Praying Mantis Boxing is one type of animal style Kung Fu. The type of Praying Mantis Kung Fu taught by SMMS originated from the Shan Dong Province of China. It was created by Wang Lang from Ji Mo County of Shan Dong during the late Ming Dynasty. Kung Fu was Wang’s passion since he was young. He had learned martial arts in the ShaolinTemple at Song Shan Mountain . He also traveled to several provinces and studied under the famous martial artists of his time. Once he noticed the skillfulness of a praying mantis catching a cicada. He then picked a straw to tease the praying mantis. Out of his observation of the praying mantis’s arm strike, its head movement and its swerving body against the attack of the straw, he became enlightened to the meaning of using short power to overcome the long power. Incorporated the Monkey Kung Fu’s footwork and offensive and defensive techniques of martial arts he invented Praying Mantis Boxing. On top of that, he blended in some Drunken Style elements and various famous martial artists’ boxing techniques.
The basic Praying Mantis hand techniques simulate the praying mantis’s two arms which are similar to hooks a.k.a. “Praying Mantis Claws”. The various striking techniques include Gou ( horizontal hook) , Lou (grasp), Chai ( grab down), Gua (upward block ), Diao (vertical hook), Chan ( trapping lock), Pi ( Chop), An ( Press), Peng (pounding) , Zha (hammer punch), and others.
Major stances include the empty stance, the 40/60 stance and the Chi Lin (a Chinese mythical animal with the head of a dragon, scaled body, hoofed feet and short tail) stance. Major footwork includes sliding step, follow step, Stomping and so on.
The basic body posture calls for an upright head, sinking shoulder, sinking elbow, lively wrist, supple waist and low quad and hook footing.
The waist, upper body and limbs need to be nimble, flexible and responsive. The hips and lower body need to be stable. Basically, like a tree that has the trunk and branches flexible but the root stable, or like a body that “moves only the waist but keeps the quad steady”. The method of Jing depends more on soft trapping, hard explosion, and a crisp, quick and spring-like strike. Normally it’s trapping and locking together with torque power and springy attack. Unleashing of energy originates from the torque power of the waist and the jerking of the arms, and finally culminates -the attack through the hands. This Kung Fu ameliorates the courage and daring of the praying mantis which confronts its enemy without retreat. (Note: The Chinese legend had it that a praying mantis insect once stopped a cart by using its two long arms without any thought of retreating.) The strikes are short and quick with non-stop interlocking attacks. Praying Mantis Boxing opportunistically adapts to different situations and seizes every possible way of attack or counterattack, exploits the opponent’s weaknesses and opening. It attacks on the offence; it also attacks on the defense. Takes every chop and blow to its enemy.
As the style of Praying Mantis Boxing became popular, it also gradually adopted various other boxing techniques into the system and a few varieties of styles were developed. They are: the “Six Harmony Praying Mantis”, the “Seven Star Praying Mantis”, the “Plum Blossom Praying Mantis”, the “Throwing Hands Praying Mantis”, the “Shiny-board ( or Guang Ban) Praying Mantis” and so on.
There was one other style adopted by the southern China , created during the Qing Dynasty by a Cantonese, Zhou Ya Nan. It is called the “Southern Praying Mantis Boxing”. However, its technique is basically that of the south and it should be classified under the Southern Boxing system.
Seven-Star Praying Mantis Boxing is what we teach in SMMS. It is also called “Hard Praying Mantis” or “Lo Han Praying Mantis”. The founder was Wang Yong Chung (1854—1926) from Fu Shan, Shan Dong Province , China . Wang initially studied Long Fist and Ground Tumbling Boxing. He later became the direct successor of Li, the Lightning Hand, the master of Praying Mantis Boxing. Using the Praying Mantis as its core, Wang combined what he learned previously and developed a new style of Praying Mantis which he called the “Seven-Star (Qi Xing) Praying Mantis”.
The system Wang developed emphasizes two basic elements: the Seven-Star body and the Seven-Star footwork. Seven-Star body means Head as the main star, with 6 other Stars (i.e. Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist, Arms, Knees, and Ankles) arranged in a crooked form that similar to the arrangement of the Seven Stars in the sky. Seven-Star Footwork means the footwork goes like the path of the Seven Stars i.e. forward, retreat, swerve and stretch.
This Boxing requires low stances. Its movements are unrestricted, its exertion of energy ballistic. Its forms include Downward Punch, Intercept, Double Inserting Flower, the Eighteen Shuttles, Blunt the Steel, Nine Turns and EighteenFalls , Essences of Seven Star etc…
This style is very popular in Zhao Yuan (my Grandfather’s and father’s home town); almost everyone knows this style. It is even more popular in places like Qing Dao City , too.