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Jackie Chan’s ‘Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow’ And Learning Kung Fu
‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ (1) was Jackie’s first big hit. This provides excellent information on the Snake style and the Eagle Claw Kung Fu technique. Hwang-Jiang Lee (the Silver Fox) plays the despicable villain, a grandmaster of the Eagle Claw.
eagle versus snake
While the ongoing feud between the Eagle and Snake schools (at the center of the film’s story) is purely a screenwriter’s invention, in real life the Eagles prey on Snakes – and never the other way around. The incorporation of aerial skills into the Eagle Claw technique means, overall, that it is considered superior to snake styles, which specialize in ground fighting. However, if the Eagle is reckless enough to grab a poisonous snake (and some snake styles specialize in “poison hand” pressure point blows), he may “meet his Waterloo”. The climax of “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” is a brilliant variation of this theme!
Learn Kung Fu
Unfortunately, you cannot learn Kung Fu by simply watching movies or DVDs, even where a brilliant practitioner like Grand Master Chan’s incomparable skills are on display. A properly qualified and trained instructor/coach/teacher is always an essential prerequisite for such activities – one who will insist that you master the basic principles of Kung Fu and teach them to you at length is the type to be careful.
This is how Jackie Chan himself was formed, as confirmed by his autobiography “I am Jackie Chan” (2) and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” shows Jackie learning the Snake Style from scratch with such teacher played with charisma by Yuen Siu-Tien (father of the film’s director Yuen Woo-Ping). “Shé Xíng Diao Shou” or “Snake Form Trick Hand” is the translation of the film’s Chinese title and a laborious, step-by-step progression involving the repeated practice of basic skills is depicted on screen as Jackie moves strives to master this unfamiliar new style of Kung Fu.
At the other end of the Kung Fu teaching spectrum, in a magnificent cameo role, Dean Shek (and the Kung Fu school to which he belongs) skillfully portrays all that should be avoided by anyone seeking teaching Kung Fu.
The snake and the 5 animals
Learning Five Animals Wu Shu also means starting from the bottom. Here, the beginner is considered a snake (you cannot descend lower than the legless snake) and must learn a basic snake form and its practical applications. The Snake is however considered as a lucky charm, a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture and also of Qi because, without legs, it must use internal energies to move. Shaolin internal energy training begins at this point for students who can benefit from watching Jackie Chan in action in the above production due to their Kung Fu training, knowing that it can never substitute for that. .
That’s the good news, learn Wu Shu with a good teacher and you’ll enjoy and appreciate Jackie Chan movies more than you ever thought possible!
(1) ‘Serpent in the shadow of the eagle’ (1978) Dir. Yuen Woo Ping
(2) ‘I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action’ (1999), Ballantyne Books
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