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Thread: Five Animals of Kenpo

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    Default Five Animals of Kenpo

    Many of us have the five animal picture on the walls of our studios. But what do Kenpo stylists really understand about these animals? What are we getting at when we speak of animal moves and influence? Very interested in Bill Packer's AKKA (brother Don) in that his web site spent considerable effort to mention these. I have read articles by Seniors in Tracy Kenpo on this subject, but it always seems rather esoteric. Can some one explain how the rubber meets the road, concrete moves of the five animals?

    Kenpo Gary

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpo Gary View Post
    Many of us have the five animal picture on the walls of our studios. But what do Kenpo stylists really understand about these animals? What are we getting at when we speak of animal moves and influence? Very interested in Bill Packer's AKKA (brother Don) in that his web site spent considerable effort to mention these. I have read articles by Seniors in Tracy Kenpo on this subject, but it always seems rather esoteric. Can some one explain how the rubber meets the road, concrete moves of the five animals?

    Kenpo Gary
    It's my understanding the Finger Set, and Moving Finger Set, are actually snake forms. It would be interesting to know where those sets came from originally...

    Ted Sumner I believe has an article about the animals, on his website, sanjosekenpo.com
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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    From Ted Sumner's forum:

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Here is a general overview of the nature and modality of the fighting styles of the Five Animals of Kenpo. Hope this helps.


    DRAGON
    Most effective against: The Tiger
    Most vulnerable against: The Panther

    The Dragon is a primarily defensive animal and the strategy of the Dragon deals with the yielding to and redirecting of force used against it. The simplest application of Dragon strategy is to move out of the way as executed in the Total Evasion discipline. A War Art application of Dragon strategy would be judicious use of critical distance. That is to position just within the range of your opponent offering an apparent target. As the attack is committed the Dragon enjoins and directs or redirects the force in a different or merely exaggerated direction increasing the intensity, angle speed of the movement.


    TIGER
    Most effective against: The Crane
    Most vulnerable against: The Dragon

    The Tiger is an intelligent powerful animal that reacts to any threat with an offensive effort. The strategy of the Tiger is to skillfully apply a superlatively balanced attack consisting of powerful kicks, handstrikes and blocks. The Tiger will move relentlessly down the center attacking the opponents most vulnerable and vital parts and prefers to meet force with greater force. The Tiger might well embrace the Kenpo credo ďevery block a strike, every strike a blockĒ.


    CRANE
    Most effective against: The Serpent
    Most vulnerable against: The Tiger

    The Crane, like the Dragon, is a docile animal that uses force only in cause of self defense and applies the a an very defensive modality. The Crane will rise up and open itís wings to give an illusion of greater size and then strike with the beak to a vital target as soon as the opponent is within critical distance. The Crane uses itís ability to strike long range to compensate for itís lack of ability to overpower itís opponent. The use of long range kicks, such as the rear kick, rear thrust and front thrust are examples of a Crane strategy. Once itís critical distance has been compromised the Crane will respond with a fusillade of strikes with the wings claws and beak. Much like what Kenpo styles do with fists, fingers, elbow, knee and teeth. Once the opponent is disabled, injured or put on the defensive the Crane will reacquire itís critical distance.


    SERPENT
    Most effective against: The Panther
    Most vulnerable against: The Crane

    The Serpent, like the Tiger moves down the center and targets the most vital targets in order to accomplish the most damage to the opponent with each strike. The Serpent will, however, take hold of itís opponent and wrap around him in order to constrict and suffocate the opponent into unconsciousness or death. The Serpent is most vulnerable once it crosses into critical distance and must close quickly with itís opponent in order to neutralize long-range defensive strikes. Once engaged with the opponent the Serpent is fully committed to that struggle and incapable of dealing with multiple attackers.

    PANTHER
    Strongest against: The Dragon
    Most vulnerable against: The Snake

    The Panther, like the Serpent, is employs an offensive strategy in combat. The Panther uses itís apparently blinding speed coupled with a continuous recombination of complimentary lines and angles to mesmerize itís opponent with continuous strikes that seem to come from everywhere. Much like the Kenpo ďmissile attackĒ strategy, the Panther never relies on a single strike to necessarily settle the matter. The Panther is both ambidextrous and highly mobile, moving in and out of critical distance striking at will. The Panther however, lacking the strength of the Tiger, does not do well once it has been taken to the ground and itís mobility and striking skill and speed has been compromised.

