The tiger plays a great role in Chinese history and mythology, so it is
only fitting that the beast should be chosen as one from which to develop
a fighting art. The ferocity, wisdom and tenacity are legendary. So it is
that we study the king of the animals in order to be taught "tenacity
Tiger kung fu dates back to the time of Dr. Hua T'o and constituted
some of the original kung fu exercises taught for health. As a fighting
art, it traces its roots to Burma and the ancient methods of bandasilat.
Among the Shaolin, tiger was a necessity for study because it encompassed
all aspects of armed and unarmed combat.
For the most part, tiger utilizes a hard, external approach to combat
that meets force with force and is very likely to maim or kill an opponent
because of the nature of the counterattack. Its primary hand weapons are
the closed fist and the tiger claw while kicking maneuvers are usually low
to middle range kicks of great power.
One studies tiger to develop bones, muscles and tendons. The emphasis,
as befits the beast, is on strength and dynamic tension, culminated in
short, hard, snappy moves. As in all styles of kung fu, one becomes the
The Tiger kung fu family, although a low system, encompasses an
enormous range of subsystems that span levels from low to low high. The
members of the family, listed in their traditional order, are as follows:
Of these, tiger comprises 85% of the family's techniques, pa kua 1%,
eagle 1%, leoaprd 5%, monkey 5%, white tiger 1%, dragon 1% and white
eyebrow 1%. Hong tiger, eagle, leopard and monkey are sufficiently diverse
that they may be considered independent subsystems.
Crab is now a dead system of kung fu, the remnants of which were incorporated into eagle, hong tiger and white eyebrow. Practitioners fought from a low, crouching scissors stance and used great wrist and forearm strength to attack nerves or cut off circulation with the crab pincer.
S'hu, the hong weapons kung fu style, has 3 sets dealing primarily with
the spear and tiger fork.
White tiger kung fu is very effective and narrow in scope, the most
interesting of the tiger systems. Swift and dynamic, it has more flow than
hung gar and is faster than tiger. It is Chinese, founded by a monk who
escaped with White Eyebrow, and is designed for those who study only
tiger. One studies this style after mastering one's own system or, if a
tiger stylist, after learning all below it. The 3rd form consists entirely
of aerial kicks, one covering 360 degrees in the air. Its saber set is the
most advanced form devised for that weapon. The remaining material in the
style provides a lead to ruby dragon kung fu.
Pa kua is a tremendously diverse kung fu style that is similar to
aikido or jiujitsu in its application. Pa kua is an internal,
southern style, begun in the 19th century by Tung. Its basis is the I
Ching, the 8 trigrams of which constitute the foundation of the art.
Tremendous flexibility is developed in the practitioner who practices his
techniques while walking in a circle to enhance ch'i. Some forms have been
developed with an emphasis on tiger tactics and comprise the internal
tiger of the family.
Drunken kung fu is not truly a system for the techniques are not unique
to it, only their application. Deception and surprise are used, making it
into a sort of elaborate pa kua. There are no forms.
Tiger also has remnants of offbeat hard styles as well as northern
varieties, such as Black Tiger.
Lion kung fu was an unusual style which was enveloped by tiger. Its
influence can be seen in the lion dance that was traditionally taught
first to tiger practitioners.
Shaolin tiger contains within it the entirety of hung gar, s'hu tiger,
and hong tiger. Its weapons are spear, tiger fork and daggers. Tiger forms
are as follows:
In tiger, we encounter for the first time the concept of time and
system - that is, which system is best suited for when. Because of the
diversity of tiger, we have systems for most occasions; it is simply a
matter of experience to determine when they are best used.
Monkey and leopard are especially useful at night, when the blinding
hand and foot movements are invisible. Movement is accomplished far faster
than the eye can compensate for in reduced light.
Tiger is useful during daylight and on hills but is difficult on wet
ground. Go back to leopard in that situation.
