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The art of kung fu was invented hundreds of years ago by Master Oogway when he came to China after having traveled around the world. Upon finding his home in the Valley of Peace, Oogway discovered a pool deep within the Wu Dan Mountains, which he wept into after observing his reflection and being "moved by the beauty of nature and the plight of the oppressed." As he meditated next to the pool, he achieved harmony and focus by focusing on the mysteries of the natural world, thereby forming the basis of the self-defense system of kung fu ("excellence of self").
Oogway worked ten thousand days (approximately twenty-seven years) according to the Legendary Warrior's narration, to perfect this martial art. Once he perfected kung fu, he admitted students under his instruction in learning the system. Observing his students, Oogway helped them to discover their own unique forms and methods, thus creating the various styles of kung fu, as demonstrated by Shifu, Po, the Furious Five, and countless other warriors.
Po was introduced in the first film as an excitable fan of kung fu. His heroes, the Furious Five, competed in a tournament to determine which one of them would be chosen as the Dragon Warrior, a kung fu master who was foretold to unlock the secret of the Dragon Scroll. Po was unexpectedly chosen by Oogway, and his kung fu tutelage began at the Training Hall in the Jade Palace, where many kung fu heroes in the past had trained.
Though Po had a difficult time, being beat in his training and unaccepted by Shifu and his students as the real Dragon Warrior, he didn't give up, demonstrating one of the principals of kung fu in that "A real warrior never quits." Shifu, meanwhile, struggled to contain his frustration at having to teach the bumbling panda and find "inner peace". When news reached about Tai Lung's break out from prison, Shifu was left as the new Master of the Jade Palace, as Oogway had passed away, leaving Shifu with the advice to believe in Po, whom he was confident could stop Tai Lung.
Tigress, after seeing neither Po nor Shifu were ready to deal with this confrontation, left to fight the snow leopard herself, with the rest of the Five joining her. They eventually met Tai Lung on the Thread of Hope in which a battle took place, and though they put up a decent fight and made great use of their teamwork and individual strengths, Tai Lung won with his superior skill, notably by his use of the nerve attack technique.
Back in the Valley of Peace, Po was training with Shifu in the Wu Dan Mountains after the red panda found the key for the panda to learn kung fu: food. After undergoing several exercises in strength, speed, and agility, Po had shown a clear improvement in his fighting prowess thanks to his panda appetite. His last step in this kung fu training consisted of a game of keep-away with Shifu, using chopsticks and a dumpling as a prize, a creative means of testing the panda's skill. More impressive was that it ended in Po voluntarily letting the master have the dumpling, in an act showing both his mastery and humility.
When Crane returned carrying the rest of the beaten members of the Five, Shifu decided the time was right for Po to receive the Dragon Scroll. Po opened the scroll that was said to give extraordinary power— and shocked everyone when he said it was blank. Disappointed and left with little options, Shifu ordered his students to evacuate the Valley of Peace, leaving him to battle Tai Lung himself. He fought the snow leopard at the Jade Palace, defending it for a time before he was eventually beaten by Tai Lung, who nearly finished him before Po interfered, holding the Dragon Scroll and beckoning the leopard to fight him. Po had discovered the secret of the scroll: in that there was no secret at all, only belief in oneself.
The two battled, both warriors showing remarkable kung fu proficiency, but in the end, Po caught the weary Tai Lung in the Wuxi Finger Hold, a technique he claimed he figured out on his own. He performed the move, defeating Tai Lung and saving the Valley, and earning acceptance from the Five, bringing peace to Master Shifu, and proving that he was indeed the true Dragon Warrior of legend.
The art and use of kung fu was at risk of being abolished by Lord Shen of the royal Peacocks family. With the aid of a large army following, Shen meant to make kung fu obsolete by using his powerful invention: cannons, inspired by the gunpowder-based trademark of his family's fireworks, and with no one to stop him, he planned to take over all of China. Master Thundering Rhino was presumably the first kung fu warrior to be defeated by Shen, killed after his confrontation with him, which was followed by the disheartened surrender of Masters Storming Ox and Croc.
Po and the Furious Five tried to put an end to this threat, and Po himself was gravely injured when he first felt the impact of the weapon, but he eventually found a way to deal with the force, not by attacking, but by achieving "inner peace". The panda was later able to withstand the blasts and re-direct the cannonballs, hurling them back at Shen and his followers, which eventually resulted in the destruction of the main weapon. This innovation, and the fact that kung fu practitioners are usually swift and agile enough to allow them to close in and attack cannoneers before a cannon can be aimed at them, insured preservation of kung fu as a valued martial skill.
Po and the Furious Five continue their kung fu training during the series, learning and mastering various techniques, weapons, and meeting other warriors while protecting the Valley of Peace from villainy.
In the episode "Sticky Situation", a villain named Taotie, who was unfit to exceed in kung fu himself, made inventions in order to make kung fu obsolete. However, his machines and his plans prove ineffective against Po and the other warriors of the Jade Palace.
In the episode "Kung Shoes", a pair of magic shoes were used by Po to do extraordinary kung fu feats, so much that he was deemed the Celestial Phoenix. However, the shoes grew evil the more he wore them, making Po fight uncontrollably until he finally managed to stop them by dousing them in water.
In the episode "The Midnight Stranger", kung fu was banned and remained outlawed in the series for a time.
Styles and techniques
In the world of Kung Fu Panda, there are animal styles that fit a variety of species, such as Tortoise style, Tiger style, Crane style, Rabbit style, Viper style, Mantis style, etc. Known means of fighting often involve striking, blocking, kicking, jumping, and throwing, though the use of weaponry and natural defenses such as fangs and claws can also be used. Past masters, legends, and differing philosophies have also likely inspired training methods.
