He portrayed the roles of a protagonist who made use of Kung fu to help weak people.

Kung Fu vs Wushu

• Both Kung fu and Wushu are terms that have been used to describe Chinese martial arts.

• Wushu literally means martial arts whereas Kung fu means skills achieved with time and effort.

• Kung fu became more popular in the west because of the efforts of Bruce Lee who popularized the term by playing the role of protagonist helping weak people using his Kung fu.

• However, Chinese authorities have been promoting the phrase Wushu instead of Kung fu ever since communist China opened up its economy for the rest of the world.

• There are both traditional as well as contemporary forms of Wushu with the modern contact sport of Wushu being a part of the contemporary Wushu.

• Since 1950, the Chinese government has been organizing events to popularize Chinese martial arts using the blanket term Wushu.

• The term Kung fu is more popular than Wushu in the west.