    Ted
    Dave

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    I think generally it is an attempt to link up with the Shaolin Kung-Fu systems for lineage purposes. The whole, Tiger most effective against a turtle is not going to help much if stuff hits the fan and you have not had the chance to ask the other guy what animal he likes.

    Also, a way to commercialize the systems so the public will spend their hard earned dollar to stand on a post for half an hour so they can BUY a crane patch.

    I am insinuating USSD NOT Tracy's but I think you get the picture.

    Trust me if a crane was smart enough it would have a martial art designed to fight like a human.
    The above is just my opinion.

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Dianhsuhe View Post
    I think generally it is an attempt to link up with the Shaolin Kung-Fu systems for lineage purposes. The whole, Tiger most effective against a turtle is not going to help much if stuff hits the fan and you have not had the chance to ask the other guy what animal he likes.
    I disagree. I think that this gives people a way to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you find from Ted's article that you are a snake, and that the snake is weaker against a whatever, then you have some ideas of areas that need development.

    That is how we (Tracy's) view the animals. Animal styles and shaolin kung fu don't go with the Mitose's japanese kenpo.

    They do go with William Chow if you still buy the "Chow's father was a shaolin priest who taught William his family art."

    Trust me if a crane was smart enough it would have a martial art designed to fight like a human.

    Most definitely.
    Dave

    "I consider that the spiritual life is the life of man's real self, the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern." - Thomas Merton


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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    I am gonna have to agree with Dianhsuhe on this one. Unless are studying one of the specific Animal styles as your primary art then all this animal stuff can actually be clutter that can bog down the student or distract them from concentrating on what is most important in their training.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    It's my understanding the Finger Set, and Moving Finger Set, are actually snake forms. would be interesting to know where those sets came from originally...
    Hung Gar uses the snake in their five animals and five element forms. Would be my guess there is a relationship here.

    Kenpo Gary
    "The heart of the Kenpo System has always been practical-effective- Self Defense Techniques." Al Tracy

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpo Gary View Post
    Hung Gar uses the snake in their five animals and five element forms. Would be my guess there is a relationship here.

    Kenpo Gary

    Actually, after I put that post up I notice on Al Tracy's website that he says the Finger Set was created by Ed Parker.

    I wonder what was the inspiration of the techniques in the form. Perhaps snake from Ark Wong's school? I dunno.

    I tried to find the reference on Al's website again, but I can't find it. It was kind of buried somewhere and I sort of stumbled onto it, but it was just a few days ago.
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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Dianhsuhe View Post
    Trust me if a crane was smart enough it would have a martial art designed to fight like a human.
    I am paraphrasing a quote here (maybe attributable to James Mitose?) but anyway applicable to this discussion.

    What is more foolish?
    - a man pretending to be a tiger
    - or a tiger pretending to be a man

    The real answer of course, from the females of our species, is that men are all pigs!

    I myself am a Master of this "Oink Oink Style"!
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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Dianhsuhe View Post
    Trust me if a crane was smart enough it would have a martial art designed to fight like a human.
    But, if a tiger was smart enough to design an art to fight like a human it would still fight like a tiger. Why kick and punch someone when you can simply eat him.

    Kenpo Gary
    "The heart of the Kenpo System has always been practical-effective- Self Defense Techniques." Al Tracy

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Everyone's comments are reinforcing my opinion that the animal fighting modalities are strategic in nature, not to be used to "fight like a crane," etc.

    Face it, our crane beak is at the end of our wing. Our "tiger's jaw" is on our hand. And I certainly can't fly or breathe fire, even after a Nacho Bel Grande with extra hot sauce.

    But find that guy in sparring that gives you trouble. Analyze his style based on the essay, and see if, in doing so, you can identify some weaknesses in your own sparring, and perhaps find a strategy that his "style" is weaker against.
    Dave

    "I consider that the spiritual life is the life of man's real self, the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern." - Thomas Merton


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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Hmm, Runner, Blitzer, Counter-fighter, Grappler, Sniper.
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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpodave View Post
    Everyone's comments are reinforcing my opinion that the animal fighting modalities are strategic in nature, not to be used to "fight like a crane," etc.

