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Animal Forms

Kung Fu Animal Forms

Five Animal Styles of Kung Fu:


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 ones.

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 and Southern.

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 to man.

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.


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