Chinese Martial Arts Styles

China has a long history of martial traditions that includes hundreds of different styles. Over the past two thousand years many distinctive styles have been developed, each with its own set of techniques and ideas.There are also common themes to the different styles, which are often classified by "families" ( jiā), "sects" ( pai) or "schools" ( men). There are styles that mimic movements from animals and others that gather inspiration from various Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put most of their focus into the harnessing of qi, while others concentrate on competition.

Chinese martial arts can be split into various categories to differentiate them: For example, external and internal. Chinese martial arts can also be categorized by location, as in northern and southern as well, referring to what part of China the styles originated from, separated by the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); Chinese martial arts may even be classified according to their province or city.

The main perceived difference between northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork. Examples of the northern styles include changquan and xingyiquan.

Examples of the southern styles include Bak Mei, Wuzuquan, Choy Li Fut and Wing Chun. Chinese martial arts can also be divided according to religion, imitative-styles, and family styles such as Hung Gar. There are distinctive differences in the training between different groups of the Chinese martial arts regardless of the type of classification. However, few experienced martial artists make a clear distinction between internal and external styles, or subscribe to the idea of northern systems being predominantly kick-based and southern systems relying more heavily on upper-body techniques.

Most styles contain both hard and soft elements, regardless of their internal nomenclature. Analyzing the difference in accordance with yin and yang principles, philosophers would assert that the absence of either one would render the practitioner's skills unbalanced or deficient, as yin and yang alone are each only half of a whole. If such differences did once exist, they have since been blurred.

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