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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Tiger Kung Fu
While tiger kung fu was one of the original five animal styles of Shaolin, it wasn’t until around 1758 when tiger kung fu (hu chuan) gained martial fame via Hong Xi-guan, one of the Ten Tigers of Shaolin kung fu. Hong Xi-guan further developed tiger kung fu by incorporating the tiger’s vicious breaking, ripping and tearing techniques that the beast uses while defending itself or killing its prey. Hong Xi-guan gnarled his hands like tiger claws, and his new tiger maneuvers relied on frontal assaults, aggression and powerful finger-slashing attacks. Hong Xi-guan also created hong jia (Cantonese: hung gar) kung fu by combining his tiger kung fu claw with the white-crane skills and techniques developed by his wife, Fong Yong-chuin (Cantonese: Fang Wing-chun). Some historians believe Fong Yong-chuin went on to develop wing chun.
Later in the Ching dynasty (1644-1912), a black-tiger kung fu school evolved in each of the following provinces: Sichuan, Zhejiang, Shandong and Gan Su. Fang Dao-de—one of the Five Elders of Shaolin, later to become a Wu Dung (Cantonese: Wu Tang) monk—is seemingly the founder of white-tiger kung fu.