On this page you will find most of the information that you require to learn, train and pass Post Red Sash level of Shaolin Tiger Kung Fu.
Although Lions are considered in the Western Word as 'King' of the Animals, the Tiger out-weighs and out sizes the lion by almost anywhere between 50% to 100%. This only has relevance in the term of Kung Fu; to understand why Chinese Tiger Kung Fu is what it is; the King of all Kung Fu Styles. This clarification is important to the understanding of both, the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu, Tiger Style and stand-along village and family Tiger Kung Fu styles.
The Tiger Animal
Most people know that Tigers are an endangered as a species. Of the 8 (The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), The South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), The Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), The Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), The Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica), The Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata). The Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) family's, three are now totally extinct and two are close to extension. From once being million counted there are now less than 10,000 tigers left in the world, both in the wild and in zoo's. And there is a message in that which is also seem through Sharks and Crocodiles; once your perfect there is no real further evolution and sooner or later someone, something comes along and shows you that you are a dinosaur (we'll get back to this a little later).
Introduction to Tiger Kung Fu
The Tiger is the lord of the land/realm. It is the King of the Animals, King of the mountain. The Tigers natural, easy fluidity hides it's ferocious power and dominance. Armed with deadly claws, sharp and strong jaws, the Tiger style is one of Simplicity, Directness and Power. Very simple, honest and direct, strategies and actions.
Dominating, controlling, powerful, frontal, larger than life, Tigers rely upon their size and the explosive force delivered by their short, thick muscles, clarity of mind, rightness and purity of spirit to achieve their needs and wants. The Tiger does not need to defend, it is the ultimate predator. It has no evasion techniques, no blocking or defence. In any confrontation it leaps into attack going for the quick and direct resolution of the conflict. It does not have the stamina, inclination or need for enduring and prolonged fights, hunts or teaching (cubs, other tigers) activities.
The Tiger uses any simple and direct approach. It's techniques and methods are easily understood with not a lot of strategic thinking or planning; and absolutely no preparation. The Tiger is purely reactive, instinctive and dominating. Either the world is OK or not and then the Tiger will do something immediate and sudden.
Tiger Style and History
The Tiger is one of the significant Chinese animal symbols. It is therefore not surprising that there are many historical references to a Tiger. Currently, you can find many version of history most seeking to validate ‘their style’. It is difficult almost impossible to have a definitive history of Tiger Kung Fu. At this time (2013) you can find some styles referring back only 100 years or so and others as far back as 500 years. There are though, a few less disputed facts about Tiger in Kung Fu.
Hung Gar also called Tiger and Crane is one of the styles that has been around since the 17th century and can still be found now. Well you can't have Tiger and Crane without having a Tiger only style, so we need to go back further. Looking a Shaolin Temple history we know of the 4 times of destruction; 570 CE, app 1100 CE, 1645 CE and 1927 CE. After the first destruction, it took 30 years for Shaolin to be fully functional again and there was a shift from Yoga style exercises to Kung Fu, first to a pure striking style (Shaolin 72 Fists) then expanded to a combination Striking and Pressure Point style (Shaolin 170 Moves). This remained so until the 2nd destruction of Shaolin, around the 11 Century when Buddhism became very rich and influential and the people turned against it including Shaolin. When Shaolin was re-established, we have a period in Shaolin called the time of the 100 Kung Fu styles.
First a bit of speculation; when the Shaolin Monks dispersed and there is evidence that many sought refuge in other great Temples including Wudang, Emai Shan, Kwantung and others. When, after many years they came back together to rebuild the Shaolin Temple they came with the skill and knowledge of some 20 to 50 years of exile. The monks had propegated the Shaolin 170 moves but then also incorporated their host temples style and teaching. Each of these Temples had at least one of their own styles of exercise and Kung Fu. Wudang had Crow and Snake (later Eagle and Snake) a very efficient and conserving style (along Daois Principles), Emai Shan, a border healing temple, practiced Crane Kung Fu but was also influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles. Kwantung was the gateway to the world and the home of the Black Tiger Kung Fu (although that is more recent history). Fukien, which was the only other Shaolin Temple, was established to keep the peace during the Tang Dynasty, was never just one and the same temple but kept on changing. First because the original temple was to small Shaolin moved to another temple. Then the 2nd temple was gifted and they moved a bit further away, into the mountains and this may have been the reason that this temple full of fighting monks did not see any major destruction. There were other temples but these 4 well show the pattern for 20 to 50 years of history
Now we come to more established information, the time of the 100 Animal Styles. Around the 12th century, close to the change over to the Ming Dynasty, Shaolin seemed to be inundated with Animal Styles and Principles. Some very well know animals like Mantis, Monkey, Eagle but also some (for westerners seemingly) ludicrous style like 10,000 Bees (pressure point style), Toad (Jumping and Clenching Style), Dog (ground fighting) and others. History suggests that it took Shaolin almost 100 years to re-organize this abundance of styles into the Shaolin 5 Animal Style. And they were very clever at it by sorting all the styles into the 4 and making it a one style with 4 sides like a icosahedron. The ingenuity of the Shaolin to choose two cats and then a bird and reptile is incredibly absolutely genius. Interested why; talk to
Sijo or e-mail.