    Face it, our crane beak is at the end of our wing. Our "tiger's jaw" is on our hand. And I certainly can't fly or breathe fire, even after a Nacho Bel Grande with extra hot sauce.

    But find that guy in sparring that gives you trouble. Analyze his style based on the essay, and see if, in doing so, you can identify some weaknesses in your own sparring, and perhaps find a strategy that his "style" is weaker against.
    Maybe. But I don't know if using vaguely descriptive metaphors actually conveys information. Saying the guy fights like a mythical creature that obviously no one has seen (a dragon) doesn't seem to provide any assistance. If fighters/people can be categorized into strategic or tactical categories, then it seems to me that there must be a much clearer way to express these ideas.

    Originally, the individual animal style was a method that served as a in-road into the larger art by the new student. In most animal systems I am aware off, you never learn 'just a single animal,' rather you learn them all. In fact, your 'core' animal style may change as you get older and more experienced. But at the end of the day, the specific methodology introduced by the animal form is transcended in favor of a more complete understanding and application of the entire system. Unless one of these 'masters' is doing a specific animal form, or you perform a 'frame-by-frame' analysis, you can't describe what they are doing by referencing an animal.

    I've heard people call Ed Parker a 'Panther-stylist.' (One of these people also called Joe Palanzo a Panther-style.) And Doc has been compared to Bear. Now knowing that, is anyone now in a better position to fight them?

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    Actually, after I put that post up I notice on Al Tracy's website that he says the Finger Set was created by Ed Parker.

    I wonder what was the inspiration of the techniques in the form. Perhaps snake from Ark Wong's school? I dunno.

    I tried to find the reference on Al's website again, but I can't find it. It was kind of buried somewhere and I sort of stumbled onto it, but it was just a few days ago.
    It is my understanding that Finger Set was largely an expression of anatomical indexes. It was a compliation of several of them, but not necessarily exhaustive applications for all the referenced indexes. Take the 'crane-hand' as an example. Although used in Finger Set, its application is a good deal broader than its use there may suggest.

    As far as if there is a specific Chinese precusor to Finger Set, I don't know. Doc would know. But it is my understanding Finger Set was Mr. Parker's own creation.

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Just to give some perspective, I'd like to point out that there are more than one way to interpret animals in an animal style or animal-inspired style. So what is true in one may not hold water in another.

    A good example is White Crane. There are several different arts that go by this name, and they are not at all alike except in very minor ways. They have a different origin and history, and the techniques and even basic approach to combat are often quite different.

    Tibetan White Crane is a long range, very fast, whipping power style that relies greatly on movement and footwork that covers a lot of ground. According to it's oral mythology, it was developed by a Tibetan Llama in the 1400s who witnessed a fight between a crane and a mountain ape. He was inspired to combine what he witnessed with the martial training that he already had, and developed an effective method. The art went thru several incarnations and has been known by different names, and now White Crane is one of the current methods that has come out of this history.

    Fukien White Crane, also known as Southern White Crane, is completely different from Tibetan. It looks more like Wing Chun, on a superficial level. Power generation is very different, as are its techniques.

    Then we have the Crane techniques found in Hung Gar's Tiger and Crane, which many kenpoists are familiar with. The man who developed this form, Wong Fei Hung, knew a very skilled man who was part of the Tibetan lineage, altho before it took the name White Crane. Many techniques from the Tibetan method are found in Tiger/Crane, and it's not just the crane beak hand strikes, which actually don't look much like how we use the crane beak. Many of the longer, swinging and looping fist strikes actually are foundations in the Tibetan method. So Tibetan White Crane, or its precursor, took a hand in the development of this form. But Tiger/Crane has many crane techniques that don't look much of anything like the rest of the Tibetan method, at least so far as my experience in training the art goes. And these crane techniques also don't look much like the Fukien method, so far as I have seen videos of that method, which I have not actually studied.

    So where did these other crane techniques come from? Obviously someone else had another interpretation of what a crane is and does, and developed techniques based on this. Perhaps they come from Hung Gar, or some other Shaolin influence. I don't really know and I pointed this out to my sifu. He also was unsure.

    I have also heard of a White Crane of Omei, tho I know nothing about it. Maybe this was an influence, or it could again be very different.

    Just about the only common thread I have seen in my experience with White Crane is the use of the crane beak, and it seems that some systems use it more extensively, and in different ways, than others. In our Tibetan method, it is not emphasized much at all, but we do have it.

