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DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ANIMAL FIGHTING STYLES In general terms, the styles followed specific training objectives (but there are always exceptions). It is impossible to quantify differences between most styles, it is easy to see the distinctions between such disparate approaches to combat as practiced by Tiger, Crane, and Monkey stylists. In choosing a style (a contemporary privilege; traditionally, styles were assigned by the teachers), try to find one that suits your physical attributes, interests, and sense of utility. It does no good to study the graceful single-leg and flying techniques of White Crane if you have the flexibility and grace of a turtle! The TIGER movements were formed to develop the bones, tendons and muscles. TIGER is another natural system, this opposite of crane. It is a vicious method of fighting utilizing powerful kicks and grim clawing motions. Like the tiger, its practitioner fights fiercely, rending, tearing and breaking any open space of skin or limb that is left unguarded. It is highly defensive in nature, waiting until being backed into a corner, then unleashing an unstoppable assault. Its principle hand weapon is the tiger claw, also useful for unarmed defense against weapons. By clasping the weapon between the hands or enmeshing it in the crushing grip of the hand, the enemy's advantage is lost. The execution of these movements was the opposite of that of the dragon, since emphasis was placed on strength and dynamic tension. Movements are short, snappy and forceful. The next system is CRANE, one of the traditional Shaolin systems. The CRANE movements were used to develop control, character and spirit. Emphasis is placed on light, rapid footwork and evasive attacking techniques. Movements in the one-legged stance are performed with a considerable amount of meditation. A legend is also attached to its birth. One day a monk stumbled on a battle between an ape and a crane. It seemed as if the ape would rend the bird in two. However, the bird continually stymied the ape, flapping its wings and darting in and out with its beak; at last the animal was driven away. The graceful movements of the bird were copied as well as its one leg stance. The principle weapons of the system are its long range kicks and a hand formation, the crane's beak. The COBRA system is a strange, nearly dead system. Its basis is a stance that resembles a cobra raised from the grass with spread hood. The maneuvers are strictly defensive in nature, devastatingly effective and swift. Cobra is designed for speed and tenacity for once the reptile strikes, it hangs on and makes certain that its opponent will die. Most of its techniques are hand maneuvers aimed at the eyes and throat. It is primarily a dim mak style. SNAKE is an interface between the high systems and low systems. The SNAKE movements were used to develop temperament and endurance. Breathing was done slowly, deeply, softly and harmoniously. Movements are flowing and rippling with emphasis on the fingers. It is one of the easiest systems to learn and also one of the most deadly. The reason that it is a transition system is because it has the movements of a spiritual system and the physical applications of a low system. The spiritual movements are all flowing and continuous, akin to the movements of a cloud. The stabbing hand motions to the face, throat and genitals see physical applications of such movements. Ch'i is present in the practitioner as his body mimics a snake in its coiling, undulating motions; for only through ch'i can the proper flow be achieved to allow the technique to work. It is an earthly animal by nature, yet still somewhat spiritual due to its mysterious character. The snake has thus been appointed as the guardian of the dragons. The basis of the DRAGON systems is ch'i, the inner power of Taoism. The movements and applications of the dragon systems are dependent on the use of ch'i. The special flow that distinguishes it from the flow of the crane system is due to ch'i. Also, the ch'i is substituted for muscular strength. For example, a tiger stylist would break a rock by sheer force and physical technique, while a dragon stylist would shatter it by ch'i projection. The DRAGON movements were devised to develop alertness and concentration. These movements were executed without the application of strength, but with emphasis on breathing in the lower abdomen along with the coordination of mind, body and spirit. Movements are long, flowing and continuous, and provided Shaolin practitioners with the equivalent of t'ai chi or pakua. The PRAYING MANTIS has as its watchwords silence and determination. Although it is a physical system in terms of its origin, it nonetheless is classified as a high system. Praying mantis warrants its prominence because of its extreme efficiency. Despite the fact that it is hand oriented and lacks the fancy leg maneuvers of dragon, it is versatile and overpowering. Characteristic of mantis, as well as dragon and snake, is the virtual lack of blocks. Since blocks are inefficient, the high systems follow the advice of the ancient sages and yield in order to conquer. Also, it combines ch'i and extreme awareness to be virtually invincible.
ANIMAL FIGHTING STYLES
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