top of page

Kung Fu Styles Introduction

What is Chinese Martial Arts?

Chinese Martial Arts, more commonly known in the West as Kung Fu, encompasses a diverse array of styles originating from mainland China. Referred to as 'Zhongguo Wushu' or 'Gong Fu' in China, these martial arts forms hold deep cultural and historical significance.


The term 'Zhongguo Wushu' translates directly to Chinese martial arts, while 'Gong Fu' conveys the essence of hard work and dedication. However, 'Wushu' is a more precise term for general martial activities.

what is Chinese martial arts?.jpg

It's important to note that 'Wushu' also refers to the modern sport of Chinese martial arts, which is recognized internationally. Known as contemporary or modern Wushu, this sport involves exhibition and full-contact bare-handed and weapons routines.

China boasts the longest history of martial arts, with an extensive range of distinctive styles, each with its own set of techniques and philosophies. Some styles emphasize the emulation of animal movements, while others focus on harnessing Qi, the vital energy. Additionally, some styles prioritize performance for competitions and exhibitions. However, regardless of the chosen style, all Chinese martial arts address common combat challenges such as self-defense, health, and personal growth.

Chinese martial arts can be broadly categorized into External, Internal, Northern, and Southern styles. Northern styles are characterized by fast and powerful kicks, high jumps, acrobatics, and fluid and rapid movements. On the other hand, Southern styles emphasize strong arm and hand techniques, stable stances, and footwork, with minimal use of kicks above the waist.

External styles are characterized by fast and explosive movements, emphasizing physical strength and agility. Most Chinese martial arts fall under the classification of external styles, with the renowned Shaolin style being the most famous.

Internal styles, in contrast, prioritize the cultivation of awareness in spirit, mind, and Qi (Energy). These styles employ relaxed leverage rather than muscular tension. The three main internal styles are Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang, and Taiji Quan, with Tai Chi being the most widely recognized in the West.


Chinese Martial Arts training encompasses various components, including basics, routines, applications, body conditioning, and weapons. Each style possesses a unique training system with different emphases on these components. By engaging in Chinese Martial Arts, practitioners can develop discipline, physical fitness, mental clarity, and self-defense skills while exploring the rich cultural heritage of China's martial traditions.

What is Sun Style Martial Arts?

Sun Style martial arts is a unique and comprehensive system that combines the three major internal martial arts of China: Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua. It was developed by Sun Lu Tang (1861-1933), a renowned martial artist. Sun Lu Tang initially mastered Xingyi Quan and Bagua Zhang and later studied Wu Yu Xiang Taiji under Hao Wei Zhen. With his deep understanding of these arts, he created a sophisticated and practical synthesis known as Sun Style Taiji Quan.

One of Sun Lu Tang's notable contributions was recognizing the fundamental principles shared by Xingyi, Bagua, and Tai Chi. He referred to these arts as "one family," establishing the tradition of categorizing them as "internal" styles. This classification continues to be used to this day.

sun lu tang.jpeg

Sun Style Taiji Quan stands out in several ways. It incorporates Bagua footwork, Xingyi's hand and waist movements, and the renowned stance called "San Ti Shi." Sun Taiji is well-known for its smooth and flowing movements, distinct from the physically vigorous crouching, leaping, and deep stances seen in other Tai Chi styles.

The footwork of Sun Style appears deceptively simple but is highly practical. When one foot advances or retreats, the other follows, ensuring stability and agility. Additionally, Sun Style utilizes an open palm throughout its main form and incorporates small circular movements with the hands. Its gentle postures and high stances make it suitable for geriatric exercise and martial arts therapy. Importantly, Sun Taiji is practiced in a manner that directly reflects its application in combat.

As the Vice President of the International Sun Lu Tang Martial Arts Association, Scott Bird offers a unique opportunity for students who study Sun Style martial arts for one year or longer. Successful students can become certified Sun Style teachers recognized by both the Chinese Martial Arts Association and the International Sun Lu Tang Martial Arts Association.

Upon completion of the training, students will have the chance to visit one of the many Sun Style training bases in China. They will participate in a one-week special training course, culminating in a test administered by Sun Style Masters. Those who pass the course will receive an officially stamped certificate from the association, verifying their status as certified practitioners.

Certification is available in all three internal styles of Sun Style Quan, allowing dedicated students to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this unique martial arts system.

What is Shaolin Kung Fu?

Shaolin Kung Fu is deeply rooted in the rich history of the Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist temple located in Henan Province, China. It was founded over 1,500 years ago by the Indian Buddhist Priest 'Bodhidharma,' also known as 'Damo.' The temple served as a sanctuary for Buddhist practice and became renowned for its unique martial arts system.


In the early years following its establishment in 495 AD, the Shaolin Temple's first soldier monks developed a set of eighteen distinct actions, which would become the foundation of the original kung fu.

