The Chinese often claim that Northern martial arts are "long" while Southern ones are "short" - a stereotype that isn't entirely unjustified. Many Northern styles do feature deep stances, lunging punches, and high kicks. Southern arts often favor narrow stances, close-in punches, and low-line kicks. Explanations offered for this include the greater height of Northerners and the cramped quarters aboard Southern houseboats.
Weapons constitute another division. Northern stylists frequently encountered military and aristocratic arms - spears, polearms, and swords - thanks to their proximity to the capital (Beijing) and the Mongolian border. Southern fighters, generally commoners, favored everyday tools: staff, knife, cleaver ("butterfly sword"), etc.
As with most style splits, adaptations to specific needs and cross-pollination between styles make the divisions more traditional than actual. Nevertheless, "North vs. South" might generate the dramatic tension that drives a cinematic or mythic campaign!
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