Most people familiar with the Five Family Fist system knows that it covers the Five Family arts of Choi, Li, Fut, Mok, and Hung and the classic southern Shaolin animals of Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Leopard, and Snake. This is true, but many people do not understand how in-depth and involved the system actually is.
On the surface there is of course the five families, which this system is named after. The Choi system teaches mostly kicks, side punches, and circular long and short fists, and is also famous for its horse-stance. The Li system has a lot of slaps and poking techniques against vital points on the body, and is known for its rapid and baffling footwork called “rat steps”. The Fut system consists of many open-hand techniques for blocking, slicing, chopping, and cutting techniques. The Mok system is known for its precise blocking system and for its simultaneous block-strikes. The Hung system is known for its power punching used out of a low horse, although it aims for a natural relaxed grace, the system is most noted for its power personified.
The classic five animal systems of Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Leopard, and Snake are probably the most recognized of the Southern Shaolin systems. They all have their own distinct applications, but they also blend together well for combination fighting. For example, tiger and crane is a popular combination utilizing the crane's elusiveness and the tiger's power. Basic characteristics of each animal are below:
- Tiger (Fu) KNOWN FOR: Bone Strength (Gu)
CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE: Power, Strength, Ferocity, Aggression, Straight Forward
- Dragon (Long) KNOWN FOR: Spirit (Shen)
CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE: Aware, Whirls, Deceptive, Weaves, Whips, Rides the Wind
- Crane (Hok) KNOWN FOR: Essence (Jing)
CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE: Balance, Softness, Elusive, Grace, Self-Control
- Leopard (Pao) KNOWN FOR: Muscle Strength (Li)
CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE: Speed, Power, Ferocity, Deadly, Sneaky, Stealthy
- Snake (She) KNOWN FOR: Energy (Chi)
CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE: Speed, Flexibility, Patience, Grace, Deception
Besides the most commonly known systems is the very in-depth system of five element theory which applies to all Chinese martial arts and medicine (all martial arts systems are supposed to have this, but many are deficient in certain areas). The system is known today as Hsing-I. This is the basic foundational secret that many masters will not teach until a student has been with them for many years. A twelve animal system exists which is taught along with the five elements and is said to pre-date Shaolin itself. There is the advanced theory of eight trigrams that is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and this covers an entirely different system of eight animals. Whereas the five elements are taught initially, the trigrams are taught at intermediate and advanced levels.
Other animal systems that are taught within the Shaolin Five Family system are the later founded monkey, praying mantis, and the eagle claw systems. The monkey system is mainly noted for its speed, cleverness, natural movements, and adaptability with special emphasis on a mimicking ability. The praying mantis is noted for its speed, patience, and its advanced combat strategies. The eagle claw system is most noted for its dim mak pulse and point striking, ripping of tendons and sinews, and grappling which is known to the Chinese as chin-na and is the great grandfather of all grappling arts.
The highest level of the Five Family Fist is the Gin Gong Kune (Diamond Fist) natural fighting ability. The natural fist systems are the highest most coveted systems of all Chinese martial arts. The Five Northern Tigers of whom one was the famous iron palm master Ku Yu Cheong used this system. Some notable characteristics of this system use lightning quick whip strikes, explosive footwork and kicks, misdirection, maneuvering ability, and sensitivity. It is also known for using every aspect of the body as a weapon depending on convenience. This is an extremely efficient combat system. This system is also known for its high level internal power coupled with iron palm. Every master of this system is highly respected. There are only a handful of these masters from its beginning to this day.
Within the Five Family Fist system are also 83 extraordinary skills known as Juer Chi. This includes fifteen levels of iron palm as well as such skills as iron body / iron shirt, light body skills, remote skills (ling kong jing), and dim-mak or vital point striking to a very fine degree to name just a few. These are very coveted and secret skills given to only an extremely select few.
Integrated into these systems are weapons and the coveted combat chi gung systems. The weapons are divided into three categories. These categories are short weapons such as swords, daggers, and cane (walking stick); long weapons such as the staff, spear, and three-sectional staff; and secret weapons.
Lastly it is important to note that those who were in the system for the long haul would also be exposed to the Chinese Medicine, which is part of every real Chinese martial art system. This includes acupuncture, acupressure, and herb medicine with an emphasis on Dit Da trauma healing. Many of these students go on to become Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors. This information is not in addition to, but is held within the Shaolin systems of martial arts and sciences.
Because Master Wong was very frugal about time and believed in using time and not measuring it; he did not waste his time with people who were not truly dedicated. This is why only a handful of students would learn the real secrets and go on to become masters. Students were (and still are) divided into two major categories. The first category is the public students. These students were the general public who came to learn kung fu for health and self-defense. These students would learn basic fundamentals including forms, stances, hand movements, and basic weapons, which would empower them enough to be considered very formidable in a personal combat situation. The second category of students was the secret, or advanced students. These select few students are chosen from the public students who exhibited exceptional behavioral attributes, timely tuition payments, and consistent attendance of classes. These students would be shown advanced skills based upon their individual achievements. From these were chosen the inheritors and direct inheritors of the system.