The Origin of Mantis-Boxing
It was said that the founder of the mantis-boxing was named Wang Lang. He used to learn Kongfu in Shaolin Temple. But as he was so thin and short, he always lost in the conpetition with his fellow apprentices (who were taught with the same style or by the same teacher). No matter how hard he practised on his training, he still couldn’t catch up with those bigger and stronger guys. One day when he was walking in the mountain, he found a snake rolling on the ground. When he got closer, he saw a mantis fighting with it. Although the snake was such a giant to the mantis, it couldn’t defeat the small insect. Because the mantis was much faster, it jumped away and close, using its sharp forearms to saw the head of the snake. Later the mantis won the battle. And Wang Lang got an idea from it. That was, no matter how strong your opponent is, if you can be faster you will be safe, and if you can hurt the soft parts of your opponent by your hard parts, you will win.
To gain the speed, Wang Lang learned the pace from the wild monkeys. So the pace of this kongfu is called the monkey’s pace,although its style is named after mantis. Wang Lang also imitate the hand style just like a mantis’. The use of this hand style is to stick, to pull, to follow and to hook. It was said that at first there were only 13 forms invented by Wang Lang, but they are the concentrations of more than ten kinds of Chinese kongfu combining with Wang Lang’s new theory. By his new kongfu style, Wang Lang at last win in the conpetitions. And because this new kongfu style was already not Shaolin kongfu any more, it became a new branch in Chinese kongfu. Its name was mantis- boxing.
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The Masters of Mantis-Boxing
There were many great masters in the history of mantis-boxing, such as Li Sanjian, who was called fast-hand li or lightning-hand; Fan Xudong, who was called giant-Fan, he had fighten outboard in east Europe and never lost; Luo Guangyu, one of Fan Xudong’s students, was maybe the most important master of mantis-boxing in recent times of China.
About Luo Guangyu, I must mention about another thing here. There was a famous kongfu assembly hall called Jingwu Assembly. It was founded by a rich man who wanted to bring the health to the people. So at first the assembly’s whole name was "Jingwu Sports Assembly", and kongfu was only a departement in it. There was a famous kongfu master called Huo Yuanjia who taught kongfu there. He had a conpetition with a Japanese martral art master and won, but after that he got weaker and died soon. Also there was no evidence, people believed that he must be poisoned by Japanese. It was a famous event at that time and because of that Jingwu Assembly became famous in the society of martial arts. By its fame, it gathered all the best kongfu masters in China and became the biggest martral arts assembly in the history.
Although there were the best martral arts masters in the Jingwu Assembly, there were three the best of the best. They were Luo Guangyu, the great master in mantis-boxing I mention above, Chen Zizheng,the great master in hawk-boxing who was called "the king of the hawk" and Zhao Nianhe, the great master in Tan-kicking. It was said that zhan Nianhe is a little worse than the other two. About Luo Guangyu and Chen Zizheng, they had three competions. In the first two, Luo won by his fast speed. In the third time, to deal with Luo’s speed, Chen Zizheng invented continuous fighting in the hawk-boxing and at last got a even with Luo. So whatever Luo Guangyu was the best kongfu master in the best kongfu assembly. And mantis-boxing got his fame by the development of the Jingwu Assembly. In the golden time of Jingwu Assambly, it had 108 branch assamblies all over the world. And mantis-boxing was so brought throughout China and outboard.
The Branches of Mantis-Boxing
Now mantis-boxing has many more forms than in its beginning. Neither I nor even my teacher can tell the number. It also devided into many differet branchs. They’re the seven-stars mantis, which use the pace like the stars of big dipper and use the seven parts of the body to fight; the plum-blossom mantis, which use five moves in one attach like five petals in one plum blossom; six-combination mantis (or called ape mantis), which means the three things inside: the heart, the Qi and the courage, and the three things outside: the hands, the pace and the sight to be combined together; Taiji mantis, it’s the mantis-boxing combined with Taiji-boxing……..
The Theory of Mantis-Boxing
About the theory, mantis-boxing may be the fastest kongfu in China, so the speed is important. It uses two ways to gain the speed. One is by the training of the pace on feet and the move on hands, the other is that it has no defence motion, you attack in the same time you defend. And it also attachs importance on the combination of force and the yielding. So by the part of the yielding, good masters can beat the opponents who have bigger body, more strength, even faster speed.
Teacher Wang, whose first name is Leihua, is my master. He learned the mantis-boxing from Xu Kejia, who was Luo Guanyu’s last student, the close-door student. After Luo Guangyu’s death, Xu Kejia managed the funeral of Luo and take the place of Luo in Jingwu Assembly. Teacher Wang met Xu in a park. At that time he had already learned many other kinds of kongfu and was interested of the small elder’s form. After some time, he became Xu’s last student and stay with Xu untill Xu’s death. When Jingwu Assembly need a mantis-boxing teacher again, teacher Wang was certainly asked for this position. As I know, teacher Wang knows more than 200 forms from many kinds of Chinese kongfu. Although he thinks his mantis-boxing is the best, he also has confidence on his Taiji, the Water-boxing( six-combination & eight-method), Qinna and some southern Chinese kongfu. He is a traditional scholarly martial art master. He treat kongfu as a art and religion. Although he don’t want to change the old way of these kongfu, he can find the new way which fit himself best. He always taught us not only what the elder masters did but also what he think is better. I learned 6 forms of mantis-boxing from him and many other kinds of Chinese kongfu. When he found my shortage of form standing, he taught me the Hong-quan, and when he thought I should add the distance of my jab, he taught me the Shaolin-quan. He also taught me the hawk-boxing and the Tan-kicking which were also famous in Jingwu Assembly. He didn’t allow me to learn Taiji-quan because of the shortage of my basic kongfu training even in mantis-boxing. He said," you must at first know how to fight in a correct way in one kind of kongfu, then you can begin another. Because each kongfu was developed into its own way to fight, there’s difference between either two kinds of kongfus, and kongfu is an accurate art, every move was designed for the definite aim. Although there’s no limit to the great masters, to the beginner, it’s dangerous to fight in a undifined motion which always appears when one is learning two kinds of kongfu at the same time. And about Taiji, it’s even much more different from the "out-style" kongfus such as Shaolin And the mantis-boxing. But if you can do mantis-boxing well and you want to, I can introduce the best teacher in China to you. Or I can teach you by myself." As I know, he had learned Wu-style Taiji from Ding Desan, the best students of Wu Jianquan, the son of Wu Gongyi the founder and his Taiji-sword was learned from Sun Jianyun, the daughter of the Sun Lutang the founder of Sun-style Taiji.
He is always worried about the kongfu’s future. He said when he was young, the maters live with the students, they did training whole day and night, because their lives depended on it. At that time he got to meet teacher Xu before the dawn when there’s nobody in the street, so both of them can use the monkey pace jumping the whole way on the street. But now no one live on martial arts, people learn kongfu such as us don’t treat it as a necessary in our lives. We don’t really fight in the street. He always said," you go out and fight, no matter what kind. But you have to go out and really fight." But it’s a shame of us that no one follows that.
Now he is always living with one of my training brothers and still teaching. What he wants is only to prevent these secrets of Chinese kongfu from disppearing from his generation.
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