    So what I am trying to say is, it seems that different people in different regions, operating under different conditions and experiences, have developed vastly different methods that ended up with the same name. They obviously were inspired by the same animal, but people made different interpretations of what the animal gives us to work with. And we see this in the different arts that bear the same name.

    I think a true animal form includes both physical techniques inspired by the animal, as well as a basic strategy of combat that is also inspired by the animal's behavior patterns. I don't think that every style that happens to include a claw technique can claim to be "tiger inspired", however. I think it needs to have a stronger connection than something like that, otherwise probably every TKD and Karate style could make the claim and I think that's just not true.

    So how does this mesh with Kenpo? As Dave has pointed out, the animals can give some strategic notions, and maybe that's as legitimate a connection as any other. I do not see Kenpo as being "animal style" in the clear sense, but perhaps it has found its own connection to the animal influences.

    Hope this gives you all something to chew on for a bit.
    Michael


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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    Maybe. But I don't know if using vaguely descriptive metaphors actually conveys information. Saying the guy fights like a mythical creature that obviously no one has seen (a dragon) doesn't seem to provide any assistance. If fighters/people can be categorized into strategic or tactical categories, then it seems to me that there must be a much clearer way to express these ideas.
    Hence the descriptions that follow in the essay.

    I've heard people call Ed Parker a 'Panther-stylist.' (One of these people also called Joe Palanzo a Panther-style.) And Doc has been compared to Bear. Now knowing that, is anyone now in a better position to fight them?
    Well, I could look at the essay and from that derive a strategy that a panther stylist may be weaker against. But bear isn't on the list. so you'll have to write out what you mean by it.

    Different people learn different ways. Ed Parker created a new "language" for kenpo with Infinite Insights. Many of his own seniors did not adopt that language because they did not feel the necessity for it. Doc Chape'l, on the other hand, continues to adopt new descriptions for principles as his understanding of them continues to evolve.

    I don't use the afore-mentioned essay for all of my students, but some of them have found it a useful tool. One of my black belts was able to read a description that he felt identified him very well. In doing so, he was also able to understand why two of my other black belts were successfully penetrating his defense. By identifying some of their strengths and weaknesses based on the same essay, he was able to devise some strategies that limited their success, and increased his. It forced all 3 of them to think outside of a box that they were comfortable with.

    And they all got better. I just don't see the problem with that.
    Dave

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpodave View Post
    Hence the descriptions that follow in the essay.
    The point, as illustrated by Flying Crane's post, is that such terms are ambiguous and lend themselves to multiple and often conflicting interpretations. What exactly makes some look, act, or perform like a crane is highly subjective. These terms, and consequently the concepts they are placeholders for, are too nebulous to provide anything more than a superficial understanding or analysis. Outside of those that share your exact understanding of the term, it is essentially meaningless.

    Compare this to terms such as gravity, work, force, etc. All these terms have universal, consistent, and relatively objective meanings that once learned, allow the words to convey real meaning to the hearer. No matter how many people you use these terms with, they should share substantially the same understanding. Ask 100 different people what crane-style, panther-style, dragon-style, (or my personal favorite) panda-style and you'll get many different answers. So, in my mind, these terms fail to convey any real information.

    And we (those of us in Kenpo) shouldn't be satisfied in continuing to use suspect metaphors that are antiquated and of little cultural relevance to us in America. Plus, these animals were used as teaching and training vehicles that are no longer present in 'American' Kenpo.

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    [quote=Drew;76120] These terms, and consequently the concepts they are placeholders for, are too nebulous to provide anything more than a superficial understanding or analysis. Outside of those that share your exact understanding of the term, it is essentially meaningless.
    [\quote]

    ah, but if they have a meaning to the individual and he is able to make use of that meaning, that is all that really matters regardless of if it is meaningless to others. Within the context of the art you train, if meaning has been assigned to these animals and you are clear on that meaning, then it can be useful.

    Ask 100 different people what crane-style, panther-style, dragon-style, (or my personal favorite) panda-style and you'll get many different answers. So, in my mind, these terms fail to convey any real information.
    again, it doesn't matter that it's meaningless or has conflicting meaning among others. If you understand it in your context and it makes sense to you, it can be useful.

