I'm researching lineages of various Kung Fu styles, can anyone provide an authoritative list of primarily Southern-influenced styles?

So far I only know that Hung Gar (Hung Kuen) and Choi Li Fut are the two main styles that typically come to mind when talking about modern Southern Shaolin descendants, from which there are many similar or inter-related subset arts that developed from them such as Five Animal / Five Element, Wing Chun, Southern Praying Mantis, Southern Tai Chi and Fut Gar.

My knowledge so far other than that is limited to the unsorted (by North/South) list on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_martial_arts As well as a short sorted list at Shaolin.com under the "Style" tab: http://www.shaolin.com/StyleContent.aspx?Style=Styles

Also, I've heard the saying "Northern kicks, Southern fists" so am particularly interested in Southern boxing styles (but the complete answer shouldn't be limited to such).

  • Generally list questions are thrown upon on stackexchange. see the FAQ. Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 11:16
  • Really? but on SO some of the top questions/answers end up being collaboratively created lists with input from several experts... (i.e. stackoverflow.com/questions/3577641/… or stackoverflow.com/questions/1673841/… or stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/…) maybe it is better for wiki style though
    – bcmoney
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:45
  • 1
    Does this question have a narrow and limited enough of a scope to produce a reasonably definitive and authoritative answer? The purpose of asking and answering questions on Stack Exchange is for specific questions, but I see this one as being too large to answer. We should not be trying to emulate general-purpose information listings like Wikipedia. Those questions on SO are old ones and have historical significance behind their existence.
    – user15
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 15:23
  • Well it should be narrow... I'm not asking for a compendium of all Martial Arts who were slightly influenced by Southern Shaolin (that would obviously be impossible to conclude), if anything I was hoping for many little answers not a single one... As in "I've trained in X for Y years and we trace our lineage to Z which developed under one of the alleged five elders/ancestors from Southern Shaolin"
    – bcmoney
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 15:27
  • In the case of lots of small answer, there cannot be a definitive answer. So, you are asking for list of things ranked by popularity. This is frowned up, see the FAQ. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


You can find a great starting point for learning about the southern styles' history, techniques and teachers at this wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_martial_arts.

From the Wiki:

Chinese martial arts can also be categorized by location, as in northern (北拳) and southern (南拳) as well, referring to what part of China the styles originated from, separated by the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); Chinese martial arts may even be classified according to their province or city.[24] The main perceived difference between northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork. Examples of the northern styles include changquan and xingyiquan.

It goes on to add that examples of the southern styles include Bak Mei, Wuzuquan, Choy Li Fut and Wing Chun, as well as: Fujian White Crane, Hung Gar, Mok Gar, Hak Fu Mun^, Lau Gar and Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan^.

  • I agree with Juann to check wikipedia. However I would like to add that many animal styles have both a northern influence and southern influence. For example there is a northern version of dragon kung fu and a southern version as well. Wikipedia is a great source so yeah. Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 14:38
  • Added a couple other notable styles from wikipedia's two major articles that mention distinctive southern styles and accepted
    – bcmoney
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 22:26

To supplement the above info, a few styles (of Southern Shaolin arts) that may have been left out:

TaiZu Quan (grand Ancestor Fists)

LuoHan Quan (Bhoddidarma)

WuMei Quan

Southern Mantis

TaiZu is supposedly founded by the Southern Sung emperor. t was 'designed' for military use, i.e.: smile and effective. It is based on the principle of using the arms as 'blades' with thrusts, slices, chops. The movements tend to be more short & linear than circular, suitable for use with armour.

LuaHan is attributed to Bhoddidharma, the Indian monk who brought Buddhism to China, Also the founder of Zen Buddhism and of Shaolin. It is more well known for developing internal energy than as a combative martial art, although it is highly effective in the hands of an expert.

WuMei (or NgMui) was a legendary nun at S. Shaolin, reputedly also the ancestral founder of WhiteCrane and WingChun. It is a rare art, with emphasis on development of internal energy, but with combative applications. Unlike the northern internal arts, its forms are done fast, not slow.

Also less well known are the Hakka styles, Ngok Gar. etc...

There is a distinct difference between the Northern and Southern arts as mentioned above. The reason for this is environment and physique. Northerners tend to be physically larger compared to southerners. Also Northern China is grasslands and semi-arid plains, whereas Southern China is hilly, forested or wetlands. Hence Northern cities and countryside have open spaces; favouring long movements and weapons. Southern environments include narrow city streets, mountain paths, boats; lending itself to short, close quarter techniques and firm (but mobile) stances. Hence even within Shaolin, they are different; e.g there are northern and southern versions of LuoHan and TaiZu.

WuZu Quan or 5-Ancestors Boxing is allegedly created by the 5 monks that escaped the destruction of the Northern Shaolin temple and fled south. Each was a specialists in one of the 5 styles; Monkey, White Crane, TaiZu, LuoHan, Da'mo(Bhodidarma) and they combined the best features to create WuzuQuan. Because of the combination it has a wide variety of techniques, which makes it harder to learn. It has both internal and external aspects. The QiGong part is important, so is conditioning of fists, fingers, forearms and legs. (disclaimer: this is the art I'm involved in for the last few decades). You can find out more on Wikipedia, although that's not exactly our lineage.

TaiZu, WhiteCrane, Wuzu are considered Fujian arts (originating form Fujian province/state) and are still widely practiced in Fujian. OTH WingChun, HungGar, ChoyLiFut are considered Cantonese arts.

BTW the Northern Arts of TaiJi, BaGua, XingYi are WuDang/Taoists arts, not Shaolin. Shaolin is considered Buddhist, and there were rivalries between the two.

  • A good answer. A great answer would have included links so I could learn more.
    – MCW
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 12:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.