The Tiger is the Biggest, Strongest most Ferocious of all the animals, almost. There are bigger, there are quicker, there are stronger but the Tiger has the ideal combination of all of these. It has a great combination of Strength, feline fluidity and a great assortment of tools (Claws and Jaws). It is the quintessential predator with no single speciality and just an all around master of their domain.
The Tiger requires to have their place/territory that it will manage for it's own needs and sustainability. This territory will be the size it needs to be so that it is not over hunted but also not over-large. A Tiger just takes what it needs to survive, not more or less; a master of it's domain. It does not mind other predators and life in it's kin dome as long as it is not challenged and not bothered. In such a case life is good!
Tigers will seek to avoid fighting other Tigers or encroaching on their territory if anyway possible. Only for the most important of reasons, leadership, survival or mating will the Tiger choose to fight another Tiger because Tiger to Tiger dispute are always a loose-loose situation; or as an old Chinese saying goes; "when Two Tigers Fight, one is Killed and the other is Severely Hurt".
The Tiger Style Kung Fu
Is simple and direct, sudden and absolute. It is of simple and direct strategies and tactics, economic and quick action, final and complete solutions. There is no need for complex stepping, diverse techniques, involved tactics and absolutely no need for blocking. Tiger style relies on the users size, attitude, strength, power and singularity of purpose. Every technique is powerful and final. There are no feints, distraction or strategies. Tiger style launches directly at the most vulnerable and direct point of the attacker, the throat. If the throat is covered then the obstacle is removed and the Tiger goes for the throat; with it's size and bulk a Tiger can not afford prolonged fights as it will make them vulnerable to lesser predators.
The Shaolin Tigers Dragon Maul
The Shaolin Tigers Claw
The Tigers 3 Main Tools
We are not Tigers but we can approximate and emulate Tigers methods through three main tools;
is the key technique used to capture the throat of the attacker. This is the single most important Tiger Kung Fu technique, all others, with one exception, are just in support of this one main finishing goal.
is emulate using the hands both separately and together. Single handed Tiger Claws swipe and normally at blocking arms if they are protecting the attackers throat. They are also used, individually or in concert, for Grabbing, Holding and Arresting. The ability to latch onto our attacker and maintain control is also focus around the throat with either a figure 4 neck lock or the Sash Lock both from behind. The hands would be used to latch on and reposition the opponent to have access to them from behind.
Tiger Hind Claws
are our Feet and the workhorse for debilitating and opponent and preparing for Tiger Maul to the throat. Powerful Tiger Front kick to the solar plexus or the Sweeping, Breaking, Corking roundhouse kick to the thigh (or in life threatening situation, knee) to stop the opponent and open the Throat.
The Tiger operates with Overwhelming Power, Tenacity, and Fearlessness.
Best suited to the muscular strong and large martial artist, the Tiger Stylist is an aggressive, offensive and sometime brash fighter with the least graceful, or perhaps one should say the least subtle, eschewing pinpoint strikes for broad, sweeping movements that act as both blocks and attacks in the one movement.
The Tiger (Stylists) is a person that prefers Action rather than Words. They lead from the front and when others are still pondering the nature of the problem, Tiger Stylists are already fixing it their way when others are still researching, thinking or consulting on the matter at hand. Tiger Stylists believe that ;"Leadership is Action, not Position or Words". In emergency situations, where threat is imminent and there is Chaos, this is the best form of action; but often it is also at a cost.
