The Animal Systems

The Five animal systems is a common element of the Northern and Southern Shaolin Temple system. Considered to be the first refinements of Shaolin kung-fu. The five animal systems incorporate the physical and spiritual attributes of animals into human fighting strategies. Each person is born with a natural preference towards one of the animals.


From the Shaolin Tiger we learn strength and tenacity. The Tiger movements were formed to develop the bones, tendons, and muscles. Movements were short, snappy and hard. Executed with piercing eyes and determination. The Tiger is very powerful and direct, relying on frontal assaults and aggression. Committing his entire mind, and body to each movement. There is no hesitation in the tiger's minds. Practitioners in the tiger system utilize braking, ripping, and tearing actions. The Tigers trademark is the claw hand and palm strikes.


From the Leopard we learn resiliency. The Leopard movements were used to develop speed as well as strength. Movements were fast, crafty, shifty, with narrow stances and clenched fists. The Leopard is extremely fast and is noted for its sudden change of movements, and varied angles of attacks. The Leopard employs many crushing techniques and internal strikes. The Leopard prefers executing his techniques up close.


From the Snake we learn inner strength (CHI), sinuous, and weaving. The Snake movements were used to develop temperament and endurance. Breathing was done slowly, deeply, softly, and harmoniously. Movements were flowing and rippling with emphasis on the fingers. The Snake is very calm and accurate. Striking is used with the tips of the fingers to the temple, eyes, throat, and other vital regions. Flexibility is a key part of the snakes training.


From the Crane we learn grace and balance. The Crane movements were used to develop control, character, and spirit. Movements on the one legged stance were preformed with a considerable amount of meditation. The Crane is very aware and evasive. The Crane has excellent stances but strategic positioning at the proper time is it most valuable tool. The Crane prefers to evade attacks rather than blocking them. The Crane also prefers to work at a distance from the opponent and at angles of line from attacks.


From the Dragon we learn versatility and indomitable spirit. The Dragons movements were devised to develop alertness and concentration. These movements were executed without the application of strength but with emphasis on breathing in the lower abdomen along with coordination of mind, body, and spirit. Movements were long, flowing, and continues. The Dragon can change into any animal at any moment using techniques that and movements complementary to the opponent. The Dragon prefers unpredictable motions using swing and whipping actions. The style makes use of circular waist movements and hip turning moving movements. Low-level lunges in all directions are very useful in Dragon training.

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