Tantui, also called “Pond Kicks” or “Springing Kicks,” is a style of Northern Shaolin kung fu. When the phrase “Northern Kicks, Southern Fists” is mentioned, it most often references Tantui for “Northern Kicks.” As expected from its name, Tantui is well known for its various kicking techniques. Interestingly, Tantui was developed by China’s Muslim community, the Hui people. Its roots are in the Cha Quan style (named for Cha Shrig Mir, the Hui community’s martial arts patriarch), and which later underwent modifications until it became the Tantui known today. Tantui is said to hold the essence of Northern Shaolin. In fact, the Jing Wu (“Essence of Martial Arts”) school, founded by Huo Yuan Jia (played by Jet Li in Fearless) required that all aspiring martial artists master Tantui before moving on to learning other sets and styles. A popular saying says, “If your Tantui is good, your kung fu will be good.” Personally, I feel that, “If your basics like stances and footwork are good, your kung fu will be good.”
Some of the most visually spectacular arts of kung fu involve people breaking things that seem pretty sturdy like bricks or poles. “Surely there’s some secret magical training involved!” I used to think, before I learnt better. The training principles are actually quite easy, it’s a matter of dedicating oneself to the correct training for years under a competent master (yes, I said years, and yes, I said you needed a competent master).