Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is Mantis Fist?

Legend has it that Mantis was created during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) by a man named Wang Lang from Shaanxi province. He was said to have been defeated by a master of the Tong Bei system due to his lack of physical strength. It was then that he saw a mantis fighting a cicada and he realised that even though the mantis was much smaller than the cicada, it could easily catch and defeat it. So he studied the movements of the mantis for a long time, observing its behaviour and predatory skills. He noticed that a mantis is very strong, but cannot take force straight on and so should redirect it and that it waits for the right moment and strikes viciously with immense speed.
Once he had laid out the foundations of Mantis, he was said to have been invited to a meeting at Shaolin temple, where 18 different masters got together to exchange ideas and he absorbed the techniques of each master into Mantis. Some of these styles included Chang Quan (long fist), Duan Quan (short fist), Tongbei Quan( through-the-back fist) and Hou Quan (monkey fist).

The style then found its way to Shandong province in the east of China, which is still its home today. During the early 20th century, three famous mastera appeared. They were Li Kun Shan (photoed opposite), Wang Yu Shan and Cui Shou Shan, who together were known as the Laiyang San Shan (Laiyang 3 mountains) as they all shared the name "Shan". Laiyang is a county in Eastern Shandong, between the cities of Yantai and Qingdao. Our lineage comes through Li Kun Shan, whos grandson, Zhang Bing Dou, is the master of Master Qu. Li Kun Shan was a member of the Guomindang and so fled to Taiwan when the communists took power and master Zhang continued his studies with Wang Yu Shan.
There are several major lineages of Mantis, the main three being Qixing, Taiji-Meihua and Liu He.
Qixing means 7 stars and is the Chinese name for the constellation Big Dipper. The human body can be said to represent this constellation and the 7 stars here refer to head, shoulder, elbow, fist, hip, knee and foot.
Liu He means 6 harmonies and refers to: hands and feet, shoulders and hips, elbows and knees, heart and intent, intent and qi, qi and power. Its curriculum differs from other lineages quite significantly.

Our lineage, which comes from the Laiyang San Shan is called Taiji-Meihua. Taiji refers to the fact that our style has absorbed the principles of Taijiquan, that is overcoming hardness with softness, using the principles of Yin and Yang, twisting the body to generate power. Meihua means plum blossom and refers to the constant flurry of attacks from different directions.

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