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Northern Praying Mantis (martial art)

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Northern Praying Mantis (martial art)

Post by VietKiem on Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:30 am

Northern Praying Mantis (Chinese: 螳螂拳; pinyin: tánglángquán; literally "praying mantis fist") is a style of Chinese martial arts, sometimes called Shandong Praying Mantis after its province of origin. It was created by Wang Lang (王朗) and was named after the praying mantis, an insect, the aggressiveness of which inspired the style. One Mantis legend places the creation of the style in the Song Dynasty when Wang Lang was supposedly one of 18 masters gathered by the Abbot Fu Ju (福居), a legendary persona of the historical Abbot Fu Yu (福裕) (1203-1275), to improve Shaolin martial arts. However, most legends place Wang Lang in the late Ming Dynasty.

Stone monument to Wang Lang on Laoshan in Shandong Province.
Also known as: Tong4 Long4 or Tōrō-ken
Focus: Striking
Country of origin: China
Creator: Wang Lang (王朗)

Comparison of a technical drawing of a mantis arm and the "mantis hook" hand posture. The mantis is a long and narrow predatory insect. While heavily armoured, it is not built to withstand forces from perpendicular directions. Consequently, its fighting style involves the use of whip-like/circular motions to deflect direct attacks, which it follows up with precise attacks to the opponent's vital spots. These traits have been subsumed into the Northern Praying Mantis style, under the rubric of "removing something" (blocking to create a gap) and "adding something" (rapid attack).

One of the most distinctive features of Northern Praying Mantis is the "praying mantis hook" (螳螂勾; pinyin: tángláng gōu): a hook made of one to three fingers directing force in a whip-like manner. The hook may be used to divert force (blocking) or to attack critical spots (eyes or acupuncture points). These are particularly useful in combination, for example using the force imparted from a block to power an attack. So if the enemy punches with the right hand, a Northern Praying Mantis practitioner might hook outwards with the left hand (shifting the body to the left) and use the turning force to attack the enemy's neck with a right hook. Alternately, he/she might divert downwards with the left hook and rebound with the left wrist stump to jaw/nose/throat.

Northern Praying Mantis is especially known for its speed and continuous attacks. Another prominent feature of the style is its complex footwork, borrowed from Monkey Kung Fu.

Comparison of a technical drawing of a mantis arm and the "mantis hook" hand posture.

There are many legends surrounding the creation of Northern Praying Mantis boxing. One legend attributes the creation of Mantis fist to the Song Dynasty when Abbot Fu Ju (福居), a legendary person of the historical Abbot Fu Yu (福裕) (1203-1275), supposedly invited Wang Lang (王朗) and seventeen other masters to come and improve the martial arts of Shaolin. The Abbot recorded all of the techniques in a manual called the Mishou (祕手 – "Secret Hands") and later passed it onto the Taoist priest Shen Xiao. This manual supposedly disappeared until the Qianlong reign era when it was published under the name "Arhat exercising merit short strike illustrated manuscript" (Chinese: 罗汉行功短打; pinyin: Luóhàn Xínggōng Duǎn Dǎ). Some sources place the folk manuscript's publication on the "sixteenth day of the third month of the spring of 1794". The manual records Wang Lang "absorbed and equalized all previous techniques" learned from the 17 other masters.

