What is a ‘style’ in Chinese martial arts?
Liu pai in Mandarin or lau pai 流派 in Cantonese, is a ‘style’ or lit. ‘stream/tributary’. The term describes differing streams, or schools of thought. A martial art style (liu pai 流派) attempts to use a specific strategy, a unique approach, to defeating an opponent or group of opponents.
For example; a given style may focus on the importance of a certain weapon. The school may promote the said weapon as being unique and powerful. Yet another style, may advocate throwing (like judo) as being superior, and thus becomes their style of combat. Others prefer kicking, and so it goes on.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese martial art styles. The simple logic is that individuals all have different ideas and opinions on how best to defeat an opponent. Styles range from the practical to the pathetic. The potential student should enter the world of Chinese martial arts being informed and aware.
In ancient times combat was categorised in two main parts – civil and military realms. However, styles of today, have now become categorised under many sub divisions, which is not only confusing, but also irrelevant in practical terms. There are many styles that are entirely devoted to mental and physical development. These should not be practiced if the exponent is in need of self defence capability and vice versa if one is only looking for health benefit.