Shaolin Kung Fu, characteristics

Shaolin Kung Fu, characteristics

Among the many styles of Kung Fu one of the most easily recognized is Shaolin. Among the schools derived here we find the Nanquan or southern boxing, typical of fishermen who had to defend themselves from pirate raids.

Shaolin kung fu

  • Nanquan, southern boxing
  • Origin of the Nanquan
  • Characteristics of the Nanquan
  • The Nanquan in Italy



Nanquan, southern boxing

Among the many styles of Kung Fu one of the most easily recognizable is Shaolin , and among the various schools derived from Shaolin we find the Nanquan or Southern boxing , typical of fishermen who had to defend themselves from pirate raids.


There are many styles of Kung Fu , and one of the best known, oldest and most widespread is the Shaolin style , which contains numerous sub-styles or schools. 


Origin of the Nanquan

We usually imagine Shaolin kung fu practitioners as monks, dressed in yellow and with a shaved head, due to the centuries of coexistence with Buddhism and the incorporation of its values. In reality, however  , not all Shaolin schools follow the monastic imprint , especially those that have spread to the West. Among these, it is worthwhile to take a closer look and appreciate the Nanquan style.


One of the various classifications of kung fu styles divides the various schools into northern styles and southern styles . The Nanquan is a style of the south, land of rivers, at the mouths of which the fishermen met the pirates, from whom they had to defend themselves. 


Characteristics of the Nanquan

Generally the Nanquan styles prefer short strokes and direct lines , thus avoiding the circular movements typical of Baguazhang and the spiral-shaped ones of Taichi and Shou . Being devoted mainly to effectiveness at the expense of pure style and technique, Nanquan is also at the origin of the sports versions of wushu , such as Sanda or Chinese boxing.


More than elegance, the practitioners of Nanquan therefore prefer vigor, athleticism, performance. Punches are preferred , which are also at the origin of karate punches, therefore we are talking about single punches designed to maximize the power of the blow. Kicks are rather neglected, also due to the low posture, which is necessary to generate and transfer the power of the punches. Jumps and other  acrobatic techniques are also little studied, although in 2003 the IWUF made the study of these techniques mandatory. 


As for traditional weapons , the Nanquan focuses on the nandao , broad-bladed saber not unlike the butterfly dagger, and the nangun, or “southern staff”.


The Nanquan in Italy

The Nanquan style is practiced in many nations and its study includes three different types of applications: the study of forms with weapons , the study of the self-defense aspect , and the study of the sporting aspect  applied in competitions. Obviously there are also schools in Italy, affiliated to various federations, and all three aspects can be studied in them. 


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