Northern Shaolin Styles

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Northern styles frequently feature far-reaching kicks.

The styles of Shaolin kung fu are typically divided into northern and southern. Although technique and wisdom have passed back and forth between practitioners of the Shaolin arts over the centuries, there are still certain styles that are classified into the southern or northern systems. Despite this classification, many students will study at some point techniques from both northern and southern stylistic systems.

  1. White Crane

    • White Crane Shaolin kung fu is taught in several specific styles with different names, but the original crane system traces its roots back to northern China and Tibet. Conditioning for crane style is aimed at creating strong legs and balance. This is because of the icy terrain and heavy clothing that were factors during combat situations in the region. The "Crane's Beak" is the most common way of identifying a crane form. This is a hand position that involves the forming of a tightly pinched grouping of all the fingers.

    Praying Mantis

    • Praying Mantis is another animal-based system with roots in the northern Shaolin styles. Legend has it that a certain Shaolin monk felt that his skills were inferior and he desired to improve them based on the movements he created from watching a fearsome preying mantis defeating another insect. He took those movements and integrated them with techniques from 17 other styles of combat. This style is also sometimes called Seven Star, or Seven Star Preying Mantis.

    Northern Long Fist

    • The most well-known northern styles of kung fu feature long, reaching movements and techniques that allow a person to cover ground quickly. Long Fist demonstrates the long reach concept very clearly. The techniques include many long-reaching kicks and strikes executed with quickness and fluidity, without ever compromising power. This is a central style of kung fu taught under many different family names. Long Fist is a common style for students to study first, before moving on to advanced animal forms such as Preying Mantis.

    Northern Shaolin

    • In addition to the various substyles is a style called simply Northern Shaolin. These systems trace a lineage directly back to the original Shaolin temple. Ten empty hand forms are taught within the basic Northern Shaolin system. Like Long Fist, this is a core system and students may go on to learn animal or weapons forms to supplement the basic style.

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