The nature of a Tiger Stylist (usually) is also not to know when to quit. There are no opponents-only obstacles, no impossibilities-just other peoples incompetence, nothing that can not be done, fixed, made or destroyed; nothing impossible. A Tiger Stylist will take on any challenge with the confidence that he/she can get it done. This may cost them dearly but for the Tiger Stylist; "there is No Retreat and No Surrender" (yes a cliché but it expresses the Tiger Stylist perfectly).
You are a Tiger if you prefer;
Yang - Alphas/Tigers prefer immediate action and clear optimum solution, even if it may seem impossible. Planning in a minimalist way they will get to it here and now, if possible. Tigers often find that people over-talk a situation or problem. They tend to get restless when there is something to do and nothing being done. Tigers are on edge leading up to an even but not when the event starts and they can do and play; play hard, work hard love often. Tigers are naturally confident even cocky and believe that they are better at things than others (until proven wrong the hard way).
Yin - The Tigers Strength, bravado and attitude actually protects a softer, gentler and even vulnerable person inside. Tigers will be easily hurt by words, lies and innuendos; and will often not have a way of dealing with this unless they can resort to action. Else they will retreat into themselves and, if possible, ultimately, move on to greener pastures.
Some Tiger Aspects
Kicks in the Tiger form are mostly limited to high power variants, such as roundhouse, front kicks, back step side kick but rarely used as the main Tiger Kick is the Solar Plexus Front Kick. Tiger is very physically demanding, and will simply will not back down. An aggressors attacks are smothered with viscous strikes and kicks no bothering to block but just brushing any attack aside (this is why there is rarely a winner when two tiger fight).
A straight punch becomes like a bettering ram, square punches become shredding claws and a front kick is like a shot cannonball. Blocks are almost non existent as the Tiger ‘brushes obstacles aside to finding the quick, best and most direct and simple access.
As people Tiger types are usually direct, honest, powerful, confident and the best front line leaders. They take care of their own and do not allow interference. Tigers are Kings of the physical world and have a wide spirit, are generous, family oriented, friendly to their own kind, trustworthy, predictable and playful.
Overview of Shaolin Tiger Kung Fu Techniques
Yang - Round sudden punches and direct kicks; round downward clawing techniques first impacting with the base of the palm and then clawing their way downward, including the famous Tiger Claw (hu zhua) technique (from which whole styles have developed). The techniques are in fairly large, wide and circular motions, much like a big cat swiping. The back legs of a Tiger practitioner are powerful and lend themselves to straight direct kicks and knees.
Yin - Digging the claws into the meat and separating tendons, muscles from bones with pulls, twist, tears, or strikes. Straight inward claws, again using the base of the palm to strike and in this case bunch up the flesh. Then clamping down with the sharp claws,digging deeply into the flesh, tearing, ripping and twisting (sounds gory; but tiger style is not a gentle art!)
The Nine Tests of the Shaolin Tiger
To attempt for the Shaolin Tiger Level you need to either be qualified as a Red Sash (or senior) in Shaolin Temple Kung Fu or a Black Sash in a recognized traditional Martial Art Style. If you are from such another style you will need to learn the Shaolin Academy style of executing techniques. You will not have to learn the Shaolin Academy temple Forms but you will need to demonstrate 5 Forms/Katas/Patterns of your own to prove standard! If you are interested but not sure about anything, contact
The Shaolin Tiger Kung Fu person needs to be Strong and Powerful. To complete this test you need to choose five of the listed Strength and Power Exercises and succeed in doing them. You need to be able to achieve the given exercise and will be marked on how well, how quickly and how convincingly you are able to achieve them. It may be of value to look at the Iron Body Kung Fu training
Hand-stand Push Up
Claw Push Up
Single Leg Squat
Solid Punch to the Abdomen
Ten Person Hand & Leg Hardening
Five mins Body Hardening from two people
Push a car a full length on a flat street
Lift your own weight
Push through 10 people (resisting)
3nd Test - Tiger Techniques
Many of the Tiger style based systems are very simple and consist of only the three major techniques with a of of Body Hardening, Conditioning and Strength Work. Yet, the Shaolin Tiger developed a bit further than that. It is best suited to large and strong people but it is not only suited to them. As part of the Tiger Style Group of techniques, we also have Bear and Eagle; one for very physically large/strong people and the other for shorter, winery people. Yet, any way you look at it, all have to know the three main Shaolin Tiger techniques; Tiger Punch, Tiger Claw and Tiger Kick. These are The Tiger Techniques, all the other are more or less supportive and complementary techniques.
