Animal Styles in Shaolin Kung Fu

The classical and non-classical animal styles are all complete fighting styles based upon the movement and character of animals familiar to the Shoaling monks.  Each animal embodies a particular range of strategies; a well-rounded fighter is assumed to be familiar with all the animals, so as to be well equipped to choose strategies appropriate for different situations.  At the same time, monks traditionally specialized in a style that was well suited to their physiques and characters.

The five classical animals each correspond to a particular aspect of training, and each embodies a strategy.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis style is a very famous style, developed to defeat the monks of the Shaolin Temple.  He devoted years of his life to developing a fighting system with which the Shaolin had no answer and the result, as told, is the style after the praying mantis.  The mantis moves with blinding speed, capable of capturing much larger prey.


Two words.  Muscle/Strength.  More precise than a tiger and relies on great strength.  The Leopard employs many crushing techniques and internal strikes with the hands.  It’s an up close and personal type of style.

White Crane:

Flexibility.  They prefer to work at a distance and uses great flexibility to attack and evade.  Strong arm and long leg movements are critical.  Balance is also an asset and the disruption of balance in others is key.


Spirit.  The use of simple, basic techniques, with a challenging strategy of movement is important.  Zigzagging motion is preferred.  The Dragon has a floating motion with swinging and whipping.


Internal Energy.  The Snake goes for vital points.  The eyes and throat being most common.

Shaolin Bird:

Hard, linear strikes and kicks derived from ancient techniques are the mainstay of this style.  Leaping with a flurry of strikes, leaping back of out range and repeating combines to make a deadly series of movements.  The bird emphasizes elbow and finger thrusts.


Monkey style is a very advanced style that demands much.  It assumes that the opponent is larger and compensates by making it hard to reach, hold or strike the practitioner.  Jumping, flipping, rolling and attacking from peculiar angles are also important.  Monkey stylists strike with the backs of the forearms, with the elbows, with hook kicks and tease their opponent into taking rash action.  The Monkey, however, is no fool.


Grappling.  It relies on very powerful seizing, pinching and twisting techniques to lock, immobilize or punish a foe.  Eagle claw stylists work hard on developing their grips to facilitate application of painful locks and nerve pinches.  Like jujutsu, Eagle Claw employs leverage and joint manipulation to defeat an opponent.