Modern Animal Martial Arts Styles

If you have any familiarity with the martial arts world you probably have heard of the so-called “animal styles”, fighting techniques supposedly based upon observation of how animals fight in Nature. Kung Fu Panda is in fact a full-length animated tribute to this phenomenon. Whether the beginnings of these styles are indeed derived from such observations or are just figments of over-active imaginations, watching an animal style master going through their paces you can see the animal influences in the movements – a quick snake strike, a crane spreading its wings, a fierce tiger slashing with his claws.

This was all fine and dandy back in the days when such animals were encountered on a daily basis, but for us modern-day Westerners the connection is a bit muddied: we don't usually run into wild monkeys on the way to Starbucks nor do we see dragons unless we're doing far too many prescription drugs.

This is why I'd like to propose a modern animal style hierarchy, a school of common, everyday pets and animals that we encounter that we can both identify with and emulate in our movements.

Cat Style:

The Cat, in addition to being the most common household pet, is the ultimate pet martial art style. Like our little furry friend's fighting style, Cat Style is a combination of striking and grappling, preceded by long, high-pitched screams. When first coming within range of your opponent you must turn your body sideways, puff yourself up and stand on your tip-toes. Hiss and spit at your foe, engage quickly then jump back to your sideways starting position. Bonus style points if you can manage to swish your tail while washing your face with your hands.

Dog Style:

Dog Style – no, not Doggie Style – can be both an Internal and External style. If you train like a Chihuahua, your main strategy will be to hide in a large leather bag, jump out unexpectedly and bite your opponent's ankles. Style points if you are small of stature, speak Spanish and have sharp teeth.

If you choose the Pekingese Style, know that historically these dogs were used by the Emperor of China as guard dogs. They served this function by hiding in the sleeves of the voluminous Imperial robes, and when an assassin came into the court were launched, snarling and snapping, at the attacker. How you choose to imitate this particular tactic I leave up to you.

Beagle Style is a good choice if you have big ears, sad eyes and a low center of gravity. This style is basically a defensive one: you lay on the ground and hope your attacker trips over you.

Pit Bull Style closely resembles modern MMA styles. Actually, the practitioners of both styles bear a striking resemblance to one another.

Cockroach Style:

A great style for urban warriors, Cockroach style features quick, scurrying movements and hiding in dark, damp places. In fact, the Cockroach is the Ninja of the modern animal style list, utilizing surprise, terror and sheer revulsion at the mere sight of him. In fact, there really are no strikes or grappling techniques in Cockroach Style – it doesn't NEED them. Opponents will usually have one of two reactions to this style: they will either flee in terror or attempt to step on you. Extra points for having a large posse and eating lots of greasy food and cardboard.

House Fly Style:

The buzz on this style is that it is based mainly upon the strategy of Annoyance. Your strikes will be soft and glancing but persistent. Your opponent will attempt to swat away your attacks but will instead become frustrated. Be careful not to get into any sticky situations.

Mosquito Style:

Related to Fly Style but movement is quicker and far more annoying. Practitioners whine while fighting, causing extreme agitation for their opponent.

Parakeet Style:

Who's a pretty martial artist? WHO'S a pretty martial artist? YOU are, if you decide to learn the Parakeet style. Acrobatics figure large in this style, with training taking place on a long round pole surrounded by mirrors and bells. The Beak Strike is the main component of this style.

Finch Style:

Another of the Avian styles, the Finch is best suited for those small of stature and highly energized. Short, quick hops characterize the footwork and laughably ineffective Beak Strikes the attacks, which will serve to draw in your over-confident attacker. You then dispatch him/her with a frantic, neurotic thrashing-about and screaming while whipping your arms in wide circles.

Hamster Style:

Hamster Style and its relatives, Gerbil and Guinea Pig, all base their attacks upon the Pointy Teeth Strike. Practitioners will train their teeth to bite at all angles, and more advanced students will actually file down their teeth to sharp points. Training diet consists of lettuce and sunflower seeds, and the basic training device is The Wheel, great for cardio work.

Gold Fish Style:

Goldfish Style, one of the many Fish School styles, is characterized by languid walking back and forth in front of your opponent. Most attackers will be strangely calmed by this display, whereupon you can grab them and force them into your small ceramic castle. Bubble Attacks are the featured offense. Practitioners report that they usually forget their forms within a minute or so.

Turtle Style:

Designed especially for withdrawn, introspective personalities, Turtle style movements are slower even than Taijiquan's exercises and place emphasis upon strong neck muscles, crushing attacks with the mouth and the ability to withstand attacks by withdrawing all four limbs into the body cavity.

Turtle stylists have weak grappling skills, since once they are flipped on their backs they just wave their arms and legs uselessly.

Rat Style:

Despised by many, the Rat stylist can usually be found training near dumpsters and cargo ships. Biting and scratching are hallmarks of this style, as well as the transmission of disease from poor personal hygiene. Practitioners who live near a river usually grow to immense size.

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