Daoist Naming Conventions: Part 2

Hidden Meaning in Movement Names:
Animal Styles

Just like Shàolín, the Daoist martial arts have animal styles. They tend to be much less imitative than Shàolín arts, and these days you won’t see many specific animal forms. You will find many movements with animals in them; especially white animals. The white animals seem to originate in the Kunlun? mountains, between China and Tibet.

The two main animals you will see are Dragon and Tiger. These represent the two main fighting strategies of the arts. Often a third animal, usually a bird, will represent the third strategy of escape.

Dragon is counteroffensive and clever. This is your first strategy; to neutralize your opponent’s attack and then respond.

Tiger is preemptive and dominating. It starts the fight and keeps the opponent one step behind.

These two animals tend to create each other:  Counteroffensive turns into offensive, for example, and when Tiger fails to keep the initiative, she falls back on Dragon.

The Daoist arts usually generate their power from the ground, but there are times when this is not a good option; you have to pick up your feet and move, or you just don’t have a good foundation. This is where the footwork of the bird styles come in.

White Crane’s lower body skills  teach how to fight from one leg, a situation which may come up every time you take a step. Its upper body skills are perhaps the most sophisticated in the Daoist martial arts, which is why you will see so many movements in Tàijíquán with White Crane names.

Phoenix teaches fast, moving footwork rather like Bāguàzhăng (Not a coincidence), and fast targeted jabs.

Other animals you may come across are:

White Ape, which teaches stamping power and “loose arm” skills. This animal is the main reason the Daoist martial arts look like they have Xíngyìquán mixed in.

White Snake, which teaches throwing techniques and grinding entries. (Think of White Snake Creeps Down.)

Dragon Horse, which teaches trampling techniques.

Keep all this in mind when you look at a movement named “Dragon Wanders, Tiger Sits,” for example. The movements might not look much like the animals, but the names have meaning.

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