Bear Kung Fu: A Real Martial Art Style Based On Bears?

It may or may not be common knowledge for most people that many martial arts styles and techniques are based on how animals behave in the wild. There are a great many animals that have been used as inspiration. What about bears? Is there a bear style of martial arts?

There is a Bear style of Kung Fu that is studied as an independent martial art or as part of other animal systems. It is designed for larger, heavier students and utilizes their bodyweight behind strikes through hip and shoulder rotation. Yet, anyone can benefit from its study.

Though Po, our lovable ‘Kung Fu Panda’ voiced by Jack Black in the DreamWorks animated blockbuster by the same name, may have brought bears and Kung Fu together in the minds of the masses, there is a legitimate history in Kung Fu for an actual Bear style. Let’s find out more!

Is There A Bear Style Of Kung Fu In Martial Arts?

With many animal influences in so many martial arts, it is not an unusual question to wonder if there is a dedicated Bear style. One of the more probable systems to find nearly any animal influence is in the Chinese Wushu or Kung Fu arts. So, is there a Bear style in Kung Fu?

The Bear style martial art is primarily found in Kung Fu. There are elements that can be seen in representations and even technique in styles as various as Russian Sambo to Japanese Judo. Yet, there is more direct influence from the bear in Kung Fu than most others.

But why is it more present in Chinese systems than in others. One answer that makes sense is the link between the spiritual side of Kung Fu found more or less prominent in most styles and the Chinese Zodiac. Astrology has links to Chinese spirituality and the martial arts.

Kung Fu Animal Styles

One way the Chinese Zodiac finds its way into Kung Fu is through animal mimicking and philosophies developed around them. There are 8 main animals, but how far down the rabbit hole does it go?

There are 75 plus animal style martial arts systems in Kung Fu alone. Within this number there are 5 main animals and 3 others sometimes used as additions or alternates. From these there are many dozens of derivative animal styles either used as stand alone arts or as additives to others.

Learning about how they compliment each other as well as the body types and personalities of students is a fascinating study. Fortunately, I have done just such a study.

To learn much more about the diverse animals used in Kung Fu and other martial arts, see my article…

Bear style Kung Fu

Now we need to look at one specific animal in the vast array of others seen in the martial arts. The Bear style is a unique one designed for a specific body type and personality. Similar techniques to other systems can be found in it, but there are definitely unique techniques and variations.

Bear Kung Fu is patterned after the size and movements of bears combined with the human body to form an effective system used by those with more mass. The use of momentum and body weight is intensified by full hip and shoulder rotation as well as control oriented grappling techniques.

Many styles use hip and shoulder rotation to generate more power (Karate, Tang Soo Do, and even western Boxing). But the Bear style of Kung Fu is specifically designed for larger, stronger body frames. This leads to some force that can be hard to match.

What Is The Strongest Kung Fu Style? Is It Bear Style?

Along with the question “Is there a Bear style?”, there usually comes a follow-up. If the Bear style is developed for larger students, does this make it the strongest animal style of Kung Fu?

The strongest Kung Fu style can be said to be the Bear style if the criteria is an art designed for larger more powerful people. Though many times large powerful strikes can be slow and easier to avoid. This points to a more balanced approach, combining multiple animal styles as the strongest.

Other animal styles of Kung Fu known for their strength, power, or force generation are:

  • Tiger
  • Boar
  • Python
  • Alligator

These are only a few. If you would like to learn about all sorts of animals used as inpiration in the martial arts, see my article, The Ultimate Martial Arts Animal Guide: Kung Fu, Karate, BJJ

What Does Bear Kung Fu Training Look Like?

Many styles of animal Kung Fu have similar regiments and drilling formats. Others have such specific technique bases that unique forms of student progression is needed. What about Bear Kung Fu? What does training in Bear style look like?

Training in Bear style Kung Fu resembles many other animal styles with body toughening and strength training. Bear style specifically adds Chin-na style grappling, power strikes, and control oriented wrestling. Hip and shoulder control for momentum generation is also a main focus.

Another element of the bear style that makes training different is its more wrestling and controlling style grappling utilizing body drops and suplexes with other attempts at domination through strength. Highschool and collegiate wrestlers, Judoka, and even all levels of American football players will tend to relate to Bear style.

Can A Human Beat A Bear Using Martial Arts?

Most of use have seen clips of circus style shows where a trained bear was ‘wrestling’ with its trainer or other trained actor. Though this is a bit of smoke and mirrors that doesn’t fool that many people, still some have the question about bears and humans in reality. Could a human beat a bear in a confrontation?

There is virtually no chance that a human can beat grizzlies, polar bears, or any other sizable adult bears without the help of weapons. Smaller black and brown bears would even be nearly impossible to best. The chances go up more and more depending on which weapon a human would wield.