White eyebrow is excellent in hot weather, when frustration is easily
created in an opponent. The speed and economy of movement are too much to
handle under such conditions.
Tiger itself and its close relatives (hong tiger, hung gar, white
tiger) are best suited to shorter, muscular men. White dragon and white
eyebrow are for skilled practitioners, regardless of sex. There is
something for everyone in tiger, although the women's choices will be best
limited to monkey, leopard, pak mei and the dragons.
Tiger claws are used as if grabbing a bag of BBs. All fingertips strike
first, then the claw grabs so that the area between the fingertips and the
1st knuckles break the target. Ch'i
projection will allow you to explode a target by putting massive amounts
of energy into 5 small areas.
Leopard kung fu began as a southern style that has seen some northern
influence in the form of Panther. Leopard is construed as a soft subsystem
and is used to develop speed and strength, for it is the fastest of the
tiger family. It was developed by Mot, a great choy lay fut practitioner,
and was included in tiger because of its different structure and style of
Although the chain and whip are occasionally used in leopard kung fu,
the main weapon is the leopard fist. The fist is formed in such a way that
it can jab, rake or crush on any surface without alteration, striking soft
points in the anatomy and structural weak points. Ribs are a frequent
target. The back of the hand is often used in breaking while a variation
with the first two fingers extended like chelicerae is used for attacks to
Snow leopard, leopard at dawn, leopard bares its claws and Panther are
forms seen in tiger. The first is from the Tibetan snow leopard kung fu
system and is arbitrarily included. The second utilizes tiger footwork in
conjunction with leopard hand techniques. Panther, the highest form in the
style, has all of leopard's kicking maneuvers and uses the 3rd leopard
form as its foundation.
The monkey kung fu found in the tiger kung fu family is based upon
combat between an ape and a tiger, thus is not Ta Sheng Men. Nevertheless,
the leaping, scratching, biting and screaming common to the animal are
employed in full measure. Low stances are the rule. Fluid motion and
blinding speed are also characteristic. The forms are monkey 1-10, monkey
in the grass and monkey playing with a ball of string.
Hong tiger kung fu is merely Shaolin tiger with influence from white
crane kung fu and dragon kung fu for use primarily against weapons.
Developed for use by imperial guards, it is essentially abbreviated hung
gar kung fu with more emphasis on white crane than tiger. It lists high on
the chart only because of its association with the emperor. No mental
study is involved, leaving the style definitely not a challenge to the
priests. It was also a forbidden system employed by government assassins
and called black tiger. Hong kung fu forms 1-8 are:
Eagle kung fu, commonly known as tam tuie in its southern form, uses
kicks only sparingly. The eagle talon is its primary weapon and is used to
attack the eyes, throat and occasionally, the groin. Pokes and grabs are
the rule, sometimes used in concert with leg sweeps such as the eagle
wheel. Within the system are contained some of the most efficient blocks
known, although they may be difficult to retaliate from. It was originally
a northern style of kung fu that migrated south.
The forms of this kung fu style are named as follows:
Shantung black tiger kung fu originated in the Honan Shaolin temple
before being released. It has more emphasis on footwork than the southern
Shaolin kung fu forms and bears some resemblance to southern eagle.
White eyebrow (pak mei in Cantonese) is a forbidden kung fu system that
has the ch'i of the lower dragons and the economy of motion found in all
high systems. A distinguishing characteristic is that 1 open hand is near
The three open hand kung fu sets are as follows.
There is also a saber form.
A Shaolin monk named White Eyebrow killed 4 brother monks to test the
effectiveness of his new art. Consequently, his style was forbidden to be
taught in the temple and he was sent into exile with the founder of white
You will find style specific basic technique here along with 2-person drills and forms.
This video is essentially what we had on our CD-ROMs and is now available for free! For basic gung fu technique,
check out our Training Section.
©1997-2008, Shaolin Gung Fu Institute
About Us - FAQ -
search - links