I recently I learned about a character from Naruto named Rock Lee, one of whose moves is called "Drunken Fist" in official English translations. That's obviously an admittedly bad literal translation of the Japanese term 酔拳, which was borrowed from the Chinese 醉拳, which is better translated as "drunken boxing". But that got me thinking, how exactly did 拳 come to mean "boxing" to begin with? Pardon my ignorance, but I reckon even the earliest forms of Chinese martial arts must have involved some kicking too, no? How exactly was the entire discipline, which probably involved the use of your whole body, encapsulated by a word meaning "fist"?
How exactly was the entire discipline, which probably involved the use of your whole body, encapsulated by a word meaning "fist"?
It emphasizes the movement of fists (including arms), which delivers the most powerful punches in that style of martial art, although the entire sequence of movements can also involve the use of other body parts. For comparison, another style/branch/school of martial art, "彈腿", is named to emphasize/focus the powerful movements of the legs, but with the movement of fists/palms as a supplement.
拳 is a representative word for a variety of martial art styles, just like 兵 is a representative word for military, e.g. 兵 in 兵法，兵書， do not mean just soldier but military elements in general
All martial art styles involving the technique of punching with one's fists can use this word in their name.
Fist strikes is prominent in 洪拳, therefore, the style is not called 洪腿
Palm strikes is prominent in 八卦掌, therefore, the style is not called 八卦拳
Foot strikes is prominent in 潭腿, therefore, the style is not called 潭拳
When we mention the term 太極拳, we are referring to its hand-to-hand combat technique. If you study 太極劍 along with 太極拳, you would most likely call yourself 太極門人 instead of 太極拳師