What are the Five Animals of Shaolin Kempo? Shaolin Kempo forms

crane with Sakura and red sun shaolin kempo

The five animals of Shaolin Kempo form the basis of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development of martial arts students. Although their characteristics are often linked to specific self-defense techniques, the characteristics of the tiger, dragon, leopard, crane, and snake represent a natural system for whole-person growth.

Learning the ways of the five animals helps students understand the versatility of their bodies and get in touch with their internal energy. This, in turn, leads to improved strength, mindfulness, and cardiovascular health. The benefits of Shaolin Kempo are essentially rooted in what martial arts practitioners take from the five animal forms.


The Five Animals of Shaolin Kempo

The Dragon

dragon on a black backgroundThe concept of the dragon is firmly established in Eastern culture. We see its presence in philosophy, art, mythology, and modern-day movies, among many others. Regarded as the highest animal form by some, the dragon symbolizes the spiritual essence of martial arts. Learning dragon techniques helps students develop powerful mental focus applicable to all parts of their lives. In martial arts practice, the influence of the dragon can be identified by the following.

  • Swaying, curving, and majestic flowing movements.
  • Feet tend to remain fixed in place.
  • The Dragon Palm and Dragon Claw are signature strikes.

This mythic animal is also characterized by speed. For movie buffs, Bruce Lee emphasized speed and his feature film “Enter the Dragon” showcases his incredible quickness.


The Snake

snake shaolin kempo form animalAs you might anticipate, the snake is characterized by flexible and round motions. Its harmonious movements offer a connection between energy and spirit. Snake techniques are suitable for stretching, strengthening, endurance, and discovering our internal force known as Chi. Snake movements typically involve the following.

  • Soft flowing motions.
  • Targeted and direct strikes at vital points
  • The signature Snake Hand is used to strike and thrust.

Practicing snake forms generally helps improve energy flow, health, and emotional well-being.


The Tiger

tiger with red sun shaolin kempo form animalThe tiger represents an internal force and is loosely associated with bone energy. The techniques and mindset taken from the king of the jungle include courage and ferocity in combat. Big cat patterns that have been integrated into martial arts include the following.

  • Smooth and soft movements.
  • The signature Tiger Claw is used to stifle energy points and dislocate joints.
  • Its Chin-Na involves decisive grips and locks.

In daily practice, the tiger helps students build self-confidence and succeed in their endeavors. This is particularly useful for school-aged children and their academics.


The Leopard

Beautiful raster image with nice watercolor hand drawn leopardThe leopard is one of nature’s greatest hunters and the cat can quickly generate explosive speeds of nearly 40 mph in a short distance. Also known for stealth, the leopard employs a quiet demeanor while stalking its prey. The key benefits of leopard training include muscular strength and endurance. In self-defense, leopard techniques translate to fast counter-attack strategies that deploy combinations of strikes. These are techniques associated with the leopard.

  • Lightning-fast counters and combinations.
  • Use of elbows, knees, and low kicks.
  • Signature Leopard Fist uses bent fingers rather than a traditional fist.

Training in the leopard style generally helps people perform routine daily tasks more quickly and efficiently.


The Crane

crane with Sakura and red sun shaolin kempoThe most delicate of the five animals, the crane methods teach gracefulness and how to preserve our energy. In nature, a crane stands on one leg and can seamlessly rise up into a prevailing wind. This one-leg posture is a highlight in the original “Karate Kid” movie. What some may not realize is the crane also possesses a powerful beak that gives it the capability to make precision strikes. These are movements and self-defense strategies associated with the crane.

  • Straightforward use of movement and energy.
  • Crane-styled kicks.
  • Signature Phoenix-Eye Fist used to strike vital points.

Crane stances, postures, and techniques can help practitioners overcome clumsiness or awkwardness. The spirit of the crane also helps us develop fluidity in daily life.




group martial arts class USSD self defense classes in Vancouver and battle ground

Contact USSD Vancouver

The United Studios of Self Defense (USSD) Vancouver offers world-class instruction in three different types of self defense and martial arts: Tai-Chi, Kung Fu, and Shaolin Kempo. We offer both group instruction and one-on-one classes to fit your schedule and instruction needs. We offer classes for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced in each of the above three disciplines. Classes are available for both adults and children.

Contact us today to learn more about our martial arts programs or to set up a time to visit one of our classes in person. Our instructors work with students at every age and stage of martial arts development and are dedicated to helping you cultivate self defense skills that meet your goals and make you feel great about yourself.

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