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The Kung Fu System (Part 1 of 2)

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Northern Praying Mantis was created by a Shaolin master called Wang Lang in the mid-17th century when he combined footwork techniques from monkey-style kung fu with hand techniques from praying mantis. The system went on to become one of the most well-known and best-loved Chinese Kung-Fu systems.

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Based around the movements of the praying mantis and its aggressive, forward-thrusting nature, the art is often linked with an old story of a Daoist wise man who observed a praying mantis trying to hold back the wooden wheels of a cart laden with fruit. The mantis, locked in a futile battle with the huge wooden wheel, was constantly pushed back, but refused to give in.

To some Daoists this story is a call to stop fighting against life. To martial artists, however, it symbolizes the spirit of pushing and fighting, even if the struggle might bring about their demise. This particular characteristic is a prized asset among traditional martial artists: if a practitioner is aggressive and decisive he can assume control in many circumstances and emerge victorious.

Shared characteristics

Although there are a number of different styles of northern praying mantis, the differing systems share a number of key characteristics. All are characterized by a unique poking-hand posture imitating the leg of a mantis. This very distinctive hand posture uses a hooking, claw-like action to divert incoming threats before quickly changing into

a vicious attack aimed at vital points of an opponent’s body— the eyes, or various acupuncture points. In combat, northern mantis body movements are similar to those found in monkey-style Kung Fu. This may be due to the fact that northern praying mantis includes a complex set of footwork that was originally taken from monkey-style Kung Fu.  The three main styles of northern praying mantis are known as: six-harmony style, eight-steps style, and seven-star style.

Tiger Kung Fu

Inspired by the clawing motions of tigers and said to strengthen the bones, tiger Kung Fu is one of the the animal systems of Chinese kung fu and is closely associated with bak fu pai . The system focuses on quick attacking movements aimed at resolving a conflict swiftly, but places no emphasis on blocking or evasive defensive techniques. It is not taught as a sport. Traditional practitioners rely solely on deadly and shocking power and do no stamina training. This vicious system is characterized by direct movements, grabs, chokes scrapes, and punches, combined with straight, side, and crescent kicks.

Pigua Quan

Sometimes known as “chopping fist” because of its emphasis on chopping fist and palm techniques, pigua quan uses a number of sweeping actions to generate speed through the hips and arms to produce powerful strikes. It is sometimes taught alongside ba ji quan, and the two forms are thought to have been a single art before diverging some centuries ago.

Power with simplicity

Sometimes accused of being an impractical martial art because of the exaggerated nature of its opening moves, pigua quan’s value lies in its simplicity and its ease to master. In its original form, it would have differed markedly from the routine seen in competitive Wushu , but even in modern demonstrations the principles of generating power through speed and rotation are clear to see.


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