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Learn How To Fight


 Throw, punch and kick your way through some of the best Chinese martial arts for keeping fit this winter


Internal martial arts

For those who aren’t quite ready to break bricks with their forehead, internal martial arts, or neijia, offer a more gentle approach. There are several disciplines grouped under this label, so we sought out the self explanatory Internal Martial Arts School for an introduction. Master Liu guides you through the origins and meaning of neijia, although the opening lesson consists mostly of an informative talk about qigong (a term which refers to Chinese medicine, martial arts and self-enlightenment). Make sure you listen because, once you’re invited to participate, the power, speed and intensity of Master Liu’s movements mean that it may not be long before you end up on the floor.

The verdict Internal martial arts focus on self-awareness, breathing and standing poses – it’s a bit like a hefty yoga workout, and just as taxing in coordinating all of your limbs to move where you want them to. The style is ideal for those who want to explore their inner qi, but aggressive types who’ve been inspired by too many violent gong fu movies needn’t apply.

Internal Martial Arts School Studio. 7-8.30pm every Tue, Thur, Fri. 2,000RMB for two months (two sessions a week); 3,000RMB for two months (three sessions a week). Classes in both English and Chinese.


Wing chun

Bruce Lee fans will no doubt have heard of wing chun. The discipline formed the basis for his style of fighting, but legend has it that a Buddhist nun, searching for a martial art that didn’t rely on brute strength, invented the techniques during the Qing Dynasty. Yet it’s not for little girls. Training kicks off with coach Lee (no relation!) putting us into pairs to ‘work with our own bodies while feeling the opponent’s energy and synergy’. Close-range combat is the main focus of a lesson aimed at sharpening reflexes and perceiving the weaknesses of others. We attempt pushes, vertical punches and grappling, all while trying to stay relaxed. The result is a session that leaves us sweaty and exhausted.

The verdict Wing chun is all about building core strength and (literally) not getting pushed around. The first lesson can be a bit intimidating for beginners, as it takes a while to actually grasp the concepts behind the moves. For example, keeping your body relaxed when someone pushes you is a tricky art to master – we were as stiff as a tree trunk and easily felled in a similar fashion. But Lee’s careful, simple explanations meant that it was at least easy to catch up.

Wing Chun Kung Fu Clan Kai Sai China Contact Marco Lee on wingchun. or 131 2655 3900 for information about classes. Instruction in English and Chinese.


Shaolin kung fu

The Chinese martial art of Shaolin gong fu is definitely not for those who bruise easily. This ancient art of war involves physical and mental toughness, so either ‘man up’ or run away! Teacher Chunmin begins the lesson with an intense warm-up of running, stretching, jumps and balancing exercises. In the second part, we learn a routine of stances, kicks, punches and joint locks. Then, out of nowhere, a long, wooden stick (gun) appears. Performing moves with it is hard, and the urge to smack an opponent is strong. Thankfully, training finishes with exercises in pairs to test our skills.

The verdict The hardest two hours of our lives! Shaolin gong fu is intense, merciless and strictly for those who want a heavy workout. People new to more rough-and-tumble types of exercise are likely to find this daunting. The overall experience is fun, though, and it will certainly keep you toned.

Shaolin Kung Fu Various locations. 5-7pm every Tue and Thur; 2-5pm every Sat. Instruction at home or your place of work is also available. Call Chunmin on 134 6645 2840 for more information. 400RMB for one month. Instruction in English and Chinese.



Wushu is an eye-popping exhibition of strength and fighting techniques. A run-through of the basics includes a series of stretches, splits, diagonal sequences and jumps that oddly resemble the warm-up of a ballerina. But forget grace and delicate poses; vigorous, athletic moves are wushu’s stock in trade. Various kicks test your limbs, and weapons training is common. Although beginners, for obvious reasons, focus more on ‘empty hands’ (changquan) routines, more advanced students can try out tiger-tail whips, spears and single or double-edged swords, all under the supervision of Lu Yan, who trained alongside Jet Li. Need we say more?

The verdict Wushu requires serious physical commitment and lots of patience before you really get into it. It will help you with toning and agility, but it will also leave you very, very tired. Even if you’re confident that you’re already fit and coordinated, wushu may make you think again. But we reckon it’s best to leave the deadly weapons to one side to begin with.

Lu Yan Wushu, 7-8.30pm every Tue and Thur. 120RMB per hour (four people); 250RMB per hour (one person). Instruction in English/Chinese.

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