The Shaolin Monastery is indeed the cradle of all Martial Arts: with more than 1500 years of martial heritage, Shaolin Kungfu can be considered the mother of all Martial Arts, as it generated hundreds of styles and sub-styles through the years and extensively influenced nearby countries, well known for their martial dedication such as Japan, Korea and Malaysia.
Chang quan (Northern Styles)
Characterized by remarkably wide and agile movements, where flexibility is the key strength, these styles are way more dynamic compared to Southern ones (Nan quan). This is exactly where Norther styles express their full potential: flying kicks, acrobatics, extendable weapons … athletic gestures that only open spaces could allow.
Characterized by short-range movements, their positioning in Chinese Martial Arts is justified by the population density where these styles spread. As a matter of fact, life conditions where it was necessary to use them (for confronting thieves, bandits or just accounting regulations), did not allow people to perform a particular flying or whatsoever long-range kick, just due to limited space. Nan quan styles are distinct for their short range movements (a clear example of Nan quan style is Wing Chun). In addition, the approachability of Nan quan styles allowed people of all ages to learn them, because they have the obvious advantage of “going straight to the point” in terms of defence, and not having to train extreme stretching exercises in order to achieve long range movements that didn’t suit the overpopulate streets of the city. Southern styles are indeed the cradle of famous styles like, Wing chun, Xing Yi quan and countless others.
Considered the mother of all martial arts, Taijiquan is an ancient discipline born in China and diversified into five different styles at a later stage: Chen, Yang, Wu Hao, Wu and Sun. Substantially similar, they may differ in range of motion, postures and some gestures, although its main goal – moving Qi – is the same principle for all styles. Taijiquan differs from other styles of Martial arts because its practice looks more a gentle exercise rather than a routine that requires physical effort. This is true in some degree, as Taijiquan is indeed a super effective practice for anybody to keep fit through moderate exercise whilst increasing internal life energy (Qi). Not to exclude the “applicative” part of Taiji quan: get mastery of one’s body for defensive purposes without the slightest effort, as this can be experienced after a diligent practice and focused discipline.
*”Taiji quan” is the correct way to write it, according to the official phonetic system Hanyu Pinyin – “Tai chi chuan” is widely spread as the English way to pronounced, although Taiji quan should be used.