the shaolin Tiger
The 5 animals of Shaolin Kempo are Tiger, Leopard, Crane, Snake and Dragon. Each of these animals has their own unique way of fighting. One animal does not preclude, nor is it better than the other. Each has its own unique abilities and skills. Legend has it that Shaolin monks, in their development of strikes, blocks and forms, studied the movements of animals for inspiration.
Our focus for this newsletter will be the tiger. The tiger is a potent symbol of strength and power. A powerhouse of ferocity, the tiger takes conflict head on. Size is not what makes a tiger, but the cultivation of intense internal strength. This strength is needed to execute the aggressive, ripping and tearing attacks. You may have heard the shaolin expression, "Tiger makes bones" One of the aims of tiger form is to strengthen the bones. It promotes what is call "Gu" Qi or 'Bone energy.' This bone energy is understood to be internal force.
In Chinese folklore, the tiger bears the mark as the king of all animals as shown on its forehead by four stripes: Three horizontal and one vertical. These stripes form the character, 王 'Wang' meaning King.
You can read the story of how the tiger became part of the Chinese zodiac on chinaculture.org