The Five Fingered Fist teaching style is reflective of the same five animals at the core of original Shaolin Temple training. Each form is designed to develop a different set of fighting strategies and tactics.
External power, preconceived notions, non-intellectual training. Form is external only, using a claw hand to grab, rip, or pull. This form uses fast, strong power, not soft like the dragon. The waist initiates the power. The back and forearm add strength to the strike. The tiger claw also can be two-handed, one claw hand blocking and striking.
Agility and balance; brings awareness to the tiger. Form is useful for kicking, jumping, balance and stronger kicks. The crane fist is used for attacking the pressure points. The back of the slightly bent wrist is sometimes used for striking. There also is a knee strike. Although the crane can be fast, it differs from the leopard in its soft, relaxed technique.
Internal, external power; inner and outer power. Movement brings together the tiger and crane; becomes but never part of; comes but always departs; never ending. The technique often is a lightning-fast fist attack. The fist is made by bending the forefingers back to the first joint of the forefingers, not the knuckles. Thumb is held alongside the fist to concentrates power into a small area, increasing the force of the punch. Forearm and elbow also can be weapons. Technique increases strike effectiveness and strengthens stances.
All eternal power that carries us through stalking and eliminating; beginning to end and back again. The dragon is soft like the snake, but includes a claw hand. Dragon claw differs from the tiger form claw hand, which is soft. Techniques include grabs, chokes, and arm and wrist locks. The dragon claw often grabs the opponent's ribs or neck. As far as external or internal techniques are concerned, the dragon is between the snake and tiger.
Its poison is vitality, everlasting nourishment to achieve. Snake techniques are soft and internal. Speed is not as important as smoothness. The snake blocks and strikes at the same time. There are no fists in the form. All snake energy and power controlled by the waist. Many strikes are directed toward the opponent's eyes, throat, and soft parts of the body. A wide circular neck lock is included in the set. Fingertips are usually weapons, but also can be offensive. Coiled or circular movements are usually defensive.