External Styles of Kung-Fu

External martial arts refer to those styles that focus on building a strong physical body in the practitioner. This does not mean that they exclude internal martial arts principles however. The internal principles in question refer to the cultivation of Chi, essential energy, through Chi Kung breathing exercises. In external styles of Kung-Fu, hard physical elements are focused upon and internal principles only come into play later on in the student’s advancement. Thus acrobatic leaps, contortions, fast explosive strikes and a musculature capable of both performing this regularly and resisting enemy blows, are the primary focus. Chi Gung is practised separately and more intensively, once the requisite physical aspects have been mastered. Most styles of Kung-Fu fall into this category.

The title, external martial art, may be misleading in terms of Kung-Fu, as almost all styles of Kung Fu dedicate a large part of their training syllabus to internal concepts. In fact, in Shaolin Kung-Fu styles, they harness this internal power to further harden their external bodies. It is here that we see the impressive feats of breaking, and resistance to sharpened swords, being demonstrated.

Most famous of all the external styles is that practised by the Shaolin monks (and the hundreds of styles that sprung from it).