Training In Kung Fu

Training is kung fu is so often told as being the most difficult form of martial arts or self defense. The Origin of Chinese Kung Fu from the Shaolin Temple. However, kung fu has now evolved and has countless kung fu forms and kung fu techniques by different kung fu masters nowadays. 

The most reknown or the origin of kung fu styles in chinese martial arts is known as the 5 ANIMALS OF KUNG FU, or called “Wu Xing Kungfu”  (五形功夫 ) includes Tiger Style Kung Fu, Crane Style Kung Fu, Leopard Style Kung Fu, Snake Style Kung Fu, and Dragon Style Kung Fu.

The other alternate kung fu styles that are well known are Praying Mantis Style Kung Fu and Monkey Style Kung Fu.

Shaolin Kung Fu Styles: The 5 Animals of Kung Fu

The 5 animals of kung fu is one of the most ancient kung fu styles from southern Shaolin teachings. Every kung fu styles has it’s own strength and training focus:

  1. The Dragon Kung Fu Style : Focus on flexibility and fluid movements. Typically attack with powerful and quick movements. Spiritual and Chi training is commonly included in training of this style.
  2. The Tiger Kung Fu Style: Must be trained to strengthen the bones. Physical training is emphasized in this kung fu style to imitate the powerful claw and gripping strength to launch brutal attacks.
  3. The Crane Kung Fu Style: Trains to strengthen the sinews and promote vitality. The crane style stresses balance and fast foot movements.
  4. The Leopard Kung Fu Style: Exercises for developing strength, power and speed. This fighting style kung fu focus stealth attacks on soft tissue regions of the body.
  5. The Snake Kung Fu Style: Exercises to cultivate Chi, correct breathing to strengthen internal power and to strike an opponent’s vulnerable areas.

Dragon Kung Fu Style

The Dragon is the most majestic kung fu style of the Shaolin “five animals”, and is noted for the training of spirit or mind. This kung fu style is not spectacular to watch, but is very effective for combat as well as developing “chi” for mental freshness and agility to enhance our daily life.

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Dragon Kung Fu Style

Shaolin master quote: “Dragon fist trains the spirit.

Kung Fu Characteristics: strong, smart, deceptive and unpredictable kung fu style.

Style Strategy: uses quick, snapping kicks that hit with the blade of the foot; uses the full fist and the forearms to strike; best to combine physical techniques of the other Shaolin animals for better striking results.

Target Training: any body part that can be grabbed; focus on grabbing and striking opponent head.

Physical Training: relax your muscles, train to switch from soft movements to hard movements. Need to build explosive striking power.

Kung Fu Techniques: dragon-tail kick, which is used to hit or sweep; dragon claw, which positions the digits in a flatter orientation than does the tiger claw.

Tiger Kung Fu Style

The Tiger kung fu style is one of the fiercest style of kung fu. This particular style focus on relentless attacking techniques using “tiger claw” to grab and tear off opponents body. 

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Tiger Kung Fu Style

Shaolin master quote: “Tiger strengthens the bones.

Kung Fu Characteristics: massive strength and agility type of kung fu.

Style Strategy: tends to charge the opponent and attack directly with brute force, uses circular arm movements to overwhelm the enemy, relies on the arms but occasionally will use low kicks.

Target Training: any part of the body, especially those body section that react to tearing techniques.

Physical Training: relax your muscles, build speed, solid body build, train to adopt a strong stance and then able to quickly change to another stance. Use push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics, sparring and chi-development exercises.

Kung Fu Techniques: tiger claw, an open-hand grabbing and striking weapon formed by spreading the thumb and fingers, then bending them slightly.

Crane Kung Fu Style

Do not under estimate the Crane Kung Fu Style . The crane might not seem to be as fearsome as the dragon or the tiger but the notable influence of the Crane kung fu is Wing Chun Kung Fu & Tai Chi Kung Fu.

Crane Style Kung Fu focus on directness of strikes and economic movement. Its all about minimizing movements in delivering an accurate strike. While in Tai Chi Kung Fu the crane expresses itself through elegance and balance.

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Crane Kung Fu Style

Shaolin master quote: “The spirit of the crane resides within the stillness.

Kung Fu Characteristics: evasive, rarely offense-oriented, subtle, graceful.

Style Strategy: keeps the opponent at a distance and capitalizes on the length of the arms and legs, tends to strike with the very end of the natural weapons, attempts to overwhelm the enemy with rapid hand strikes, evades using circular movements.

Target Training: soft areas such as the eyes, throat, ears and heart, sides of the head and ribs. Focus on tall and long striking reach, train yourself to remain still for extended periods, maintain good balance and concentration with minimal strength.

Physical Training: mobility-enhancing drills to develop the ability to maintain distance between oneself and the opponent, speed training, quick retraction of natural weapons, chi-development exercises.

