With the offering of more than one animal system we have been inundated with questions about which animal system to study. Here is some help determining which animal system is best for you.Yin Style Bagua students are able to pick from the Lion system, the Phoenix system, the Bear system, and now the Dragon system. There are a total of eight animal systems in Yin Style Bagua, which are: Lion, Snake, Bear, Dragon, Phoenix, Rooster, Unicorn, and Monkey. The Lion, Phoenix, Bear and Dragon systems are already documented on video, and are what Dr. Xie and He Jinbao have taught over the last four years in the West.
The Lion System: The Lion system belongs the the Qian trigram and is pure Yang. As a result, it is very direct, ferocious, and dominant. It is ideal for people who are naturally big or naturally strong. It is also excellent as a first animal for those who wish to develop strength, as the Lion practices develop the tendons and muscles faster than all of the other animals. A generalization is that the Lion goes through an opponent, and only takes the defensive if needed.
The Phoenix System: The Phoenix system belongs to the Xun trigram, and is the most mature of the Yin trigrams. It is considered the older sister, and as such has a bit of that personality. While not dominant like the Yang trigrams, it is extremely tough. The Phoenix relies on speed, redirecting the opponent to weaken their force, and following strike upon strike to win. It is ideally suited to people with long limbs who are quick. This is hardly set in stone, though, as Phoenix is Dr. Xie's favorite animal to fight with, and he is only 5'5". A generalization is that the Phoenix strikes the opponent after making sure it is out of the way of their attack.
The Bear System: The Bear system belongs to the Gen trigram, which is the youngest of the Yang trigrams. As such, it is very strong, but does not fight in a dominant manner. It is the art of snatching victory from defeat, attacking from a retreat, or fooling an opponent by being seemingly simple. It is ideally suited for people who are strong, large in frame (though not necessarily in height) or stocky/heavy and are capable of using their body weight to advantage. A generalization is that the Bear uses a heavy, rotating force to neutralize the opponent while attacking from an unexpected direction.
The Dragon System: The Dragon system belongs to the Zhen trigram, which is known as the oldest brother in the trigram family. It is considered a mature adult at the peak of his development. As such, the Dragon has a strong back, dominant hands, and excellent roots. Taking advantage of this, the Dragon likes to defeat opponents by continually moving them off their feet and controlling their arms/hands. This accomplished, the Dragon then uses direct attacks to finish the opponent. It is ideal for strong, athletic, mature individuals who are confident in close quarter combat.
The Animal For You:There are no set rules on what type of body is really best for what animal. There are so many variables in finding animal compatibility that there is no hard and fast answer. Some people may seem physically perfect for an animal, but they do not fit the profile psychologically. Others love and become excellent at an animal despite not fitting the physical profile because it resonates with them mentally. Some small people have incredibly strong bones, making them suitable for animals that wouldn't seem to fit them, while some tall or large people with weak joints or thin bones might be better off with animals you would not think suited them. Most importantly, whatever animal you choose, you will be developing the attacking personalities of the others, as well. Each animal contains the flavors of all the animals, which means that you will be developing yourself completely.
What if Lion, Phoenix, Dragon or Bear Don't Fit Me? Every animal contains all the animals, so whichever you choose, there will be areas you can focus on which will take advantage of who you are physically and mentally. In the meantime, you should pick the one that is closest to you - Phoenix if you are more yin in your fighting, Bear if you are more yang, and Lion if you are interested in developing strength and foundation for a later animal. Both Dr. Xie and He Jinbao feel that people new to martial arts or who haven't developed their physical selves externally and internally should consider spending time in Lion.
I am Interested in An Animal You Are Not Offering. What Do I Do? Some people just know they want a certain animal and feel nothing else will do for them. What they might not realize is there is a common ground among all the animals. A practitioner must develop incredibly strong tendons, striking power, roots, footwork, timing, and mental toughness to be successful at any animal. You will have to put in that development time somewhere, and in many ways it doesn't matter which animal it is in. Any time studying an animal speeds your learning of another animal down the line. Again, keep in mind that every animal contains all the other animals, so whichever you choose, you will be exposed to the personalities of the others.
Finally, if you are seriously committed to learning Yin Style Bagua, spending time in the Lion system is an excellent idea.