"A tree reaches past your embrace grows from one small seed."

What is a Style

The concept of a style is a rather complicated one, and Chinese martial arts claim as many as 1500 different styles and there are many other Karate Styles.   By "style”, meaning a particular school of martial practice, with its own training methods, favored techniques, and emphasis on attack and defense.  While it is impossible to quantify differences between most styles, it is easy to see the distinctions between such disparate approaches to combat as practiced by Tiger, Crane, and Monkey stylists.  In choosing a style (contemporary privilege: traditionally, styles were assigned by the teachers), try to find one that suits your physical attributes, interests and sense of utility.  It does no good to study the graceful single-leg and flying techniques of White Crane if you have the flexibility and grace of a turtle!  On the other hand, and gung fu practice will enhance your physical skills, dexterity, and alertness, and it is not uncommon for a beginner in one style to change to a more "appropriate" style later. Whatever else may be said of styles, the first year basics are almost universal--punches, kicks, and stances show little variation at the beginner's level.

 Martial Arts Systems and Styles


System: 1. An assemblage of things forming a collective whole.

             2. A method, or comprehensive approach.


In the Sansei System, the term in used in the following way:

Martial System: A recognized school of martial arts comprised of distinct philosophy, theoretical basis, and training methods, and which may specialize in a single, unified and comprehensive approach to martial arts development, or may be eclectic, comprised of several distinct styles of gung fu. Eg. Shaolin System, Wudang System, Chung Wah System.

While a style is usually identified as a single approach, a system is generally eclectic, combining distinct elements from several styles. For example, from the famous Shaolin temple, several styles emerged, including Eagle Claw, Tiger Claw, Choi Lei Fat, Praying Mantis, Hung Ga, Luohanquan, and so on. To complicate things, some of these individuals’ styles have developed into systems in their own right. While people sometimes generically refer to anything that has connections to the Shaolin temple as ‘Shaolin Style’, Shaolin gung fu would be better classified as a martial system.

 Style: characteristic mode in the fine arts; type; external manner; methodology.

In the Sansei System, we use the term to describe martial arts in the following way:

Martial Style: A recognized school of thought and methodology in martial training and/or philosophy.

A distinct method of martial art: Example: Huquan, Praying Mantis Boxing, Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Baak Hok Kuen. A style is identifiable by any one or more of several aspects, including aesthetics, philosophy and theoretical basis, genealogy, geography, and nation of origin.

Thus, when martial artists refer to different methods of martial training and philosophy, they are usually talking about various styles. Distinguishing factors that define a style are numerous and are largely subjective, ranging from differences that are readily apparent to extremely subtle. Almost every country in the world has one or more different styles of self-defense and combat.

There are hundreds distinct styles of traditional Martial Arts. In China this number easily supersedes the combined total of all the other martial Arts. This aspect is but one of many intriguing complexities involved with Chinese martial arts. It may be argued that every traditional martial art in the world has a developmental connection to the martial arts of China.

Chinese martial arts have evolved for over 3500 years, and thus form an integral part of Chinese culture. To gain a deeper appreciation, one must observe Chinese history and the role of education, medicine, philosophy, art, science, as well as the sociocultural structures that shaped, and were shaped by, the evolution of Chinese martial arts. This is important for you to understand and appreciate Sansei Goju-Ryu




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