Making Sense of Kung Fu “Animals”

Over the years, I’ve read with amusement some articles about martial arts “animals”. First it was Kung Fu people who really did not have a good grasp of the animal styles within their own systems. Then it was the Kung Fu people who learns styles with no animals, trying to add “hidden” animal styles to their arts. Then it was Kenpo folks trying to make their arts appear more “Chinese”, by adding animals. Then it was Silat people. Now, it’s Burmese/Filipino/Southeast Asian/other exotic styles.

Somebody’s been watching too much “Black Belt Theater” on TV Land.

I would like to share with you readers a true secret of the martial arts. And once I share this with you, many of you will change your stories (because you’ve probably been pushing the same B.S.) or be embarassed. But the good thing is that you will be more educated than you were five minutes ago, and that’s the purpose of this blog.

The “animals” of most Kung Fu styles is not evident in the hand positions, or the way the fighter imitates the way each animal fights–but the characteristics and attributes of the animal. Some animal styles are in fact true animal arts, for example Eagle Claw style Kung Fu. Yet most Kung Fu styles are only borrowing the general strength and character of their mascot, not necessarily the way that animal fights.

We really can’t teach this on a blog, but let’s take a look at some generic info about each style.

  • Tiger Style – Powerful upper body techniques; forward movement when attacked; stressing counter attacking over defense; powerful fingers, wrists and forearms; crouching stance to reserve power for initiating attacks
  • Crane Style – Quick footwork; evasiveness; emphasizing defense and counterattacks over initial attacks; expert use of the front foot in fighting
  • Leopard Style – Attacking the opponent’s low line; fast and far-reaching footwork; ability to chase and attack simultaneously
  • Snake Style – Attack the opponent as the opponent attacks, but with narrow angles; evading with body movement rather than footwork (unlike the crane, which emphasizes footwork); specializing in attacking pressure points; emphasis on accuracy, speed, and making the opponent miss by inches
  • Dragon Style – Superior strategy and knowledge of how to destroy the body; emphasis on inflicting permanent injury
  • Praying Mantis Style – Specialty is Chin Na, the art of seizing and joint manipulation; powerful grip and knowledge of the skeletal and muscular systems

Even if you have never studied an animal style, one could actually arrange his personal combat system by using these arts as a model. As always, I recommend finding a qualified teacher if this interests you. (You could always come to Sacramento and study with thekuntawman!) If not, at least drop the gang-like hand signs for these styles. That stuff is only for forms competitors and movies.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Make sure to get over to the “Offerings” page and check out my new book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months!  We have three new books coming soon… Check them out!

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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