In other pages, I have seen information on how to join whatever club the authors offer. On the Martial Arts Pages this is further limited to the school's history or a list of their school's locations. I have even read pages that merely had a vague reference to the instructor having trained at something with someone for an indeterminate length of time and achieving some level of skill. This page will be devoted to things that actually matter to someone who wants to train. Things like the personality of a system, favorite ranges, and tactics.
This first section will be about kung fu in general. Chinese Kung Fu has certain standards that it must uphold to be considered Kung Fu. I will also try and clarify how we view each and why we may differ from whatever school you have prior experience in.
It must strengthen the body.
It must enhance flexibility.
It must build coordination.
It must build and focus chi/internal energy.
It must teach a moral code.
It must promote enlightenment.
Many people focus on one or more of these in their training and that is OK. The style has to have the capacity for the others whether used or not. The feeling is that , if a style has the capacity for all of these then when you are ready, those aspects will become apparent. This does allow instructors to get a little lazy since they can pretend you are not ready. You might not be ready, but the instructors job is to at least try.
One of the reasons for this is ShaoLin Temple. The temple leaders believed that the mythic qualities of the ancient masters were real. They looked around and noticed that nobody currently living had those mythic abilities. The reason that they finally agreed upon is that the world goes through cycles. There are times with a high level of Chi when these abilities are very easy to acomplish. There are times when there is a low level of Chi and these skills are almost impossible to perform. The temple leaders then decided to standardize the forms so that the abilities would still be trained and a time of high Chi would allow the skills to be performed. Therefore each form had to contain every technique in a system at all levels of performance including Chi kung, stretches and strength training. The style I Learned and teach split from ShaoLin during this process. The Grandmaster, at the time, felt that the world cycle was not high and low Chi; but was really simple and complex Chi. Early training was simple because the energy and skills were simple. Since then the world had grown and become more complex. The Chi was more complex and the training and understanding had to become more complex in order to perform the advanced skills. Basically, suck it up and train more or train better. There was a "disagreement". The Grandmaster left to search out more training and skills. From that moment, this school became a power school.
Many schools train for enlightenment. They tend to take short cuts as they try to bypass the physical and emotional training and focus on perception and wisdom.
Many schools train for compassion. They will focus on feeling the movement and building energy. They will avoid powerful or precise movements because that will overwhelm their ability to feel the correct movement.
Many schools focus on power. They will take out all of the meditations and Chikungs for many reasons. All of the training will be focused towards muscle development and hitting hard.
My school followed all three paths. This was the result of our view of the world. Simple techniques used simple power to defeat simple people and simple problems. Complex problems and opponents needed complex technique and complex skills. To get better also requires being more. It is easy to say that you use what is useful and throw the rest away; but why make that decision once? There have to be cycles of growth and cycles of focus in order to assess your development which will lead to new cycles of growth and focus. Why follow one path when you could never be sure which would solve your current problems? Why follow one path when the nature of life is change? Why forget training when the future may bring a problem or student that requires that skill?
The body generates Chi and a powerful body generates powerful Chi. Powerful Chi is easy to feel and Chikungs become easier to do. Simple faith becomes easy because you will notice meditative changes quickly and learn to trust yourself. The Perception and control from meditations will allow you to perform more efficiently and correct mistakes before injury occurs. This will allow you to generate more power. As each cycle completes and your skills increase; you will have to train harder to maintain growth. Eventually you will reaach whatever physical limits you may have and the only avenue of growth will be complexity. Complexity will never run out. Skill will never run out. Power will not fail you. Over many generations, students sought those with power. Physical power, energetic power, and spiritual power were all sought out and the knowledge was brought into the training program. Information was graded simply. Did it make the students more powerful and skilled? Did it make the training program quicker with less injury? Did it open the path to develop more skills and more power?
The strength part is usually taught first through push ups and other calisthenics. As training goes on, the heavy weapons and application will replace calisthenics to a large extent. Push ups will always be taught since they are practically perfect. They require almost no coordination and if you collapse you won't die like when you drop a weight bar on your neck. Push ups also increase in difficulty at higher levels, so you never really stagnate in a movement.
The purpose of calisthenics, and most kung fu exercises, is to create a sheath of muscle that covers the entire body. The visual muscle development does happen but it is not the main point. This means that the ladies won't have to worry about looking "like men" as if that were easy. The rest of the strength training also builds the mental ability to feel the natural strengths and weakness' that make up your body. As such, it is not important to do 10, 30, or even a million. It is important to try. You want to try and find your limits. To be weak and do two reps of any exercise that cause you to collapse is more training than the person who does 30 and doesn't even show any effort. Because of this, each level of any art usually has exercises that make the levels below look easy.
