This is a common question amongst beginners but not an easy one to answer. Kung Fu, like any other discipline, is as easy or hard to learn depending on our current level, our natural disposition for it, how we train, with whom, for how long and what are end-goals are, if any.
So is Kung Fu easy to learn? It’s relatively easy to learn the basics of Kung Fu with some practice. But it is very hard to master Kung Fu at the professional level and beyond. Shaolin monks, for example, dedicate a lifetime to achieve mastery of Kung Fu and they work at it for nearly all of their waking hours.
Let’s take a look at the two routes that can get you into learning Kung Fu and let’s put off talk of “mastery” for another day. The best and most common reasons to learn a martial art are:
- To have fun,
- To get some exercise, and
- To learn self-defence.
Let’s explore these options a little deeper.
Learning Kung Fu From A Dojo
There’s a fairly simple process to follow when you want to learn Kung Fu from a dojo. The good news is that they handle all the instruction and all you need to join is a willingness to learn and the money to do so.
Then you can use this process to find your shifu (teacher) and to start your Kung Fu journey:
- Do your research. It’s fair to say that not all dojos are created equally. In fact, while some are fantastic others may be “McDojos” (that is a dojo more interested in taking money from students than educating them). That means you should do your research before you join a dojo. This includes:
- Reading up on the different styles of Kung Fu. Do you want to learn Tai Chi, Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, etc.? This isn’t too important, and all types of Kung Fu can help you learn self-defense and have fun, but if there’s a style that particularly appeals to you then you might want to aim for a dojo that can teach it.
- Read up on the dojos in your area. Are they using qualified instructors? If so, who is the qualifying body (you can then research this and make sure they are reputable)? Do they have specific training or instructional qualifications as well as a martial arts belt? (This is a positive indication that a dojo takes learning seriously though it is not essential)?
- Visit the different dojos that you feel may be reputable. It’s important to attend a session and just observe before you commit to even a trial period at a dojo. You may not be able to tell if the Kung Fu is the best but you can certainly tell if the vibe is right for you and that the people (including the teacher) are people you want to spend a lot of time around.
- Take up a trial if there is one available. You can often get a few days trial from a dojo for free if you’re considering signing up for membership. This can be a great way to get to grips with the basics and see if you enjoy your Kung Fu before you commit your finances to something more long-term.
- Make a genuine commitment to your studies. If you want to learn a martial art, you ought to be attending your dojo at least 3 times a week for a 90 minute – 2 hour session each time. If you miss classes, you will not only fall behind your peers but worse, you will find learning frustrating because you will keep forgetting things you have already learned.
- Practice as much as you can. The more you practice the more your muscles remember what is expected of them. This is what makes Kung Fu “easy” in the long run.
- Work towards a ranking qualification. Kung Fu uses the belt system to grade participants and it can be motivating to work toward a belt. But don’t rush this process, a belt should demonstrate real competence at a certain standard of Kung Fu rather than be a token of attendance.
Learning Kung Fu At Home
We’d strongly recommend learning at a dojo if you can. It is much easier to learn with an instructor and you are unlikely to pick up any bad habits under a shifu’s watchful eye. However, if you lack the funds or there’s no dojo near you – then learning at home is definitely an option.
We recommend this process for learning Kung Fu at home:
- Do your research. You want to try and stick to a single style of Kung Fu if you are going to teach yourself. We’d recommend that you try and find a series of well-reviewed YouTube videos to give you inspiration and to demonstrate some techniques. In addition, we’d hit up Amazon and try and find some good books that go into detail on your chosen style too. It will be easier to learn Kung Fu at home when you have a lot of information available to you.
- Set up a safe space. Not one of the “safe spaces” that university students use to escape criticism but an actual safe space in which you can carry out the athletics required by Kung Fu without harming yourself. You want to clear an area so that there are no sharp edges and nothing on the floor. Make sure you have enough room to kick and punch freely and in some forms of Kung Fu, you’ll need room to jump about too. Put down a mat (these are cheap and easy to buy on the Internet) so that if you fall, you don’t hurt yourself. If you don’t have room for this at home – consider going outside for your practice.
- Consider investing in a punching bag. This can really help with training and while not every home can stand the stress of a bag being hung from the ceiling, you ought to be able to find a free-standing bag in a sports store near you. Battering on a bag won’t just help you practice kicks and punches – it feels good too.
- Develop a routine. If you went to a dojo, they would provide you with a training routine. If you learn Kung Fu from home, you’re going to have to develop your own training routine. Again, the ideal is to practice 3 times a week (at least) in sessions of around 90 minutes to 2 hours. Once you’ve developed your routine, you need to stick to it too. There’s going to be nobody but you, chasing you to get to class.
- Start by working on your balance and flexibility. That means warm up, do some stretches, go for a light job, do some jumping jacks and some sit ups and push-ups. Stretch out your muscles – this will make it much less likely that you injure yourself during the main event.
- Then work on stances. Stances are a way of standing that prepare you to fight with Kung Fu, they are a critical way to develop the skills for punching and kicking. So, try to get these right first.
- Then work on punches, kicks and blocks. It’s best to concentrate on one or two of these in each session rather than trying to do too many. Repeated practice is the best way to learn.
- When you’re not training physically, spend time learning the philosophy. Kung Fu is more than a fighting system, it’s a way of life. Learning the mental discipline associated with the art will help you get more out of it.
So is Kung Fu easy to learn? Yes, it’s certainly easy to get started with learning Kung Fu. You can attend a dojo near you or even start at home using books or videos to learn techniques from.
If you go to a dojo you can, over time, progress in the ranks and work toward mastery. Very few people will ever have the time to master Kung Fu in the way that Shaolin Monks do, mind you but then very few people start learning at the age of 5 like Shaolin Monks do, either.
That’s OK Kung Fu is best when it’s used for fun and self-defense rather than to be a “master”. The life of a Shaolin Monk is very hard, indeed. Yours doesn’t need to be.