Northern or Southern, Internal or External?

Baguazhang, demonstrated here by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, is often considered an internal style of kung fu. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Baguazhang, demonstrated here by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, is often considered an internal style of kung fu. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

Someone asked the very good question of what kung fu system would be best for them. Naturally, this is informed by many factors such as what you want to get out of kung fu, what you are willing to put up with, if a master is willing and able to teach you, etc. Here is what I replied with:

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Experience at the Chicago branch of the Shaolin Temple

The logo of the Chicago branch of the Shaolin temple. Image taken from  http://www.shaolintemplechicago.com/

The logo of the Chicago branch of the Shaolin temple. Image taken from http://www.shaolintemplechicago.com/

On Sunday, 2013 July 7, I learnt that a branch of the Shaolin temple exists in Chicago, IL. Being a little bit of a kung fu nut, I decided to take a look and see how they operated on 2013 July 8. According to the schedule on their website, they hold a morning kung fu class for adults, so that’s the one I attended (thank you, summer vacation). The schedule also had kung fu classes for children and teenagers, as well as a san da (Chinese kick-boxing) and qigong class. Their weekend schedule also includes a qin-na (grips and locks) class as well as a free and open-to-the-public sitting meditation class.

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Kung Fu: Tantui, the Essence of Northern Shaolin

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.”

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