Just...Kung Fu

Topeng

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I was speaking with my neighbor yesterday about martial arts after he saw me training in the backyard. He studied Kung Fu for 13 years in Mexico but explained to me that there was "no style" (not Bruce Lee theory either). He's in his 50's and from what he explained is during that time in Mexico, it was just "Kung Fu" and schools were not divided by style. He talked about knowing the 5 Animals / 5 Forms so I gather he learned a Southern System... unless northern systems train this too.
I currently train in FMA but did learn some Hung Gar in the past.
This brings me to my question, or rather questions.

1. Do other systems train 5 Forms Fist or can I narrow that he learned Hung Gar?

2. Was lineage and style really blurred in the past or did my neighbor just fall into a niche?

I never took karate but growing up in my town there were a couple of dojos which advertised "Karate" as a generic term. There was no Goju Ryu, Shotokan, etc.
 

ggg214

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until now, i don't know what is 5 animals/forms. may anyone give me some kind of explain?thanks a lot
 
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Topeng

Topeng

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The 5 Animals or 5 Forms Fist imitates the Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake, and Dragon.
Though each has other elements the most distinguishing of each (in my opinion) are:

Tiger - Hand form like a tiger claw for raking and tearing.

Crane - Fluid arms and hand imitating a beak for strikes at vital points. Swift footwork.

Leopard - Hand at a half opened fist with the primary striking point at the knuckle closest to the hand. Secondary striking with the palm.

Snake - Softer than traditional southern styles with thrusting fingers.

Dragon - Zigzag motion legwork imitating the mythical chinese dragon. Attacks in a winding motion (generating punch power from the feet and guiding that power through the body and to the fist).
 

MahaKaal

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Forms are small facets of a complete art, effective on their own but complete when they are combined. The skill of the form would be to understand which form to apply at what time, understanding the strategy required is the key to success. Forms just allow the student to learn a complete art much more easier then trying to grasp many strategies which cannot be separated. Essentially at a higher level, each form is only a "flash in the pan" and they would only be used when required to gain advantage.

For example if an opponent threw a over extended punch, you could sidestep, parry and attempt to punch back, if this landed then you could barrage the person with straight strikes, if the opponent pulled back and attempted to readjust as you sidestepped, you could use the snake form to bridge, manipulate energy and attempt locks and breaks, if at this point he pulled back and tried to make distance you could use the crane to throw strikes and attempt to cover the distance again with the zig zag footowork of the dragon. (Please not I have not trained in Kung Fu, I am merely trying to make links with the art I practise)

I think that at a higher level, to an outsider, they would never be able to break down the art and extract strategies and concepts as each form would only be present for a split second, that is why maybe some people would state that there are no various styles, just different ways of using concepts.
 

Xue Sheng

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2. Was lineage and style really blurred in the past

To answer your question with the emphasis it deserves HELL NO!

Lineage and style of CMA has been big in China for a very very long time.

Look here believe me these and more did not appear in the 50s they have been with us for a VERY long time.

There be MONEY in lineage and family styles and there always has been.

As to animal forms there are styles that are entirely based on animal forms such as Tiger, Crane and dragon (there are others) and just about all styles have some posture of form that is animal by name. Xingyi, depending on style trains 10 to 12 animal forms and Taiji has postures named after animals as do other styles.

Animal forms and postures are a big part of many Traditional CMA styles.
 

Flying Crane

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1. Do other systems train 5 Forms Fist or can I narrow that he learned Hung Gar?

Five animals are found in various incarnations, in many arts. In some Choy Lay Fut lineages, the Five Animals is one form dealing with internal development and not really designed to be a combat or fighting form. Other arts combine the five animals into one fighting form, or may have separate forms for each animal. So the concept of five animals is relatively common, but how it is manifest may vary from one art to another.

Looking at what he does as five animals, and comparing it to what you learned in Hung Gar may at least give you a hint as to the origins of what he studied. If it is largely similar, maybe his is hung gar. If it is very different, probably came from elsewhere.

2. Was lineage and style really blurred in the past or did my neighbor just fall into a niche?

I never took karate but growing up in my town there were a couple of dojos which advertised "Karate" as a generic term. There was no Goju Ryu, Shotokan, etc.

I would echo Xue in saying that styles have certainly been identifiable at least thru the last few hundred years. It may be that the teacher in that area just didn't identify it for some reason. Maybe kung fu was rare in that area and people didn't know much about it and he didn't want to add to the confusion. Maybe the teacher learned various bits from different teachers in different styles, and he was teaching a conglomeration of that and it could no longer be listed as a specific style. Maybe the teacher learned in a setting that deliberately combined elements of different arts, such as Jingwu. So then when he was teaching, maybe again he felt it was easier to just call it "kung fu", to simplify it.

On a more cynical note, maybe the teacher had never been given authority by his own teacher to teach, so he was trying to keep a low profile and not attract unwanted attention. Not identifying the style may help him fly under the radar, especially if he is geographically far away from anyone else related to his lineage.

Personally, if I was teaching I would want the student to understand what the material is and where it came from, even if I was teaching a mix of several things. But I can certainly see reasons why a teacher might choose to gloss over that bit of info, especially if none of the students cared to ask about it.
 

clfsean

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He talked about knowing the 5 Animals / 5 Forms so I gather he learned a Southern System... unless northern systems train this too.

Possibly Ark Y Wong's Ng Ying Ng Ga. His stuff is the only one I've heard referred to like that. It's maintained a pretty good following in Mexico.
 

Formosa Neijia

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1. Do other systems train 5 Forms Fist or can I narrow that he learned Hung Gar?

2. Was lineage and style really blurred in the past or did my neighbor just fall into a niche?

Most five animal systems are southern in my experience. There are northern animals supposedly, but I often wonder if they're just variations of southern stuff.

As for lineages, I would be gentle about that with him. Yes, the Chinese are fairly strict about lineage and tend to know exactly where their stuff comes from. But that doesn't mean that they explain that all the time to the foreigners they train.

I've seen great stuff be taught to people without knowledge of the lineage because the Chinese teacher knew that the foreigners wouldn't understand it anyway. how could they if they hadn't lived in China? By the second generation away from the teacher, the lineage had already become completely obscured. Calling it generic kungfu at that point was a usual response.

I don't think this is that rare. But it is unfortunate because it dilutes knowledge of the arts and leads to unnecessary hybrids.
 
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