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Jackie Chan’s ‘Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow’ And Learning Kung Fu

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 insights into Snake Style and Eagle Claw Kung Fu Technique. Hwang-Jiang Lee (the Silver Fox) plays the despicable villain, an Eagle Claw Grandmaster.

Eagle vs Snake

Whilst the ongoing feud between Eagle and Snake Schools (central to the film’s story-line) is purely an invention of the script-writer, In real life, Eagles prey on Snakes – and never vice-versa. Eagle Claw technique’s incorporation of aerial skills means, overall, it is considered superior to Snake Styles, which specialise in ground-fighting. However, if the Eagle is incautious enough to seize a poisonous serpent (and some Snake Styles specialise in ‘poison-hand’ pressure point strikes) it can ‘meet its Waterloo’. The climax of ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ hinges upon a brilliant variation of this theme!

Learning Kung Fu

Unfortunately, you can’t learn Kung Fu from simply watching movies or DVDs,even where a brilliant practitioner like Grandmaster Chan’s incomparable skills are on display. A properly qualified and trained Instructor/Coach/Teacher or ‘Sifu’ is always an essential pre-requisite for such activities–one who will insist that you master the basic principles of Kung Fu and instill these into you at length is the sort to look out for.

This is how Jackie Chan himself trained, as his autobiography ‘I am Jackie Chan’ (2) confirms and ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ shows Jackie learning the Snake Style from scratch from just such a teacher played charismatically 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 pains-taking, step-by-step progress involving repeated practise of basic skills is depicted on-screen as Jackie strives to master this new and unfamiliar Kung Fu style.

At the other end of the Kung Fu teaching spectrum, in a splendid cameo role, Dean Shek (and the Kung Fu School he belongs to) ably depicts all that is to be avoided by all those seeking Kung Fu instruction.

The Snake and The 5 Animals

Learning Five Animals Wu Shu means starting at the bottom too. Here the beginner is considered a Snake (you can’t get any lower than the legless Snake) and must learn a basic Snake Form and its practical applications. The Snake is considered lucky however, a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture and also of Qi as, lacking legs, it has to use internal energies to get about. Shaolin Internal Energy Training begins at this point for Students who can benefit from watching Jackie Chan in action in the above production because of their Kung Fu training, knowing it can never be a substitute for this.

That’s the good news, learn Wu Shu from a proper Teacher and you’ll enjoy and appreciate Jackie Chan films more than you ever thought possible!


(1) ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ (1978) Dir. Yuen Woo-Ping

(2) ‘I am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action’ (1999), Ballantyne Books