Header image courtesy of Hung Kuen Academy Hong Kong (via Facebook)
Be honest: have you ever pictured yourself in a fight, slashing and swooshing at the villain with your bare fists, then channelling your inner Bruce Lee as you kick them in the face? Besides pinning imaginary bad guys to the ground, practising Chinese martial arts can enhance your reflexes, coordination, balance, stamina, and ability to focus.
As the birthplace of numerous kung fu stars, Hong Kong is full of sifus who teach a variety of styles and schools. From Wing Chun to Shaolin Eagle Claw, we’ve rounded up some of the best places in the city to learn these traditional Chinese arts of self-defence.
Wing Chun is probably the first Chinese martial art that comes to mind, thanks to Ip Man, Bruce Lee, and various entertainment forms that popularised this kung fu style. As the closed-door disciple—or the last student—of the great grandmaster Ip Man, grandmaster Leung Ting developed his own trademarked style of Wing Chun by adding unique footwork, wrestling, and ground-fighting techniques to cover all aspects of modern self-defence.
He calls them the “missing page of the traditional Wing Chun style” and many professional judokas and boxers learned his style of the Chinese martial art at the International WingTsun Association. For details on class schedules, click here.
International WingTsun Association, 1/F, Tang’s Mansion, 438 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei
Grandmaster Wan Kam-leung is also dedicated to enhancing the traditional martial art. Based on the teachings of his sifu Wong Shun-leung, he modified Wing Chun to be more practical and suit combat, constantly tweaking the forms in his system of “practical Wing Chun” to perfect balance, structure, speed, and stability.
During the decades that he spent practising Wing Chun, Grandmaster Wan trained alongside Bruce Lee and even taught Stephen Chow the ropes. Get a taste of this unique style by joining a group class or a private one-on-one class, or check out classes that are designed specifically for children or women.
Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun International, 1/F, On Cheung Building, 456 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei
Behind an unassuming figure and a kind smile, grandmaster Sam Lau is a Wing Chun expert who can strike his opponent ferociously with seemingly simple movements of chi sau (黐手; “sticky hands”). Having studied under Moy Yat and Ip Man and later assisted the latter in teaching Wing Chun in 1969, Grandmaster Lau has over 50 years of experience. With a quick, precise, and straightforward style, he focuses on teaching forms and techniques that are simple but effective and don’t take hours to remember.
If you’re ready to dedicate yourself to Wing Chun, invest in a membership ($500) with eight classes per month. Looking for an active parent-child activity? The martial arts school also has a class for parents to learn and fight together with their kids ($700 per month).
Sam Lau Wing Chun, Flat F4, 3/F, Mirador Mansion, 58 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Besides gaining physical power, honing mental strength is just as important for martial artists. Inspired by the teachings of grandmaster Chu Shong-tin, the first-generation student of Ip Man, Mindful Wing Chun boasts of an “internal” style of the Chinese martial art that emphasises harmony within the body when moving.
One of the key forms students will practice is the siu nim tau (小念頭; “little idea”), the first and most important form of Wing Chun, which helps them to find structure and balance. The school provides classes ($1,100 per month) on all aspects of the art, plus more in-depth lessons on the basic forms and certain techniques, like chi sau and sparring.
Mindful Wing Chun, 8/F, On Lan Centre, 11–15 On Lan Street, Central
There is a common perception that tai chi is a slow-paced martial art practised by grandmas and grandpas clad in loose-fitting linen or satin suits. However, tai chi is not just for the old—its benefits of improving physical and mental health make this style perfect for any age.
Specialising in one of the five main styles of traditional tai chi, the Chen-style Tai Chi Institute offers basic and intensive courses (starting from $650) for students to understand and dive deeper into this martial arts form. Through meditation and powerful stances, tai chi can help you seek harmony between the mind and the body.
As the art is known for its health benefits, the school also provides a course focused on health and healing ($1,500 for four classes) that can be tailored to the student’s needs, whether that is chronic pain, sleep issues, or conditions in older age.
Chen-style Tai Chi Institute, Room 5, 11/F, 135 Bonham Strand Trade Centre, 135 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan
Chen style is the oldest and original form of tai chi but there are two other styles—the Wu and the Yang—that are more popular. In simple terms, the Chen style employs a combination of slow and quick movements, whereas the Yang style focuses more on the former, and the Wu style is characterised by stances that lean back and forth rather than staying straight.
At Tai Chi Place, courses ($420 for four lessons) on the basics of all three different styles are provided to students who want to explore the martial art. For those interested in Chinese meditation and breathing exercises, there is also a course on Baduanjin qigong.
Everybody young and old is kung fu fighting at Kung Fu Hong Kong (IWKA)! Backed by extensive experience and deep research into the principles and philosophy of Chinese martial arts, sifu Sergio Pascal Iadarola combined his knowledge of multiple lineages of Wing Chun from China and Southeast Asia into his modern teachings of different kung fu styles.
The martial arts school stresses the importance of learning kung fu from a young age and is dedicated to improving children’s endurance, flexibility, confidence, strength, and balance, but it also has classes for adults looking to gain some self-defence skills.
Kung Fu Hong Kong (IWKA), Unit 2B, Kam Hong Building, 285 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan
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Have you ever heard of the horse stance (馬步; mǎbù), one of the basic and most notable poses of kung fu? In Southern Chinese martial art Hung Kuen, also known as Hung Ga or Hung Ga Kuen, the horse stance is known to be done more intensively with a wider and deeper position (四平馬; sei3 ping4 maa5). The martial art belongs to the Shaolin styles and emphasises proficiency in both empty-hand and weapon training.
With strong stances and powerful punches and blocks, Hung Kuen is difficult and time-consuming to learn, as it may take months to years to perfect your foundation. But if you love a challenge, master Gam Bok Yin and his fellow instructors at Hung Kuen Academy can teach you all about this hardcore martial art. See here for details on classes.
Care to explore Chinese martial arts beyond the familiar styles? Hong Kong Chin Woo Athletic Association, a branch of the wushu organisation established in the name of martial arts hero Huo Yuanjia, offers various classes on lesser-known arts of Chinese self-defence. Over 100 years old, the organisation was created for learning Chinese martial arts methodically, improving overall health, and passing down traditions and culture.
Besides Mizongyi, the martial art that Huo Yuanjia made famous, the association also teaches a span of arts from the popular Wing Chun, tai chi, and Shaolin Eagle Claw to niche styles like Mu Nam Kuen and Yiquan. For the complete list of courses, see here.
Hong Kong Chin Woo Athletic Association, Flat B, 13/F, New Lucky House, 300 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei
Founded by a group of HKU alumni to promote Chinese martial arts as an everyday sport, the HKUCMAAA is open to all who are itching to throw some punches. The organisation offers classes in multiple styles, including tai chi, Baguazhang, and even women’s Wing Chun, and it also has masters skilled in the less popular styles of Chinese martial arts like Liuhebafa (water boxing), Choy Li Fut, and Northern Praying Mantis.
Whether you’re keen to learn an intensive and external style of kung fu, or looking to relax the body and mind through movements, there’s a class here that will suit your needs!
HKUCMAAA, Room A, 16/F, On Wah Industrial Building, 41/43 Au Pui Wan Street, Fo Tan