Zhang San Feng a Taoist Master at the Shaolin Monastery in Hunan witnessed a fight between a crane and a snake. This gave him inspiration that was to have a tremendous effect in the history of Kung Fu. He modified Shaolin Kung Fu into softer forms, and emphasized chi training and meditation.
The early masters also learned some invaluable lessons by observing the behavior and movements of animals and birds. Do not underrate these creatures: except in brain power, we humans are actually far behind animals and birds in many aspects of bodily functions, sensual perception and instinct for survival. The power of a tiger, the quickness of a leopard, the intrinsic coiled energy of the snake and the patience and agility of the crane are proverbial. Many other animals exhibit traits that are essential to many martial artists. The Horseriding Stance is the “mother” stance; the force and skill derived from it enable you to perform the other stances well. As it’s name suggests it was derived from combatants being on horseback and was one of the root systems for combat in ancient China. The Horseriding Stance is a very demanding form of zhan zhuang (standing posture) Chi Kung.
Of the animals that have provided inspiration and valuable lessons to Shaolin Kung Fu, the following five are especially significant: dragon, snake, tiger, leopard, and crane. Shaolin masters have adopted from these animals not only for their outward characteristics, like Dragon Palm and Tiger Claw which are incorporated into Kung Fu patterns, but also their inner essence, like the speed of the leopard and elegance of the crane which have enriched many aspects of Kung Fu training. Each of the five Shaolin animals is noted for its special characteristic and essence.
The Metal element involves a strong slow stretching power. The entire arm is used as a solid unit. The elbows are always bent slightly in this movement, as it is less likely to the arms being broken by arm bars.
The Wood element is a simultaneous block and strike and are the shortest arm movements in Hung Gar. The wood element teaches long and short arm sequences.
The Water element are strikes which are of a constant nature. A series of battering blows similar to the pounding of ocean waves upon the shores. It is the swinging motion of the practitioner's arms which are the source of the Water element's power.
The Fire element is characterized by a straight punch. Its more common name is the Sun Punch because the fist forms the character Sun in Chinese characters. The sun is a fiery mass.
The Earth element is the last of the elements and closes the form. It develops a strong foundation. (Punching is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist and is expressed through the hands). Since the practitioner's foundation is so strong, he is capable of delivering some very destructive blows.
The elements Wood, Fire, Metal, Water and Earth elements are said to give the martial artist five ways to generate and transform power in each of these forms.
Tiet Sid Kuen (Iron Thread Form A.K.A. Steel Wire Set) For more complete synopsis or purchase the video.
This form was created by Tid Ku Sarm, one of the best martial artists in the history of China. He was one of the famous Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. Through the years he passed his knowledge of the set down to one of his students, Wong Fei Hung. This form is the highest set taught in the Hung Gar system. It takes the practitioner into the realm of internal Kung Fu training, which is the ultimate goal in Chinese martial arts.
Tiet Sid's limited footwork is based solely upon the movements and spirit of the Dragon coupled with vibrating sounds and various intonations of breath control with twisting movements which stimulate the internal organs. Each emotion (Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Sorrow, and Fear) is translated into a breathing tone producing different vibrations, which affect different organs and the three treasures. From the breathing sounds comes a strong type of power, which is emitted from within the practitioner. There are twelve types of training methods contained in this form. They are Hard, Soft, Lineal, Isometric Contractions, Linking, Dividing, Supporting, Stationary, Circular Transition, Determination, Exactness, and Immobilization. These twelve types of training are designed to control and improve the internal functions of the organs. It is a dynamic tension exercise used to increase the flow of Chi throughout the body. It is an efficient means of body building and stamina development.
The combined hand combat of the Tiger and Crane styles, otherwise known as Hung Gar Kung Fu, is a classic Southern Chinese art designed to strengthen the physical constitution (the bones of the body) as well as the sinews (breathing and spirit). It is a most respected system whose training concepts are steeped in morality, rigidly traditional and uncompromising in preserving the original standards of Shaolin Kung Fu. It is a close combat fighting art.