Martial arts of China are habitually classified by one of two methods:
Aside from these two styles, sometimes it is also considered the Ermei style, practiced in Chinaís center, at Sichuan province.
- External or Internal styles:
External styles (hard) emphasize the training of the more specific arm and leg muscles. They are frequently associated with Buddhism because they seek to rise beyond the mortal world concentrating on developing their physical strength (li) to overpower opponents.
An example is the conditioning of the hands by punching plate iron and slapping concrete blocks thousands of times until they are able, to break planks of wood and stones.
Internal styles (soft) emphasize the strength of the torso and legs. They are frequently associated with Taoism because they donít see humanity as part of a superior force, but focus on a universal life energy (qi) -present in every person- training the corporal movements and with breathing exercises. An example is the belief of Qi circulates around the body along acupuncture meridians, which is widely used in traditional medicine.
- Northern or Southern styles:
The most practiced and famous Northern style is Shaolin Wushu. It was developed in the Shaolin Temple at Henan province. Monks developed a set of body-building exercises by learning the postures of flying, jumping and running from birds, beasts and fish. Progressively, these exercises became a boxing practice, today called 'Shaolin boxing'. Shaolin martial arts principally include boxing, stick art, spear art and sword art. It is strong and powerful. It can not only serve to defeat the adversary, but also improve health and promote longevity.
The most practiced and famous Southern style is Wudang Wushu. It was developed in the Taoist Temple at Hubei Province. This martial art gives emphasis to the strengthening of bones and muscles and internal cultivation. It doesn't promote attack but at the same time it is difficult to defeat. Wudang Sword is considered as a priceless treasure.
There are more classifications of martial arts based on religion, styles, etc. Each category has some distinction in style and technique.
A modern classification of the martial arts divides the styles into six categories: empty-handed forms, weapon forms, choreographed forms, group practice, sparring competition, and power demonstration. Four wide-ranging steps can explain all the techniques: kicking, throwing, striking and controlling.