8 Styles of Kung Fu

Introduction to Kung Fu

Kung Fu, or Wushu, extends beyond being just a physical endeavor; it is a lifestyle deeply rooted in Chinese culture. With a history that spans millennia, Kung Fu has transformed into a holistic system encompassing self-defense, physical well-being, and spiritual growth.

Origin of Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu traces its roots back to the Shaolin Temple, boasting a history that spans 1500 years. It holds the distinction of being the oldest, most diverse, and most comprehensive martial arts school among the various martial arts traditions in China.

Features of Shaolin Kung Fu

  • Shaolin Kung Fu is rooted in Buddhist beliefs, reflecting the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and showing the martial arts practiced by Shaolin Temple monks. The essence of Shaolin Kung Fu is the harmonious integration of Zen philosophy and martial arts.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu encompasses various techniques such as striking, kicking, grappling, and defense. Practitioners learn a wide range of movements, including punches, kicks, throws, joint locks, and acrobatics. There is a strong emphasis on kicking, with a ratio of 30% punches to 70% kicks.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu often incorporates elements of Zen philosophy. Practitioners are encouraged not only to cultivate physical strength but also to nurture mental and spiritual well-being. The philosophy emphasizes discipline, respect, humility, and compassion.
  • Shaolin training includes a combination of physical conditioning, flexibility exercises, strength training, meditation, etc. Training often involves repetitive exercises to build muscle memory and enhance reflexes.

Benefits of training Shaolin Kung Fu

  • Enhanced Physical Fitness and Flexibility: Shaolin Kung Fu training improves overall physical conditioning and flexibility, enhancing adaptability to new environments.
  • Cultivation of Character: Practitioners develop mental strength, gaining more motivation for life.
  • Anti-Aging Properties: Shaolin Kung Fu contributes to anti-aging effects, and it can prevent and treat chronic diseases, potentially extending lifespan.
Students are learning Wing Chun wooden dummy moves

Origin of Wing Chun

There are many stories of its origin, and the most original one is the story below:

Wing Chun was created by a female Shaolin master called Wu Mei, who was also a great master in Shaolin white crane style. In Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the government placed a ban on kung fu. In order to avoid capture by the government, Wu Mei, with some other great Shaolin Martial Artists (Bai Mei, Feng Daode, etc.) escaped to South China. During this duration, Wu Mei kept practicing kung fu. Occasionally she saw a snake and a crane fighting, which enlightened her and she created her own unique style (now we call it Wing Chun) on this basis. Later on, she went to Yongchun County in Fujian province and accepted one disciple named Yan Yong Chun (Yim Wing Chun). Wu Mei passed the style Wing Chun to Yan Yong Chun. Afterwards, Yan Yong Chun systematized the style and widely spread the form. Then people named this style Wing Chun to memorize her.

Features of Wing Chun

  • Wing Chun places significant emphasis on the centerline, an imaginary line extending along the body’s center. Techniques are often directed along this line to target an opponent’s vulnerabilities while maintaining a strong defensive posture.
  • Wing Chun is designed for close-range combat. Practitioners prefer engaging with opponents at close quarters, using fast and direct strikes to quickly diminish or eliminate threats.
  • Wing Chun frequently employs techniques that involve simultaneous attack and defense. The aim is to intercept and counter an opponent’s actions with a single, fluid motion. This concept is known as “Lop Sau” or “grabbing hand.”

Benefits of training Wing Chun

  • Wing Chun is known for its practical and efficient self-defense techniques, making it a valuable martial art for personal safety.
  • Regular training enhances physical fitness, including strength, coordination, and flexibility.
  • The practice of Wing Chun requires concentration and mental focus, aiding in the development of mindfulness and quick decision-making skills.

Origin of Tai Chi

Wudang Taoist priest Zhang Sanfeng in China founded Neijiaquan, creating the Thirteen Movements of Tai Chi, which forms the prototype of Tai Chi Chuan. This later developed into what we now refer to as Wudang Tai Chi Chuan.

