Chan Quan and Wu Shu Styles
- By Chuan Yin, OHY
- Dec 24
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"Sifu could you give us a comparison between the Chan Quan and Wu Shu styles?”
First I'd like to clarify that the Wu Shu (Chinese Martial Arts/sport) of Shaolin is considered by the monks of Shao Lin Ji (Shao Lin Monastery) to be Chan Quan. The Wu Shu the public learns outside of a monastic setting is not quite the same. The spiritual part of the training is absent.
I think it is safe to say the Shaolin form is much the same in appearance. But because Chan Buddhist Monks add the spiritual element the "discipline" is complete. Spiritual practices are not often taught outside monastery life. So the Wu Shu we practice here in the west has fairly little if any spiritual qualities to offer.
Our Chan Quan methods put all aspects of the Martial Arts, physical, mental and spiritual into our regimen. Nothing is treated as separate, because it’s all about the human experience.
Because there is commercial value in performing this Shaolin art as public entertainment, Wu Shu is often taught outside monastic circles. The secular public is taught the forms - without the spirituaity. This reduces Wu Shu from being a martial art to being a kind of dancing discipline or the stuff of "form competition."
In true Wu Shu there is not much emphasis placed on competition. Students do not need the egotistical enouragement to practice harder or more diligently. They need to acquire humility and respect and to keep their egos out of any engagement.
Example: A few months ago I visited the local Chinese Martial arts center. In general they preformed their routines very well. Though by simply watching I could see that these routines were 95-99 percent performed for the sake of exhibition and competition. Self-defense and spiritual growth were not in evidence. But I did suspect that perhaps such discipline was offered to a select few, maybe one percent of each class. I discussed this with the Master of the school and he kindly verified my hunch.
This goes well to show a common misconception which I have mentioned previously. The students of the school I visited learn the same techniques as the rest of the members of their worldwide organization. They look skillful from the outside; but what are they experiencing inside themselves? But because someone performs as flashy as Jackie Chan or Jet Li doesn’t mean they are in the same league. Jackie Chan once told an interviewer that there are two kinds of martial arts: the one the public sees on the movie screen - which is choreographed and is only dancing or gymnastics; an the true martial arts with requires spiritual discipline as well as physical form.
In the west, Wu Shu therefore tends to be more performance orientated, their routines based on flair and acrobatics. Chan Quan restores the balance between spiritual and physical. One thing is not sacrificed for another.
Martial artists should be able to tell you about every single detail in anything they are performing, how each action or reaction has a self-defense purpose or benefits the body or how it contributes to an attack. Movements, scenes and routines anything that can be set up to look exceptional does not make the performer a martial artist. It can make him a good actor. To appear more authentic, many actors who perform in martial art's entertainment films do undergo training. But this is cosmetic and should not be confused with the spirit of Wu Shi Dao (the Code of the Warrior.).