The 18 Masters Invited to Shaolin
# -----Name--------------------------Technique-----------------------------------Master
1 Chang Quan -------------------------Long-range Boxing --------------------------Emperor Taizu
2 Tongbei-----------------------------Through the Back --------------------------- Han Tong
3 Chan Feng -------------------------Wrap Around and Seal ------------------------Zhang En
4 Duanda ----------------------------Close-range Strikes ---------------------------Ma Ji
5 Keshou Tongquan ------------------Blocking Hands and Following Through Fist ------Jin Xiang
6 Gou Lou Cai Shou ------------------Hooking, Scooping and Grabbing Hands ---------Liu Xing
7 Zhanna Diefa ----------------------Methods of Sticking, Grabbing, and Falling ------Yan Qing
8 Duan Quan ------------------------Short Boxing ----------------------------------Wen Yuan
9 Hou Quan -------------------------Monkey Boxing --------------------------------Sun Heng
10 Mien Quan -----------------------Cotton Fist ------------------------------------Mien Shen
11 Shuailue Yingbeng ----------------Throwing-Grabbing and Hard Crashing -----------Huai De
12 Gunlou Guaner --------------------Ducking, Leaking and Passing through the Ears --Tan Fang
13 Yuanyang Jiao --------------------Mandarin ducks kicking technique ---------------Lin Chong
14 Qishi Lianquan --------------------Seven Postures of Continuous Fist Strikes -------Meng Su
15 Kunlu Zhenru ---------------------Hand Binding and Grabbing ----------------------Yang Gun
16 Woli Paochui ---------------------Explosive Strikes into the Hollow Body Parts ------Cui Lian
17 Kao Shou ------------------------Close Range Hand Techniques -------------------Huang You
18 Tanglang -------------------------Praying Mantis ---------------------------------Wang Lang

A third of the masters listed all come from fictional novels. Yan Qing (#7) and Lin Chong (#13) come from the Water Margin and Emperor Taizu (#1), Han Tong (#2), Zhang En (#3) and Huai De (#11) come from the Fei Long Quan Zhuan (飞龙全传 – “The Complete Flying Dragon Biography”), which was published prior to the aforementioned manual.

Another legend connected to the Song Dynasty states Wang Lang participated in a Lei tai contest in the capital city of Kaifeng and was defeated by General Han Tong (韩通), the founder of Tongbeiquan. After leaving the fighting arena, he saw a brave praying mantis attacking the wheels of oncoming carts with its "broadsword-like" arms, Mantis fist was born shortly thereafter. However, most legends place Wang Ming living in the late Ming Dynasty.

Connection with General Yue Fei

The "Four Generals of Zhongxing" painted by Liu Songnian during the Southern Song Dynasty. Yue Fei is the second person from the left.

It is believed to be the "truest portrait of Yue in all extant materials." As previously stated, the Water Margin bandits Lin Chong and Yan Qing, the adopted of Lu Junyi, are said to be part of the 18 masters supposedly invited to Shaolin by the legendary Abbot Fuju. According to the folklore biography of Song Dynasty General Yue Fei, Lin and Lu were former students of Zhou Tong, the general’s military arts teacher. One martial legend states Zhou learned Chuojiao boxing from its originator Deng Liang (邓良) and then passed it onto Yue Fei. Chuojiao is also known as the "Water Margin Outlaw style" and "Mandarin Duck Leg" (Chinese: 鴛鴦腿; pinyin: Yuānyāng Tuǐ). In the Water Margin's twenty-ninth chapter, entitled "Wu Song, Drunk, Beats Jiang the Gate Guard Giant", it mentions Wu Song, another of Zhou's fictional students, using the "Jade Circle-Steps with Duck and Drake feet". Lin Chong is listed above as being a master of "Mandarin ducks kicking technique".

Lineage Mantis Master Yuen Man Kai openly claims Zhou taught Lin and Lu the "same school" of martial arts that was later combined with the aforementioned seventeen other schools to create Mantis fist. However, he believes Mantis fist was created during the Ming Dynasty, and was therefore influenced by these eighteen schools from the Song. He also says Lu Junyi taught Yan Qing the same martial arts as he learned from Zhou. Master Yuen further comments Zhou later taught Yue the same school and that Yue was the originator of the mantis move "Black Tiger Steeling Heart".

Widespread styles
There are several styles of Northern Praying Mantis, the best known of which are:

Seven Star Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 七星螳螂拳; pinyin: qī xīng tángláng quán). This style is the original form of praying mantis kung fu and is widespread in the Shandong Province and surrounding areas. Luo Guangyu (羅光玉) is known for having passed down this style to Hong Kong and other parts of Southern China, where it is still practiced today. Seven Star is considered by many as the 'hardest' of the Praying Mantis styles, however it still utilizes soft-hard principles and is classified as a soft-hard style.

