Kung Fu Styles

Kung Fu styles were first introduced to the world by Bruce Lee and then through the hit TV series of the 1970’s to the modern film blockbuster ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ Today the term ‘Kung Fu’ has become widely identified with Chinese martial arts however the reality of the phrase is not so romantic.

The phrase Kung fu is actually a term used by the Chinese to describe the acquisition or perfection of any given skill through hard work and dedication. Consequently the term “Kung Fu” can relate to many other activities beyond the martial arts.

Gong fu has the same meaning as kung fu but is the written and phonetic word when translated from mandarin into English using the Roman (Latin) alphabet.


Despite its generic nature, today, the term Kung Fu is commonly used to describe many Chinese based martial arts systems and in that sense the name has become synonymous with personal combat and self defence.

As a fighting system it focuses on open and closed hand striking techniques and includes kicks and blocks. The vastness of China as a country with a culture dating back many thousands of years has resulted in a vast number of various approaches and variations inevitably resulting in hundreds of Kung Fu styles.

Nobody really knows for sure the origins of the Kung Fu styles. To understand their origin you have to take account of the complex nature of “word of mouth” and storytelling. Without the benefit of being able to read or write, information and knowledge was passed verbally from one generation to another from one village to another. No one can be sure where fact divides into fantasy and where real people merge into mythical figures.

What is certain is the fact that throughout history ordinary Chinese people have been subjected to violence, dominance and suppression and as a result fighting systems were developed and utilised by many people from warrior clans to peasants.

For simplicity this page concentrates on three of the more popular styles. Click to read about Bruce Lee's own brand Jeet Kune Do. WING CHUN

Legend has it that the Wing Chun Kung Fu was first created by a young woman called Yim Wing-Chun. Many believe that her beauty attracted unwanted attention and consequently a Kung Fu master taught her the art which she then refined and perfected. Whatever the truth, Wing Chun students are encouraged to redirect an opponent’s force and counter rather than to meet brawn with brawn.

This kung fu style is characterised by powerful yet graceful techniques. Emphasis is placed on deflecting an attacker’s blow and countering with simultaneous strikes. Simple punches and kicks are favoured over joint locks. Punches are delivered straight and with speed and there is an overarching understanding of the minimum energy required to create the most effective outcome.


Sometimes known as ‘Tiger Crane Kung Fu Style,’ Hung Gar features low, deep stances, strong blocking techniques and sharp claw strikes.

Traditionally the Tiger qualities included fierce pouncing and tearing attacks, and improved muscle and bone development.

Techniques of the Crane were characterised by graceful, fluid, swift and agile movement and improving balance. It is this blend of natural, animal qualities that shape Hung Gar to this day.

Hung Gar students are encouraged to strike with fatal intent and are encouraged to target vulnerable areas of the attackers e.g. groin, throat and eyes.


The system contains a wide variety of techniques, including short and long range punches, kicks, sweeps and takedowns, joint locks, lethal pressure point attacks and grappling. Students are also introduced to many of the traditional Kung Fu weapons

Choy Li Fut's power is generated from the waist. Like Hung Gar it features low, deep stances in particular the horse stance. Students follow a structured progression system. This system includes formal tests and consequential student ranking, however many schools prefer not to utilise coloured belts to differentiate ranks.

This style is very popular throughout China but is comparatively rare in other countries.

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