The Greater Tiger Claw
will only be demonstrated in the principle not in practice, it is too dangerous; yet we need to cover it to understand how dangerous and to be aware how it could be used against us. Most all mammalian predators but specifically cats go for the quick finish, the quick kill; they go for the throat. This Technique is also called the Breath Stealer, the Life Taker and the Blood Spiller. You will need to know it but never use it.
is a Powerful and Solid punch, using the Square Fist shape, to the center of the Chest half way mark on the Breast Bone. This is also know as the Re-vibrating Technique or Life Thief. It needs to be so solidly delivered that there is no further need for any follow up.
Tiger Kick (modified)
is a Dragon Kick in Shaolin Temple styles. It targets the Solar Plexus and again, Steels the Breath without doing permanent damage. But it must be delivered directly and strongly so that the result is immediate but the outcome (winding and shocking) is only temporary.
The Lesser Tiger Claws
There is a series of claws that need to be know, shown and used. As part of the Shaolin Tiger you need to also know the 4 supporting Claws.
Tiger Shredding -
is a very dangerous and painful Palm-Claw combination that is delivered in a round over the top or round-house punch style motion. First Hitting with full force with the palm, on impact you either dig in your fingers into the fleshy parts or rake with your fingernails the skin. As we no longer wish to draw blood due to health and safety and we do not really want to create this type of damage we do not use the racking aspect of this strike but focus on the Palm Base strike!
Tiger Striking -
is much the same as the Tiger Shredding, except it is an almost straight and direct technique targeting (usually) the pectoral muscles. In a very flat arc, you shoot our your fisted hand and open it just before impact, bunching up the muscles before your strong fingers come down to grab and rip. Again, as above, we in Shaolin only focus on the impact not the skin puncturing.
Tiger Pinching -
is also know as the Crab Claw and the Teachers Teaching Aid. It is practiced by cracking walnuts between your thumb and crooked 1st finger. The Pinch can be applied to almost any part of the body but is best when used on fleshy bits. To make it particularly nasty, a twist can be added on the end. It is a great Tiger Teaching technique when used to tell the attacker, "Do you really want to do this?".
Tiger Grabbing -
also know as Iron Manacles, is used to restrain an attacking arm or leg. Usually applied in combination with a counter attacking claw. The Tiger Stylist (who does not block or evade a strike but steps into it) grabs the attacking wrist (before or after impact) and twists it in such a way as to expose the attackers throat.
Tiger Roundhouse Sweep
is the classical Roundhouse but low and hard. In a real emergency or life threatening situation, you aim for the side of the knee, a little low and seek to bounce or even break the knee. In self-defence, sparring and such, you aim for the thigh for a cork. Not very dangerous but very distracting even debilitating without any permanent damage r injury.
Tiger Body Slam
is shouldering into the attacker and immediately exploding with a series of claws.
is using the Tigers Body in such a way that the opponent can deliver an very effective strike but also can not control or grab the Tiger. This is usually a set up for the Tiger Arresting move.
through the attackers, attack. Different to jamming in as much that the Tiger Stylist continues to advance until the opponent falls, is slammed against a wall or surrenders.
9 - Tiger Kung Fu Stances
The 4th Test - Exercises
Whereby you focused on techniques to understand how they work, achieve precision and quality, drills are all about usage and delivery. We use drills to practice the practical application of the Weapon and choose 5 to represent the most common and required movements at this level.
1-Tiger Inward Block Racking
2-L/R Dragon Stance Tiger Raking
3-Shoulder Slam, Claw Rake
4-Kama Square, Tiger Claw
5-Tiger Unicorn Stepping
5th Test - Safety & Control
The Tiger Style Power and Ferocity does not allow for sloppy detail and inaccurate techniques. Especially with the Tiger Techniques, you need to prove that your Skill and Strength does not exceed your Control and Safety. For this purpose you will be tested on three techniques, your strongest, to see if you have the skill and control to use them safely. The techniques below are just examples; each test will be customized to the person being examined. These can be any of the above techniques including kicks and shoves.
Using a target you will be asked to execute a full power Claw Strike, alternately full contacting and not contacting. The test is to see if you can do this without a great difference between the effort of the two strikes .
