Getting Started in Kung-Fu
If you live in the UK and want to study Chinese martial arts, be it traditional Kung-Fu or modern sport Wushu, then you are in luck. The UK boasts literally hundreds of Kung-Fu schools with some top Chinese masters teaching and many non-Chinese martial artists of considerable skill and reputation. Choosing what style of Kung-Fu is best for you is perhaps the most difficult thing along with knowing when you have found a good teacher, as there are some fraudsters around. In this section we answer some of the most common question asked on the subject of getting started in Kung-Fu.
How do I choose a Kung-Fu class to go to?
Many styles of Kung-Fu are hundreds of years old and based on principles that are thousands of years old. Therefore any good school will have much to offer any student. You should find a school that is near to you, check out its credentials and try out a class if you like what you see. If you like it, give it some time and if you have various options check them all out before committing to any one. Remember when you do get started, train with only one school. Mastering a single style should be more than enough, requiring patience and dedication. Mixing styles will only confuse you and result in messy Kung-Fu.
How do I choose a style of Kung-Fu?
If you are lucky enough to live with travelling distance of a variety of Kung-schools then you may want to base your stylistic choice on two factors – your ability and your desire. If you are stockily built you may want to opt for a more grounded southern style where you can use your weight to your advantage: Wing-Chun and Lau Gar are good examples. If you are the slim type with long limbs then you may do well in a Northern style such as Shaolinquan where long reach is an advantage. However, this may be immaterial to you if you are stocky but your dream is to fly or if you are tall but wish to become grounded and firm. If you dedicate yourself to it, your Kung-Fu will actually change your physique so you should really choose the style that fulfills your dreams. There are many large acrobats who surprise and wow audiences with their agility (such as the 100 kilo Sammo Hung) and the converse is true for once skinny individuals who develop great power. Bruce Lee was not a big man but he trained devotedly in the very static art of Wing Chun and became virtually unbeatable.
How do I know if my Kung-Fu teacher is a real expert?
Some of the more esoteric aspects of traditional Kung-Fu expose students to potential fraudsters. An exaggerated emphasis on philosophy for example could be a good sign that a Kung-Fu teacher is not the real deal. While traditional Kung-Fu does contain strong elements of philosophy, too much talking in training time is detrimental to the acquisition of skill. Lengthy talking should generally be reserved for after class and any explanation during, should relate directly to what is being taught. Kung-Fu of any kind should be studied as a serious martial art where the physical preparation of the body is only the first (and a constant) part of a long road to expertise. A Kung-Fu class should be physically challenging, even internal styles make your body work. Real Tai Chi Chuan is very hard on the lower legs for example, even for experienced martial artists of other styles. If you plan to train in an established style there will usually be a central governing body where you can check your teacher’s lineage and whether or not he has teaching credentials. Furthermore there are official videos and books of many styles so you can check to see if what you are being taught exactly corresponds to those – if it purports to be the same style then it should.
What are the gradings in Kung Fu?
Traditional Kung-Fu does not have a ranked grading system like Karate or Taekwondo. Some schools do draw a distinction between people that are simply training in Kung-Fu as students, and those who have dedicated themselves to mastering it and following their master’s teachings as disciples. Different coloured sashes may be used to differentiate. After student there is only master and to be a master of a particular system, an individual must have learned all the forms of his style and trained for years in order to reach this level. There are modern styles of Kung-Fu that have introduced their own belt ranking system but they are in the minority.
What do I need to wear to a Kung-Fu class?
On your first visit to a Kung-Fu class you should wear light comfortable clothing such as jogging bottoms and a t-shirt. Trousers are usually preferred over shorts. Some schools may train barefoot but it is more usual to wear light kung-fu slippers which you can substitute with plimsolls in the first lessons. Many Kung-Fu schools have their own uniforms based on traditional Chinese dress. These can vary from those inspired by the Shaolin monks’ saffron robes to the button up Chinese tuxedo style favoured by Wing Chun. Whatever the case you should not have to buy a Kung-Fu uniform until you have had time to get a good feeling for a school. Any martial arts teacher of any style asking for a big financial layout in the early days of training is a sure sign of a fraudster. They know you may not stick with them and are trying to capitalize upon your inexperience as quickly as possible.
How fit do I need to be to do Kung-Fu?
The answer is you don’t need to be fit – you will get fit. Not even Shaolin monks are born spinning on their heads. You, like them, will have to train for your skills. ‘I’m not fit enough’, ‘I’m not flexible enough’ or ‘I’m not strong enough’ are weak minded excuses used by those who have not grasped the core martial arts concept that it is the mind that shapes the world. As the arch enemy of Bruce Lee, Mr Han, states in Enter The Dragon when addressing his legions of Kung-Fu masters, "We shape our bodies like iron in the fire of our wills”. Once you realise that it is just a matter of correct training over time, then you can stop asking questions and start providing the answers yourself.
To get you started we have listed a few UK Kung-Fu schools from the most well known styles below:
Northern Dragons Martial Arts Centre
(Lau Gar and other arts)
Tel: 01254 386 191
Watford Lau Gar and Kickboxing
Bill Everet Centre,
Tel: 07860 232 128
Loon Ying Jing Chung
(Southern Shaolin Dragon Style Kung Fu from Grandmaster Chung Wai Kong)
UK Headquarters and South Wales Clubs,
Instructor: Colin Powell.
Tel: 07790 515 004
Instructor: Kit Wai Leung.
Tel: 07810 207 395
Instructor: Simon Johnson.
Tel: 07990 748 203
Fujian White Crane Kung-Fu
Tel: 07862 219 272
Web: http://www.fwckungfu.com Classes in: London area, Herts, Milton Keynes, Oxford, West Kent, Bristol and Bath.
Southern Crane Kung-Fu
(Tiger and Crane Southern Styles)
Tel: 07958 382 389
Web: http://www.southerncranekungfu.com Classes in: Sutton and Tolworth in Surrey.
Jee Pai Kickboxing Gym Worthing
(Jee Pai Kung Fu and Kickboxing)
Maybridge Boys Club,
Chief Instructor: Nick Brewer
Tel: 07793 102690
Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis London
Traditional Eastern Martial Arts Academy,
27 Romford Road,
Sifu: Paul Whitrod
Tel: 020 8471 7130