The Five Animals

The Five Animals
The Animal Forms of Shaolin Kempo

The influence of nature on Chinese martial arts can be traced back many centuries and the natural instincts and methods of animals were often imitated in the martial arts forms.


The dragon is especially noted for its wisdom and flexibility. It is the only mythological creature of the Shaolin Art form, thus the only one that can fight on land, the water or in the sky. the dragon uses rising and falling motions as well as twisting and turning to overcome adversaries. The dragon helps develop inner strength.


The tiger is noted for its strength and courage; tenacity and power. It is the physically strongest of all five animals–using straight-headed attacks, ripping and tearing as it moves and always pressing. The movement of the tiger develops strong bones and a strong back.


The leopard teaches us timing, footwork, speed and coordination. Although smaller than the tiger, the leopard is stronger in his size because of his long smooth muscle structure and sleek body frame. The leopards power is primarily produced from a relaxed whip-like action generated by speed and balance as well as limber waist and hip movements. The leopard helps develop conditioning of the skin, tendons and bones.


The crane is noted for its agility, balance and grace. It represents longevity and teaches us concentration and patience. It has a calm and quiet nature. It’s movements are soft, relaxed and circular. However they are also explosive and can be used at a close or far away distance. The crane helps develop strength in the arms, fingers and wrists while conditioning overall leg and ankle strength.


The snake is noted for its Chi or Qi or  internal strength  and deceptive movements . It has the most  flexibility and rhythmic endurance of all the other creatures. It is cunning, accurate, swift and uses deceptive movements in its fighting. The snake can coil, zigzag and use rapid twisting motions to compensate for its lack of limbs. The snake helps develop chi or internal strengthening of the body and spirit.