Kung Fu Techniques: crane beak, formed by bunching the thumb, index finger and middle finger together to strike with the fingertips.

Leopard Kung Fu Style

The Leopard is a pure physical strength kung fu style. This kung fu style training is oriented purely on physical building. 

An example is Choy-Li-Fatt Kung Fu, which was developed for fighting on the battlefield, emphasizes the leopard by using muscular strength and speed.

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Leopard Kung Fu Style

Shaolin master quote: “Bend fingers hard, like iron.”

Kung Fu Characteristics: strong, efficient, fast, technical, defined by accuracy, capable of stealth attacks.

Style Strategy: strikes quickly to inflict pain, then follows up for the kill.

Target Training: hit soft-tissue regions and other vital areas, including the ears, neck, armpits, temples and groin.

Physical Training: relax your muscles, supple strength, ability to quickly retract the arms and legs after a strike. Focus on striking drills that develop accuracy and precision.

Kung Fu Techniques: leopard paw, a half-fist that strikes with the second knuckles of the four fingers. It’s a rigid weapon that makes contact with a small, penetrating surface.

Snake Kung Fu Style

Snake kung fu style adopts the fluidity of snakes allows them to entwine with their opponents in defense and strike them from angles they would not expect in offense.

There are several Shaolin martial arts known as Snake-Boxing or Fanged Snake Style which is derived from the original Shaolin Snake kung fu style. It is also said to especially lend itself to applications with the Chinese straight sword.

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Snake Kung Fu Style

Shaolin master quote: “Hard like steel and soft like a rope of silk.

Kung Fu Characteristics: deceptive, agile, fast, accurate.

Style Strategy: relies on awareness, employs coiling motions and hisses to intimidate, uses whipping toe kicks to the lower half of the opponent’s body, utilizes simultaneous striking and locking techniques, avoids using the traditional fist.

Target Training: vital parts of the body, especially the eyes, face and throat. Focus thin body build and  quick muscles.

Physical Training: drills to increase explosiveness, which enables one to take the opponent by surprise; exercises that enhance balance and accuracy.

Kung Fu Techniques: snake hand, which uses one or two fingers—or, in the case of the spearhand, all of them—to attack and defend.

Other Kung Fu Styles >>

Praying Mantis Kung Fu Style (Tang Lang Quan)

Shaolin Kung Fu Training: Praying Mantis Kung Fu Style

Mantis Fist (Tanglang Quan in Chinese) was very popular in the Han Dynasty. It has a long history, dating back to 200AD.Mantis boxing kung fu is very useful in close range combat, so it has another name called short-hit Fist.

During the reign of the Chinese Han Dynasty, there was a very skilled warrior in Chinese Martial Arts, called Wang Lang. He spent much of his time roaming many famous Chinese places, during which he made lots of chivalrous friends and fortunately met some great masters who taught him great skills in Chinese Martial Arts. But he was devastated when he later lost in a Gongfu competition, and became very depressed. Lying under a big locust tree, he suddenly saw two praying mantises fight viciously for an insect. These two mantises were assuming various positions, such as Hooking, Pulling, Jumping, Defending and Locking. Wanglang was so immersed in the two Mantis movements that he felt very inspired. These thoughts of contemplation helped him to create an early basic structure of Mantis Fist.

>> Mantis Fist Kung Fu Style is based on the principle of being swift, steady, exact and varied. The moves include, Hooking, Picking (it is a kind of defending skill), Hanging and Beng Fist. The technique routes are mainly arc and round, while the body revolves in different movements (in order to dispel the hitting strength from the enemy.)

Monkey Kung Fu Style

Monkey Kung Fu Style is a Chinese martial art kung fu forms which utilizes ape or monkey-like movements as part of its technique.

This kung fu training style is also traditionally known as “Hou Quan”. Training in this kung fu style includes running on all fours (fully utilizing both the hands and feet), advance training regime includes various difficult acrobatic movements such as flipping sideways in the air, front flips, back flips, back handsprings, hand stands, walking on the hands, forward lunges/dives, backward lunges, spinning on the butt, spinning on the back and many kicks and strikes. Most of the monkey kung fu style attacks are aimed at the knees, groin area, throat or eyes of the opponent and hand strikes are normally either open handed slaps or clawing with a semi-closed fist called the monkey claw.

While training this monkey kung fu style; a wide array of facial monkey expressions must be practiced (excitement, happiness, anger, fear, confusion and bewilderment etc).

The monkey staff, or hou gun (猴棍), is one of this style’s specialty weapons.

>> Monkey Kung Fu Style is an imitative technique and so execution of the movements and facial expressions looks exactly like a monkey  and attacks are unpredictable unlike (human) kung fu. Difficult to train but an interesting uncommon kung fu form to learn.

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