Chinese martial arts have a history that spans four millennia. They originated as rudimentary fighting for survival and evolved into highly sophisticated methods of combat.
These methods developed in an outdoor environment, either for use on the battlefield in mass warfare or for individual combat. In both cases, some sort of footwear was necessary. Therefore shoes have always been part of the standard training garb in Chinese martial arts.
Even today in China and Taiwan most training is done outdoors and often not in ideal weather conditions. It is only the large professional schools that provide indoor training facilities. Even in the US and other Western countries, training shoes are always worn.
On the other hand, styles such as Karate and Taekwondo have largely been developed and practiced in an indoor environment where it is a cultural custom to remove one’s footwear when entering a household or training structure. It is well to keep in mind that the Samurai of Japan and the Hwarang of Korea certainly did not fight barefoot but they wore different types of footwear.
In our school, traditionally called Guan (館) and pronounced Kwoon, I require that students remove their street shoes before entering the training floor, and also that proper training shoes be worn in class.
Not only because its tradition to do so, but because a good martial arts training shoe offers support and provides better balance. In addition, we do a lot of stretching exercises on the floor so it is unsanitary and disrespectful to wear everyday sneakers or street shoes to class. Similarly, it is unacceptable to train barefoot.