Lau Gar Kuen is based on the Five animals
From the earliest times Shaolin kung fu has featured five styles derived from animal movements called the 'Ng Ying Ga'.
This article explains what the five animals are and what characterises the kung fu movements based on them. Each of the five animals is said to embody specific characteristics and the styles based on those animals were developed to have distinguishable but complimentary movements.
The five Shaolin animals are:
Dragon, Tiger, Leopard, Snake and Crane.
The dragon style represents the cultivation of the spirit. Pronounced back arches, side horse stances and twisting body postures feature strongly in the style. Flexibility and graceful movements are stressed.
The Tiger does not need to defend, it is the ultimate predator. It has no evasion techniques, no blocking or defence. In any confrontation it leaps into attack going for the quick and direct resolution of the conflict. The Tiger uses any simple and direct approach. It's techniques and methods are easily understood with not a lot of strategic thinking or planning; and absolutely no preparation. The Tiger is purely reactive. Either the world is OK or the Tiger will do something immediate and sudden.
The leopard style represents bravery and martial ferocity. It requires the development of strength and features a strong waist and lower extremities. The leopard style also requires the development of power and speed and swift penetrating strikes.
Snake uses very simple, straight and Snake (s bend) techniques both for the hands and legs. Generally aiming with a toe or one finger at a specific target that the Snake has identified for their current opponent. This will then be executed with minimum energy usage. For the Snake is that of a single, accurate, very high efficiency strike or kick .It does not use any style of blocking but relies on it's agile body and quick reflexes being enough to avoid any contact what so ever. The Snake allows only one contact and that is it's attack.
To practice Snake the practitioner must spend a lot of time working on accuracy and precision. He/she must be 100% in timing, distancing, effort, target and opportunity. They may use some distracting, swaying motions, occasional feints (each executed as if it were a real attack, which it could be) but that is as complex as it gets.
The Crane does not attack only counter attacks. It would do this from any angle except the front. It would always side step the attack, possibly using it's wings to mask the movement, change direction again, possibly to deliver a technique to the attacker. It is a master of evading supported by blocking and redirection. It would seek to frustrate it's opponent, helping it to defeat itself.
Over the years a number of other animal styles have evolved, those such as; monkey, eagle, scorpion are to name a few.