The Mountain Institute for Kung Fu and Tai Chi
The term "Kung Fu" has a distinct reaction when spoken. It conjures up images of high-flying kicks or action-packed films or even just plain fighting in general. In actuality, the term itself roughly translates to "hard work" or "persistant effort". As far as martial arts is concerned, it is an erroneous description that envelops all Chinese martial arts. A more apt term would be "Chinese Boxing".
The Mountain Institute's main discipline of study is known as Five Animals, Five Families. This method of southern Shaolin art incorporates techniques based upon the Crane, the Snake, the Leopard, the Tiger, and the Dragon.
The term "Tai Chi Chuan" literally translates as "supreme ultimate boxing". We primarily study Yang family Tai Chi Chuan
The Yang family first became involved in the study of T'ai Chi in the early 1800s. The founder of the Yang style was Yang Lu-ch'an, aka Yang Fu-k'ui (1799-1872), who studied under Ch'en Chang-hsing starting in 1820. Yang's subsequent expression of T'ai Chi as a teacher in his own right became known as the Yang style, and directly led to the development of the other three major styles of T'ai Chi. Yang Lu-ch'an (and some would say the art of T'ai Chi Ch'üan in general) came to prominence as a result of his being hired by the Chinese Imperial family to teach T'ai Chi to the elite Palace Battalion of the Imperial Guards in 1850, a position he held until his death.
An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person will find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use Tai Chi as a martial art. Tai chi's health training therefore concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind.
The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
The study of Tai Chi Chuan martially is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces; the study of yielding and blending with outside force rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.
Moralities of Deed
Moralities of Mind
The crane unites balance and grace, never taking its opponent head on. With broad sweeping powerful arm blocks the crane will quickly pommel its opponent into submission. Crane footwork sweeps around the opponent to the sides only to rush inside at the slightest opening. The crane is the most beautiful of the five animals, overcoming its aggressor by keeping calm. The crane is observant and cautious while waiting for the opening. The Crane never acts recklessly, always being alert and careful.
The striking fist of the crane is Bong Sao (cranes beak) – the fingers are extended and pinched together at the tips to make a hard-striking small surface. Also in the crane arsenal are the crane’s wings and legs, represented by the practitioners’ arms and legs.
The snake coils around its opponent with quick, fierce finger strikes. The snake will coil low for a punch to the knee then almost instantaneously hit the throat with a devastating strike. The snake’s footwork is the most illusive of the animals, wrapping the practitioner around his opponent.
The snake practitioner insists on never meeting his opponent head on, preferring instead to wait for an opening to launch a surprise attack. The body of the snake is the most powerful part of the snake system. It goes forward by wagging and circling itself around the enemy. The practitioners’ index finger simulates the snakes tongue.
The leopard stays low to the ground keeping its opponent off balance, striking the mid and low sections of the body. The leopard brutalizes its opponent by hitting the soft areas of the body and throwing confusing kicks. It is considered the most cruel and cunning animal. It is not as powerful as the tiger, but uses its quickness and footwork to confuse its victim. The leopard footwork uses swift, free actions to defeat its attacker. The steps are easily applied and concentrate on evasion.
The fist used in the leopard form is Chop Choi, where the fingers are bent at the knuckle and pressed in by the thumb and little finger. Chop Choi is used to strike soft spots.
The tiger is strong and overcomes opponents with direct breaking force. The tiger attacks the opponent at low, medium, and high levels. Ferociously the tiger rips opponents apart with vicious grabs, powerful strikes and cunning maneuvers. The tiger movements consist of techniques using pawing strokes and jumps. The prime emphasis of the tiger is in its stances, which are strong and stable. The steps are heavy and the kicks powerful.
The dragon is powerful and direct, although often times it confuses opponents with subtly, feinting weakness only to strike with vicious power when least expected. The dragon floats around the opponent in 45º angles, first appearing to be on the side of the opponent, and then with a quick movement, the dragon unleashes an explosive attack devastating to the recipient.
With its subtle stances, the dragon appears to float about its opponent. The main attacking movements of the dragon are manifested in the dragon claws and dragon tail. The most important movements deal with the claws of the dragon, such as "golden dragon offering its claws", "leaping dragon playing with pearl", and the "black dragon emitting a pearl". In application, the dragon claw movements are used to control an opponent by maintaining connection to the wrist and elbow. As for dragon tail attacks, they are elusive and destructive. Mainly, dragon tail attacks are aimed at the fatal parts of the opponent's body. An open palm also simulates the dragon's tail.
The dragon uses no specialized fist, so the movements are easier to learn than the other four animals. The only variation in the fist is the claw and the simulation of the dragon's tail.