Features of Tai Chi

  • Tai Chi is characterized by slow, fluid, and graceful movements. Practitioners perform a series of carefully designed forms or “katas,” smoothly transitioning between postures.
  • Tai Chi emphasizes the integration of mind and body. Practitioners focus on being present, cultivating awareness, and connecting their mental and physical states.
  • Tai Chi incorporates various weight shifts, circular movements, and postures that promote balance and stability. These aspects contribute to enhancing overall coordination and control.
  • Tai Chi is associated with the concept of “Qi” or “energy,” representing the life force flowing through the body. Practitioners aim to cultivate and circulate Qi through Tai Chi practice to promote health and well-being.
  • Tai Chi integrates the principles of Yin and Yang, symbolizing the balance and harmony of opposing forces. Movements often involve the interplay of soft and hard, yielding and assertive actions, aiming for a harmonious equilibrium.

Benefits of Training Tai Chi

  • Prevent and treat chronic diseases
  • The gentle, flowing nature of Tai Chi promotes relaxation and helps reduce stress levels.
  • Tai Chi’s fluid movements contribute to increased flexibility and support overall joint health.
  • Although Tai Chi Chuan is a low-impact exercise, it can also have the benefits of weight loss and muscle strengthening.

Origin of Animal Fist

Animal Fist, or Animal Style Kung Fu, has its origins in traditional Chinese martial arts. This style is inspired by the movements, characteristics, and behaviors of various animals. The concept is to mimic the natural movements and techniques of animals, incorporating their agility, strength, and adaptability into martial arts practice.

Features of Animal Fist

  • Each style of Animal Fist mimics movements, postures, and techniques associated with specific animals. Common animal styles include Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Dragon, Monkey, etc.
  • Practitioners of Animal Fist styles often learn and practice specific forms or patterns that embody the essence of the chosen animal. These forms serve as a structured way to transmit and inherit the techniques and principles of the style.
  • Animal Fist styles can be diverse; some practitioners specialize in a particular animal style, while others may integrate multiple animal styles into their practice. This versatility allows adaptation to different combat situations.

Origin of Soft Qigong

Shaolin Qigong is primarily divided into Neigong (Soft Qigong) and Waigong (Hard Qigong). In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the skilled physician Hua Tuo combined traditional Chinese medicine with knowledge of acupoints to invent the health-preserving Qigong known as the “Five Animal Frolics.” During the late Tang Dynasty and early Song Dynasty, the venerable monk Master Lingqiu of Shaolin created the health-preserving Qigong called the “Eight Pieces of Brocade.” This form is one of the earliest Qigong techniques and is also one of the most widely transmitted Qigong forms in China.

Benefits of Training Soft Qigong

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is a fundamental aspect of Soft Qigong. Practitioners synchronize breath with movements to enhance relaxation, oxygenate the body, and facilitate smooth Qi flow.
  • The goal of Soft Qigong is to promote the circulation of Qi throughout the entire body. Gentle and slow movements help open energy channels, eliminate blockages, and balance the flow of Qi.
  • Soft Qigong emphasizes the relaxation of muscles and joints. This state of relaxation is believed to enhance the body’s ability to absorb and circulate Qi, promoting a sense of ease and relieving tension.
  • Soft Qigong includes elements of meditation, encouraging practitioners to maintain a focused and calm mindset throughout the practice. This meditative aspect helps reduce stress and maintain mental clarity.
  • Soft Qigong aims to cultivate the Three Treasures of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Energy, Qi, and Spirit. Through gentle movements and mindful breathing, practitioners seek to harmonize these three aspects of life energy.

Origin of Hard Qigong

The origin of Hard Qigong can be traced back to ancient Taoist and Buddhist practices that sought to integrate physical conditioning with martial arts techniques. Waigong refers inparticular to Hard Chi Kung, which is actually a combination of Neigong and Waigong. Hard Qigong involves intense physical exercises aimed at toughening the body, conditioning bones and muscles, and developing a high level of martial power.

By conditioning of some body parts (head, hands, arms, and legs), the suffertibility of the body will be improved, which is the Waigong part. In addition to the Chi working of Neigong, this can protect internal organs from being hurt.

When practicing hard Chi Kung, control qi that has been accumulated, drive it to part of your body and make your body as tough as iron. Breaking bricks, staffs, steel bars, big marble boards, spear piercing against the throat are all in this category.

