Styles of Traditional Taoist
Kung Fu
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Background of Traditional Chinese Kung Fu

The various systems of Chinese Martial Arts, known by the popularized term Kung Fu, span across the regions of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Many different styles  of Kung Fu have developed over hundreds and in some cases more than a thousand years. Some of these Kung Fu styles are from Northern China, some from Southern China. Some are from the Buddhist tradition (Shaolin Chuan) and others from the Taoist tradition (Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Chuan). Other styles follow the movements of animals (White Crane, Praying Mantis, Tiger and Snake) while others were designed to specifically counter different styles of Kung Fu (Wing Chun). Some combat styles were even developed from weapons movement such as the spear (Hsing I Chuan). Still others were developed from combining multiple styles of Kung Fu such as (Choy Li Fut & Liuhebafa) Over the years, Kung Fu styles have spread across Asia from master to student and generation to generation. Some styles have been kept within families and not shared with outsiders. Martial Arts from China eventually spread to Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries and in some cases blended with their own martial arts traditions.  Many popular styles of martial arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Muay Thai, Hapkido and Jiu Jitsu have some roots in the older Chinese systems.

It is very common for traditional Chinese masters to be trained in multiple styles of Kung Fu. For example, Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist and 1960's Hong Kong film star that popularized Kung Fu in the West, prior to developing his own unique style called Jeet Kun Do, studied the traditional Chinese styles of Wing Chun, Hung Gar, Praying Mantis, Tai Chi and White Crane.

At the Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy (TTMAA) the two main styles of instruction are Tai Chi Chuan (Yang and Chen style) as well as Hsing I Chuan (5 Elements Style). Grandmaster Key Chun Song, founder of the United States Midwest Kung Fu Association, in addition to teaching Hsing I and Tai Chi also teaches Shaolin (Northern and Southern Styles) and Praying Mantis (Seven Star, Plum Blossom, Falling Fist and Tai Chi Praying Mantis styles) All of these different styles are types of Kung Fu that have been passed on for multiple generations. 

At the Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy (TTMAA) we teach that all Kung Fu styles are as a journey up the same mountain, we may start on different sides, with different focus, some learning with a Yin (soft) focus and others learning with a Yang (hard) focus, but eventually all Kung Fu styles, as the mountain is climbed, will learn the balance of Yin and Yang and learn to apply technique, form, application, breath, power, posture and movement through dedicatd training, commitment and hard work.  

Below I will do my best to explain the basics of the two main styles of Kung Fu that are taught at the Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy. (Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing I Chuan) as well as the practice of Qi Gong meditation, which is a system for cultivation of chi or Qi (life energy) and development of a relaxed body and mind through deep abdominal breath work combined with coordinated movements and stretching exercises.

Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Ji) is a martial art and exercise system with a written history of over 500 years. Some have documented the beginning of tai chi chuan to Chang San-Feng during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as "Supreme Ultimate Boxing" or "Great Extremes Boxing". It combines martial art techniques with Chi Kung (Qi Gong) meditative breathing exercises. Tai Chi Chuan has a very complex history that spans over many centuries. Tai chi training consists of:

Chi Kung (Qi Gong) breathing exercises
Tai Chi forms practice
Push hands training (Tui Shou)
Tai Chi Chin Na (lock and seizing techniques)
Two person forms training
Weapons training (Spear, Staff, Strait sword, broad sword, etc.)
Fa Jing and Silk Reeling energy
Free Push Hands


Many different families, or styles, of Tai Chi have developed over the centuries. These include the Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, Li styles. The movements of some Tai Chi styles, such as the popular Yang style, are slow and uninterrupted like a flowing stream. Less commonly known, though, is that other styles of Tai Chi, like the Chen style, punctuate the slow movements with fast, powerful techniques. The Chen style practices deeper training such as Fa Jing and Silk Reeling energy. Practice of Tai Chi requires a high degree of concentration, and helps to develop flexibility, balance, coordination, strength and power.

Tai Chi movement, application and theory is based on Taoist philosophy which is most commonly understood through the complex energies of Yin and Yang in the Taijitu and Bagua symbols. These symbols represent the delicate balance of yin and yang, these energies are in constant interaction and harmony. There is never pure yin or pure yang, they are in a constant state of complex equilibrium. The challenge of Tai Chi training is to become proficient in the balance of these energies; soft and hard, slow and fast, yield and attack. The Bagua symbol below more closely depicts the martial application of Tai Chi and utilizes the eight Trigrams to describe these energies.

Bagua Symbol                                                                                                                Taijitu Symbol

The Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy teaches both the Yang and Chen styles of Tai Chi Chuan. Men and women of all ages and all levels of fitness can practice it. While some students focus more on the relaxation, meditative and healing aspects of Tai Chi, some learn Tai Chi Chuan as an extremely practical and powerful system of self- defense and martial art. All students are taught application, hand and foot position, body alignment and movement of the martial art and self defense aspect of Tai Chi. It is the students personal choice to pursue their own specific goal(s) in the study of Tai Chi Chuan.

Hsing I Chuan (Xing Yi Quan)

Hsing I Chuan, or "Form Mind Boxing" is one of three main internal styles of Chinese Kung Fu which include Ba Gua Chuan, Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing I Chuan. Hsing I (XINGYI) is known for its direct and linear style which emphasizes simultaneous blocking and attacking. As an internal style, Hsing I utilizes deep meditative breathing and chi development to support its rapid striking and blocking techniques. Thus, there is a strong attention to posture, position, balance and coordinated breath. The Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy teaches the
Five Elements style of Hsing I Chuan.