    And we (those of us in Kenpo) shouldn't be satisfied in continuing to use suspect metaphors that are antiquated and of little cultural relevance to us in America. Plus, these animals were used as teaching and training vehicles that are no longer present in 'American' Kenpo.
    but we are discussing this in the context of Tracy Kenpo, not American Kenpo. These notions may be antiquated and of little cultural relevance to YOU in America, but not for others. For others, they can still have a lot of meaning. Outside of kenpo, the Animal styles are alive and well and strong and relevant. Your comments are suggesting that they also should just die. But they are far too strong for that.
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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    [ah, but if they have a meaning to the individual and he is able to make use of that meaning, that is all that really matters regardless of if it is meaningless to others. Within the context of the art you train, if meaning has been assigned to these animals and you are clear on that meaning, then it can be useful.

    ***

    but we are discussing this in the context of Tracy Kenpo, not American Kenpo. These notions may be antiquated and of little cultural relevance to YOU in America, but not for others. For others, they can still have a lot of meaning. Outside of kenpo, the Animal styles are alive and well and strong and relevant. Your comments are suggesting that they also should just die. But they are far too strong for that.
    I knew as soon as I thanked you, you'd sneaked up behind me...

    I don't disagree you can interpret some concepts to have very personal meanings. But my point was that these types of terms are ill suited as vessels of knowledge because they lack the ability to be reliably transmitted and universally understood to others.

    If the idea of gravity didn't have a universal and consistent meaning, it would be extremely difficult to advance the sciences or educate the next generation. Imagine if you went from UCLA to Harvard and discovered they defined gravity an entirely different way. How could professors or students effectively communicate with each other across institutions? So why not endeavor for something less subjective and not tainted by personal experiences whenever possible?

    I put 'American' in quotes because I meant to be inclusive of the Chow/Mitose/Parker lineages. I suppose we could just call it all Kenpo, but then it doesn't entirely distinguish it from the Asian forms of the art.

    And yes outside of Kenpo they have validity, I said that. But within the CMP families of Kenpo, in my experience they are always artificially grafted on, without serving the function they did in the mother Chinese arts. So in Kenpo they are essentially cultural leftovers.

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    Default Re: Five Animals of Kenpo

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    The point, as illustrated by Flying Crane's post, is that such terms are ambiguous and lend themselves to multiple and often conflicting interpretations. What exactly makes some look, act, or perform like a crane is highly subjective. These terms, and consequently the concepts they are placeholders for, are too nebulous to provide anything more than a superficial understanding or analysis. Outside of those that share your exact understanding of the term, it is essentially meaningless.


    Again, that would be the reason for the descriptions that follow the terms.

    Compare this to terms such as gravity, work, force, etc. All these terms have universal, consistent, and relatively objective meanings that once learned, allow the words to convey real meaning to the hearer. No matter how many people you use these terms with, they should share substantially the same understanding. Ask 100 different people what crane-style, panther-style, dragon-style, (or my personal favorite) panda-style and you'll get many different answers. So, in my mind, these terms fail to convey any real information.


    Unless, of course, the descriptions that follow the terms are there. Any reasonable discussion using such metaphors would begin with an agreement to the validity of the terms and descriptions for the purpose of said discussion. So, you telling me that your idea of a panther style fighter and my idea are different either means that you disagree with what is portrayed in the essay, or you haven't read it.

    Perhaps if we changed the names, as Lamont suggested. Runner, blitzer, etc. But the names don't matter. The essay is an attempt to place a strategy or group of strategies in a neatly labeled box for the purpose of discussion and learning. Semantics stray from that purpose.

    And we (those of us in Kenpo) shouldn't be satisfied in continuing to use suspect metaphors that are antiquated and of little cultural relevance to us in America.


    I don't know. I know the guy who wrote the essay. He has been in kenpo for over 40 years and has a doctorate in adult education, specifically distance learning. He has stated that adults learn better through the use of analogy and metaphor. I am not sure that cultural relevance is...relevant. I am not sure that terms like "marriage of gravity" and "obscure zones" are scientifically valid, but they certainly illustrate the point.

    Plus, these animals were used as teaching and training vehicles that are no longer present in 'American' Kenpo.
    Well, if you ask 100 different people what the meaning of American Kenpo is, you are likely to get many different answers.
    Dave

    "I consider that the spiritual life is the life of man's real self, the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern." - Thomas Merton


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