What does this have to do with Bear style? It actually is very relevant when understanding how much of a bear’s temperament and movement can actually be imitated by a human.

What we can say is that there is merit in taking inspiration from the animal kingdom, but it is a mistake to think that our bodies can do more than they were designed to do. There are limits to how much mimicking animal movements can do for Kung Fu students.

With that said, it is still fun to look at. Let’s see where a man would stand against a bear in a real life confrontation.

Human Vs A Bear Empty Handed

Though it may be an academic question to some, for those that face down bears every year at campsites and in forests around the world, it can be a very real scenario. Some have gotten away either unscathed or with life altering injuries. Could a momma bear protecting her young or a full grown hungry male bear be bested by an unarmed man?

A human using empty handed martial arts techniques is not only at a severe disadvantage against a bear attack, the only real chance he or she would have would be to scare off the bear or get away. Not only are bears exponentially stronger, their claws and teeth are akin to lethal weapons.

That being said, if surviving until a bear gets spooked or gives up is your definition of ‘winning’, then there are stories of this happening. Yet, if you are talking of besting a bear that has been cornered or intent on your demise, then chances are… you are bear food.

Human Vs A Bear With A Weapon

We all probably could imagine what would happen if even a large skilled fighter stood toe to toe with a bear with no weapon in hand. Yet, does this change when weapons are involved? What about an armed man in a confrontation with a bear?

Depending on the weapon used, a human has a much better chance fending off bear attacks with them. A pocket knife or any impact weapon even in the hands of the well trained will be of little help. But large caliber firearms in the hands of properly trained shooters can turn the tables completely.

There are many types of defensive weapons meant to scare off a bear. Yet, one that is meant to ‘best’ or kill a bear usually revolves around projectile weapons. These are compound bows and firearms.

Trying to compete with a bear’s raw power with other types of weapons would simply be a mistake.

Kung Fu Bears In Media

In entertainment, there are many instances of bears being used. This is on every level as well. From kids cartoons to live footage of bears in the wild on nature shows, bears are often stars. Where can we find a mix of martial arts and bears in the media?

Bears and the martial arts are used frequently in media such as movies, commercials, and even internet memes. There are main stars such as in Kung Fu Panda from DreamWorks and the ‘Kung Fu Bear’ video that circulates around the internet. There is even a funny commercial starring a Kung Fu Bear.

Let’s look at some of these instances to see how bears and Kung Fu have been put together.

Kung Fu Panda

With a gross of 1.8 billion dollars, the Kung Fu Panda series is in the top ten for animated series in history. The popularity of Po and the ‘Furious Five’ animals of Kung Fu brought more attention to Bear style martial arts and Kung Fu than ever before.

Children and adults alike once again looked at Kung Fu as a way of self defense and self improvement. Though its training and effectiveness will never reach the heights of the ‘Dragon Warrior’ like in the movies, Bear style Kung Fu is a great option for people with the right body type.

To get your own copies of these great movies for kids that can even bring some chuckles from adults, order your three movie collection at a great price from Amazon here.

Kung Fu Bear Videos And Memes

Another popular bear that is related to the martial arts is the Kung Fu Bear that circulates the internet in memes, videos, and GIFs. This is a sometimes edited video that originated from a real recording of made of a bear in a zoo playing with a limb.

The motions are completely unscripted and apparently something that entertains the bear. The spectators and video viewers have also been enjoying it for years. Though this can loosely be labeled as ‘Bear Style’, classes are unavailable in this particular version.

Caution: Do not attempt to find Kung Fu Bears in the wild. It will not end well for the person who does.

Kung Fu Bear Commercial

There is also a very popular commercial for salmon that stars a Kung Fu Bear. In this comedic depiction of the ‘Bear Style’, a man attempts to steal a caught salmon from an apparent Grizzly bear.

They square off and to everyone’s surprise the bear breaks out some sweet Kung Fu moves and a fairly good Mohamed Ali impression. Here again, this may not be authentically Bear style, but it definitely promoted good health as it caused belly laughs around the world.

The Bear Kung Fu Martial Art Takeaway…

To recap…

  • There are many animal influences in the martial arts.
  • There are also a great many different animals used in Kung Fu.
  • A Bear style of Kung Fu does exist.
  • Bear Kung Fu is a style designed for larger body frames.
  • Facing down a bear by a human is a losing proposition.
  • Bears and Kung Fu are regularly paired in movies, commercials, and on the internet.

Whether you are wanting to watch bears to study them and their fighting style or to simply be entertained, you don’t have to look far to see bears and martial arts mixed together.

Again, to see a giant list and explanation of most of the animals used in the martial arts, I recommend my article…

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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