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Categorizing Styles of Chinese Martial Arts


For simplicity, styles of Chinese martial arts may be broadly categorized by the terms Northern and Southern.

Northern and Southern refer to the geographical region of origin and/or development. The Yellow River, in China, is used as the arbitrary line of division. Northern styles are those which are derived from north of the Yellow River, and Southern styles are those which originate from south of the river.

The terms External and Internal are used, however these are commonly misconceived, inaccurate and poorly applied terms. It is the tendency for some to regard styles of martial arts as being exclusively hard {external) or soft (internal). In reality , any good style of martial art should have a healthy balance of both internal and external principles, and no martial art, regardless of its technique or training, is purely internal or external. These two principles are inseparable, from the readily observable to the imperceivable, in a dynamic, mutually dependent relationship.

Hard and soft, relaxed and taught, up and down, opening and closing, thought and action. . . Yin and Yang- principles manifest in the training theories and methods, techniques, and philosophy of all styles of martial art; however, one should not become too dogmatic about use of this terminology.

Another categorization method pertains to combat range and is determined by body mechanics in technique execution. These ranges are long, medium, short and close (touching) range. Styles which emphasize techniques which are applied at the extent of the body's reach are called long range. These styles use movements which are large, wide and open. Styles which have the majority of movements focused on short distance execution are called short range styles. Then there is no distance to the target , the range is called close or touching range. Examples include grappling, holding and throwing techniques.

According to Chinese thought, a martial art style or system must have the following elements in order to be considered complete; a diverse repertoire of Attack and Defense Techniques, Aesthetic and Artistic Refinement, Health Exercises including the practice of qigong, Healing Techniques, and a theoretical framework which embraces both Philosophy and Moral Code. With literally hundreds of styles, Chinese martial arts are easily the most diverse and complex; each possessing unique characteristics , all coming from a rich cultural legacy. The vast knowledge found in these arts is due to the contributions of many generations of leading exponents who dedicated their lives to the perfection of their art.

Chinese martial arts trace their origin and development to three primary sources: the military, family clans, and religious sects. Styles and forms were created from and/or named after various influences, including the creator's name (Hong Family Boxing, Chaquan), animals or nature (Tiger, Crane, Mantis), philosophical principles (Taijiquan, Baguazhang), or location (Wudang, Northern Skaolin, and etc. ). However, regardless of their origin, they all share similar traits unique to Chinese martial arts.


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