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Kung Fu Animals

Although some animal kung fu styles, like the 10,000 bee technique, originated from animal confrontations or animal-related work (like the fish gate style, which features movements based on the way fishermen cast their nets), most evolved by mimicking the movements and postures animals display in combative situations.

In the mid-1600s, Shaolin monk Zhue Yang and fellow martial artists Li Sou and Bai Yu-feng combined Indian Buddhist monk Ta Mo’s (Bodhidharma) 18 Buddhist Fist exercises with their observations and theories of the fighting strategies of five animals—the dragon, tiger, leopard, snake and white crane—to create the 170 movements of the fabled five animal styles of Shaolin.

Over time, these movements have been revised or integrated into different styles, while other animal fighting styles, such as eagle claw, money fist and praying mantis kung fu, have arisen independently.

Many martial arts also have evolved through the combination of the movements of several animals into one: ba gua zhang combines the tiger, monkey and eagle; liu her chuen combines the dragon, crane, rabbit, tiger, monkey and eagle; hsing-i combines the dragon, tiger, monkey, horse, turtle, chicken, hawk, swallow, snake, owl, eagle and bear; and the popular tai chi (taiji) combines the snake and crane.

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  1. The Combat Techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu’s Legendary Animal Styles

    The Combat Techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu’s Legendary Animal Styles

    If you’re on the prowl for new ways to improve your martial arts skills and expand your knowledge base, the five animals of Shaolin kung fu are for you. By studying the fighting methods of the snake, crane, tiger, leopard and dragon, you’ll glimpse kung fu through the eyes of
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  2. Praying Mantis Kung Fu Methods and Monkey Kung Fu Movements

    Praying Mantis Kung Fu Methods and Monkey Kung Fu Movements

    Various systems of praying-mantis kung fu can be found in the different locales and subcultures of China. Of them, the northern seven-star school is perhaps the most widely practiced.

    The art dates back to the end of the Ming dynasty, when the invading Manchus began to subjugate the Han Chinese.
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  3. China’s Martial Arts | Vintage Black Belt

    China’s Martial Arts | Vintage Black Belt

    China has always been the traditional home of the Asian martial arts. For 2,000 years, its people have experimented with and developed self-defense systems that have only recently become known in other countries as karate, judo, jujutsu and sumo.
    Yet curiously, little is known of the Chinese martial arts (wushu) outside
    Read More »

  4. The 5 Kung Fu Animal Styles of the Chinese Martial Arts

    The 5 Kung Fu Animal Styles of the Chinese Martial Arts

    To longtime readers of Black Belt, Steve DeMasco needs no introduction. A student of the martial arts since 1968, he’s been a fixture in the magazine since his debut in the February 1998 issue. Over the ensuing years, he’s espoused his views on the physical and philosophical sides of the
    Read More »