Defining the best Shaolin Kung Fu is a tough question, considering the high quality of this martial art. I mean, people don’t teach it just to make money, they teach it for passion and love of art. Still, we should be able to focus in on how to isolate the best gung fu.
First, even thought they be interesting, we can usually dismiss such arts as Lohan Quan. The reason for this is because they are a different kind of kung fu. Wushu is actually a martial art that has been largely developed by the communist government of China, and one does not feel like learning something which has politically correct overtones, and from which the self defense techniques have been removed.
So we stick with the old styles of Chinese Gung Fu, the styles that leaked out of China before the great cultural revolution. These were the arts taught through the generations, passed from family member to family member in order to develop a true martial arts lineage. These are the Kung Fu styles in which the fires of true self defense techniques were considered as holy.
Many of these old Gung Fu schools claim they are descended from the Shaolin Temple, but there is no real proof that can be verified. Still, people accept certain martial arts styles as the real deal when it comes to these claims. Thus we end up with three specific martial arts which have good lineage, and present such high quality of Shaolin technique that they can be looked to as a possible answer to our question.
There are two types of Praying Mantis styles, the north and the south, and these can further be broken down into styles. The main feature of this style is the hooking and clawing movements, which enable one to keep an opponent trapped long enough to dispatch him. This is a strong contender, but tends to be a bit specialized.
There are also many styles of Wing Chun, which is the art made famous by Bruce Lee, and which features the close in handwork of the Sticky Hands exercise. Sticky Hands has possibly the best method for developing ‘closed eye’ intuition. It does have several weakness, such as immobile stances, workability concentrated in on specific distance, and so on.
A very strong martial art, but lacking some of the close quarter work of the previous arts considered, is Hung Gar. Hung Gar is very simliar to Choy Li Fut and Fut Ga, and other arts, and it is considered to be the most true shaolin style in China. For all it’s strength, however, it does reveal certain weaknesses, the main one being that the techniques don’t always fit real life situations.
Now, of the three arts, I believe Praying Mantis Gung Fu may have the upper hand. However, this is a personal opinion, and one should really study all three arts and concentrate on the points which interest one the most. Really, in the final analysis, the best Shaolin Kung fu is going to be that art which has been made personal, and which fits the the mind and frame of the student.