Animal techniques in Kung Fu are not what most people think -

We’ve all seen the shows of the Kung Fu guy jumping around imitating various animals. To some it might seem impressive and powerful and to others silly and useless. Unfortunately, I too often agree with the latter. The problem is that animal techniques in Kung Fu are useless unless you know and practice these two things:

  1. Understand the Essence of the animal.
  2. Do the proper conditioning.

Essence - The essence of the animal is the true nature of what you should be focusing on when practicing. For example, the essence of the Tiger is not making claws with your hands or shouting out specific sounds. The tiger represents ferocity. This means that no matter how many tiger claws you do and no matter what sound you make, without ferocity you are not doing tiger style; you are just acting. On the other hand if you are doing nothing but kicks, but you are relentless and fierce, then you have captured the essence of Tiger.

Conditioning - Conditioning is the building of certain skills and physical attributes. When dealing with kung fu it refers to specific training methods in a system, such as iron palm or Da Saam Sing. In reference to tiger there is also a physical side which is shown in the tiger claw techniques. These techniques are used to grab, tear and rip flesh and tendons from an opponent. The only way to do this is by training your hands so that you can use them as weapons. This usually involves the strengthening of the fingers, wrists and forearms, through qigong and strength exercises such as finger push ups and tiger claw push ups.

So, remember the animals in Kung Fu came about through years of observation and training and are very useful for self-defense and health if they are understood and trained properly! Learn the essence of the animal to gain an understanding of how it’s used and then train to build the physical skills. It’s not easy, but it isn’t supposed to be.

10 Animals of Jow Ga Kung Fu

  1. Tiger - The main principle behind tiger is ferocity. It’s represented by relentless and aggressive attack. Tiger also uses its “tail” which is the use of the leg to sweep and trip the opponent. Of course the most well known is the use of the Tiger Claw. This is used to rip and tear soft parts of the body such as the eyes, throat and groin.
  2. Lion - The Lion represents pure, raw, unadulterated strength. It can be shown in any type of attack or defense, but ONLY if you have actual physical strength. A weak person can not express lion.
  3. Leopard - Quick and continuous attack, combined with agile footwork. The leopard's power comes from it’s speed, movement and use of combinations.
  4. Snake - Snakes use poison to attack their prey. As a snake, when you attack you will need to be quick and precise. You will target the the eyes, throat and pressure points to effect breathing and sight.
  5. Dragon - Coiling energy and deceptive movement. Dragon is elusive, intelligent and has a clear mind for strategy.
  6. Monkey - Sneaky low attacks. Explosive footwork that is agile and evasive. The groin attack is a favorite of the monkey.
  7. Horse - Ever been kicked by a horse? You don’t want to be. When you kick it should be swift and powerful. The standing leg should be strong and firmly rooted to the ground to support the delivery.
  8. Crane - Agility, balance and precision. The crane is not big, or powerful but can cause damage. The crane focuses on breath/Chi.
  9. Eagle - Of all the animals eagle is the fastest. Eagle represents blinding speed and is best represented by swift darting attacks.
  10. Elephant - If you practice Jow Ga, or have seen it done by a talented practitioner you will notice the wide array of large swinging hand movements.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below.

~ Sifu Edward Tomaine