Studying martial arts in China vs. Taiwan?

I’ve never been to China or Taiwan yet. I’ve been looking to study kung fu and I’ve seen that there are a lot of schools, not just the Shaolin Temple but other, smaller schools as well, in China that accept Westerners who come to study martial arts full-time. They live at the school and everything. Now, does that same kind of structure exist in Taiwan? Is there anywhere you can go to stay and really focus on training the same way? I’ve been looking online and haven’t been able to find any kung fu schools in Taiwan that are similar, or even any that have part of their website in English so I can understand what they offer.

Is there anyone that has studied martial arts in both countries that can give me a rundown?

I came to Taiwan over ten years ago specifically to lean Chinese internal martial arts and i spent a significant portion of that time doing just that. There are differences between Taiwan and China and things to consider in coming to Asia to study martial arts, in general.

First, no there is no place in Taiwan that offers a living space and training together. The mainland has these things to attract foreign $$$ and that’s what it’s all about. Foreigners come here with stars in their eyes (I did too) about Asia being a martial arts wonderland with a shaolin monk around every corner. The mainlanders capitalize on that very well and charge accordingly. You could afford years of tuition in Taiwan at most places for what some of the mainland places charge.

Second, quality is an issue everywhere. Many mainland places are teaching modern wushu under the guise of traditional. Those former wushu players need to earn a living. It’s extremely hard to find pure traditional style in the mainland unless you know someone. In Taiwan, traditional is all we have and the flavor is very much “old style” if that appeals to you. The traditional stuff here is very good.

Where you go depends on your goals. In Taiwan, studying martial arts is a long term thing and you’ll have to live here many years to get it. On the mainland, you face the problems I mentioned above, but you can have a wonderful short-term experience in one of their martial arts camps. Sure, maybe it’s tourist-y but you get the experience and some training and then leave with a positive impression. If you stay in China or Taiwan for long, you’ll have to shape your entire life around that endeavor. As someone that did that, I absolutely DO NOT recommend it. Long term, the sacrifice is too great and the return may not live up to the investment.

I’ve warned countless people about this and they never listen, but the main lesson to keep in mind is be realistic. Look at what you’re investing in learning and compare that to how it will impact your career and future life.

saltydeath,Welcome to forumosa.

Could you give us a bit more info to work with? How long are you planning to stay in Taiwan/China? Do you have any martial arts experience?

The reality is that nowadays there is no real need to travel from the West to Asia to learn martial arts; this is because many Chinese have moved overseas to our home countries, and many Westerners have taken their kung fu skills learned in Asia back to the West. Studying martial arts in the East has an exotic appeal and it’s an adventure but it’s not going to produce better results than training at home.

Formosa fitness, fantastic post - spot on, and showing brutal self-awareness.

Salty -
I will second the advice FF is giving to you. He is talking from experience.
On Taiwan there are, now, the sons and daughters and principal students of many “traditional” martial masters who came to the island after the communists took over. Most, if not all, of the "old Masters’ are dead by now.
Also, a lot of these people have re-located to the USA, England, France and other parts of Europe/Asia where they can make a living - either teaching martial arts or otherwise.

There are good traditional teachers here. But you have to know what it is you want to learn.
Health? - Chi Kung?
Tai Chi forms - (what style/family?)
Tai Chi Chuan fighting?
Pa Kua?
Judo? - don’t laugh. A good judoka will kick ass in a NY minute.
Karate? - styles influenced by Japanese types with some TKD also available.
Chuan Fa? - Chinese boxing

Something else?

There are some very accomplished ‘traditional’ teachers here and you might be surprised at who they are. The ‘traditional’ arts were designed for either health/body maintenance/longevity or fighting. Fighting is hard stuff.

Pay attention to those around you and you will probably find the teacher you are looking for.
Maybe - maybe not. Its a journey.

Thanks folks.

I have enough saved up to take a year off, maybe more if I teach some English. I don’t really have any desire to come back to the states if I can help it. I’ve taken a lot of different martial arts in the past, a few years of tae kwon do, a few years of aikido, and some kung fu. Right now I’m training in this Russian martial art called Systema, which I like a lot.

I’m interested in martial arts for self-defense (not tournaments) but I’m also interested in the internal arts like bagua and chi kung to help with my meditation. What I didn’t like about kung fu when I took it in the US was that I felt like it got to be kind of a racket with all of the weapons I was supposed to buy as I progressed, things like the kwan dao which don’t really approximate anything on the street in any way. I like that Systema doesn’t have any rankings or require you to buy any gear, and I’ve heard that the belt system for kung fu that we have here doesn’t really exist in China and Taiwan.

So, in short I’m looking for how to find someone that teaches traditional kung fu along with maybe some bagua and qigong. And I’m looking for how to not get hustled by some wushu snake-oil salesman.

Hope that answers it, and thanks again for the help.

It looks to me like the teacher you are looking for is Luo Dexiu. He teaches Bagua, Xingyi, and Taijiquan just outside of Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall (in central Taipei), and his Internal Arts are still “martial” arts. They even include sparring as part of what they do there. Everyone I know who has trained with him greatly enjoys what he does, and I haven’t really heard any complaints. Perhaps others know more about him?

Check these out:

I think there is some stuff of his on Youtube as well.

Luo is great but his system is huge. It takes usually about 5 years to start understanding it.

For the self-defense aspect, you’re much better learning in the States. Seriously. Almost no one in the the traditional community here is doing that, certainly nothing like systema. The traditional systems here are about forms mostly because the second generation is trying to preserve what the first generation brought over.

Learning under someone that spent significant time here is a better option. Tim Cartmell is world famous and a student of Luo’s plus he’s a 2nd degree black belt in BJJ. I’ve talked with him and he’s an excellent option. If you’re going to move to learn, you may as well go to LA and check him out.

Here’s a short clip of him.