Wooden statue of a monk performing Mantis Fist in the Shaolin Monastery of Henan province.

Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 梅花螳螂拳; pinyin: méihuā tángláng quán). One of the oldest among all Northern Praying Mantis styles, it is widespread in Shandong Province, Jilin, Liaoning and South Korea. It traces its lineage directly from Li Bingxiao (b.1700s) to Zhao Zhu to Liang Xuexiang (1810-1895). Liang Xuexiang was the first master to use the name of Plum Blossom. Liang Xuexiang's disciples, mainly Jiang Hualong, Liang Jingchuan, Sun Yuanchang, Hao Hong and Xiu Kunshan are responsible for popularization of this style in the 20th century. In the early 1900s, it heavily influenced the development of Taiji Mantis of Cui Shoushan and Wang Yushan, Taiji Plum Blossom of Hao Family, Taiji Mantis of Zhao Zhuxi and Babu Mantis of Wei Xiaotang.

Taiji Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 太極螳螂拳; pinyin: tàijí tángláng quán). Today this style is represented by two distinct lineages. The first one is that of Cui Shoushan and Wang Yushan and is based on Song Zide and Jiang Hualong's Plum Blossom teachings in Laiyang, Shandong Province. It is popular in Laiyang, Yantai, Qingdao, Dalian, North America, Russia, France and Spain. The second lineage can be traced to Sun Yuanchang's Blum Blossom, who was yet another disciple of Liang Xuexiang. Its best known progenitor is Zhao Zhu Xi, who is said to have taught (both directly and indirectly) thousands of students during his lifetime in Vietnam and Hong Kong, who have since spread to all corners of the globe. He was given the Cantonese nickname Chuk Kai, meaning "Bamboo Creek", for a famous battle he fought with bandits at that location. This style has since become prevalent in places such as Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and North America.

Taiji Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 太極梅花螳螂拳; pinyin: tàijí méihuā tángláng quán). This style is, historically, a combination of two different lineages of Mantis: Taiji Mantis and Plum Blossom Mantis. This style is widespread in Yantai, Qingdao, Beijing, Dalian, Harbin, etc. What is now called Taiji Plum Blossom traces its lineage to Hao Lianru (郝蓮茹)—a disciple of Liang Xuexiang, his sons Hao Henglu, Hao Hengxin and his grandson Hao Bin. The later three combined both Taiji Mantis and Plum Blossom in the early 20th Century, creating the current style. Hao Lianru's five sons have since spread the style elsewhere. This style is well-known for its large, two-handed sword, and for being somewhat 'softer' than Seven Star Praying Mantis.

Six Harmony Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 六合螳螂拳; pinyin: liù hé tángláng quán). Known as the 'softest' or most 'internal' of the Praying Mantis styles, Six Harmony was passed down by Ding Zicheng (丁子成), whose students taught in Shandong Province as well as Taiwan. Six Harmony Praying Mantis has a very different curriculum, with unique routines not found in other Praying Mantis styles.

Eight Step Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 八步螳螂拳; pinyin: bā bù tángláng quán). This style was originally conceived by Jiang Hua Long, and was further refined by his principle disciple of the style, Feng Huanyi (馮環義), which was passed down by his disciple Wei Xiaotang (衛笑堂) in Taiwan. Which was passed down to his disciple Shyun Guang Long.

Rare styles - Other, less widespread styles include:

Shiny Board Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 光板螳螂拳; pinyin: guāng bǎn tángláng quán). Also known as "flat plate" or "hidden grip" Praying Mantis.

Long Fist Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 長拳螳螂拳; pinyin: cháng quán tángláng quán). Influenced strongly by Long Fist boxing.

Throwing Hand Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 摔手梅花螳螂拳; pinyin: shuāishǒu méihuā tángláng quán). This style was passed down by Bao Guangying from Shandong Province. He taught in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

Secret Gate Praying Mantis Boxing (Chinese: 秘門螳螂拳; pinyin: mì mén tángláng quán). This style was passed down by Zhang Dekui (張德奎) in Taiwan and is a variation of Taiji Mantis.


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