Snakes are curious creatures. They do not have any visible means of movement yet they can move as fast or faster than their prey. They do not have limbs to grab hold of their opponents, yet they have adapted and can strangle and suffocate their victims.
Much the same could be said about the snake in Martial Arts. A common stance for someone performing snake styles is to be "coiled". The term is literally as it represents -- the person's legs are twisted and in a somewhat waiting position, ready to strike. It would seem that someone in this position would be tied up enough to find themselves immobilized. But as anyone who studies under this animal, the snake is very versitale and moves with agility to roll and evade any strike delivered.
The movements of the snake are fast, striking in and recoiling ready for the next strike as one would see a cobra do. The artist remains low to the ground, moving in such a way that their next attack is almost undetectable by the opponent until it is already upon them.
Some styles take in the "fang" aspect of and use either their hands or metal weapons to represent the animal.
And in some cases, the snake will wrap itself about its prey. This wrapping up can take down the opponent and thus making them vulnerable to other attacks.
Learn more about other animals & elements in Martial Arts as part of our Chinese New Years articles.