Master Oogway, for example, focused on a calm, self-defensive form of kung fu, meditating and practicing tai chi, while Master Shifu and the Furious Five show more focus on physical combat and prowess. Po, in contrast, uses his pudgy, unorthodox shape to an advantage when fighting.
Famous techniques include the Wuxi Finger Hold and nerve attacks; known techniques used by Po and the Furious Five include the "Feet of Fury", "Tahlia Leap", "Pinwheel Attack", and "Stars of Destiny". In Kung Fu Panda 2, others include "Double Death Strike", "Wings of Justice" and "Puppet of Death". The "horn defense" of Master Thundering Rhino was also mentioned.
In the series Legends of Awesomeness, several techniques are mentioned, some more mystical in nature, such as the Fluttering Finger Mindslip used by Po. A technique involving levitation was also used by the Furious Five, allowing them to fly (presumably for a short time). Other moves included the Golden Lotus Clap (a move that causes blindness), the Clap of Stillness (a move that briefly freezes time), the Chao Wa Punch Kick (a technique much like a nerve attack), and seven of the Twelve Impossible Moves.
As there is no official ranking in kung fu, students can begin learning when they are young children (as shown by Tigress, Tai Lung, and Viper), or at an older age, including adulthood (such as Po and Crane). It is assumed that becoming a master of kung fu can take many years of toil, training, and dedication. Po, however, was able to earn the title of a master by displaying great heroism and achieving an impressive victory.
It is assumed that the Dragon Warrior is a role and rank that is considerably high and well-honored by other kung fu warriors and all of China, as it is said to be a legendary warrior with "limitless power", and Po, being the Dragon Warrior, has shown to become something of a celebrity in the Valley of Peace.
In Legends of Awesomeness, a mythic "level" called the Celestial Phoenix was mentioned by Shifu as the one level that could (theoretically) surpass that of the Dragon Warrior, as it is so advanced and intentionally impossible for any kung fu warrior to reach that the very point of it is that, in trying to be the best, no student's training ever ends.
Another esteemed role is that of a "senior master", or "spiritual leader". These seem to be the oldest and wisest of kung fu masters, often guiding and teaching younger warriors. Oogway and Shifu are examples of this rank. Master Thundering Rhino may also have served this role as the leader of the Kung Fu Council.
As the creator of kung fu, Oogway was likely regarded as the greatest kung fu master, and respected by many for his knowledge and skill. Along with establishing kung fu, he also created the legend of the Dragon Warrior, and made the Dragon Scroll to symbolize the choosing of a warrior who would be able to do remarkable feats. According to Legends of Awesomeness, Oogway also carried within him the "Hero's Chi", a great power of honor only granted to one person in every generation.
Many other figures are known throughout China as well, including the members of the Furious Five, Master Shifu, Master Flying Rhino, the Viper Clan, the warrior-king Temutai, Master Yao, General Tsin, and the Sacred Onyx Council of Shaolin. There is also a Kung Fu Council made up of the skilled Masters of Gongmen City.
Many battles are known, showcasing the triumphs and defeats of many warriors in combat. Famous conflicts include the battles of the Valley of Peace, Chorh-Gom Prison, the Thread of Hope, Weeping River, and the Battle of Gongmen City.Others include the battles between Oogway and the demon Ke-Pa, and Oogway and Fenghuang.
An important part of kung fu is internal strength and wisdom, such as shown in Secrets of the Furious Five, where Po shared stories about the learning of patience, courage, confidence, discipline, and compassion to a kung fu class of rowdy children. As he explained, the secret to kung fu was not about fighting, but about "excellence of self".
Another integral concept of kung fu is the state of "inner peace", where one is content with themselves after having worked through their own internal journey. In the second film, Shifu described that inner peace allowed him to feel the "flow of the universe", and could be achieved with many long years of meditation and seclusion without food or water, or through one's own pain and suffering.
This state of peace seems to allow a person to do extraordinary tasks with ease by performing simple, flowing gestures that resemble Tai Chi. Po used this state to great effect against physical hardship when battling Lord Shen.
Additionally, the mastering of "hing kung" is also an inner discipline, and focuses on finding internal balance and "weightlessness". This was also demonstrated by Po and Shifu when both were overwhelmed with responsibilities, and learned hing kung in order to take control of their problems instead of being engulfed by them. Afterward, both were effortlessly able to tread on incredibly light objects such as knives thrown in midair and leaves in the wind.
The Pool of Sacred Tears, located in the Wu Dan Mountains, is noted to be the birthplace of kung fu, where it was created by Master Oogway. Located near the mountains is the Jade Palace, which was made as a monument to Oogway by grateful citizens, and is a place where many students have lived and trained, including Po, the Furious Five, and Tai Lung.
Inside the palace is the Hall of Warriors, which keeps many kung fu artifacts and weapons that once belonged to past Masters. The Furious Five did much of their training in the Training Hall, with dangerous obstacles and mechanisms helping to hone their skills; these included the Adversary, the Seven-Talon Rings, and the Field of Fiery Death.It is assumed Crane also trained under similar settings at the Lee Da Kung Fu Academy. Another known location is Gongmen City, where the members of the Kung Fu Council reside. In Legends of Awesomeness other kung fu training locations included the Onyx Temple and the Garnet Palace. Other than the Jade Palace, it is known that there are a total of twenty-nine schools of kung fu.
- In its original Chinese meaning, "kung fu" could refer to any skill, not necessarily martial. Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining 功 (gōng) meaning "achievement" or "merit", and 夫 (fū) which translates into "man", so that a literal rendering would be "human achievement". Its connotation is that of an accomplishment arrived at by great effort.