Leopard (Bao Xing)
Although an external animal, the leopard does not have as much mass as the tiger. Therefore, it can’t crush its prey like a tiger. Instead it relies on speed and aggression to make up the shortfall. The leopard attacks with a relentless series of attacks, unconcerned about blocking or being hit.
“Why block when I can hit” sums up this up pretty well. Highly ferocious, this form emphasises speed and charging at the opponent. Unlike the tiger, the leopard form has no time or need for rooted stances. The only reason the leopard would root a foot is to get a better push off when he or she leaps at an opponent.
Why the does the Leopard de-emphasise blocking? Because it is an inherently slow action. You have to see the attack coming in, move your arm quickly enough to intercept the attack, and then actually deflect the strike, all in 3/10ths of a second or less. The leopard capitalises on this in two ways.
First, the all-out attack of the leopard means the defender must devote all of his attention to blocking rather than counter-attacking. Second, eventually one or more of the leopard attacks will get through by overloading the opponent’s defensive abilities.
The main strike used in leopard style is the leopard paw. This is formed by bending the fingers into a half-fist so that the second row of knuckles, the “door-knockers,” is exposed. Because of the relative fragility of the bone on the knuckles, the leopard paw is never used on the skull, only on soft targets like the torso or throat.
Traditionally, the leopard is thought to develop muscle. In this context, possibly the masters were referring to what we would now call fast-twitch muscle, the speed-oriented muscle fibre.
In Chinese mythology the Leopard or Panther (same animal) is second only to that of the Tiger when considering power and ferocity. The Leopard, although smaller than a tiger, is actually stronger and faster for its size; the tiger is larger and more powerful.
The delivery of explosive force from a tiger is heavily reliant upon its size and short thick muscle mass in order to overpower. However, the leopard’s body structure is comprised of smooth, long toned muscle encompassed within a fast frame. The leopard will always use lightening fast speed and footwork to produce power and strength.
The Shaolin practitioner when practising leopard style techniques will not emit solid power which is tense and forceful, instead it will be produced from loose relaxed whip like techniques generated using balance and speed, flexibility, agility often using the hips.
The original Shaolin monks chose this animal to mediate between the massive strength of the tiger and the quick penetrating force of a crane. The leopard practitioner aims to develop both physical strength and speed better known as li by the Chinese and represents an external form of conditioning for skin, tendons, bone and muscle. With the leopard style of training there is little internal qi generating benefits since qi development is promoted with slow precise movements. However, here the valuable benefits are external fighting techniques.
There is however, a definite link between the dragon and snake techniques in order to support leopard training to mould oneself to be an effective fighting stylist. The predominant and notable characteristic of the leopard stylist is the leopard’s fist bao chui and is designed if executed in the correct manner to produce trauma using fast penetrating force through the adversary’s body.
The bao chui fist formation is not like a normal fist but uses the first join of the four fingers and the thumb is held flat along the outside of the fist to add stability thus concentrating power into a smaller area and increasing the total force of the punch.
The original training for bao chui involved punching firm sandbags and undertaking push-ups on the knuckles instead of the hands. If the leopard stylist lacks knuckle conditioning they could whilst executing a punch break their knuckles. It is important to add that the hand should also be well conditioned to withstand the force behind the properly delivered fist.
One particular notable training technique for this kind of stylist is the use of rubber balls held in the hands whilst squeezing with all ones strength hundreds of times. Some of the other techniques associated with this type of training are also the regular closed fist with several forearm and elbow strikes.
The adept will be an expert at transferring external jing or power to the area of the body that makes contact with the adversary. Penetrating force is transferred through the forearms and elbows at the point of contact.
The leopard stylist rather than blocking and counter-striking will use deflection against an oncoming blow using forearm as their own punch simultaneously drives in. This kind of movement uses a change in angle of the punch slightly to find the adversary’s week area.
The footwork associated with this style uses quick short stances which are stable to produce strength balance in order to change direction quickly and easily.
The areas which the leopard techniques will pray upon are to both the face and the torso. Areas of focus with the leopards fist maybe too small to reach with a regular fist however, one technique known as ‘leopard plays ball’ uses a regular closed fist that strikes down upon the opponents head like a bouncing ball, thus executing a groin kick at the same time.
Leopard spirit is similar to that of the tiger when considering ferocity however, the fundamental difference is the speed of the form. Overall the participant when practising these kinds of technique stands to gain speed with striking fist techniques as well as fast footwork. Other benefits are strength within
stances and tremendous power and force.
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