Leopard style kung-fu is a sub-discipline of the Shaolin Five Animals school, originally developed by a Choy Lay Fut kung-fu master known simply as “Mot.” According to the Shaolin Gung-Fu Institute, leopard style was a southern style heavily influenced by the more aggressive northern styles of kung-fu. Based on speed, aggressiveness and surprise attacks, leopard-style techniques focus on elbow and knee strikes, low kicks and the use of the “leopard fist.”
The Leopard Fist
The leopard style is actually named after the leopard fist, which you make by bending your four fingers at the first joint, instead at your knuckles. Clasp your fingers with your thumb. With a leopard fist you can punch, rake or crush targets without alteration. The back of your hand can also be used as a striking surface. Leopard fist strikes can be delivered from various angles, including the lead jab, rear cross and hook punches of boxing.
The Forward Elbow Smash
When an opponent is too skilled for long-range leopard-fist punches to work, the leopard-style fighter can use close-range attacks -- such as the forward elbow smash -- to blast through his defenses. Targeted for soft vital areas such as the face, throat and solar plexus, the forward elbow smash is generally a fight-ending blow. Additionally, the elbow strike can be used against less obvious targets, such as the opponent’s extended elbow or the sides of his knees.
The Knee Strike
Like the elbow strike, the knee strike is a versatile close-range technique. It can be used in conjunction with upper-body strikes. Leopard style kung-fu teaches an attack using the forward elbow smash and the knee strike simultaneously, based on the theory that the opponent can not defend against both at the same time. The knee strike can be aimed anywhere from the outside of the opponent’s thighs to the solar plexus, or even the face. Like the elbow smash, the knee strike is an instant fight-ender when properly hitting vital points.
The Low-Line Crescent Kick
The low-line crescent kick, aimed at targets like the opponent’s knees or ankles, is a spectacular distraction attack. It can be a fight-ender if it destroys the targeted joint, but it is generally used to distract the opponent to create an opening for a more effective attack. The striking surface for the low-line crescent kick is the inside edge of the foot.