Here is a guide for looking for kung fu schools in China. It is a general check list of what to look for in a great kung fu school. First explore what part of China you want to travel, live and train in. Determine what style you want to practice and how do they train. Then what is the overall atmosphere of the martial arts academy like.
There are kung fu schools located throughout China.
Shaolin Temple is in the heart of China and martial arts. It is located in Henan province which is a poorer part of China. Don’t expect to live in plush hotels, it is more hardcore living. Not everyone that travels here is satisfied with the learning experience, they feel it has become too commercialized and some of the masters that teach are “soft”. Still it many like to come here for different reasons – the history (for thousands of years monks have been training here), the atmosphere (seeing hundreds and thousands of students training can be quite a thrill), the performance (some prefer modern wushu over traditional), know a good master.
Wudang Mountain This place is mysterious and legendary. With the wispy clouds and temples clinging to cliffs, it’s certainly a favorite for many. The styles primarily taught here are considered internal. Styles such as Tai Chi, Bagua, Baiji, and Xingyi. They also practice Qigong, but isn’t considered Wudang style per se.
Chen Village is also call Chenjiaogou is all Tai Chi. For those that love Tai Chi, it can’t get any more hardcore than here. Though it is a small farm village with 3,000 people, 2,500 of them practice the art. Several legendary masters teach here like Wang Xi’an.
Beijing has many masters that train and teach both in the schools and parks. Going to the Temple of Heaven and Temple of Earth early in the morning you will find many people exercising and training. Beijing Sports University trains many elite Wu Shu performers, like Jet Li.
Shandong Province is known for Praying Mantis and there are several Shaolin masters that teach there as well. There are several schools established for westerners as well as masters teaching out in the park.
The Key Know that not all masters in the schools are going to be the best, some of the best are hidden, training with a small group early in the morning. Explore your options.
Type of Training:
Training kung fu forms – All kung fu is going to include forms and drills. Some kung fu schools focus more on the performance side of it as in modern wu shu and some are more traditional where they teach the applications of the forms. Both are fine to study in, it’s just that you need to know clearly what it is that you want out of the training. Some traditional kung fu isn’t as pretty but can be much more effective in self-defense and applying power.
Application of kung fu forms – If you want to learn how to defend your self and make kung fu effective, you must practice the applications on a regular basis. This will include sparring of some kind. Some masters have different theories towards sparring. Some say you must wait until you reach a certain level before you do full meisterbetriebe contact and will teach a more safe “one-step” sparring where one person attacks in specific way, and another defends. This is useful in drilling the specific action in a more “live” way to build up muscle memory. Others will prefer the students get started immediately in sparring, though going lighter and half power. To really learn how to fight and defend yourself, there is no other way around putting on the gloves and banging it out, to see how you react under pressure and pain. This can take place much later in your training if you don’t feel ready and is probably counter-effective if done too soon.
The masters – The master you train with will make the difference in your experience. First is that the master must be good and if he/she claims a lineage, they are able to prove it. Aside from skill and teaching ability, a good master will have a positive attitude and is able to push the students to higher levels. The master should have a similar attitude that you have towards training. Some practice as a peaceful lifestyle others learn it to compete, fight, and get tough. Different styles will stress each area differently, for example Tai Chi is about harmony whereas Crazy Monk kung fu is about devastating attacks. Just be sure the master is someone you look up to and respect.