The 5 Shaolin Animal Forms


In the 1600s, a Shaolin Master, Bai Yu Feng, decided to revitalize the Shaolin system. He traveled across China for three years, meeting Masters and learning a variety of styles. Upon returning from his Quest, he built a new style at Shaolin Temple by combining the 5 systems he encountered on his travels. This new system was the Fist of the 5 Shaolin Animals (Shaolin Wu Xing Quan).


Close your fist now. How many shapes (fingers) do you have in your fist? 5 shapes gathered together to form a whole, an alliance, right?  


The Fist of the 5 Shaolin Animals

This system contains the 5 animals that we study (on another level) in our own system: The Tiger, the Crane, the Serpent, the Leopard and the Dragon. Each of these styles existed in their traditional forms. Bai Yu Feng only did a job of synthesis by combining them in a single style where each animal complements the other. It is important to understand that there is no one form stronger than another. There should be no competition between the different shapes. On the contrary, a close collaboration must exist between each of the forms and that is why the weaknesses of one form are compensated by the strength of another. I like to talk about an Alliance between the 5 Shaolin forms.


The 5 shapes are models that we can imitate


What are animal styles, according to Jason Parks *? “Animal styles are more correctly described as imitative styles (Xing Quan) and are a unique feature of classical Chinese martial arts. The Masters developed these styles as a way to explore the nature of human consciousness by exploring the different “spirits” that the animal represents. The animal is an archetype that the practitioner can explore to understand this “ability to change” that the human mind possesses. The reason for imitation is to break free from our everyday identity and thereby explore ways of thinking that we would not normally have considered. It helps create a paradigm shift and increases our understanding while pushing back our borders as a result. * "


  * Sifu Jason Park is a Master in 4 different styles of Shaolin Gong Fu. He is the founder of Mountain Gate Academy (MGA) and the developer of Restorative Learning®. Jason has been teaching and practicing martial arts for the past twenty years. (