Styles of Traditional Kung-Fu

With its rich history spanning some 4000 years, Kung-Fu has expanded, multiplied and been refined into literally thousands of styles. From a single type of martial combat, different masters over the years placed emphasis on different strikes, stances, philosophies and approaches to the problem of combat. Kung-Fu styles are classified in a variety of ways, such as the location of their origin, the philosophy or religion upon which they are based, the name of their founder or the particular emphasis they place on combat. Rigid classification can be difficult due to overlap. For example, a style may be classified by its location and its combat emphasis, in addition to being known for having sprung form devotees of a certain religion. Whatever the name or classification may be, the resulting differences can be great, with one style favouring kicking while another mostly ignores these in favour of punches. One Kung-Fu style may feature great acrobatic leaps, while an opposing style may endeavour never to kick above waist height. Any one particular style of Kung-Fu will defend its superiority over others with reference to classical teachings, great exponents and lengthy discourse and demonstration, if not actual combat.

In the past, Kung-Fu masters would compete in open competition to prove their style’s superiority. The truth of the matter, however, is that styles do not win competitions or fights. Individuals do and as the saying goes, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’. All established Kung-Fu styles have something to offer the Martial Artist, depending on what his goals are. If it is a popular, well run and well taught system of Kung-Fu then it will likely be worth learning. Before we go into detail on any particular style, let’s look at the main classifications of Kung-Fu.