The original five animals of Kung Fu were Leopard,
Crane, Tiger, Snake and Dragon.These originally represented the five classical Chinese elements before developing into their
own Styles.Leopard is water, Snake is usually earth,Tiger is metal, Crane is wood and Dragon is fire.Since they were derived
from the Five Elements, they are kept in this pattern.In later notes we will focus on a particular animal or element, its
origins and Forms and Movements of each Style.
Dragon(long-ying), represents the spirit of Nature never revealing itself in full form.The Dragon is said to
have overpowering strength.Unlike its Western counterpart, the Chinese Dragon is a benevolent creature, and has nine physical
characteristics.These are the eyes of a rabbit, ears of a cow, horns of a deer, head of a camel,body of a giant snake, belly
of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of an eagle,paws of a tiger.Chinese historians believe that the Dragon originated from
different animal Totems of primitive tribes in ancient China.When one tribe conquered another, it added the animal Totem of
that tribe to its own.The animal Totem of the first tribe that unified China became the Dragon.
In Hung Gar, Dragon training symbolises the pinnacle in both external and internal development and aims to cultivate
the Spirit.Dragon movements rely on ligament strength rather than muscle power.For this internal training, some moves are
performed using the unique”Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma” or Triangle stance, so called because the feet and legs resemble
a triangle in this stance.This powerful stance helps to sink the Chi to the Dan Tien or energy centre of the body, which is
located just below the navel.
There is precious little written material available about the snake kung fu styles, although
they are foundation sets in traditional Shaolin, family styles, and are incorporated in a host of peripheral schools such
as Hung Gar, Pa Kua and T'ai Ch'i Chuan. It is possibly because of the near-universal inclusion of snake techniques in Chinese
and other styles that little specific attention has been paid to the style. In the Shaolin kung fu system, the snake's position
between other styles (above Crane and Tiger and just below Mantis and Dragon) illustrates its intermediary nature. It is distinguished
from the styles below it by the introduction of circular movement in its parries and attacks. This introduction of circles
characterizes the transition to a higher style. The circles themselves can be compared to the dynamic of yang and yin in Taoism.
Circular attacks (viewed as yin) are countered by direct attacks (yang). Similarly, straight techniques are countered by circular
Snake kung fu styles probably developed among the first codified martial arts creations. The
emphasis on hitting weak points along the ch'i meridians suggests that such meridians and primal acupuncture had already been
worked out. The modern snake kung fu style is actually an amalgamation of older styles which have now died out. Its range
of technique, however, reflects the influence of each of these three styles. Viper consisted of intimidating strikes that
could inflict heavy psychological damage by drawing lots of blood without causing life-threatening damage. Its trademark was
the tongue strike--two fingers aiming often at arteries and veins. Cobra, in contrast, did not emphasize highly recognizable
or showy techniques but rather very serious strikes to nerves and pressure points. Its characteristic hand technique was an
open hand with the thumb curled underneath in order to maintain dynamic tension. Python, in addition, relied on the leopard
fist for its pinpoint strikes and included grappling. The two universal aspects of snake techniques are pin-point open-hand
strikes and twisting arm postures to disguise one’s line of attack.
Most snake kung fu practitioners use an upright, mobile stance and rely less on horse-stance
than most other styles. The mobile stance allows for rapid advances and sidestepping footwork. Additionally, snake stylists
don't trade blows, or "tough-out" attacks. Using fast, alternating hand jabs, the practitioner drills at an opponent, sidesteps
counterattacks, and drives home his attack. There are some stylistic variations, such as one Fukien-based style that employs
low sweeps (and is thus an exception to the general rule of sweeps being confined to Northern styles).
It is this adherence to unassuming stances and rapid attack that make snake such a deceptively
simple-looking kung fu style. Snake stylists are taught to spring from rest posture to full attack; there are no preparatory
stances or "threatening" gestures. If attacked, the snake stylist bobs and weaves, looking much like anyone else, until an
opening presents itself. The strikes then fly quickly, in succession, hitting the same opening over and over. Should the attacker
block one of these snake-strikes, the snake changes targets and continues its barrage. Kicks are low, snappy, and aimed at
the shins, knee, or top of foot.
Praying Mantis Kung Fu
Praying Mantis Kung Fu uses guards, strikes, and footwork that look similar to the way a praying mantis
attacks its prey or any unwelcome visitors. There are two completely different versions of Praying Mantis Kung Fu : Northern
Northern style is characterized by fast hand movements. The hook hands are found in all the northern
sub-styles. Northern Tang Lang Chuen's main weapon is the blinding speed of the hand trying to control and punch the opponent.
It has a balanced combination of circular and straight movements. There are simultaneous block and punch and strong chopping
punches. Grappling, kicking, nerve-attack and weapons complete the northern branch.
