Choy Lay Fut is often thought to be a vast and complex system of martial arts by both the casual observer and even many students of the system. This line of thinking can be attributed to a large quantity of empty hand and weapons forms practiced by the various schools teaching the system. The number of forms practiced by an individual Choy Lay Fut practitioner can range from only a few to well over forty. If you take into account all the variations and unique forms created by and taught by the different lineages of the system the number of empty hand and weapons forms can easily number in the hundreds. If you include the different apparatus training sets and partner drills, the sheer volume of the system can become such that even a diligent practitioner can seem overwhelmed. The key to making effective use of this vast library of material is through an understanding of the systems core concepts.
Approaching the system as a conceptual method will allow the Choy Lay Fut practitioner to cut through the vast quantity of material and understand how to effectively apply the system in combat. The conceptual method of training a martial art can be compared to learning a new language. Learning only forms and techniques with no understanding of the concepts behind them is similar to attempting to communicate in a foreign language using a phrase book. You may be able to ask specific questions like “where is the bathroom” but you will not be able to express your own ideas and converse fluently. The conceptual method of learning a martial art is similar to learning a foreign language in its entirety. You begin with the core concepts which can be compared to an alphabet then you move on to combining concepts together which is like forming words. Finally you can put together combinations and apply these concepts where they are needed and, in essence, converse freely with your opponent.
Core concepts in the Choy Lay Fut system include the 10 elements, the 5 kicks, asterisk footwork and gate theory. These theories form the basis of the system.