Flexibility of body and mind are the next aspect of kung fu. The movements of most styles of kung fu are large and tend to be difficult just for the stretch. The movement of the joints and spine are to find sticking points in the body that need to be worked on. Every style has ranges of motion that are considered more important and they usually work on those first. However any style should eventually increase the flexibility over the whole body. As a point of consideration; it is always a good idea to train harder than you need to. Just because you have defeated most people with kicks to the shins does not make high kicks invalid. It simply means your opponents had weak shins.
The coordination training is usually kept in the forms. The seemingly impossible movements of the advanced Kata/Kuen/form are to build coordination. This will increase the total capacity of the body and it will cause the mind to work more efficiently. The mind will appear to think faster and less advanced students will wonder at your ability to effortlessly counter their techniques. It is important to actually try to use the techniques from the forms when sparring, otherwise you will simply be a bad kick boxer. I say bad kick boxer because people who actually kick box and train for it will develop techniques for the ring with a workout to specifically build those skills. If you do a traditional style but spar as a kick boxer, you will miss out on that training in addition to having built skills that you refuse to use. If you train the forms and learn to use them, you will have a group of movements specifically designed to take advantage of the skills your school teaches.
As for building internal energy or Chi, remember that it is a theory developed before written language. You may hear the information and think "this doesn't follow reality". I want you to think about the fact that these people had one thing to help them make this theory - reality. These people did not write a book, go on Oprah, and develop a following. They had to develop the theory, train based on that theory, and then impress some people with abilities developed by the training, and actually teach it. What this means is that the training is the important part. If it didn't work, nobody would be doing it (for their whole life). The standard for most shaolin schools (that I have met) is to develop a training program, teach it to a group of people ( usually ten), and if most of them learn it (IE.. pass some test); then it is considered to have worked and becomes an actual program used in the school. These abilities are called kungs. It will save time if you define kungs as The build up and focusing of chi into a skill which achieves levels of skill that are thought to be impossible. This does not mean that these skills are impossible, only that people think they are impossible. Levels of technique, hight of leaping, power; these are all things which people think they have. In their little minds they feel that they are the best. Therefore they are at the limit of skill and anybody who is better must be lying because "that would be impossible". Hence, controlling the ego would be the most important skill when developing effective Chi skills. Those meditations that people take out of their arts are supposed to control the ego. Strangely enough, they are also the first people to say that something they haven't achieved is impossible.
The Moral code is the next thing. Most people don't realize that a moral code can be taught. This is important because how else does it make sense? If trust has to be built or learned, if friendships can grow, then morals have to be something that can be passed on. Some schools feel that morality is something people have or they don't. This is a short sighted and/or lazy point of view. Many stories talk about a master waiting for the proper student to come along. That is fine, but many stories also talk about masters who made the wrong choice. Anyway the moral training is contained in the martial arts. At its most basic level the morality is taught through the stories of great masters, the things they did and who they saved and why. The stories are usually edited so as not to draw attention to the immoral actions and only the moral. The second level of morality training is the public testing. There are times (usually after black belt) when the instructor will appear to fail a student in order to watch the reaction. Will you flip out, lose control, show cruelty to a younger student? This is all important information. Third is usually teaching. How do you teach? Do you punish often? Are you needlessly cruel. Do you practice advanced techniques on lower level people who can't defend themselves? How much injury do you cause while sparring? These are all tests. To fail any one of them is to have your training move a little slower. The head of a school has to think, What if one of my students turns to crime? Can they be trusted with these techniques? This opens up to the meditations which control the ego and/or Religion. It is believed that religion can teach morality, any religion. If you are training and (for example) you are born again and the kung fu is taught as Buddhist, you may wonder whether you should quit. You don't have to. The religion can be swapped out. Obviously This will not be easy. Keep in mind that almost every martial art started with some religious context. The Indian braves were taught by the shaman. In the Nordic countries the martial training was highest in the medicine men, The earliest written info about martial arts was found in an African temple, and shaolin temple. If you can't find room for your religion then you are not trying hard enough. Coincidentally, Buddhism was taught mainly because it is the only religion/philosophy which is not based on some god giving permission to murder or oppress some other group as proof of "chosenness". Not that Buddhism doesn't have some crazy shit in it's past; It is simply that being a Buddhist is about choosing to be better rather than being a member of a group that has special rules reserved for the "chosen". Nirvana is for all who achieve enlightenment while heaven is only for the good believers.
Finally enlightenment. The quest for enlightenment involves control. Control of the body, control of the mind, and control of perception. If you have all of those then you are ready to perceive/join with/become God/Tao/nature, whatever.
Kung Fu is not only the path to enlightenment, it is also the test.