Types of Chinese Martial Arts

September 12, 2011

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Types of Chinese Martial Arts

Types of Chinese Martial Arts

 Types of Chinese Martial Arts

There are hundreds of different types of Chinese Martial Arts, evolved from different eras in the history of Chinese martial arts, with different ideologies and for different purposes.  Here, we will briefly look into some of the more popular types of Chinese Martial Arts, known to us and what their names mean.

Types of Chinese Martial Arts – Internal Styles


The most well-known and popular internal style type of Chinese Martial Arts in Asia is the Ultimate Supreme Fist (Tai Ji Quan), often practiced by older men and women for leisure and for its health improving benefits as a suitable low impact sport. This type of Chinese Martial Arts consists of light contact which includes pushing and pulling using the weight of one’s body with no hard strikes.

While the image of Tai Ji Quan in popular culture is dominated by exceedingly slow movements, many styles of Tai Ji Quan actually have faster paced forms, even suitable for combat fighting when applied with internal power. In China, Tai Ji Qiuan is categorized under the Wudang grouping of types of Chinese Martial Arts.

In recent years, Tai Ji Quan for competitions has evolved into a form of competitive sport characterized by highly difficult balancing and leg raising moves. High level jumps are now also included in competition routines, instantly popularizing the form among the younger generations.

Types of Chinese Martial Arts – External Styles

There are more practitioners and types of Chinese Martial Arts in external styles simply because it is more action-packed, glorified by the likes of Jet Li and Donnie Yen’s action movies.  The ideologies of external styles are also comparatively easier to grasp and understand than the internal styles.

The Southern Fists (Nan Quan) is probably one of the more well-known types of Chinese Martial Arts. It is a type of Southern Kung Fu and is practiced in a lot of Wushu schools. Nan Quan is characterized by very powerful and intense forms with strong punches and tense postures. There are various styles within this type of Chinese Martial Art itself and practicing Nan Quan builds great physical benefits and strength, working out and toughening every part of one’s body. As Nan Quan builds muscular physic, it is popular among young male practitioners of Wushu and only occasionally practiced by females.

Wing Chun, another popular form of Southern Kung Fu, is notably popularized by Donnie Yen who played the role of the Wing Chun Grandmaster in a 2008 movie, Ip Man. It was a huge box office success, leading to a tremendous increase in people seeking to learn Wing Chun.

This type of Chinese Martial Arts is best characterized by executing of techniques in a relaxed but focused manner, allowing the practitioner to save energy and feel for loopholes in the opponent’s structure and attacks. Wing Chun techniques are generally ‘closed’ techniques with one’s limbs usually drawn to the body’s central area for protection. Most Wing Chun punches are straight vertical punches for maximum directness, impact and strength, being able to protect one’s body centre area at the same time.

With so many different types of Chinese Martial Arts, it is common to find another Wushu practitioner doing a totally different style from yours. So what is your style and its characteristics?

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About Qi

Qi began learning Wushu at a young age of 11 and has been practising for more than 12 years now. Her passion for Wushu is fueled by the beauty and strength of the Chinese Martial Arts form.

View all posts by Qi

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