Most of the martial art schools in the Boston area are honest in their representations of who they are in relationship to what they teach. They openly proclaim that they teach Japanese judo or karate; Korean Tae Kwon Do or Hapkido; Filipino or Thai martial arts; etc. Many other schools, however, imply in one way or another that they are schools of Chinese martial art, when they are not. The roots of this deception lie in the early 1970's, prompted by the popularity of Bruce Lee and the original Kung Fu television series.
This situation leads to ridiculous displays. At recent tournaments in the Boston area there has been a kenpo school wearing Chinese outfits with karate rank belts, and competitors performing bizarre routines with Chinese weapons. Every tournament has the ubiquitous performers using the Chinese broadsword like a Japanese samurai sword [Katana], but recently a single "butterfly" knife has even been used this way! Then there is the Korean cult now passing itself off as a Chinese "KungFu" school because its leader is in prison. And how about the kenpo instructor who claims to be the official representative of the Songshan Shaolin Temple in the United States? Enough already!
An authentic school of Chinese martial art will have some immediate connection to China, or to a Chinese person. It will teach Chinese techniques and sets (forms) which tend to be flowing, whip-like, and varying in speed- unlike karate forms which tend to be plodding, unduly muscular, and continuously locking the joints and screaming through tensed muscles. Likewise, it will use Chinese weapons, and in an authentic manner. There will be no chromed or lighted staffs twirled like a cheerleader's baton; but wood or rattan ones used as single-ended or double-ended weapons. Broadswords will be used with authentic broadsword techniques- such as embracing, entwining, binding, and pressing- not ridiculous poses from the Power Rangers. You will not see people using samurai swords (offensive), nunchaku, sai, tonfa, or kama.
An authentic school of Chinese martial art will not be sporting judo/karate rank belts. It will not be wearing karate uniforms- no matter what the color! It will be wearing traditional Chinese clothing; or school T-shirts with dark-colored pants; or track suits; or street clothing; and soft shoes. If anything is worn about the waist, it will be a sash (to hold up the pants, or identify the school).
An authentic school of Chinese martial art will be embedded in Chinese history, culture, philosophy- and language. This goes well beyond hanging a few tourist trinkets on the walls, which no one in the school can read. Here I am going to let this subject go, for were I to delineate what is involved, these phony schools would read this and implement cosmetic changes within their schools, in a further attempt to deceive the public. Suffice it to say, however, that an authentic school of real Chinese martial art will use Chinese terms for their techniques, and Chinese names for their sets (forms)- not English, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese. The instructor of the authentic school will be at least conversant with Chinese language, history, culture, and philosophy.
An authentic school of Chinese martial art will teach a definite art, or arts. "Kung-Fu" is not the name of a martial art, but a generic term (like karate). An authentic school will not make some ridiculous claim to teach many complete martial arts, because this is impossible (unless they employ a large, multidisciplinary staff of instructors). It takes up to ten years of training under a qualified instructor to fully learn any martial art, and another ten years of practice to even begin to understand ("master") it. Additionally, each art has its own rationale: so many martial arts cannot be taught "as one", or even together. All great martial art masters have stuck with one or two systems within their lifetimes. Beware of anyone who professes to teach more than one, two, or three (at most) martial arts. You can be almost certain that you will be taught these many arts either superficially or incorrectly.
It is also useful to point out that no authentic Chinese martial art contains the word, Shaolin, in its name. Shaolin is a generic term for hundreds of arts which are in the Shaolin tradition, to one extent or another. Also, kenpo (kempo) is not a Chinese martial art: it is an American chop suey of purloined techniques and forms, with a history only extending back to Hawaii in the 1940's. Putting the word, Shaolin (or Chinese), before the word kenpo (kempo), does not change this reality. Including the word, karate, as a suffix, further serves to illustrate the absurd American nature of the art. It is not that kenpo is a bad martial art, it is just not Chinese.
It is critically important that you choose the best school in which to begin your training. The habits which are ingrained into you during the first six-months-to-a-year of training are very difficult to ever erase from your nervous system. Should you allow yourself to come under the sway of someone who does not know what they are doing, you will probably never be able to undo the damage that was done to you. On the other hand, if you choose the right school, everything you additionally encounter over the years will be assimilated with ease and grace; and build on- not contradict- your initial training. Do not be taken in by people who pretend to teach what they do not, just to get their hands on your money.