Kungfu is superior to other martial arts


I have read many of your Shaolin books and they have helped me immensely. I was lucky to study the Northern Style with a good master. But I had to move to another area where there are no Northern Style masters but mostly Tae Kwon Do and Aikido “masters” who were very disdainful of my training. Of course, it was oblivious to me that their students did not possess the power of my classmates of the same experience level.

— Steven, USA


In my young days I read of a kungfu master who said that comparing non-Chinese martial arts such as Taekwondo, Aikido and Karate with the Chinese martial arts was like comparing a drop of water with an ocean. At that time I thought he was chauvinistic and exaggerating.

But over the years, having personally enjoyed the wonderful benefits of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, I have begun to feel that there is much truth in his statement. Of course, non-Chinese martial art masters would believe differently, though a substantial number of them, especially the higher-ranking ones, do admit the superiority of Chinese martial arts or kungfu.

The techniques of the non-Chinese martial arts are mainly straight-forward punches, kicks and blocks. Some of these other arts, like Judo and Aikido, use more elaborated techniques like throws and locks, but if not for their safety rules, their exponents would be easily injured by opponents using straight-forward punches and kicks.

By comparison, kungfu techniques are profound. For example, instead of a straight-forward punch for sundry occasions, depending on different needs and situations, a kungfu exponent could use a phoenix-eye fist, a leopard punch, a crane-beak, a tiger-claw, a dragon-form, a snake-thrust, a sword-finger, or a Zen-finger.

In the same situation, a straight-forward punch of a woman would be technically inferior to that of a man, but if she uses a phoenix-eye fist instead, she could overcome this disadvantage. To go one step further, if she strikes her phoenix-eye fist at a chosen vital point, she would have a technical advantage over a man who throws a straight-forward punch at random.

The techniques of these other arts are such that women are at a gross disadvantage when compared to men. For example, it is harder for a woman to block a powerful kick, or to throw a heavy opponent. But she would not have this innate disadvantage in kungfu because the techniques are profound.

For example a woman practising Northern Shaolin could hook a powerful kick, or one practising Taijiquan could fell a heavy opponent as easily as her male counterpart. And unlike in the other martial arts where executing throws and locks would be impracticable if not for their safety rules, in kungfu the exponent ensures that his opponent could not punch or kick him before he executes a throw or lock.

Further, the other martial arts operate mainly on the level of techniques, but kungfu goes beyond techniques and operates on the levels of tactics and strategies. For example, if you merely rush in to punch or kick your opponent, you operate on the level of techniques. If you punch or kick your opponent, not really aiming to hit him yet but to tempt him to respond in a particular way so that you can exploit an innate weakness in his expected response, you operate on the level of tactics. If you manoeuvre him in such a way that you can use your tactics easily, you operate on the level of strategies.

If kungfu is superior, then why are masters of the other martial arts disdainful of kungfu? One main reason is that as real kungfu is so rare today, these masters, like most other people, mistake kungfu gymnastics for real kungfu. The fact that kungfu gymnasts could not fight although they say kungfu is a martial art, make these other masters more disdainful.

On the other hand, true kungfu masters never feel disdainful of the other martial arts. If anything, they feel pitiful. Personally I feel pitiful that instead of bringing them good health and inner peace, their many years of dedicated training brought to many masters of the non-Chinese styles internal injuries and bottled up aggressive feelings. On a personal note, I am glad and proud that I have helped many such masters and a few grandmasters overcome pain and internal injuries which they had sustained as a result of their long training, and also have helped them find inner peace.

Reproduced Question 7 from January 2002 Part 2 in Selection of Question-Answer Series


Special Issues of Question-Answer Series

Courses and Classes