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Saturday, June 22, 2024

The 5 Kung Fu Animal Styles of the Chinese Martial Arts

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In legend: “It protects treasure, defends against famine and floods, and is filled with ancient wisdom and folklore,” Rob Moses says.


Kung Fu Animal Style #1: Tiger

Training: push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics, sparring, chi-development exercisesShaolin saying: “Bend fingers hard, like iron.”Characteristics: strength, agility; considered one of the two most powerful animals in Chinese astrologyStrategy: uses quick, snapping kicks that hit with the blade of the foot; uses the full fist and the forearms to strike; may combine physical techniques of the other Shaolin animalsIn legend: “It’s nature’s master of precision and prowess—sharp, efficient and lightning fast,” Rob Moses says.Characteristics: strong, efficient, fast, technical, defined by accuracy, capable of stealth attacksTrademark: dragon-tail kick, which is used to hit or sweep; dragon claw, which positions the digits in a flatter orientation than does the tiger clawTrademark: snake hand, which uses one or two fingers—or, in the case of the spearhand, all of them—to attack and defendPhysical requirements: relaxed muscles, supple strength, ability to quickly retract the arms and legs after a strike

Kung Fu Animal Style #2: Leopard

In legend: “It has extreme chi power, which helps activate profound sensitivity and enables all the muscles to work as one,” Rob Moses says.Strategy: strikes quickly to inflict pain, then follows up for the killTraining: striking drills that develop accuracy and precisionCharacteristics: strong, smart, deceptive, unpredictable; includes traits of the other four Shaolin animals; considered one of the two most powerful animals in Chinese astrology and the sign of the emperorTargets: soft areas such as the eyes, throat, ears and heart; sides of the head; ribsShaolin saying: “Dragon fist trains the spirit.”Physical requirements: tall, long reach, ability to remain still for extended periods, good balance, concentration, minimal strengthTargets: soft-tissue regions and other vital areas, including the ears, neck, armpits, temples and groinTargets: vital parts of the body, especially the eyes, face and throat

Kung Fu Animal Style #3: Crane

Strategy: relies on awareness, employs coiling motions and hisses to intimidate, uses whipping toe kicks to the lower half of the opponent’s body, utilizes simultaneous striking and locking techniques, avoids using the traditional fistStrategy: relies on awareness, employs coiling motions and hisses to intimidate, uses whipping toe kicks to the lower half of the opponent’s body, utilizes simultaneous striking and locking techniques, avoids using the traditional fistPopularity: highFrom Your Site ArticlesStrategy: keeps the opponent at a distance and capitalizes on the length of the arms and legs, tends to strike with the very end of the natural weapons, attempts to overwhelm the enemy with rapid hand strikes, evades using circular movementsPopularity: mediumPhysical requirements: relaxed muscles, ability to switch from soft movements to hard movementsIn legend: “It offers the power to shake the earth and to be the authoritative king of its lair,” kung fu master Rob Moses says.Trademark: leopard paw, a half-fist that strikes with the second knuckles of the four fingers. It’s a rigid weapon that makes contact with a small, penetrating surface.Characteristics: evasive, rarely offense-oriented, subtle, graceful

Kung Fu Animal Style #5: Dragon

Training: drills to build explosive powerTargets: any body part that can be grabbed; the head, which is simultaneously grabbed and struckTraining: drills to increase explosiveness, which enables one to take the opponent by surprise; exercises that enhance balance and accuracyShaolin saying: “Hard like steel and soft like a rope of silk.”Popularity: rarePopularity: high (for tiger), rare (for black tiger)To longtime readers of Black Belt, Steve DeMasco needs no introduction. A student of the martial arts since 1968, he’s been a fixture in the magazine since his debut in the February 1998 issue. Over the ensuing years, he’s espoused his views on the physical and philosophical sides of the Shaolin fighting arts—specifically, Shaolin kempo. At the end of 1998, he was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. In the following article, the New Hampshire-based master, who serves as Shaolin Temple’s cultural ambassador to the United States, continues the topic he started in his March 2007 Shaolin Path column by describing and demonstrating the self-defense techniques of the five animals of the Chinese arts.Popularity: mediumTraining: mobility-enhancing drills to develop the ability to maintain distance between oneself and the opponent, speed training, quick retraction of natural weapons, chi-development exercises

Shaolin saying: “The spirit of the crane resides within the stillness.”Strategy: tends to charge the opponent and attack directly with brute force, uses circular arm movements to overwhelm the enemy, relies on the arms but occasionally uses low kicks

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