Similar But Not Alike
What are the differences between Jow Ga and Hung Gar? How similar or different are they?
Hung Gar and Jow Ga are two Chinese martial arts styles that get mixed up. Both are amazing to watch. Both styles are dangerous.
In effect, there are many traits both traditional kung fu styles share.
Hung Gar and Jow Ga both come from Guandong province, both are famous for their horse and cross stances, their lion dances, their short-sleeved shirts, and their speed and power.
Conversely, similarity does not mean alike.
Granted, Hung Gar and Jow Ga are both a five-animal Shaolin-style system. Except, out of the five animals, Hung Gar favors the tiger and crane whereas Jow Ga favors the tiger and leopard.
Both kung fu styles were honorable mentions on my top ten kung fu styles list. Hung Gar almost made it.
Hung Gar is more famous thanks to kung fu cinema. Jow Ga? Give it time. I hope one day someone will make a film showcasing Jow Ga.
I am a fan of both styles although I am more familiar with Jow Ga. After all, Jow Ga is king in the Washington, DC area and one of the most popular styles on the East Coast.
Indeed, some of my biggest competition rivals were Jow Ga practitioners.
Today, let’s look at what makes each kung fu style effective in battle and great for self-defense. But especially to what separates them.
Hung Gar is About Explosive Power
The older the martial art, the more myths and legends surround it. Hung Gar, a kung fu style born four centuries ago, is no different.
It is believed Hung Gar was created by Jee Sin Sim See, a Shaolin monk who survived the destruction of the Shaolin Temple. Jee Sin Sim See taught Hung Hei-gun the black tiger fist.
Hung Hei-gun was the creator of Hung Gar Kuen.
There are stories he named the style after Hung Mun, a secret society that opposed the Qin Dynasty. Hung Mun itself was formed by survivors of the Shaolin Temple.
Hung Gar is famous for its strength training using iron rings in the forearms. Their horse stance does not only build strong legs, but it also creates powerful strikes.
Hung Gar‘s tiger claw is no joke. Neither is their bridge hand or bridging techniques.
You see, the Hung Gar stylists not only attack but counterattack by pivoting by 180 degrees. Or like my sifu would say, “buy one get one free”.
They also train in most Shaolin weapons but they are famous for their tiger hooks and tiger fork.
And yet, despite its legendary lineage stretching to the 17th century, Hung Gar‘s modern popularity is due to the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung from Quanzhou City.
Wong Fei-hung had been portrayed on the big screen by a who’s-who of kung fu cinema (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, Gordon Liu, and Eddie Peng). Once Upon a Time in China, anyone?
By the way, Hung Gar is not only about power. They also cultivate internal qigong. But it takes years of training to achieve that level.
Jow Ga is a Flowing Hybrid Style
Unlike Hung Gar, Jow Ga is a more recent style since it was created in the early 20th century.
Jow Ga was founded by Jow Lung, born in 1891 in Guangdong province. He died in 1919 at the young age of twenty-eight.
Jow Lung had four brothers who were also martial artists.
Jow Ga is a hybrid style combining two amazing kung fu styles, Choy Gar and Hung Gar. That would make it a relative of Choy Li Fut.
Not only it combines a Northern Shaoling style with a Southern one but this reflects on its fighting application.
They say Choy is the tail and Hung Gar is the head. Hence, their kicks and sweeps are fast and long (they kick higher than Hung Gar).
Whereas Hung Gar is about explosive power and strength, Jow Ga is more about speed and flow (that Northern Shaolin influences).
Similarly (this is my opinion), it is more practical in combat. The way their cross stances bridge the distance between fighter and opponent and deflect attacks is a thing of beauty.
Likewise, Jow Ga practices all Shaolin weapons but their double sword/double saber sets are spectacular.
Jow Ga is very popular around the world, particularly in Singapore and Vietnam. In Latin America, only Brasil has schools.
Finally, Jow Ga is renowned for its drumming style lion dance. And yet, I am always blown away by their bow. The stylish way they bow before beginning their taolu is simply beautiful and graceful. And yes, it made me jealous.
So, which style should you study?
The Link Between Hung Gar and Jow Ga
First, let us recognize you could not have Jow Ga without Hung Gar. Jow Ga borrows from the older style.
Nonetheless, Jow Ga is not Hung Gar just like modern English is not Old English.
Granted, it is easy to mix them up since their uniforms, stances, and techniques bear similarities. Still, despite the linguistic similarities, no one would confuse English with the Old English of the 6th-century Angle Germanic tribe.
Martial arts evolve. They are not static. Tradition and lineages matter in martial arts but they must also adapt to modern times.
Thus, which one should you study? It depends. Both are valid self-defense systems.
If you want to stop your attacker with one strike, go with Hung Gar. If you want to frustrate your opponent, go with Jow Ga.
Likewise, if you prefer swordplay to long weapons, go with Jow Ga, and vice versa.
In the end, both kung fu styles are family. I think Hun Hei-gun, Jow Lung, and Wong Fei-hung would have been friends if they were contemporaries. After all, they had the same goal: to protect the people from bandits and invaders.
To conclude, Hung Gar and Jow Ga are kung fu cousins. How cool is that?
Reader, are you a fan of Hung Gar or Jow Ga? What do you like about them?