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
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
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
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 or pulling.
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
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
5) The thumb should be two fingers in
width away from the middle finger.
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 difference.
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 other methods.
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.
us | magazine