ShenDo is based and inspired on the study of all the elements of the nature, especially the principle of the 5 elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal. Some traditions have variations about that. Sometimes there is no air and it is considered the ether, in some other there is no metal and in his place there is ether or wood, anyway there are many variation of these theory but what concern the ShenDoka is the common element between all the theory elements is that all the elements have to be balanced each other to allow the man to harmonize himself with the nature. The 5 elements are in the ShenDo represented from 5 styles, different between each others.
The air is represented by the Crane (one of the Shaolin's animals) and expressed in the form of the Martial Art called "Nanbudo". The crane style is a yin/yang style, soft and fast with muscles contractions dynamic and sharp. The arms are often opened outside of the body to represent the wigs of the crane and their movements are fast and continuous. The Air style helps to acquire speed, balancing and coordination, thanks to the symmetry of execution and it is the first step to learn the breath control.
The water is expressed by Martial Arts like "Aikido" and "Ju Jitsu". These are famous for the qualities of malleability of not oppose any strength against the opponent, exactly the reaction of the water when something interferes with it. The biggest quality of the water is the capacity of adaptability. The water could be the softest of the elements or one of the hardest. Identifying with the water, the student learns malleability and softness, learning, in the same time, to harness the strength of the opponent. Without using the strength, step by step, the student begins to perceive the energy outside and inside himself.
The fire is expressed, technically, by some styles of pure fight, like "Boxing" and "Kickboxing". All kind of fights look like, sure enough, the fire, where from an epicentre, even if small, tongues of fire (attaches) irradiate towards the target. The fire stile is aggressive and practice and it also help to balance the water element even at psychological level, in fact, a lot of physical and psychological energy are spent for the hard fighting. Fighting helps to develop reflex movements and concentration and also some difficult asymmetric reflex movements because of the necessity to compare to somebody else. Despite, the fight is seen more like playing chess, in place of a real competitive spirit against an adversary. In fact, the opponent is seen like a helper to improve ourselves.
Hearth is represented by the Snake (another of the Shaolin's animals) and expressed by the Martial Art "Tai Chi Chuan". This "Yin" style teaches the perception of every single muscle of the body and, thanks to the slowness of movements, allows the student to study, perceive and understand every single detail of the movements of his body. Moreover, working in so slow motion, the student learns to perceive his inner energy (Chi) and, step by step, to use it when necessary.
Metal is represented by Tiger (another of Shaolin's animals) and technically expressed by the "Karate Shotokan style" which represents it perfectly. It helps to acquire stability and hardness, agility and strength. Shotokan teaches to express the solving hit, expressing the "Chi" in one single movement.. Moreover it strengthens the arms and the legs, with the hard training of the parries and hits that is the characteristic of the "Yang" style.