Traditional animals are discussed as they relate to the martial arts
If you grew up in the 1970's with Kung Fu on TV like me, then you might remember the words of Master Kan to Cane, "From the crane we leard grace and self control, the snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance, the praying mantis teaches us speed and patience, and from the tiger we learn tenacity and power, from the dragon we learn to ride the wind. All creatures, the low and the high, are one with nature. If we have the wisdom to learn all may teach us their virtues."
For centuries animal behavior has been studied by martial artist and imitated in combat for survival. The crane, the snake, the praying mantis, the tiger and the dragon are common. However, throughout history other animal figures were also important. One can find the agile leopard, a wolf, a deer, a bear, and a host of others. It is the common five that is believed to have originated in the 13th century in the Shaolin Temple near the Yangtze River in China.
If one is to study a domestic animal such as a house cat, by its nature it knows how to defend itself. So, it is no wonder than that the monks of the Shaolin Temple studied nature and put together a system of self defense using what had already been created, that is ones own internal survival born out of nature. Notice your cat or dog, when caught off guard, they drop low to the ground. It is for safety. When martial artist square off, they drop into a fighting stance which is again for safety. Upon further study of other animals, the fighting systems were improved, redeveloped and sometimes rediscovered. Today, martial artists still seek this knowledge worldwide.
One can walk into almost any dojo or dojang in the world and find martial artists over the globe seeking this knowledge. Students study for a lifetime. Many drop out, but those who stay are enlightened by more than a fighting skill. They come to appreciate creation and the gifts offered.