Many of us in the western world see martial arts as either a basic sport or a means of self-defense. In reality, the martial arts between the eastern countries are diverse, with roots that can be traced back thousands of years.

Chinese martial arts are considered to be the most advanced and diverse. Chinese martial arts are inspired by animals, birds and reptiles and philosophies. Each of the Chinese martial arts is unique, with movements that are absolutely amazing.

Chinese martial arts have retained their originality and strength through thousands of years of practice. Although each one has its own characteristics, they can broadly be divided into the following categories:


These old and fluid martial arts forms are based on quick jumps and kicks.

* Southern Shaolin Temple Styles: Hung Gar, Nanquan, Wing Chun and Choy Lay F are examples of southern styles of Chinese martial arts. The people in the provinces south of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) were shorter, so the martial arts styles developed here mainly focused on upper body strength and speed.

The sword and broadsword routines called Changquan, which are used in contemporary wushu competitions, come from these schools.

* External styles: This is the style most often perceived as a synonym for Chinese martial arts. External styles focus on agility, physical strength, endurance, and explosive movements. To train for external styles requires concentration on speed, muscle strength and application. During advanced training, these styles usually incorporate their qigong aspects after the desired physical hardness has been achieved. External styles include most types of wushu except Baguazhang, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Liu He Ba Fa.

* Internal or Soft Styles: Soft martial arts styles focus with internal elements such as energy flow and mind to build power. These styles are based on relaxed leverage rather than brute force. Theorists believe that differences between internal and external styles lie in their focus on the philosophy of martial arts. Internal stylists are seen as philosophers fighters who spend more time developing the soul. External schools are the ones that focus more on the difficult aspect of developing physical skills.

While the internal schools are based on mind, spirit and energy, they involve physical training. In this style of Chinese martial arts, movements and postures are slow as opposed to fast and explosive. The philosophy is to stay relaxed and to involve the whole body in every movement. A martial artist who practices internal school styles keeps his breathing deep and controls and coordinates the movements of the body to breathe. All of this should be done while maintaining a perfect balance.


Most Buddhist styles were created in temples by Buddhist monks and later taught to lay people. Buddhist styles of Chinese martial arts include Buddhist philosophy, imagery, principles, and numbers.


Developed in Daoist temples by Daoist ascetics, this group of Chinese martial arts uses Daoist principles, images and philosophy.


These were practiced by the Hui Muslim minority in China and are based on Muslim principles and images.

To say that mTo a martial arts student is a gross understatement. It could take a lifetime of study and training to fully understand the ancient and diverse areas of Chinese martial arts.