Making The Eagle's Claw
By Victor Smith
Editor's Note: This is the second in a series
of articles about Eagle Claw kung fu. The first, Inside
Eagle Claw, provides a summary overview and historical
prospective on this art. This article focuses on the how to make the Eagle
Claw grip, its signature technique.
Forming The Eagle's Claw
The main technique of the Eagle Claw style is, of course,
the claw. When applied properly, it enables the practitioner to seize
and control an opponent
through pain and/or structural manipulation. This is useful when the goal
is to cause minimal physical damage. But it can also set up a throw, a
strike or other technique.
The finger tips can also directly attack various pressure
points, move a muscle or ligament to do so, or to effect the body's blood
or energy (chi) circulatory system. The inside of fingers or thumb digits
can also activate sensitive points in the process of twisting, pressing
The Eagle Claw hand is made by bending the four fingers
and thumb inward toward the palm, which allows the fingers to grab, or
lock, the pressure points. The hand, fingers and wrist must be strong
to get the full benefit of the claw. The claw is used for breaking bones,
tearing muscles, shutting off the air flow, blood flow and nerve flow.
claw is always made by first opening the hand with four fingers together
and the thumb out straight to the side. As you do the claw, at the last
instant snap the fingers and thumb into the claw position. Do not make
the claw before. Even when your hand moves from one type of claw to another,
the hand must open and then close again into the claw.
When grabbing an arm, for example, notice how the curled
fingers of top hand grip and dig into painful (lung and heart meridian)
points just above the elbow. The
lower hand grips and digs into sensitive (lung and small intestine meridian)
points on the underside of the wrist. Together these grips produce intense
pain and create a tingling sensation along the arm all the way to tips
of several fingers.
This is very different from the way most people grab by
using the pads of their finger joints that wrap around their target like
a cloth is wrapped around a pipe. The proper application the Eagle Claw
requires the finger tips and the thumb tip to dig into the area in question
like a clamp.
In one example of its use, the Eagle Claw slides down the
arm to clamp into place on the wrist. In the hands of an experienced adept,
intense pain is the result. Without the correct training, you can only
approximate the Eagle Claw's effectiveness. Take an Eagle Claw technique
without the full Claw, and you severely diminish its effectiveness.
While subsidiary exercises are utilized to develop finger
strength, the main tool is the correct use of the Eagle Claw Kuen (forms)
practiced over and over for years with each claw being done correctly.
The fingers tighten into position and learn how to direct the jing (energy)
of the claw into the correct hand position. To say that form study is
worthless simply is not true for the Eagle Claw student.
If anything, correct training under the direction of a Master
Eagle Claw Instructor is the only way to insure that these techniques
are developed correctly. Self study from books and video tapes (really
designed for subsidiary support for the Eagle Claw student) will not ensure
that the techniques will eventually become effective.
Basics of Making the Claw
1) Open the hand with the fingers straight out and together with the thumb
stretched out straight to the side.
2) Bend the four fingers in to make a half fist.
3) The space between the palm and the four fingers should
be large enough for the index finger to fit inside.
4) Bend the thumb inward toward the middle finger.
5) The thumb should be two fingers in width away from the
The Basic Eagle Claw Grip
You grab with the finger tips and grip down rather than
wrapping around a wrist or other body part. For me it's an attempt to
use all four fingers, but when I'm on the receiving end of Ernie Rothrock
(my teacher), it feels like his middle finger and thumb are doing all
the work (and the other fingers perhaps pressing inward to provide more
stability to the middle finger) and feels like needles inserted into my
arm. Of course decades of work on the grip, the subsidiary exercises and
the forming of the claws tightly every time in every form make a vast
How to Build Your Grip
As mentioned above practicing Eagle Claw forms is the primary
method of building a strong, finger piercing grip. But there are also
Students may practice gripping their partner's arms and
segments in two man drills. In modern times squeezing a rubber ball or
other spring type exercise hand grips are also used. In olden days students
twisted bamboo stocks to develop both fingers, wrists and arms. In Okinawa,
karate students often spread their fingers to grip the round rim of clay
pot filled with sand or other heavy substances and swung them around to
develop their finger strength.
One exercise often used to develop finger strength is to
do finger tip pushups starting at first by leaning in towards a wall.
Pushups should be done with the fingers in an Eagle Claw position (bent)
and on the very tip of the fingers. Gradually the angle can be increased
as the fingers get stronger until eventually these type finger point pushups
can be done from the floor.
The study of human anatomy and Traditional Chinese Medicine
is helpful in the effective use of Eagle Claw. Through this knowledge
specific body points (in conjunction with TCM's theory of energy flow
and circulation) can be pressed, moved or hit to create maximum pain,
effect control, or cause weakness, loss of breath or unconsciousness,
even death. The practice of Eagle Claw forms and two man exercises will
also teach the location of many of these points.
About The Author:
Victor Smith is a respected teacher of Isshinryu karate
(6th degree black belt) and tai chi chuan with over 26 years of training
in Japanese, Korean and Chinese martial arts. His training also includes
aikido, kobudo, tae kwon do, tang so do moo duk kwan, goju ryu, uechi
ryu, sutrisno shotokan, tjimande, goshin jutsu, shorin ryu honda katsu,
sil lum (northern Shaolin), tai tong long (northern mantis), pai lum (white
dragon), and ying jow pai (eagle claw). Over the last few years he has
begun writing on, researching and documenting his studies and experiences.
He is the founder of the martial arts website FunkyDragon.com/bushi
and is Associate Editor of FightingArts.com. Professionally he is a business
analyst, but also enjoys writing ficton for the Destroyer Universe.