When people think of kung fu, the average person who even knows what kung fu is thinks of the animal styles. And why not? They are fascinating and unique systems. But people often don't recognize a clear distinction between animal styles and animal forms.
I just got off the phone with an inquiring individual who just assumed that because I teach kung fu I teach animals, and he wasn't wrong because I teach 12 of them. But he falsely assumed it to be animal styles.
I teach Xing Yi Quan, an internal style from a Biblical foundation. Xing Yi has 12 animal forms, but isn't an animal style.
"What is the difference" You ask?
An animal style is a complete system modeled after the unique movements, mannerisms, and mindsets of a one or more animals. The animal serves as the foundation of the style.
An animal form is a single choreographed set of movements (xing, or kata) that are based on a animals unique movements, mannerisms, or mindset. It's a matter of scope really. A form is a small piece of a system, not the foundation of the system.
The foundation of Xing Yi Quan is the internal principles, and the 5 elements. The 12 animals provide variety and diversity of application for the 5 elements.