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Five Animals / Five Elements

Five Animals


TIGER  Power & Strength

The Tiger is designed to strengthen the constitution and has a fierce spirit. This animal emits ferocity, courage and strength since it is the strongest of the Shaolin animals. Dynamic tension, vigorous and strong hand techniques in the form of Tiger claws is what characterizes this animal.
This form teaches the practitioner the basic stances and builds his foundation through emphasis on the horse stance as well as developing and enhancing one's breathing capacity.  

Tiger movements should be practiced with power and deliberateness as that is the essence that is meant to be expressed in this style.

The power of the tiger form is not mechanical or brutal.  In Kung Fu terminology, the essence of the tiger lies in its bones, which is a proverbial way of saying that the training of the tiger form is to develop internal force.  The internal force used in the tiger form training is different from that of snake.  The tiger form emphasizes jing, or “essence”, which is particles.  The snake form emphasizes chi or intrinsic energy.  Jing and chi are nevertheless relative; jing can be converted to chi, and vice versa.  It is amazing that Shaolin masters preceded modern scientists in this concept of the relativity of matter and energy by many centuries.


CRANE - patience, grace and elegance

If you observe a crane you will probably be impressed by its stability and tranquility, and perhaps be surprised that its slender solitary-standing leg can support such an enormous weight. A crane often seems frozen in space and time. When suddenly it takes off, despite its huge size and apparent immobility, its movements are swift and graceful, demonstrating an excellent way of conserving and using energy. Manifested in Shaolin Kung Fu, the characteristic of the crane form is elegance, and its essence is quiescence.

While patterns involving standing on one leg as in kicking, spreading the arms like the crane’s wings, and using the crane beak are discernible expressions of the crane form, other patterns which demonstrate quiescence or elegance also derive their inspiration from crane. Other bird forms that vocalize are not a part of the crane system as they do not incorporate the tranquil essence.

Its ability to defeat an opponent comes from its ability to hook an adversary's blows, divert them and strike, whether from close up or from a distance.   The Crane's long wing span and legs have been incorporated into the Shaolin five animal form to allow a practitioner to place some distance between himself and his opponent.   Crane training is excellent for developing the fingers, arms and legs.


LEOPARD to give speed and agility

The Leopard is the embodiment of speed and power. It has swift penetrating attacks. The Leopard forms are always done at extremely quick speeds.  

Speed is at the heart of the leopard's essence, therefore leopard patterns are done fast. In Shaolin Kung Fu the  leopard form is represented by the Leopard Punch, which is formed by bending the knuckles at the second finger joints and not at the third, as in a normal fist.   It is often the characteristic, and not just the form, of a pattern that counts.

An important attribute other than speed is said, "to lie in its muscles," which means that in the leopard form's emphasis is on external strength. Unlike internal force, which can be inflicted at the point of contact, external strength depends to a greater extent on fast movement for its successful operation. If you use a Leopard Punch, you have to drive it into your opponent with speed and momentum.  Most Leopard punches involve both hands striking the opponent at the same time.

Although not as powerful as the Tiger, the leopard combines speed an agile footwork to overcome it opponents.The Leopard uses a combination of short and quick powerful strikes to defeat its opponent. Kicks are short and normally directed towards the opponents groin or abdomen. This animal does have great defensive technique. The leopard moves ever so slightly to enough to deflect an opponents blow and strikes at the first opening it sees.


SNAKE-for the internal power known as Chi.

The Snake trains the fingers and is for striking the vital points on an opponent's body.  It is utilized in the training and manipulation of Chi (Vital Energy).  It teaches pinpoint hitting of the vital areas.  The Practitioner focuses his Chi all the way up to his fingertips in order to deliver and generate power correctly.

The Snake in some ways resembles the dragon, but without the latter’s grandeur and power. The snake is sometimes referred to as the “earthly dragon”. It’s movement is fast and sleek, its attack vicious, and its most notable characteristic is softness. Hence a snake form specialist would normally not block an attack directly with physical strength, but would absorb it using circular movements, coil around it, and slide along the attacking limb to strike the opponents weak spots.

The essence of the snake form is chi or intrinsic energy. The soft gentle movements of snake patterns are meant to facilitate Chi flow, which can give the exponent tremendous internal force.  A snake stylist does not need external force training like hitting sandbags or striking poles, which are actually incongruous to the snake form.


DRAGON for the spiritual and mystical.

Hauquan meaning Kung Fu of Essence combines the essentials of jing, chi, and shen , the three fundamental features of Kung Fu, into one unity.  Jing refers to internal force, chi to intrinsic energy, and shen to mind power.  These three exponents are often referred to as the "three treasures".
In Chinese culture the dragon is a majestic, divine creature which brings luck and prosperity. Its characteristic powerful, undulating and flowing movements are manifested as a graceful sinuous body motion in Shaolin Kung Fu.  In Chinese mythology, the Dragon comes from water, and its movements are very fluid and circular. Dragon training will develop internal strength as well as smooth fluid like movements.  If you punch or kick a combatant who specializes in the dragon style, for example, he or she would not block your attack nor move away, but gracefully swerve the body without moving the feet, so that your attack would miss, while he or she would continue the swerving momentum to strike you. 

In terms of inner essence the dragon form is for training shen, which means “mind” or “spirit”.  This form helps develop the mind, which means among other things, that the exponent is peaceful, tranquil, and mentally fresh, ready to mobilize every part of the body in a split second.

The Dragon is a spiritual and supernatural creature that transcends from the real world. The power of the Dragons strength can appear and disappear at will. Its domain is therefore internal power and spirit.  

The Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard and Crane are said to give the practitioner five ways to manipulate and use his strength.

Five Elements

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.