These actions utilized all parts of their bodies and incorporated the use of simple farming tools turned weapons. Initially, these movements served as a form of daily exercise and meditation, but over time, they also became a means of self-defense.

What is Shaolin Kung Fu?.jpg

Shaolin Kung Fu, particularly the Northern style, is classified as an external martial art. It emphasizes long-range techniques, quick advances and retreats, wide and deep stances, high kicks, leaping and jumping movements, whirling circular blocks, quickness, agility, and aggressive attacks. It is considered the oldest martial art in the world, serving as the root and inspiration for many other martial arts styles.

Shaolin is also renowned for its incredible demonstrations of hard Qigong, showcasing extraordinary feats of strength and endurance. These demonstrations include bending a spear against the throat, breaking wooden poles over the body, smashing stones and bricks with bare hands, and even standing on one finger.

In modern times, Shaolin training has shifted primarily towards performance and competition forms, with less emphasis on practical application or conditioning. However, at Rising Dragon School, the Shaolin masters strive to preserve the traditional training methods. This includes iron palm and body training, the application of forms and basics, and hard and soft Qigong practices.

Training in Shaolin Kung Fu at Rising Dragon School is physically demanding and rigorous, often causing some students to opt for other martial arts styles. However, those who persevere through the training will be rewarded with a fit, healthy, and strong body.

Rising Dragon School has a close knit connection to the Shaolin Temple and the Song Shan Shaolin Warrior Monk training base. RDS founder, Scott Bird, has regular contact with the Shaolin warrior monk general 'Shi Yan Lu' since 2010. Thanks to Yan Lu's support, Scott and the Rising Dragon students had the privilege of meeting and performing with Jackie Chan.

What is Wushu?

Wushu is a dynamic sport that encompasses both exhibition and full-contact elements, originating from traditional Chinese martial arts. It was developed in the People's Republic of China after 1949 and has gained global popularity through the efforts of the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which organizes the World Wushu Championships biennially.

Wushu consists of two main disciplines: Taolu (forms) and Sanda (Chinese kickboxing). Taolu routines resemble gymnastics, incorporating a variety of martial arts movements and patterns. Competitors are judged and awarded points based on specific rules. The forms showcase basic techniques, stances, kicks, punches, balances, jumps, sweeps, and throws, drawing inspiration from various traditional Chinese martial arts styles. Competitors have the flexibility to modify the routines to highlight their individual strengths. The duration of competitive forms can range from 1 minute and 20 seconds for external styles to over 5 minutes for internal styles.

what is wushu.jpeg

Wushu events are categorized into different styles and weapon categories. In the bare-handed division, notable styles include Changquan (Long Fist), Nanquan (Southern Fist), and Taijiquan (Tai Chi Fist). Short weapons such as Dao (Single-edged sword), Jian (Double-edged sword), Taiji jian (Tai Chi double-edged sword), and Nandao (Southern single-edged sword) form the category of short weapons. The long weapons category includes Gun (Staff), Qiang (Spear), and Nangun (Southern Staff). These events were established in 1958 to showcase the diverse aspects of Wushu.

Competitors perform either compulsory or individual routines during competitions. Compulsory routines are pre-set routines provided to athletes, resulting in each athlete performing essentially the same sequence. On the other hand, individual routines allow athletes to create their own routines with guidance from their coaches, following specific rules related to difficulty, number of acrobatics, and other factors.

Wushu embodies the beauty, agility, and skill of Chinese martial arts, captivating audiences worldwide with its mesmerizing displays of athleticism and artistry.

What is Sanda?

Sanshou or Sanda, also known as "free fighting," is a modern Chinese self-defense system and combat sport. Often regarded as China's counterpart to Western kickboxing or Thailand's Muay Thai boxing, it combines elements of striking and grappling techniques.

Originally, Sanshou emerged from bare-handed fights without rules, commonly practiced among military personnel as a means to test and refine martial skills, abilities, and techniques.

what is sanda.jpg

In contemporary Wushu tournaments, alongside the main Taolu events (forms), there is a dedicated Sanshou event. In amateur tournaments, participants wear protective martial arts gear and compete on a raised platform known as the Lei tai. They are allowed to utilize kicks, punches, and throws during the bouts. Professional practitioners, however, refer to the sport as Sanda. They wear gloves and a mouthguard for protection and compete in a full-sized ring similar to a boxing ring. In professional Sanda, knee strikes are also permitted. It is important to note that both professional and amateur Sanda are full-contact sports.

As a self-defense system, Sanshou incorporates a wide range of striking techniques, including kicks, punches, elbow strikes, as well as grappling techniques such as chokes and joint locks. This comprehensive approach equips practitioners with effective methods to defend themselves in real-life situations.

What is Tai Chi?

