Training the Tiger

I just opened my mouth and out it came: I announced last week that in honor of the Year of the Tiger we would train this coming Saturday in Tiger Kung Fu. It didn’t take much time to realize that it has been years since had been years since I’ve performed Tiger style. What had I gotten into? On the other hand the tiger nature (oh, I was born in a Tiger year to compound all this) is very emotional. First it takes down the gazelle then it regrets eating such a pretty animal.

Lum Jow playing Tiger

That’s it. We don’t talk about it much but real Kung Fu has a heavy component of aesthetic and physical satisfaction. Forget if you would use Tiger Captures Sheep in the street. What a great feeling the shapes of the pastures and the balance of the movements make. This is especially true of southern forms due to their tightness, their dynamism, their strength and their combination of the internal and the external.

And Tiger may be one of the most satisfying. Even just imitating tiger lets us taste the power of postures, the hands tighten, the elbow sinks, the back arches, the legs push. Every joint and muscle participates in a top to toe action as shamanic as a deer dance.

Why don’t talk about this? The living legends are the postures themselves because—when we do them— they are alive. Kung Fu is about stories, feelings, history and legend. It’s also about shared experience, shared with other practitioners and even with other species.

Is there a tiger in each of us? Is there an affinity for other creatures? I cross over in the hidden foot tiger walk and everything just gels instantly. The posture is just right. I feel sorry for those practicing who never feel that rightness. The Tiger is nice because it overrides the mind and reaches the viscera.

The beauty and power of this animal can be understood by anyone. The tiger is about honor, longevity, fierceness, variability and, oh yes, aching legs.

Resources: Tigerish books

Fu Jow Pai DVDs

Tiger and friends (animal styles)