Kung Fu can be defined as an Art. It is a “system” in which culture, values, principles, techniques and teaching methods are included. Kung Fu is based on few basic concepts, a few “fundamentals” although many different art forms were developed over the millennia, called “Styles”. This happens thanks to the extent of the eastern world, to the many masters who succeeded during the centuries, the various local cultures and the passing on of uncodified teachings and techniques from master to students.Each Style holds and highlights one aspect of this “system” with specific curricula and training. One of the most used classifications divides them into two main branches: internal styles and external styles, also known as Primary and Complementary.
Each Kung Fu master might handle many styles. This usually means that he/she has been studied in different places and under different masters. Today it is very fashionable for the Master to list all the styles he/she handles, but in reality only part of his value is linked to these knowledge. Being a good Master means being able to express the Art of Kung Fu wholly: being able to handle the fundamental techniques and declining them in the various Styles and Forms; teaching and transmitting all the traditional “System” to his/her students. Chinese traditional knowledge is also made of culture, history, traditions, values and methods. And, most important of all, the good Master is a live expression of his/her Kung Fu: a human being who lives accordingly with its teachings and is able of transmitting them to the students even without speaking or practicing.
To avoid fancy speculations, typical of so-called masters and fanatical practitioners, it is of utmost importance to consider traditional Kung Fu (one that really can be called that, both in intent and transmission of knowledge) as comprehending numerous styles and styles’ variants. Each Master has actually developed techniques, movements and combat-concepts, as well as they have conceived ideas about life itself, which are substantially different between each other. After many years of perfectioning and study on their self and on the style, it was unthinkable to create a simple and quick system to be utilized and brought forward to the student
One true knower of the oriental culture feels a Taoist/Buddhist aura even in the most complex gestures. Everything is reduced to something simple and practical, life itself is defined by the “De” ideogram, or “art of living”: life has not to be made up, but simply “practiced”. It is according to this that it would be paradoxical to think of schools or courses on specific “styles” which contain up programs to 40, 80 or 100 forms (or Taolu) in each style.
This mirrors, as well, another ancient mentality of certain parts of China: the clan mentality, where it is essential to maintain united their members through the illusion of an in-depth style study, without letting them go somewhere else. While in other martial systems degrees and belts are common use, in Kung Fu today we have hundreds of forms (Taolu). Actually each Kung Fu system contains a maximum of 5/8 original forms that were created for the fundamentals and their evolution. The addition of other forms arrived in modern times with the aim described above.
Essentially, in Kung Fu the real effort is applied on the basis of the system and not on the fanciful 80° or 120° form which will give you “knowledge”. This mindset only reflects the illusion that so-called masters perpetuated for years (they still do, I would add) to the detriment of western students sometimes unaware or obliging. We should never forget that the inner or martial combat does not require specific techniques, but proper training (训练).
Practicing more style is thus a choice of honest quality, not quantity.