Five Animals Kung Fu
Dragon is an internal, Qi cultivating style and is characterized by grabbing, breaking and locking techniques using apposing thumb and fingers. The style combines the elements of the four other animals. If you are ever lucky enough to have Shifu Zhao Hui demonstrate the dragon claw strangle on your throat it is something you will never forget. The Dragon ('Long') style represents the cultivation of the spirit. Pronounced back arches, side horse stances and twisting body postures feature strongly in the style. Flexibility and graceful movements are stressed.
Tiger is the largest and most powerful and tends to charge the opponent and attack directly with brute force using circular arm movements to overwhelm the opponent. The hand shape resembles a tiger claw which is used to strike and rip. The spirit of the tiger is fierce and fearless and is best used when an opponent is smaller or weaker. The Tiger ('Fu') does not need to defend, it is the ultimate predator. It has no evasion techniques, no blocking or defence. In any confrontation it leaps into attack going for the quick and direct resolution of the conflict. The Tiger uses any simple and direct approach. Its techniques and methods are easily understood with not a lot of strategic thinking or planning; and absolutely no preparation. The Tiger is purely reactive. The tiger style emphasises the training of the bones and has movements characterised by use of the shoulders and the waist held strongly.
Leopard is smaller and not as powerful as the tiger, it relies more on speed and accuracy with its strikes and targets: soft-tissue regions and other vital areas such as the neck and temple. The Leopard uses the second set of knuckles to strike in order to reach areas that a traditional fist shape could not access. The Leopard ('Bao') style represents bravery and martial ferocity. It requires the development of strength and features a strong waist and lower extremities. The leopard style also requires the development of power and speed and swift penetrating strikes.
Snake has no fists and relies on coiling motions and rapid and accurate striking to the vital parts of the body, especially the eyes, face and throat using the ends of the fingers to emulate the snakes head. The snake utilizes simultaneous striking and locking techniques to evade and strike at the same time assuring that the practitioner has a high chance of causing extreme damage with little strength. Like the crane, the snake style can be used against a more powerful opponent. The Snake ('Se') style emphasises the development of 'chi' and employs highly accurate strikes to vital areas. Classic snake style is characterised by the use of flexibility, elasticity and diagonal movements. Snake style attacks employ shooting hand attacks striking to the opponent's venerable regions. To practice Snake the practitioner must spend a lot of time working on accuracy and precision. He/she must be 100% in timing, distancing, effort, target and opportunity. They may use some distracting, swaying motions, occasional feints (each executed as if it were a real attack, which it could be) but that is as complex as it gets.
Crane is a skinny hollow boned bird with little muscle power; it uses evasion, speed and accuracy to overwhelm the enemy with rapid strikes and evades using circular movements. The crane’s weapons include the crane’s beak, wings and legs. The crane’s beak hand shape which if formed by placing the tips of the fingers and thumb together to strike soft areas such as the eyes, throat, ears and heart; sides of the head; ribs. When facing a more powerful opponent, using the speed and evasiveness of the crane style can be used rather than trying to match an opponent using power. The Crane ('Hok') style is characterised by training of the sinews. It requires quick movements and a well developed sense of balance and practitioners will make use of deflecting, jabbing, hooking and poking movements frequently to an opponent's vital areas. Long arm attacks and use of the waist to generate power are combined to form a graceful style that overcomes aggressive attacks by skilled, almost passive, deflections. The Crane does not attack only counter attacks. It would do this from any angle except the front. It would always side step the attack, possibly using its wings to mask the movement, change direction again, possibly to deliver a technique to the attacker. It is a master of evading supported by blocking and redirection. It would seek to frustrate its opponent, helping it to defeat itself.
Reasons You Should Learn Five Animal Style Kung Fu
For people who are not familiar with kung fu, some of the things we do can seem a bit strange… like imitating animals for example :). So today we’re going to look at the top five reasons why you should learn five animal style kung fu.
1. Animal Instinct
One of the big benefits of looking to the animal kingdom for inspiration is the amazing examples of fighting spirit we can find there.By tapping into this inspiration we can develop our own fighting spirit and determination that will help us to get through a fight or other situations in our lives.
2. Physical Development
Copying different animals challenges us to develop different physical skills.The low stances and clawing motions of Tiger develop physical strength and power.The smooth flowing movements of Snake develop flexibility and sensitivity.Standing on one leg like a Crane develops balance and the wing beating movements open and develop the ribcage and back.The stepping and jumping of Leopard develops speed and agility.The turning and circling movements of dragon develop co-ordination and rhythm. Some of these attributes you may already have naturally, but within the five animals there will be things you find difficult.By practicing all five it encourages balanced development and helps you to turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Each of the five animals has different tactics and ways of fighting.By learning each of them it gives you options in how you deal with different opponents.If you are larger and stronger than your opponent you might choose to use the powerful movements of Tiger or Dragon.If you are smaller you might use the sticking and trapping of Snake or the speed and agility of Leopard to defeat your opponent.If you prefer to keep your distance you might use the long wing beating movements, kicks and evasion of Crane to keep your opponent at bay. Having this variety of tactics available to you gives you a greater chance of success in dealing with different challenges (and opponents) that come your way.If one set of tactics isn’t working you can try another until you find one that works.
The process of mastering a martial art can be long and arduous, and facing an opponent in combat can be scary.Using animal movements adds an element of fun to the process and helps you to not take it too seriously.It can be a lot of fun when you are fighting to challenge yourself to beat your opponent by using the movements of one animal or another… if you’ve come along to sparring enough times you’ll know what I mean.If you haven’t, maybe next time you spar give it a try, see if you can defeat your opponent as one animal and if that doesn’t work, try another.It will give you new insights and also help to make the experience more playful and fun.
5. The Style Factor
Last but not least, the animal styles are just plain cool.I’m sure you’ve seen the old kung fu movies and been impressed with the style and grace of the martial artist performers.There is something about the animal styles that captures the imagination.They inspire us to not just be competent fighters, but to be awesome and stylish fighters.It is part of what makes martial arts an ‘art’ and not just brutal thuggery.
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