Traditional Kung Fu Styles
There are hundreds of different styles of traditional Kung Fu in China. Some of the most common are listed below.
Bagua, or Baguazhang, is an internal Chinese martial art originating in Taoist practice and theory. Along with Tai Chi and Hsingi, it is one of the three most popular internal arts.
According to history Bagua was created in the Taoist mountain ranges of Hebei province. It is based around the 'Eight Changes' or 'Trigams' of the I Ching, a historical manual of divination. Each 'trigram' represents a certain movement or palm change, which a student performs while walking in a circle (most strikes in Bagua are done with an open palm). Practitioners spend a great deal of time in these 'circle-walking' exercises, moving around the circle's perimeter while executing rapid spins, twists, changes of direction and various martial techniques. This training develops swift coiling and twisting motions that are one of the fundamental principles of Bagua. Bagua is one of the most distinctive martial arts to watch in practice.
The martial techniques of Bagua include a variety of strikes that are done with the palm, fist and any part of the body, kicking, locking, grappling, throwing and hits to vulnerable areas and pressure points. There are several different lineages of Bagua practiced today including the Yin, Cheng and Liang styles. Bagua also includes the use of many different and distinctive weapons, such as the large Baguadao (broadsword).
Hsingi is an internal Chinese martial art. Along with Tai Chi and Bagua, it is one of the three most popular internal arts practiced today.
Historically Hsingi (or Xingiquan) is thought to have developed from a military background (possibly created or synthesized by a Chinese general named Yue Fei). Hsingi is characterised by a linear attacking style and explosive bursts of power. Practitioners aim for aggressive, shocking movements to reach an opponent quickly and overwhelm them. It features empty-hand training based around mimicking the movements and attacking styles of a variety of animals including a bear, eagle, snake and tiger. Several lineages of this art exist today.
Hsingi training is made up of striking practice (featuring a number of 'fists' including Splitting Fist, Crushing Fist and Pounding Fist), forms practice and the use of weapons such as the spear.
Choy Li Fut
A style of Kung Fu founded in the 19th century. It combines techniques from various Northern and Southern styles including arm and hand techniques from the South and long, extended kicks, circular movements and agile footwork from the North. It is considered an external style, incorporating a mixture of hard and soft techniques, and a variety of weapons are incorporated. There is a distinctive weapon associated with this style called the Nine Dragon Trident, a weapon with many hooks and blades.
Today this style is widespread through the world, and there are schools in many different countries.
Hung Ga is a Southern style originating at the Shaolin Temple. It is well-known for its deep horse stances and strong hand techniques. It is normally characterised as an external art relying on physical strength, although a practitioner will progress towards internal chi cultivation.
The most famous practitioner of Hung Ga was Wong Fei Hung, and his is the style most widely practiced today. Other lineages exist, differing widely in their training content and practice. Normal training in Hung Ga requires learning several empty-hand routines such as the 'Single Bow Fist'and 'Black Tiger Fist', as well as two distinctive weapons: the long pole and twin butterfly swords.
Drunken boxing, or Zai Quan, is a Kung Fu form that mimics a drunkard's movements. Practitioners stagger about, seemingly off-balance, but are in reality prepared for attack and defence. Drunken boxing requires powerful joints and fingers as well as strong balance and co-ordination. Distractions such as tottering steps, swaying and feinting are used to set the opponent off-guard before launching a powerful and explosive attack.
Ditangquan, or Tumbling Boxing, is a form of Kung Fu that originated in Shangdong province. The major distinguishing feature of Ditangquan is the ability to perform tumbles, falls, somersaults, and aerial acrobatics while also using them for defence and offense.
Tumbling Boxing exists as both a traditional martial art and a form of modern Wushu. Several lineages exist, including a form of Shaolin Kung Fu.
Wing Chun is a Southern form of Kung Fu originally created by a woman, Ng Mui. It focuses on close-range combat, fast hand techniques, and a relaxed and fluid method of fighting. It is a popular form of Kung Fu all over the world.
Training in Wing Chun includes stances, forms, techniques, a two-person training form called chi sao (similar to Tai Chi's pushing-hands for sensitivity body awareness) and the use of weapons such as the twin butterfly knives. Practitioners pride themselves on the ability to generate short-term power, such as the 'one-inch-punch'. Another distinctive feature of Wing Chun is the use of a 'wooden dummy' called the Muk Yan Jong, which simulates combat with a real opponent.
Many styles of Wing Chun are practised today, including the Yip Man school and the Ip Chun school. Bruce Lee studied some Wing Chun before moving to America.
Tongbei, or Tongbeiquan, is a form of Northern Kung Fu. It is based on Taoist precepts and is characterized by heavy blows, delivered from the back through to the arms, in order to keep the opponent at arm's length.
Many variations in styles and schools exist, and it is practised both as a traditional art and as a feature of modern Wushu. Training consists of basics such as arm and leg techniques, combinations, forms, two-person sparring techniques, weapons and Qigong.
Fanzi, or Fanziquan, is a type of martial art noted for its use of hands in both offensive and defensive action. Fanzi routines are usually quite short and very fast. It is thought to be a source for other styles such as Eagle Claw.
It is said to originate from a remote part of Shandong province, and to have been passed on by a mountain wanderer to an injured soldier. It is done with short and compact movements and a blend of hardness and softness. Fanzi is an important component of modern Wushu, and Jet Li is well-known for this style.
Chuojiao is a martial art practised in Hebei and northern China. It emphasizes the legs and as such is often taught with Fanzi. Practitioners use jumps, kicks and fast fist sequences, with hands and feet working in unison to thrust continuously forward and overwhelm an opponent.
Originating in the Song Dynasty in the 10th century, there are many family styles of Chuojiao existing today, including the Liu family and Duan family styles. A distinctive feature of training requires practitioners to jump against a wall with heavy weights strapped to their calves, in order to develop powerful leaps and jumps.
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