Sifu Greg Weir

Sifu Greg Weir

Junior Student’s Corner

In an earlier article I talked about how Kung Fu Masters left the Shaolin Temple to introduce martial arts to different parts of the world. I thought it might be interesting to compare some of the styles that developed as a result.

  • Kung Fu itself does not lend itself well to classification. That’s because estimates suggest there are over 400 different styles of Kung Fu! There also happen to be many different ways of categorizing them (for example, Northern versus Southern, External vs. Internal). Northern and External styles are generally characterized by long, deep stances and fast movements that emphasize agility. Conversely, Southern and Internal Styles (like Hung Gar and Wing Chun, for example) have compact stances and shorter, more explosive strikes. One explanation for these differences is that Southern practitioners often fought on boats, necessitating small movements and stable stances (to keep the boats from tipping over). Interestingly, at the WKFA, thanks to our lineage via Master Pan and Master Chong, our Shaolin Five Animal style has elements of both Southern and Northern Kung Fu. You can see this duality in the differences between Forms like the Single Step and Tonfa as opposed to the Short Dragon Enters Two Door and Double Daggers (i.e., Forward Stances and straight strikes in the former, low Bow and Dragon Stances and more circular movements in the latter).
  • Karate is a martial art from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Its distinguishing feature is that its movement and strikes are linear and compressed. Also, many Karate techniques are open-handed (think of the traditional Karate Chop). In fact the Japanese word “karate” means “open hand” in English.
  • Taekwondo is known as the “Korean art of self defense.” Renowned primarily for its emphasis on kicking, it does include some blocks, punches, takedowns and throws.
  • Jiu-Jitsu is a Japanese martial art that focuses on using an attacker’s own energy against them instead of getting into a strength-on-strength battle. It contains a lot of punishing joint locks, throws and pins.
  • Judo is a relatively new Japanese martial art (dating from around 1880). Its originator was a man who found Jiu-Jitsu too violent. He developed a system of grappling manoeuvres and tosses—but few hand strikes and kicks—that emphasize leverage. He named the art Judo because it means “gentle way” in Japanese.
  • Aikido is another grappling martial art from Japan. It’s done by flowing with the motion of the attacker, rather than opposing it. Its practitioners are taught to direct an aggressor’s momentum with turning motions, and then follow up with joint locks and throws.

Keep in mind that this list is by no means extensive. There are in fact hundreds of other kinds of martial arts. But hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the variations.

One thing to be mindful of is not falling into the trap of thinking “my martial art is better than yours.” It is important to be respectful of all other martial art forms and their practitioners.