When you think about China, one of the first things that comes to mind is Chinese martial arts. From the stories about monks from the ancient Shaolin Temple to movies featuring Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, martial arts are an irreplaceable part of Chinese cultural heritage.
Traditional Chinese martial arts were developed as a means of survival, as a need to stay healthy, and for self-protection. The tradition caught on, which is why even today, thousands of years later, its influence is still widespread across the globe.
When travelling to China, having the experience of seeing authentic Chinese martial arts should definitely be on top your list. Luckily, there are many opportunities to engage with Wushu.
Here’s are are our top tips for where to go for a truly memorable Chinese martial arts experience
Chinese martial arts, a brief history
Chinese martial arts, also known as Chinese Kung Fu or Wushu, is a holistic sport training both the body and the mind. Whichever martial arts type you prefer to practice in, there’s an abundance of benefits to be gained. Amongst these are increased mobility, improved flexibility, stability and coordination, strength and power, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, mental concentration, and stress relief, to name just a few.
Chinese martial arts’ history dates all the way back to primeval China, when barbarians fought with sticks against wild animals and hostile tribes in order to defend themselves. These weapons gradually evolved, and according China’s ancient document Classic of Mountains and Seas, people acquired martial art techniques through combat as well.
Over the course of history, Chinese martial arts has developed as a unique combination of exercise, self-defence, self-discipline, and art. It’s all about a balance between the internal Yin, referring to control of your breathing, your qi, and your mind, and the external Yang, referring to muscle strength.
Today, Chinese martial arts consists of a wide variety of types, each with its own distinctive techniques. The following are the most prestigious and well-known martials arts types in China:
- Shaolin Kung Fu
- Tai Chi
- Wing Chun
No matter what type of Chinese martial arts you want to practice, there are four essential steps to accomplish first: basic skills, routines, strategies, and weapons. But before you can engage in the marvellous world of martial arts, the Chinese believe a certain type of morality is required too.
A Chinese martial arts experience is a test that requires perseverance, intuition, and patience, especially for travellers seeking a martial arts master in China. Although there are opportunities to engage with this ancient heritage, Chinese martial arts masters are selective about who they teach, but doesn’t mean you can’t have an authentic martial arts experience.
Shaolin is the place to see real Chinese martial arts
For a real Chinese martial arts experience, Shaolin has it all. Shaolin Temple is a Buddhist temple set in the forest of the picturesque Song Mountain.
At first sight, Shaolin may seem like a bona fide tourism hotspot, which it is. But if you stick around long enough, you’ll see that Shaolin is the place to see real Chinese martial arts.
Shaolin monks have been practicing Kung Fu for over 1500 years, and you can marvel at their masterly martial arts skills in Wushu performances at the Shaolin Temple. Book your tickets well in advance to ensure your seat, or ask a ChinaTours.com travel consultant to book it for you.
While you’re at it, pick up a tip or two on how to cultivate your body and defend yourself at one of the martial arts school surrounding the temple. Or go for a stroll around the Pagoda Forest to get a sense of the sacred energy of Song Mountain.
Wudang mountains, the cradle of Tai Chi
The Wudang mountains are a hidden gem for lovers of Chinese martial arts. The mountain range is still a relatively untouched area, and anyone interested in Taoism is likely to find inspiration there.
The Wudang mountains are also the birthplace of Tai Chi. Legend has it Tai Chi was developed by the immortal Taoist Zhang Sanfeng after being inspired by a fight between a bird and a snake in the mountains.
While on tour in China, you’ll see people doing Tai Chi everywhere. If you’re keen for a genuine experience, talk to your local guide about finding someone to teach you.
The legend of Kung Fu in Beijing
If you prefer to be a spectator, rather than a participant, why not check out The Legend of Kung Fu at the Red Theater in Beijing? The combination of martial arts, dance, acrobatics, and storytelling makes for an exciting evening out.
The Legend of Kung Fu tells the story of a young boy, dropped off at a temple by his mother to become a Kung Fu master. The audience follows the trials and tribulations the boy faces on his journey to enlightenment.
The Legend of Kung Fu is a high level performance, starring some of China’s best Kung Fu practitioners, stage directors, and designers, and presented by China’s leading performance art production company. With its gripping storyline, wonderful set design and thrilling martial-arts skills, The Legend of Kung Fu will surely captivate adults and children alike.
Want to know more about the Chinese martial arts, enjoy a legendary martial arts performance in Beijing, or practice Tai Chi with the locals? Talk to our expert China guides for more information and tickets available on our best China tours.
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