The 6 Best Places to Learn Authentic Kung Fu in China

If you’ve watched just about a million films featuring time-suspending Kung Fu scenes, you probably have wondered if you could ever deliver a lethal kick to the imaginary bad guy in your head.

The good news is, yes!

You can actually learn authentic Kung Fu in its birthplace! There is indeed a myriad of styles and forms as there are places to learn them. But the search doesn’t have to be daunting.

Here are some of the most popular styles of Chinese martial arts and places where you can go to for a real Kung Fu bootcamp.

Shaolin Kung Fu

DENGFENG, CHINA - APRIL 12: Warrior monks of the Shaolin Temple display their Kung Fu skills at the Songshan Mountain near the temple April 12, 2005 in Dengfeng, Henan Province, China. Shaolin Temple, built in AD 495 in the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581) and located in the Songshan Mountain area, is the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu. Shaolin Kung Fu, with its incredible strength, vitality and flexibility, is expecting to be included in the UNESCO intangible heritage list. (Photo by Cancan Chu/Getty Images)

Photo Source: Cancan Chu, Getty Images

Kungfu is the umbrella term used to refer to Chinese Martial Arts. Of the various styles and forms, Shaolin Kungfu is perhaps the most renowned and admired for its great athletic prowess and feats of what seems physically impossible.

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Developed in Shaolin temple in Henan nearly two thousand years ago, there was in fact a point in time where the practice of the martial art was illegal, and Shaolin Kungfu was nearly lost.

Well, thank goodness it’s well alive and, erm, kicking.

Today, you can train in the very temple that started it all. Head to the Shaolin Temple Kungfu Academy to witness and learn the beauty, strength, and power from the real masters.

Wing Chun


Photo Source:

So you watched the Ip Man movie and its sequels, and you’re all ready to start learning Wing Chun?

The close-combat martial art that’s fast and furious has an interesting story.

Legend has it that Wing Chun was developed by a Buddhist nun by the name of Ng Mui.  As an expert Shaolin martial artist, she created a self-defence technique and art form that could allow people of any size, gender, and weight to practice effectively.

Wing Chun was named after Yim Wing Chung, Ng Mui’s first disciple, and subsequently grew in popularity when grandmaster Ip Man brought the art from China to Hong Kong and the rest of the world. Ip Man also happened to be Bruce Lee’s master, which further propelled its fame.

Want to learn Wing Chun?

Many martial arts schools teach this unique form. One of them is the Kunyu Mountain Martial Arts Academy in Yantai, Shandong, which receives dedicated students from all over the world. Or, cross the border to Hong Kong and learn from one of Ip Man’s direct disciples, Sam Lau.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Photo Source: Wikicommons

Tai Chi is probably one of the most well-known forms of Chinese martial arts. If all you’ve seen of Tai Chi is an image of old Chinese people practicing in the park, you may be greatly mistaken that it’s a boring exercise with little challenge.

On the contrary, like all ancient arts that have stood the test of time, the learning and mastering of Tai Chi takes years of dedication and patience.

Tai Chi is a form of moving meditation, which brings the practitioner to the present moment, deeply connected with the inner and outer world. Tai Chi builds strength and grace, while healing you from the inside out, relieving tension in your physical, mental, and emotional body.

There are five main styles of Tai Chi- Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, and Wu (with a different pronunciation). Amongst them, the Chen and Yang styles are considered the most renowned and important, with the former being the original style and the latter being the most widely-practiced form in the world.

Chen Style Tai Chi

To learn Chen style Tai Chi is to go back to Tai Chi’s roots, where it all began. Developed by the Chen Family in Henan between the 15th and 16th century, this form of Tai Chi incorporates both slow and fast movements, as well as bursts of power.

The most authentic place for a full Chen style Taichi immersion is to head to the Chen Jia Gou village in Henan, known to be the mecca of Tai Chi. The Chen Xiao Xing School and Chen Zhao Sen School are well known in the area. Check out this page to get an idea of what each school is like, and pack your bags! 

Yang Style Tai Chi

The Yang Style Tai Chi is the most widely practiced forms worldwide and has a more gentle, subtle form with a generally slow speed and soft movements. The style was first developed by Yang Lu Chan in the 19th century, and has since evolved with various schools and distinct styles

The style can be easily found all throughout the country. A great way to learn is to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Yangshuo in Guangxi, Southern China. Complement your quest for mental, physical, and emotional well-being by living amidst gorgeous karst mountains and cruising down the picturesque Li River when you’re not hard at work.

There are a number of Tai Chi schools in Yangshuo that also cater to foreigners, such as the Wang Zhi Ping Tai Chi School and the Yangshuo Traditional Tai Chi School.

May you find the Kung Fu bootcamp of your dreams, disciples!

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Tilda Yeow

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change.She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.
Tilda Yeow

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