Throat Attack & Defend
You will Thrust your Duan Dao at three targets. You will be tested on the Speed of your Thrust, the Accuracy of Targeting and your Judgment of Distancing.
Hold & Control
It is important for the Tiger Stylist to have at-least one hold and control technique; one that allows for a safe and relatively painless method of restraining someone who may be out of control or just manic. Here you will be attacked at random and will need to bring the person into some form of restrained situation, safely and without undue pain.
6th Test - Shaolin - Hunting Tiger Form
Although the form needs to be executed correctly, the focus in the Tiger Style is more on the Outcome as opposed to the Detail. This means that each and every move needs to be very functional and it needs to be able to achieve the outcome that technique is aiming for. A Claw needs to be a Tigers Claw not a pussies pat.
To ensure that Shaolin Tiger Kung Fu graduates really do understand and can use the form, aspects of the form will be randomly chosen for the 8th Test; where-by you will need to use the chosen technique in the given situation. You will be put into a scenario with one, two or three attackers and you will need to apply parts of the form to your defence; in a controlled and safe way but showing that the moves are usable, effective and functional.
7th Test Application of Defence
Using parts of the Shaolin Hunting Tiger Form, you will be attacked by one,then two, then 3 and then possibly 5 persons. Your task will be to defend yourself using aspects of the Form, without repeating any segment (and thus being predictable). Managing 2 attackers is a pass, 3 is a credit and 5 is a distinction. Hurting an attacker in the exercise is an automatic redo or in worse cases a fail.
Please do not under-estimate the difficulty level of this test. The Tiger, of the 4 animals, is the practical, doing, get moving, taking-out style and the only way to pass it is to prove that you can actually take care of yourself (pass), using Tiger Style (credit) with great efficiency (distinction) and in the exercise, not hurting anyone involved (you or your would-be attackers).
8th Test - Theory/Knowledge
As a Tiger Stylist you are not meant to be an essay writer, story teller or historian. But to pass this level you do need to show that you understand the Tiger. You will need to write a paper, one page or more, showing that you understand the Tiger Style. This can be done in several ways including;
Person Focused -
Choose a person who in some form or way embodies the Spirit of the Tiger. It can be a real person or from a story; historical figure or a today person; from a real event or a movie. Just find someone and explain why you think this person embodies the spirit of the Shaolin Tiger! One such example is the Red Faced General Kwan Yu - who was physically an extremely noticeable man, being very large and powerful and having a distinct, red face (later in life). His deed led him to being the Patron Saint of traditional Chinese Martial Artists all over the world.
Event Focused -
Where-by something happened and was solved by immediate and direct action. Where a disaster was averted, a defeat avoided, a victory achieved or a war decided. Most people know that Napoleon lost at Waterloo but do they know the name of the Marshal that created the right situation at the right time, that made the defeat of Napoleon and the Victory of Wellington possible? This is an example of Tiger Action.
9th Test - Sparring
Normally, usually, etc., sparring is an optional aspect of Shaolin Kung Fu Academy but not at this level. You will need to prove you understand and can apply the Tiger in some form or way. The easiest is to enter and win an all-styles competition such as the AMAC. Winning in the Black Sash Open Full contact is equal to Distinction; minimum is a placing in one of the senior pre black or black Sparring Divisions. But physical sparring is not your only choice. If you are totally against any form of physical sparring, you need to speak to Sijo about the other options.
This will not make an expert out of you, or a Champion or a Warrior; but it gives you are good grounding that will enable you to specialize, if you wish, in a direction you care to take. Some have chose to enter competitions and have done well in All Styles Comps, Kung Fu Comps, Internationally and Nationally. Shaolin Academy students have even been used as action stand-ins in theater, movies, music videos and shows. We even put on a show at the Shaolin Temple in Henan China.
You may choose to want to use the style for Acting, Stage Work, Shows, Street Theater and such but it also applies for everyday life. Recognizing when you are confronted with a Tiger Style personality, you will know what you are up against, be it in the office, at a party, in the street or elsewhere. And the more you immerse yourself in the understanding of your Tiger, you will find that you are able to manage it within yourself better, both to restrain it when it will harm and to use it when appropriate. You will also learn the weaknesses of the each animal and relies that, for example, a Tiger can only be defeated by a Greater Tiger or by a mouse (and you need to work this out).