In Southern Praying Mantis, Movements are continuous and circular, soft and hard, except in attack,
where the middle knuckle (phoenix eye) of the index finger is used like a needle to pierce the internal organs.
About 350 to 400 years ago, in eastern Shantung Province of China, a monk named Wong Long went beyond
his Shaolin Kung Fu teachings to create a fighting system that has passed the test of time and is second-to-none. Praying
Mantis Kung Fu has been inspired by a fight between a cicada and a praying mantis. The mantis, with its, motionless stance,
waited patiently for its prey to move within striking range. Suddenly, the scissors-like action of the mantis's front claws
snared the attacking cicada immobilizing the larger insect before the mantis devoured it. Fortunately for the thousands of
martial artists to follow him, Wong Long returned home and observed the emerald green mantis' techniques as it fought various
insects. In this way Wong Long replicated and adapted the creature's style into one of the most devastating martial arts known
Gaining the understanding of the Forms by practicing
its moves and visualizing the purpose of those moves is just the beginning. The practitioner needs to apply the moves learned
from the Forms onto a control fight so that if and when the time comes, the practitioner may use said moves without hesitation.
First, after learning the Form, it is essential for the practitioner to select a sequence of moves (7 or more moves)
from said Form making the sequence of moves into one technique. Second, the practitioner (without a sparring partner)
will practice that newly developed technique visualizing the moves being used within an imaginary fight. This technique is
first practiced at a slow pace and slowly increasing speed as the practitioner becomes more comfortable and proficient
with the moves. Total awareness of the moves, body posture, and balance is maintained throughout the exercise. Finally, the
practitioner begins to practice this newly acquired technique in a control fight. The practitioner, during class, when practicing
with a sparring partner or when called to fight in his class, uses only the newly learned technique concentrating only in
the full execution of the technique just as when the technique was being practice without a sparring partner. The longer the
practitioner practices the technique with his sparring partner, the easier it will be for the sparring partner to block and
avoid the blows by the practitioner. The ability of the sparring partner to block or evades the practitioner's technique,
allows the practitioner to increase the speed and the force of the technique. The selection, development, proficient
execution, and mixing of several techniques by the practitioner is the fighting goal of a practitioner.
It does not
matter that the practitioner is not able to "hit" the sparring partner with the execution of any of the techniques.
What matters is the speed, and proper execution of the techniques. When the practitioner encounters a real threat and uses
in defense any of the techniques previously practiced, execution of the techniques should be in the same fashion as performed
in the school. Only that at such time, a stranger is in front of the practitioner and not the trained sparring partner.
Rest assure that when properly executed, if the technique is made up of 7 or more moves, the stranger may be able to block
or avoid 1 or 2 blows of the technique but the rest of the blows will find its target. This is not to say that the practitioner
does not run the risk of being hit. In a fight, both of the fighters will get hit.
The key to walk away in victory
from a fight is the ability to minimize the blows and the location of the blows you receive while maximizing the blows you
deliver. We train not to score "hits" on our sparring partners. We train so that when we face a real threat we are sure
to properly execute our techniques to neutralize or eliminate the threat.
The crane is only a bird, and yet he is
a bird with a reputation for longevity and extraordinary libido. Since an excess of libido denotes an abundance of energy
within the body, and since the crane also represents longevity, he was chosen to be one of the Shaolin animals. It is believed
the crane lives a long life because his body contains a great amount of jing. Jing is the Chinese word for essential energy,
but also translates to libido. The crane develops his jing easily, since he is a calm, quiet animal whose powers of concentration
are not easily broken. An example of the cranes patience and concentration is his ability to stand for hours on just one leg,
without shifting his weight.
Training in the Shaolin crane form was designed
to help the martial artist hold his inside energy and consequently increase his strength, both internally and externally .it
helps to develop his chi internally and at the same time hardens bone and muscle. The crane has the same calm, quiet nature
as the snake. And as with the snake, all crane movements are useful for overthrowing and controlling the opponent easily and
with minimum effort.
All crane form techniques are circular movements.
They are always soft and relaxed. However, they still explode with quick, sudden power upon contact with the target. There
are both long and short hand techniques, the short hand movements are often joint locking techniques .the long movements generally
involve strikes to vital areas. The crane is useful training for stretching and strengthening arms and fingers. Practising
the crane form also improves balance and speed, since the movements are quick and active, utilising a loose, supple waist
with light balanced footwork. There are several specialised training procedures in the crane form a lot of which involve
strengthening the fingers for finger tip strikes.Also since the practitioner needs strong ankles the martial artist would
often use ankle weights to strengthen the legs and enhance the balance.The spirit of a crane is one of deep, relaxed concentration,
which encourages development of focus and intent within the Shaolin crane student.