Features of Hard Qigong

  • One of the prominent features of Hard Qigong is the practice of the “Iron Shirt” technique. These techniques involve conditioning the body to withstand strikes, pressure, and impacts. Practitioners employ various methods, such as using the palms, fists, or even heavy objects to strike the body, enhancing resilience.
  • Hard Qigong includes exercises specifically designed to strengthen bones and tendons. These exercises are believed to make the body more resistant to injuries and enhance overall physical endurance.
  • Based on Soft Qigong, which emphasizes the cultivation of internal energy (Qi), Hard Qigong often focuses on the development of external force, including muscular strength, endurance, and the ability to generate power.

Origin of Sanda & Qin Na

Selected from Shaolin forms, Sanda moves are the essence of offensive and defensive techniques within Shaolin kungfu. One of the renowned Seventy-Two Secret Arts of Shaolin, Qin Na, has a history spanning over 1400 years. It is the result of the continuous practice and accumulation of martial monks, making Qin Na an efficient martial art that does not rely on brute force. Swiftness is its primary characteristic, encompassing kicking, striking, throwing, and grappling techniques.

Features of Sanda & Qin Na

  • Sanda, also known as Sanshou or Chinese Kickboxing, is a modern Chinese martial art primarily focused on full-contact combat. It is often used as a sport and is part of contemporary Chinese martial arts curricula.
  • Qin Na is a specialized component of Chinese martial arts, emphasizing joint locks, joint manipulation, and grappling techniques. The goal is to control or immobilize opponents by manipulating their joints and pressure points.
  • Qin Na is primarily applied in close-quarters combat. Practitioners learn techniques for grabbing, controlling, and manipulating an opponent’s limbs to gain a strategic advantage.

Origin of BaJi Quan

Baji has a rich history, dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), and was founded by Zhang Yueshan. Thanks to the dedication of its followers, Baji has evolved into a sophisticated form of kung fu. It is known for its unique yet straightforward style and techniques, which draw inspiration from ancient Chinese medicine. This approach highlights the interconnectedness of all body parts, both in a physical and spiritual sense.

Now Baji has a variety of forms, like Baji fist, Baji straight sword, Baji spear, Baji big broadsword, and Baji single broadsword.

Features of BaJi Quan

  • Baji Quan is celebrated for its emphasis on dynamic power and speed. The practitioner’s objective is to generate maximum force during attacks, creating a martial art that is both dynamic and awe-inspiring.
  • Baji Quan movements are typically direct and efficient, strategically designed to swiftly close the distance. Techniques are executed with minimal unnecessary motion, ensuring effectiveness in both offense and defense.
  • A distinctive aspect of Baji Quan is the concept of the “Eight Big Openings,” which identifies the body’s eight vulnerable areas. Techniques are targeted towards these openings to maximize impact. The eight openings include the eyes, ears, nose, throat, armpits, sides, groin, and knees.
  • Baji Quan harnesses power from the entire body, with force generated from the feet, channeled through the waist, and expressed through the hands. This holistic integration of the body enhances the effectiveness of martial arts.

Benefits of training BaJi Quan

Practicing Baji Quan can provide various physical, mental, and martial benefits.

  • Baji Quan training involves dynamic and explosive movements, helping to enhance overall physical fitness. Practitioners strengthen their bodies and improve flexibility, endurance, and cardiovascular health through forms and conditioning exercises.
  • Baji Quan is a practical self-defense martial art, where practitioners acquire techniques for targeting vulnerable areas, defending against attacks, and responding effectively to various self-defense scenarios.
  • Training Baji Quan contributes to stress reduction. The focused and rhythmic nature of the movements, combined with deep breathing, can help calm the mind and alleviate stress levels.

As an authentic martial arts academy, Xinglin not only teaches the 8 Kung Fu styles mentioned above but also offers a variety of other Kung Fu styles and courses on traditional Chinese culture. If you happen to be interested in Chinese culture, we would be an excellent destination for you to learn both Chinese Kung Fu and culture. Feel free to contact us and join us on this exciting journey of exploring Chinese martial arts and traditions!

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