Though there are many martial arts that have been influence by animals, some animals make more sense on the surface than others. Take the Bull for example. This animal is known for its raw power and aggressiveness. It makes sense that there is a popular martial art based on it. But is this the case? Is there a Bull style in the martial arts?
There is a Bull style Kung Fu, though it is not one of the more popular systems. This is mainly due to the power and size generally needed to pull off its techniques against all types of opponents. There are also martial arts events done directly with bulls that borders on the weird.
Though there is some historical references claiming to trace the Bull Kung Fu style back to Chinese military practices centuries ago, the relation to styles like Muay Thai, Boxing, and other straight forward, power based striking systems gives credence to its techniques having a long history. Read more about Bull style’s foundational set of techniques.
What Is Bull Kung Fu?
Though there are two etymological lines that formed the usage of the word ‘bully’, one of them without much doubt came from the words surrounding a bull. Most understand what is meant if someone is said to have a bullish personality. So, does this translate to a style of martial art named after the same animal?
Bull Kung Fu is practiced as a powerful striking style that utilized strength and size applied to straight line hand, elbow, and knee strikes. The style is similar to a cross between Muay Thai and American style football. There is also a hint of ice hokey with body blocks and ramming.
Another less developed part of the system is the use of the head to strike, ram, or direct the opponent. Though it is not a fully developed head butting technique within the system, one can imagine the impact seeing that both the sport of ice hockey and American football require regulation helmets for all players.
Though the art is designed for larger practitioners, this doesn’t mean that it is something that smaller students can’t use to their benefit. What this does mean is that it may be a sub-style or additive to an art more suited to their body types.
Unlike many of the animal systems found in Kung Fu, Bull style does not rely on circular motions. Instead it develops along a linear or angular footwork pattern using timing, faints, and misdirection followed by full out charges and overwhelming power attacks.
To read more about the animal arts and influences from around the world, see my article here…
Is Bull Kung Fu The Rarest Martial Art?
There are so many animal styles in the Chinese martial art systems that it even surprises me, a 30 year veteran of the martial arts. One of the things that I find so interesting about many of these rare styles is how similar they are to any individual carving out a set of techniques from much larger styles to make it their own.
The Bull style of Kung Fu may not be the rarest, but is definitely a rare style . Compared to Tiger or even Monkey style kung Fu it is fairly unknown. When comparing it to hugely popular systems like Taekwondo or Judo and their attached sports, its following seems miniscule.
Rare though doesn’t mean less valuable or usable. Many of the sports that have similar techniques as Bull style gained such a following because of what their leaders geared them to be… sports.
With a fan base in a sport you have ready practitioners on all levels from novice to master levels ready to train in it.
This leads us to another point about the Bull style as well as other rare arts. Many of them share most of their techniques with more popular systems, even if they were developed over a different historical timeline. Bull style has several core techniques in common with the hugely popular Muay Thai kickboxing system.
This points to the power of spectator sports rather than the inherent effectiveness of either style. Though to be fair, there is definitely something to be said for the power of martial sport to test techniques and the students of them in the adrenal state.
Sport is just not the sole measure of a system.
Who Is Master Bull?
There may or may not be an actual human master named Master Bull in history. You would be surprised how those sort of names stick, but we simply do not have credible evidence of one existing. What we do have it a Master Bull in the realm of children’s entertainment. Where can we find this Master Bull?
In the DreamWorks Animated film series Kung Fu Panda, there is a cameo by a Master Bull. This may or may not be a reference to the Bull Style of Kung Fu. He is known as the master of the ‘Hammering Headache Technique’. He was also noted as participating in a past tournament at the Jade Palace.
He makes an appearance in the online Kung Fu Panda game as a summoned character. His role was essentially to usher in a minigame and did not play a significant role in the overall gameplay.
Kung Fu Bullfighting?
Soooooo, yeah. There actually is a such thing as Kung Fu Bullfighting. I guess you could call it a sport of sorts, but with so few practitioners (and spectators for that matter) it may not be many people’s cup of tea.
Kung Fu Bullfighting is a rare, small sport that pits a man against a bull in a type of wrestling contest. The human attempts to force the bull to lay down which is against the natural tendencies of the animal. Bulls are not harmed in Kung Fu Bullfighting like they are in the Spanish version.
The problem with taking these sorts of things seriously is that they are made to give the appearance of a competition between man and beast, but usually end up just exploiting the animals.
Not only this, it doesn’t take an experienced martial artist to see that the techniques used to wrestle these hand raised bulls to the ground is not the same as the techniques needed against a random bull at a full sprint towards someone climbing into their pasture.
There are also animal advocacy groups that sound the alarm when watching either the Spanish gruesome version of Bullfighting or this one. Though the injuries are not the same in Kung Fu Bullfighting, there could still be some exploitation issues.
The Bull Kung Fu Style Takeaway…
There are many styles that share the basic power striking format of Bull style Kung Fu. These styles may have influenced one another, but more than likely came out of the same set of circumstances, just in different cultures and times.
What the Bull Kung Fu style does is take the most powerful short range techniques, add gap closers to cover the distance, and use overwhelming strength and size to augment the technique base’s effectiveness.
There are many other styles around the world that do similar things. It is also not clear if the name originated because of a study of the animal or if it was simply deemed as an apt name for a system that had bullish tendencies.
Learn more about the animal systems in the martial arts here…