SEVEN ANIMAL SYSTEMS OF NORTHERN SHOU SHU
ANIMAL FIGHTING SYSTEM
Northern Shou Shu is a blending of seven animal fighting systems. Individually each system has its own strength and weaknesses, however by blending the styles, the weakness in one system can be supplanted by the strength of another. The seven systems taught in Shou Shu are: Bear (Xiong), Tiger/other large cats (Hu), Mongoose (Yon), Crane/other birds (He), Praying Mantis (Tang Lang), Cobra/other snakes (Bo Yan She), and Dragon (Long).
In Northern Shou Shu a student, on their journey to Black Belt, will begin by learning a blending of all seven animal styles. This will form the foundation upon which the student will be able to better grasp the complexities of each system individually. A Black Belt has a basic, yet competent, understanding of each of these animal fighting systems. In fact, a Black Belt’s understanding can be likened to a thousand piece puzzle which has had the borders completed; thus learning the individual animal styles can be likened to filling in the puzzle.
Like any Kung Fu art, Northern Shou Shu will take time, discipline, patience, dedication. It is a long journey, but one worth embarking on for at the end of the road you will have achieved a goal that only a handful of other people have ever done.
The bear fighting style is a fundamental system, and can be seen in other Chinese and Japanese martial arts systems. Thus, a person who has mastered the bear can easily adapt its principles to other martial arts systems which have bear motion in their pedagogy. Forming the strong foundation upon which other arts can be built, the bear style teaches students primary stances such as the bow (hard/soft), square and fighting horse stances, some lunging kicks, ramshead and side fist punches, hard blocking, and hard energy.
The driving bear motion however is what makes the bear style unique from the other styles. With the proper use of timing and reinforced power, a domination of an opponent is what true development of bear motion will bring to a student of this system.
The Tiger (and other cats) fighting system is a soft style which utilizes circular to control an opponent. Like a cat, the circular motion is not limited to the tiger’s front paws, but to its entire body. Thus, the tiger, with its fu jows (tiger strikes) can spring from various cat like stances to either attack, escape, or to draw another into its circles.
Because the tiger utilizes its entire body, the result is a strengthened core. The tiger is also extremely sure footed, even when turning and torqueing its body the tiger will remain balanced and on center.
The tiger utilizes bites, chin na, claw and paw strikes, and is quite formidable against attackers who would try to grab or grapple with it. The incredible power a student learns to generate when using tiger style, makes that student a formidable opponent.
The Mongoose fighting system is one of the most exotic and difficult systems to master within the Shou Shu fighting art. As such, the mongoose is a soft internal art that uses internal circling motion to generate energy. With short arms, the mongoose fights with its hands close to its body, while fighting off-center. This off-center motion creates the illusion of being off balance to those who do not realize that the mongoose is always in control of its balance.
Due to the nature of the mongoose as a “snake-killer”, its motions are very quick and fluid. This is necessary to avoid the quick and deadly strikes of its opponent the snake. The mongoose will also taunt its opponent to over-commit in its strikes to open up opportunities for an effective and deadly counter attack.
It is because of these skills that the mongoose is an extremely efficient and deadly animal. Also, the style lends itself to close quarter combat situations; like a mongoose vs a snake, a master of this system will use the unique motions of the mongoose to attack the neck of the cobra and expose devastating finishing strikes. A practitioner of the mongoose learns very quickly that while they may be able to use their hands to block with great efficiency, it is the evasive skills of the animal which truly shine through, as as such, the evasion becomes the block.
Of the many systems which utilize the motions of the crane, the system taught by Da Shifu Al Moore Sr. in Shou Shu is a fighting crane style which utilizes hopping, standing, striking, chin na, and various combinations of all to neutralize any and all threats. The deceptive nature of the crane fighting style, utilizing both soft and hard motions, leads the untrained to believe that the crane moves and strikes with no real power. However, those who find themselves on the receiving end of a crane’s strikes quickly realize that those strikes hit like a steel pipe or pierce like steel spikes.
The crane is extremely strong, so strong in fact that those who train in this fighting style are capable of holding and controlling an opponent while they stand on a single leg. The crane can loft and strike before landing, strike as it hops, and by using reinforced energy the crane can strike while stepping. The crane system utilized various kicks, hand weapons, elbows, beaks, the crook and spur, and wing type strikes.
The Mantis’ feet move as quickly as his hands, resulting in explosive and lighting fast strikes which overwhelm their opponents. One of the best systems to use in the ring or a street fight, the mantis is a linear fighter who controls their opponent with skill. A very difficult system to learn (especially the footwork), the Shou Shu mantis, although using similar hand strikes, is very different than Seven Star Mantis, Plum Blossom, and chuans taught in Shaolin based systems. The most notable difference is the distinct use of footwork and control of all facets of centerline during combat. While other Kung Fu arts utilize a mantis motion that uses a “heel-toe” movement, the Shou Shu mantis uses a very different footwork which is unique to only this fighting system.
The mantis is a patient, cold, calculated attacker; it will sometimes wait for its prey to approach, or when the opportunity presents itself, it will attack with lighting speed and accuracy. The mantis’ masterful use of chin na can lock and break multiple joints in tandem. Of great importance, especially considering the evolution of street fighting, the mantis stresses close distance fighting, meaning that the mantis chooses to fight “nose to nose” with its opponent.
The mantis uses grabs, bites, and various types of blocks, it also can employ the use of illusions to obfuscate their attacks and confuse their opponents.
The cobra fighting style is a soft internal art which takes years to learn and eventually master. To the untrained eye, when done slowly the soft motion of the cobra can be mistaken for Tai Chi. However, make no mistake, cobra motion, even when performed slowly, can generate a tremendous amount of energy.
Once developed, the cobra, much like any other snake, is best fought at a safe distance rather than up close–not unlike the mantis in Shou Shu, the Shou Shu Cobra fights in close quarters. The cobra’s body motion is exotic in that it can shift from fighting as a single cobra to two cobras in an instant. This transformation enables the practitioner of cobra to utilize his cobra strikes to great effectiveness. This particular animal style uses coiling motions along with rebounding strikes which are lighting fast and precise.
There is a level of difficulty in learning the cobra style and applying it correctly because in the absence of feet, the cobra must move and position its body to facilitate its strikes and position itself to rebound them if so desired. The cobra will also utilize its motion and coiling to grapple and constrict its opponents as well as create illusions unique to this particular style.
As one might imagine a Chinese Dragon moves in many directions; present in front of you–then suddenly gone after which you are hit. Although very unusual, the dragon can disappear in some of its motions. Such is the dragon’s motion.
The dragon can attack with its claws, fangs, horns, and tail. Also due to its serpentine body, it can move in circular motions as well as roll and whip its body to generate power.