January 5, 2010

I’m a Kung Fu Animal Lover

Posted in culture, film, martial arts at 5:39 pm by Jerry

During my movie-watching mid-teens I was fascinated by martial artists mimicking animal styles of fighting. For milleniums people have turned to other species to gain insight into the power intrinsic, yet diversified within nature. The survival techniques of other animals have either been feared, respected, or both. And many of the well known animals have become symbols, representing various human characteristics. But Phillip Starr feels that mimicking animals as a martial art is “seriously flawed”:

Our distinctive human structure allows us to lift heavy objects and strike in a wide variety of directions–things that cats and snakes cannot do.

When a snake strikes, it hurls itself at its prey. It has no control over itself once the attack is initiated. The same is true of the praying mantis. Monkeys possess enormous upper-body strength, which is essential to their survival as tree dwellers. Birds such as cranes and eagles have hollow bones that make them light enough for flight.

You are not a tree dweller, nor can you fly. No matter how much you practice or fantasize about it, you will never develop the great strength of the monkey, the lightness and agility of the crane or the blinding speed of the mantis. You aren’t built like these creatures and you’ll never be able to move as they do. You’re a human being and you move like a human being. It is therefore essential to learn how to make the best use of your uniquely human structure.

I think he makes some good points. Nevetheless, I still love the animal styles if only for the shear entertainment value.

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