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Although Chinese Martial Arts are generally divided into two camps, internal and external, there may be confusion because both schools incorporate Chi Kung ("energy work"). Every style of Kung Fu uses some form of Chi Kung or other; there is Shaolin Chi Kung, there is Hung Gar Chuan chi kung, the notable exception to this rule is Wing Chun, although it does not use Chi Kung Wing Chun nevertheless makes extensive use of the Zhan Zhuang posture (the "tree hugger" stance). This leads to confusion because, you do Tai Chi, you do Chi Kung, you do Shaolin, once again you do Chi Kung so what the hell's the difference?

The difference is, that the internal styles do not believe in extensive muscle conditioning, where the external styles do. A Shaolin monk for example will do something similar to Hindu squats, likely 1,000 of them, hold the Mabu stance for about 4 hours a day, some monks to try and reach an even higher level sometimes fast, and hold mabu for 16 hours straight. They don't eat, they void their bowels obviously first thing in the morning, and then they hold the horse stance all day long, from dawn till dusk. The external styles focus on building primarily muscle strength and conditioning, the internal styles are concerned with the flow of chi.

Additionally, although frequently classified as an "external" style, classifying Shaolin Kung Fu in such a manner is a mistake. Shaolin Kung Fu, although it devotes much time to muscle conditioning etc, it also devotes roughly equal amounts of time towards energy work, what they call "chi." A purely internal school, is 90% meditation, including the martial arts form itself, and 10% physical work. An external school is 90% muscle and cardio work, including the actual martial arts, in addition to toughening the bones by hitting hard surfaces and the like, and 10% meditation and Chi Kung. Shaolin Kung Fu is roughly 50/50 see, that is why they need to be monks; because they train so extensively in both dimensions it can be extremely time consuming. Just one side of Shaolin Kung Fu is a lifetime discipline in and of itself, never mind both of them.

Japanese martial arts, with the exceptions of the Aiki family (Aikido, Aikijutsu, Aikijukendo whatever, etc), just believe in two things; hard hits, and hard muscles, never mind meditation or chi development. The world of Chinese Kung Fu, virtually every single style includes Chi Kung, or some meditation regiment to enhance the practice. Additionally, not all internal schools are wholly "internal;" the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan for example uses iron sphere training for its advanced students. The purpose of the iron sphere, is to train sensitivity to momentum.

Lets see what else; Japanese martial arts are generally one dimensional, and extremely single minded. Basically, just build up the muscles, using traditional Okinawan or modern weight training, although personally if I was a serious Karateka I would use the traditional Okinawan, and, drill Katas until you can't stand up anymore. Karate training is made more complicated and made to sound more complex than it should be; the truth is its just Katas, Katas, Katas and more Katas, and on ocassion full contact sparring to make sure you have developed proper dexterity and timing to apply it to a live human being in an unpredictable situation. Sparring is important, even Okinawan tradition recognizes the fact, but, the difference between the Okinawan method, and the corrupted mainlander Japanese one, is that Okinawans insist, to this day, sparring should be bare fisted, only between two black belts or students with 10 years of training, and, only once in a blue moon, it should not be done on a daily basis. If people spar and don't do Kata, they will never stop being sloppy, if people do Kata, they will not only be more effective in an actual fight but when they spar their form will be crisper, cleaner.

The likelihood of what happened in Japan, is that a bunch of psychos corrupted Karate as an excuse to beat on people. Indeed, the JKA has not produced great champions, truly significant champions since the late 1960's, and all of the JKA's best and most skilled Karate fighters were trained by Funakoshi, who insisted on Kata drilling more than sparring. Kanazawa and Nishiyama were extremely dominant Karate champions in their day, and the Shotokan style was not the only one in Japan. Kanazawa and Nishiyama even toppled many students of the Choki lineage. Okinawa's "superman," was an extremely dominant champion, and his training method involved, you guessed it, mostly katas. Yes, its important to work with a live human being, but before you work with one an individuals coordination, agility and dexterity has to be built up as high as possible first. There are training methods besides Katas, that emphasize that, within Chinese Kung Fu.

The idea behind the Asian styles of martial arts, is to build up extreme dexterity, the belief being that a hyper coordinated individual, will easily survive an assault. Think for a minute; all other factors being equal its the coordinated dude who walks away as opposed to being carried away. Georges St. Pierre, one of the UFC's most dominant champs? He is EXTREMELY coordinated; he can even hold every Yoga hand stand position for fun like its nothing. However, the crucial difference between Kung Fu and most Japanese martial arts, is that Kung Fu is not just concerned with dexterity but also extreme stability. Take for example the painful horse stance; when criticizing Japanese martial arts, what most Chinese experts often say is "how can he defend himself, when he does not even know how to stand?" Learning how to stand properly, being "planted" is considered an actual skill. The feet of a martial artist, per Chinese Kung Fu teachings, have to be both firm like a mountain, but also light as feathers. Unmovable when the feet are "set," but also extremely agile. Agility does not mean, also, an individual has to do acrobatics; take for example Muhamad Ali, he was agile. That fancy shuffle of his? That takes agility. Acrobatics are simply the most advanced form of agility.

Hope this was helpfull.

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12y ago
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12y ago

Well, there is not something that is normally referred to as 'Chinese Karate.' Karate originated in Okinawa and moved to Japan and Korea. So the major divisions are those three countries. The typical martial arts of China are Kung Fu, Wushu or Tai Chi Chu'an.

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Not if you study it long enough. Eventually all of the skills will be learned.

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Q: What do Chinese martial arts teach that Japanese martial arts doesn't teach?
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