Hsing I Chuan is said to have roots back to the 12th century Song Dynasty, but there is little evidence to document this lineage. Some have speculated the origins of Hsing I Chuan to be from Spear techniques that were then developed into bare hand movements.

"...wrote the Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing in the 15th reign year of the Qianlong Emperor [1750]. Inside it says, '...when [Yue Fei] was a child, he received special instructions from Zhou Tong. Extremely skilled in spearfighting, he used the spear to create fist techniques and established a skill called Yi Quan [意拳]. Meticulous and unfathomable, this technique far outstripped ancient ones."

After Yue Fei's death, the art was lost for half a millennium. Then, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Shaanxi Province's Zhongnan Mountains, Yue Fei's boxing manual was discovered by Ji Longfeng (also known as Ji Jike) of neighbouring Shanxi Province. The earliest written records of Xingyiquan can be traced to the 18th century to Ma Xueli of Henan Province and Dai Longbang of Shanxi Province. Regardless of origin, Hsing I Chuan is a powerful and fascinating form of self-defense, spiritual development, health and exercise.

The Five Elements
Hsing I Chuan uses the five classical elements of Chinese Cosmology as a framework for it's fighting system. Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth represent the five basic techniques that make up Hsing I Chuan's "Five Elements" system. Each element correlates to a separate movement and striking and blocking technique. Once these elements are pieced together, the five elements combination form creates a set of movements or series of combat techniques. There are single person forms, two person forms as well as meditative practice and combat application techniques.

The Five Elements of Xingyiquan (Hsing I Chuan)

                                             Splitting Fist 劈 Pī chuan Metal Like an axe chopping up and over.
                                             Drilling Fist 鑽 Zuān chuan Water Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser.
                                             Crushing Fist 崩 Bēng chuan Wood Arrows constantly exploding forward.

                                              Pounding Fist 炮 Pào chuan Fire Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking.

                                             Crossing Fist 橫 Héng chuan Earth Crossing across the line of attack while turning over.


                                   ***Hsing I Chuan is taught to advanced students at TTMAA***

                 Weapons in Traditional Taoist Martial Arts

The weapons used in Kung Fu training represent the long history of self-defense and warfare in China. A huge number of weapons exist in the Kung Fu arsenal, with variations arising based on local customs and styles, individual needs for self-defense, evolutions in warfare, and the physical build and skills of the practitioner. Traditionally, kung fu is referred to as having "18 Weapons", each representing a standard or norm upon which many other weapons may be based. The list of 18 weapons varies depending on the source, but there are four standard categories that each weapon falls into:

Short Weapons - Includes swords, such as the Broadsword and double-edged Gim (Jian). These can be practiced individually or as paired weapons (e.g. Double Broadsword, Double Gim, Butterfly Knives, etc.).

Long Weapons - Long weapons originate with the Staff and Spear, and include many variations, both in terms of the length of the weapon and the striking implement mounted to the weapon. Other examples include the Trident (three pronged spear head), Kwon Dao (massive broadsword mounted on the end of a long, thick staff - also known as a Guan Dao), Monk Spade (modified from agricultural origins or fighting of animals), and Halberd. Long weapons could be used on foot or, historically, when on horseback.

Assistant Weapons - These included Shields, and a variety of defensive implements that could also be used to attack, such as spiked shirts and wristbands/forearm guards.

Hidden Weapons - Stemming from 36 traditional kinds, these were weapons for surprise, secret attacks, and emergency self-defense. Hidden weapons include darts, throwing stars, blowgun, darts hidden in shoes, needles hidden under the tongue to be spit out, and arrows hidden behind the back in secret launchers. Hidden weapons could also be contained within other traditional weapons for surprise use.

Weapons Practice at The Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy

Weapons are practiced at TTMAA both individually, through form practice, as well as with partners for forms and self-defense exercise. Weapon forms are excellent for increasing strength and stamina, and for developing an understanding of extending the mind and will externally from the body. The movements of many heavy weapons forms, such as the Kwon Dao (Guan Dao), for example, are an excellent way to build strength throughout many muscle groups simultaneously through the use of coordinated movements, running, and jumping with the weapon.
Self-defense aspects of weapons are also learned through partner weapons forms (such as Broadsword vs Unarmed combat, and Broadsword vs Spear combat), and through drills and practice of weapon sparring.

Example of weapon forms and applications taught at The Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy:

Gim/Jian (double edged sword)

Broadsword (Dao)
Guan Dao/Kwon Dao

Long Handle Axe
Monk Spade
Iron Fan
Rope Hammer/Dart

                                                                               Qi Gong Meditation

Qigong, qi gong, chi kung, or chi gung (literally: "Life Energy Cultivation") is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), translated as "life energy".

According to Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian philosophy, qigong allows access to higher realms of awareness, awakens one's "true nature", and helps develop human potential.

Qigong practice typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and calm meditative state of mind. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise and relaxation, preventive medicine and self-healing, alternative medicine, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.

"Over the centuries, a diverse spectrum of qigong forms developed in different segments of Chinese society. Traditionally, qigong training has been esoteric and secretive, with knowledge passed from adept master to student in lineages that maintain their own unique interpretations and methods. Qigong practices were brought to the public beginning in the 1950s, when the Communist Party institutionalized and began research into traditional Chinese medicine. Although the practice of qigong was prohibited during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s; it was once again allowed after 1976. On account of the political climate at the time, the emphasis of qigong practices shifted away from traditional philosophy and cultivation, and increasingly focused health benefits, medicine and martial arts applications, and a scientific perspective. Since a 1999 crackdown, practice of qigong in China has been restricted. Over the same period, interest in qigong has spread, with millions of practitioners worldwide."