There’s always something for us to learn, even from a cartoon as well, just step out and take a look from another angle.
Everyone is familiar with the story of Kung Fu Panda, where the plot is based on the ancient China inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. The protagonist is basically made up of these characters: Po Ping, Master Shifu, Master Oogway and the Furious Five (Tigress, Viper, Monkey, Mantis and Crane).
It is a movie series begins with Po, a panda who fancied with Kung Fu and idolizes the Furious Five, working all his way to achieve his dream to become a Kung Fu master. Many people told him that he can never become what he wants to be. And yet he never gives up and ended up he became a dragon warrior.
There is an interview of the director John Stevenson where he says that they don’t want their Kung Fu to look like it was done with guys wearing animal suits.
We wanted it to be unique and the unique aspect to our film was to use the actual anatomy of the animals, and the animals we’re using, the Furious Five are based on the original five animal fighting styles in Kung Fu – tiger, crane, monkey, mantis and snake-style – so our big conceit was, “Well, how does it look to see the original animals that inspired the kung fu moves that shaolin monks adopted, how does an animal do that as opposed to how a human being imitates that animal?” – Director John Stevenson
From this film, we could see that the martial art style mimic movements from animals. Dating back to Eastern Han Dynasty, where the Five Animal Qigong (五禽戲) were created by a famous Chinese Physician Hua Tuo (華佗). Hua Tuo knew the importance of exercise, he believes that it can help to improve blood circulation and digestion, also to extend life.
The Five Animal Qigong can be regarded as the earliest form of Qigong, as it is a healing and exercise system aligning body movement, breathing and mind (意念) with Qi. It was soon evolved into Chinese martial arts. People used Qigong to increase the power and efficiency of the muscles — the mind (意念) used to lead Qi to the muscles and strengthen them so that they performed far more better than usual.
It is important to have a strong mind and body for fighting. But an instinct like a wild animal also plays and important role. Therefore, we could see that a lot of Chinese martial artist mimic the movement of animals. They learn their instinct for defense and attack.
It is a set of exercise imitates the actions of animals based on the characteristic behavior of tiger, deer, bear, monkey and crane. There are so many type of animals in the nature world, but why chose these five animals? The living habits of these five animals are different, they have their own characteristics, either light and agile, steady, lively, brisk, or mighty.
People learn the solidity of tiger, the serenity of deer, the steadiness of bear, the dexterity of monkey and the swiftness of crane to improves health and the flexibility of the body. Over years of accumulated experience, the Five Animal Qigong so far has evolved into a number of styles. And each style has its own unique characteristics.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Five Animal Qigong relates to the Five Elements which is metal, wood, water, fire and earth (金、木、水、火、土) and also the theory of Five Viscera (Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs and Kidney).
Tiger relates to the water element, and corresponding to kidneys. In TCM they believe that kidney store the essence (精) that can control bones and produce marrow. Tiger play imitates the tiger’s walking, flapping which could train the bones and limbs, and strengthening kidneys.
Deer relates to wood element, and corresponding to liver. In TCM, liver has the function of storing blood (血). Liver blood nourishes sinews which can control the tendons and movements. Deer is vigorous, with flexible joints, they are good in running and jumping. Deer play can enhance the liver function, increase the flexibility of joints so that the tendons are strong.
Bear relates to earth element, and corresponding to spleen. In TCM, spleen can transform food and drinks into Gu Qi (谷氣). Gu Qi is important in digestion as it is the basis formation of Qi (氣) and blood. Bear play imitate bear’s action, shaking body, swinging torso that can enhance the function of spleen and improve digest system.
Monkey relates to fire element, and corresponding to heart. In TCM, they consider the heart as the most important as it is the house of mind. It indicates the entire activities of mental and spiritual aspect of human. By imitate monkey movements, it can improve blood circulation, enhance cardiac functions.
Crane relates to metal element, and corresponding to lungs. In TCM, lungs govern respiration and qi. Crane is elegant. Crane play imitate the movement of wings, stretching neck and other actions. While inhaling and exhaling, it can enhance lungs respiratory function.
It is hard to tell when these exercises became martial arts. There are too many animal styles have been developed, such as The 12 Animals of Xingyi Quan (形意拳), TaiJi and the Five Animal Martial Arts of Southern Shaolin.
In Kung Fu Panda, Tigress uses Tiger Claw Kung Fu, Crane uses Fujian White Crane Kung Fu, Monkey uses Monkey Kung Fu, Viper uses Snake Kung Fu and Mantis uses Praying Mantis Kung Fu. The responses of animals are far exceeding our own, which is more effective than natural human responses. Therefore, the ancient martial artist studied animals and took the idea. Then he developed a way to applied the speed, strength, courage and techniques to the human form.