Snake (She)

Rank:  Brown 1st Level (Di Yi Ji); 2nd Level (Di Er Ji); 3rd Level (Di San Ji)
Elements:  Earth, Rocks, Roots

The Shaolin snake-stylist strikes at vulnerable areas like the eyes, throat and groin.  Because there may be serious consequences in hitting such targets, the snake-stylist must be calm and peaceful to avoid a fight as much as possible.  It is only when there is no recourse but to fight, then will this warrant a serious enough situation to use the techniques of the snake form.

The snake technique also promotes "listening" energy.  This is the sensory ability developed through "sticking hands" and related excercises.  Through its use, the snake-stylist can neutralize an opponent's attack with minimum effort and risk.  Because of its quiet attitude and emphasis on rhythmic breathing, the snake is traditionally thought to develop Qi (Chi).

The snake may appear not to be an ideal candidate for a Shaolin Animal due to its lack of legs, however, if you think in more depth, the snake will use slyness and softness rather than hard raw power.

The snake style is designed to cultivate internal Qi (Chi) energy, thus gaining superior focus and penetrating force not associated in any way with the external animal.  The snake as it moves is very evasive as it twists its body in a zigzagging motion.  In order to survive, the snake must use its body in a different manner to compensate for its lack of limbs.  First the snake coils its body and then raises its head into a striking pose and from this position, straightens its body and strikes with precision and lightning speed.  This type of striking force is created from the momentum and twisting movement from the coiled position.

The animal itself is calm and relaxed and is said to possess more Qi (Chi) than the other animals. When the external striking technique is combined with the snakes venom, the venom of the snake is known to be its extending "Chi" into its prey which makes this animal a formidable opponent.

The snake style differs from the other Shaolin Animals because it has no hard punching techniques, instead, it uses both hard and soft principals to be a successful fighter.
The fingertips and palms are used to strike with penetrating force.  The snake is in direct opposition to that of the tiger.  The snake's energy is quiet and internal and makes no external sound as it strikes, while the tiger style is noisy and active as the practitioner exhales to gain power.  As with the characteristics of any internal style, these styles are understood to be at an advanced martial art level where strikes and blocks are made simultaneously (offense and defense are one and the same).  Soft coiling actions which are deceptively defensive suddenly change to offensive strikes.  Hence, the speed of attack is not as important as the smoothness and flow.

Another important factor when considering the spirit of this animal is to keep the whole body moving and flowing as if to be combined with the actions of the other animals.  In many cases, it is necessary to administer soft circular actions which terminate with focus and a harder action as the technique makes contact.

When practicing the snake form, it is important that the practitioner is relaxed with good concentration.  The movements within the snake form should be calm and soft.  Another issue to understand when training with the snake movements is to remain "connected" with all parts of your body contributing to the desired end.

Developing proper snake style movements will allow the practitioner to project their "Chi" energy up through their arms and out of the finger tips, however, when practicing in the air, there will apparently be no recognizable power, only upon contact on a desired target will this power prevail.  Unlike the other Shaolin Animals which are associated with finger-striking methods, the snake style has no fingertip external strengthening and development exercises.  The reason for this is providing that the Shaolin practitioner has a correct balance between the other Animals of Shaolin, they will develop adequate finger and hand conditioning.

As the student practices the snake form calmly and quietly, they will develop feeling and sensation in order to understand an opponent's next move.  When a snake practitioner's arm makes contact during this type of training, most likely a sticking effect normally associated with Wing Chun's "sticky hands" or maybe even Tai Chi Chuan's "push hands" may now play a role within the fighting techniques.  As previously mentioned, the practitioner's moves are apparently powerless, however these soft touches have a magical sting upon contact, undoubtedly the adept movements are quick and forceful if and when required.  The force of a snake strike is said to be over seven times an individuals normal power!

The psychology behind the snakes special spirit is that the Five Animal practitioner must be calm enough to mentally look inside their own body and feel peace and tranquility.  Nothing will bother him externally.  If the correct snake spirit is developed, the student will feel the energy flow from the spine along the arms and out of the fingertips.  The stylist will move slowly in deliberation before the simultaneous blocking and striking action occurs as the snake uncoils.  Assimilation of the Shaolin Snake techniques, and having gained the penetrating focus and intent as well as lightning speed, will undoubtedly if delivered to the correct vital pressure point areas of the body, cause excessive pain, unconsciousness, or even death.