Leopard style is one of the Five Animal styles, supposedly created by Jueyuan with help from Bai Yufeng and Li Sou. The emphasis of leopard is speed and angular attack. The leopard does not overwhelm or rely on strength, as does the tiger, but while it does have power it instead relies on speed and outsmarting its opponent. It uses its speed to deliver its power.
The leopard practitioner will focus on elbows, knees, low kicks, and leopard punches, all at close range.
The goals of Leopard style are to:
- develop muscle speed for external strength.
- teach patience.
- use the leopard punch for penetration and lower body springing power.
The other four animals being Crane (Bai He), Tiger (lua Fu), Snake (Se), and Dragon (Lung). These five animals originally represented the five classical Chinese elements before developing into their own styles. Snake is water, Tiger is fire, Crane is Wood, Dragon is earth, Leopard is metal. Since they were derived from the Five Elements, they are kept in this pattern. At this point many styles delve into more advanced animal training or actual element training.
The proof behind this element/animal system is the contention that one animal "beats" another, and their appropriate corresponding elements also "overpower" one another. For instance, Tiger (Fire) is killed by Snake (Water). And Tiger (Fire) beats Leopard (Metal). Water puts out fire, whereas fire "melts" metal. This can be further explained by the Snake's waterlike movement (Kung Fu masters may tell their students to "imagine a river" during movement), and the Tiger's ferocious overwhelming of the calculating, fast Leopard with constant linear strikes. This Shaolin system teaches one to identify an attacker's natural or learned animal, and use its antipode to defeat it effectively.
The leopard style was founded on the creators' observation of the movements of the leopard in the wild, and therefore practitioners of the style imitate these movements. Blocking is wasted in Leopard - the style can be summed up with "Why block when you can hit?" It does not rely on rooted stances, and would only assume a stance while in attack in order to launch at the opponent. This hit and run technique of the leopard, something especially effective against larger opponents, is unique to the animal. A prime example of these techniques can be seen in the Shaolin pattern, "Golden Leopard Watches Fire".
The primary weapon is the leopard's paw, which can be likened to a half opened fist. The primary striking surface is the ridge formed by folding the fingers at the first phalangal joint. The secondary striking surface is the palm. The leopard claw can also be modified for grabbing and tearing.
Leopard is especially useful at night, when the blinding hand and foot movements are invisible. Movement is accomplished far faster than the eye can compensate for in reduced light. Leopard is also useful on wet ground.
An interesting technique of the leopard is the ability to simultaneously block and strike the opponent. This is not commonly used in the harder martial arts (like the other Shaolin styles, for example). The sheer speed of the leopard is a defining characteristic of the style; however, as with all martial arts of this style, the practitioner' ability to provide the necessary speed diminishes as he ages, reducing his or her efficacy in combat.
Leopard is "The Ghost" of the 5 animals because it is hard to see because it is so fast, quiet, patient, waiting to strike at the right moment.
The Leopard style has many stealth techniques that are useful in moving around undetectable at night where one uses the eyes, speed, stealth, and cunning in supposed imitation of the leopard (this can also be done in the daylight but not to the same degree). The darkness is considered a useful asset in the Leopard style. It was used often by assassins as well as warriors.
In order to master the leopard, you must become the leopard.
Leapord is also one of the Marital arts the character Nitara, in the Popular Fighting game series Mortal Kombat, uses.