The Shaolin monks of ancient China developed tiger style kung fu--the first animal-based kung fu style, according to the Nam Yang Pugilistic Association. Like other kung fu styles, the tiger style emulates the aggression and raw power of the wild animal from which it takes its name -- combining the strategy of the tiger with specific techniques into a devastatingly effective martial arts style.
Tiger style kung fu incorporates a specific threefold strategy into its techniques, derived from the behavior of the tiger--a dominant animal with no natural predators. Simplicity, directness, and power are the three elements of the tiger's strategy, reports Shaolin Kung Fu. The tiger style is one of aggression and attack, not of evasion, and emphasizes overwhelming force to bring a quick end to a physical confrontation.
The tiger style kung fu practitioner's most efficient weapon is the tiger claw, the crucial hand technique around which the tiger style revolves. To develop the tiger claw, states Writings for Warriors, you must first stand relaxed and extend your arms out at shoulder height. Next, turn the palms of your hands upward and curl in your fingers into a claw, tucking your thumb backwards. Striking with the tiger claw technique involves quick, powerful thrusts of the heel of the hand, followed immediately by a fast downward raking motion. This tiger style technique of self defense can stun and even blind a would-be attacker, as the lower hand lands the impact of the blow on the chin or nose and the claws ideally slash the eyes.
Stance and Kicks
A crucial element of tiger style kung fu is a proper stance. Tigers leap forward aggressively, as does the martial artist who practices tiger style kung fu. Stand with feet facing forward and spaced shoulder-width apart, with one leg slightly backward. Imagine the toes of your lead foot touching the top corner of a square, while the heel of your back foot touches the opposing diagonal corner. Keeping both knees slightly bent, with your back straight, use your rear foot and leg to spring forward while attacking, pressing the fight upon the opponent as the animal tiger would on its prey. Tiger style involves powerful rear-leg straight kicks and knees, says Shaolin Kung Fu, which gain force and momentum on the attack when combined with the tiger's direct, forward leaping style.
Tiger Style Training
As the style of tiger kung fu emulates the animal, so does the physique of the practitioner. Thus, strength and mass are integral physical aspects to develop for practicing tiger style kung fu, according to Writings for Warriors. Strength training using weights will help build muscle mass, especially compound exercises which work more than one muscle group, such as squats and bench presses. Body resistance exercises including push ups and chin ups will also increase overall muscle strength. Stretching thoroughly before your workout is vital, since it will both reduce your chance of straining or injuring your muscles as well as enable you to develop the flexibility necessary for the low stances, forward leaps, and sudden, aggressive movement distinctive to the tiger style of kung fu.