Taiji, more commonly known as Tai chi, is a renowned Taoist internal martial art that carries deep philosophical significance symbolized by the Yin/Yang symbol. Translated as "Supreme Ultimate Fist," Taiji Quan encompasses various styles such as Wu Dang San Feng Taiji, Chen style, Yang style, Wu style, Wu Yuxiang style, and Sun style Taiji. Practiced by millions of people worldwide, Taiji is highly regarded for its health benefits and combat effectiveness.


The origin of Taiji Quan has different accounts. According to traditional legend, the wise Zhang San Feng created it after observing a battle between a sparrow and a snake. In modern times, Taiji originated from the Chen family style during the 19th century, with subsequent styles such as Yang, Wu, Wu Yuxiang, and Sun tracing their roots back to the Chen Style.

What is Tai chi.JPG

Taiji Quan is a powerful martial art that emphasizes internal power and longevity. It embodies Taoist philosophy, and during its development, it brought a revolutionary concept by incorporating both Yin and Yang elements into fighting. While traditional martial arts were often aggressive and focused on strength and aggression, Taiji introduced a balance between yielding and attacking. It is often described as a "needle in cotton" or "hardness concealed in softness," following the principle of "subduing the vigorous by the soft."

Beyond its martial aspect, Tai chi has been extensively studied for its health benefits. Clinical research has shown that regular practice of Tai chi can lower blood pressure, reduce nervous tension, and positively impact various systems in the body, including the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. It is regarded as a holistic practice that promotes overall well-being and helps maintain a youthful and healthy body.

Tai chi can be practiced for its health benefits, focusing on circulating Qi (energy) throughout the body. However, when practiced as a martial art over a long period, Taiji Quan cultivates formidable fighting skills. The training consists of two primary features: the solo form, which involves a slow sequence of movements emphasizing a straight spine, relaxed breathing, and a natural range of motion, and pushing hands, which develops sensitivity, stickiness, reflexes, and the application of leverage, timing, coordination, and positioning through interactive exercises with a training partner.

What is Xingyi?

Xingyi, derived from the Chinese characters meaning "Form/Mind," represents the interplay between the external form and the internal intent. It is one of the three major internal Chinese Martial Arts. Xingyi's approach focuses on direct and penetrating attacks that target the center, distinguishing it from Bagua's circular movements and Tai chi's yielding nature.

At its core, Xingyi is rooted in the Taoist belief that natural forces are comprised of five elements, a perspective aligned with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In the context of martial arts principles, each of these elements corresponds to a specific organ and encompasses different energies, balancing forces, and cycles of creation and destruction.

What is Xingyi.JPG

Xingyi is characterized by its aggressive and seemingly linear movements, emphasizing explosive power. Its techniques involve intense and forceful strikes, complemented by direct footwork. The martial art's linear nature reflects its military origins and draws inspiration from spear techniques referenced in its mythology. Despite its hard and angular appearance, Xingyi practitioners understand the importance of cultivating soft internal strength, known as Qi, in order to truly harness the power of Xingyi Quan.

The ultimate objective of a Xingyi fighter is to swiftly engage the opponent and deliver a powerful strike that penetrates their defenses in a single burst of energy. This requires the coordination of the entire body as a unified entity, guided by intense focus on one's Qi. By harmonizing form and mind, Xingyi practitioners aim to achieve exceptional speed, precision, and devastating power in their techniques.

What is Bagua Zhang?

Bagua Zhang, one of the three major internal Chinese Martial Arts, is commonly referred to as Eight Trigram Palm, drawing its name from the trigrams found in the Yijing, a Taoist canon.


The distinctive training method of Bagua Zhang is circle walking. Practitioners move around the circumference of a circle in a low stance, facing the center, while periodically changing directions as they perform various forms. Through this practice, students develop flexibility, internal power mechanics, and a deep understanding of stance and movement. As they progress, practitioners engage in more complex forms and explore the internal aspects of Bagua, which share similarities with Xingyi Quan and Tai chi. Additionally, Bagua encompasses unique weapons training, including the use of crescent-shaped deer horn knives and scholar's pens, which are easily concealed.

What is Bagua Zhang.JPG

Bagua is renowned for its utilization of large weapons, such as Bagua Dao (Broadsword), adding to the diversity of its training. Many schools offer instruction in both Xingyi and Bagua, as these styles often complement each other in combat. Bagua encompasses a wide range of techniques, including strikes, low kicks, joint locks, throws, and distinctive evasive circular footwork. Bagua Zhang practitioners possess the ability to flow and effortlessly maneuver around objects, displaying their evasive nature. This aspect of Bagua enables practitioners to effectively defend against multiple attackers. Another notable skill is the practitioner's ability to move behind an opponent, ensuring their safety by evading potential harm.

Bagua Zhang remains a highly respected and effective martial art, combining circular footwork, intricate techniques, and strategic evasive tactics to achieve martial prowess and self-defense capabilities.

bottom of page