Does form follow function or function follow form?

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

We had a great discussion on G+’s martial artist forums regarding the question posed above. On the kung fu side of things, first there was random and haphazard fighting. Eventually, people figured out (and more importantly, passed on) the idea that certain ways of moving and fighting were better for their purposes; folks moved from the typical “boxing” jabs and hooks to crystallized kung fu patterns like Black Tiger Steals Heart (a level punch to the chest at the Bow-Arrow stance) or Hang a Golden Star at Corner (a punch to the side of the temple at the Bow-Arrow stance) because of certain advantages (a protected groin, more agile footwork, and being able to use waist rotation to generate and send spiral force from the abdomen into the opponent to deal injury).

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The historical relationship between Eagle Claw and Xingyiquan

Golden Leopard Trains Claws, an exercise from the Eighteen Lohan Art force training set used by many Northern Shaolin kung fu systems, including Eagle Claw kung fu. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Golden Leopard Trains Claw from the Eighteen Lohan Art set, from which internal force training in Eagle Claw kung fu is derived. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

One of my kung fu “uncles” has been on a Youtube uploading frenzy lately and recently compiled the Fifty Sequences of Eagle Claw kung fu as practiced in Shaolin Wahnam to his Youtube account: 
鷹爪五十路連拳 50 Sequences of Eagle Claw Kung Fu

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