About Praying Mantis Kung Fu (Tanglang Quan -螳螂拳)
Praying Mantis Boxing (Tanglang Quan) is a style of Kung-Fu that traces its origins to around the 1600s, at the transition between the Ming (Han) and the Ching (Manchu) Dynasties. As legend has it, Wang Lang, a skilled martial artist of the time, who was intent on training Han revolutionaries to fight against the invading Manchurians, had been training diligently at the famous Shaolin Temple. Despite his perseverance, he was continually defeated in combat. Dejected, he wandered into the forest for a rest. There, he noticed a Praying Mantis fighting with a Cicada. Initially, it appeared that the much larger Cicada would surely win the battle. However, utilizing aggressive, lightning-fast attacks and traps, the mantis overcame it's stronger opponent. Inspired, Wang Lang captured the insect and carefully observed it's fighting strategies and techniques, prodding it with straw to entice it to attack. He applied what he learned, creating a new series of techniques and fighting strategies, and upon returning to the Shaolin Temple, defeated his older Kung Fu brother. Since that time, Praying Mantis Kung Fu was elevated to the highest levels within the Temple, being taught to only the most advanced students.
There are many legends surrounding the creation of Mantis Boxing in relation to its insect namesake, but it is not only the physical movements of the mantis that is being imitated. Among the Chinese, the mantis is known for its unwillingness to retreat from an opponent and for standing its ground and fighting fiercely against all odds. It is the insect's indomitable fighting spirit that inspires Mantis Kung-Fu practitioners. As a Kung-Fu system, Mantis Boxing draws from many different styles of fighting found in and around Shandong Province, where it was created, and it is a very sophisticated style of combat that has been refined over generations in the fires of combat. In China's past, Mantis Boxing was used by caravan guards, for whom being out numbered was the rule rather than the exception. Traveling from crowded city to mountain pass to plains, the caravan guard needed flexible tactics to adapt to the ever-changing environment. Mantis Boxing provided just such a resource.
Over the centuries, Tanglang Quan has evolved into a number of different branches, or styles. For example there is Seven Star Mantis Boxing (Qixing Tanglang Quan), Plum Flower Mantis Boxing (Meihua Tanglang Quan), Grand Ultimate Mantis Boxing (Taiji Tanglang Quan), Six Harmony Praying Mantis Boxing (Liu He Tanglang Quan), and others. Each branch has its own point of emphasis on an aspect of Tanglang Quan technique or tactics. The style of Mantis Boxing taught at Authentic Kung Fu of Florida is Seven Star Mantis Boxing, more generally referred to as Northern Mantis Boxing, as it incorporates aspects of several of these branches.
As a self-defense system, Tanglang Quan has a tremendous range of options. The Mantis boxer can begin at long range and move instantly to close-quarters fighting, striking in a devastating fashion with the hands, feet, elbows, knees, even shoulders and hips. Praying Mantis emphasizes bridging to close-range, and applying fast trapping while striking, in a barrage of attacks that overwhelms an opponent's senses. He can throw an attacker with effortless takedowns, dropping them to the ground in jarring fashion, or immobilize a weapon-wielding opponent with restraining locks or holds that can quickly turn into disabling joint attacks, if the attacker persists. At the advanced levels, the Mantis boxer learns to deal with fighting opponents while on the ground, or in multiple simultaneous attacker situations. They also learn to effectively utilize and defend against weapons wielded in tight spaces, utilizing tactics and techniques that have stood the test of real-world life and death struggles.
The Mantis boxer generates power from the ground that travels up through the spine and into the limbs in a unique, relaxed fashion that contrasts dramatically with the type of power usually associated with Karate or Tae Kwon Do. This type of power takes less effort, conserving stamina, and generates greater force relative to the size of the practitioner. People of all sizes, shapes, speeds, and weights can be taught to fight effectively with Praying Mantis. The Mantis boxer, in attack and defense, executes techniques that propel the body and limbs in spirals and arcs. These curves and spirals, when joined to the unique method of power generation, give the Mantis boxer the ability to immediately change a movement midway to its target in response to an opponent's actions. For example, should an opponent attempt to block a Mantis boxer's attack, the attacking limb will simply spiral around the blocking arm and strike the opponent's body anyway without having to be withdrawn first. The opponent finds the striking limbs of the Mantis boxer ever in his face, as kicks and hand strikes are executed simultaneously while moving into close range for finishing techniques. To the Mantis Boxer, blocks are simply bridges; new avenues for attack.