The Five Animal Forms


The Five Animal Forms

The Five Animals of the Shaolin Kempo system are based on the Tiger, the Dragon, the Leopard, the Crane and the Snake. These five animals are the buildings blocks that every student can use to recognize and develop the knowledge of different ways for the body to move. Student’s techniques and forms draw from the fundamentals of the five animals in order to differ between different strikes, movements and martial concepts. By studying these five animals, students can incorporate any new or different idea in their fighting and self defense, making them a more versatile and capable martial artist. As a student, the biggest question to ask about the animals is this:

“What benefits are there in applying the physical and mental principles of the animal?”


The Tiger is noted for its courage, tenacity and power. It is the physically strongest of all the five animals; using straight and linear attacks, ripping and tearing as it moves — always pressing. The movement of the Tiger develops strong bones, back and core.


From the Dragon, we learn to “Ride the Wind.” The Dragon is especially noted for it’s flexibility. Even though it is the only mythological creature of the Shaolin Art, it is the only one that can fight on land, water or in the sky. The Dragon uses rising and falling motions, as well as twisting and turning movements to overcome its adversaries. The Dragon helps to develop inner strength.


The Leopard teaches us timing and speed, as well as coordination and footwork. Although it is smaller than the Tiger, the Leopard is actually stronger for its size because of its long, smooth muscle structure and sleek body frame. The Leopard’s power is primarily produced from a loose, relaxed whip-like action. This is 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 balance, grace and agility. It represents longevity and helps us develop concentration and patience. It has a clam, quiet nature. The Crane’s movements are soft, relaxed and circular, but also very explosive which can be used in close or at a distance. The Crane also help develop strength in the arms, fingers and wrists, as well as overall leg conditioning and ankle strength.


The Snake is noted for its suppleness and rhythmic endurance. It has the most internal strength (Chi) of all the other animals, and is also very cunning and deceptive in its fighting. The Snake can coil, zig-zag and use a rapid twisting motion to compensate for his lack of limbs. The Snake helps develop chi and the internal strengthening of the body and spirit.