ABOUT SOUTHERN PRAYING MANTIS
This style is connected by similarity with the Fukien Crane, Wing Chun, Dragon Shadow, and White Eyebrow styles (as well as the Okinawan Karate styles). Its technique is based on a deep rooted firm upright stance, straight forward explosive force (of a sticky nature) and the use of turning or borrowing power with small deflective angles, circles and hooks.
Practitioners emulate the mantis fighting posture by extending their hands forward, with the elbows slightly bent and tucked in close to protect the centerline - like a mantis. The feet are separated by the distance of about 18-24 inches, shoulder width apart, with the bent lead leg supporting most of the weight, while the slightly curved leg acts as a strut.
A single movement of the arm may contain several actions. Tactical operations of the hand include grappling, catching, holding, capturing, clasping with the forearms, slicing strikes with the knuckles, pressing with the elbow, sudden quick pushes with both hands, spearing with extended fingers, flicking of the hands in quick jabs, exploding fingers from the fists, jerking the opponent’s arm, slicing and chopping with the edge of the palm, hooking and deflecting hands, elbow strikes, claw-like raking actions, and poking with the back of the hands. Many of the movements are simultaneously defensive and offensive. The feet, ankles, knees and hips may mirror the hand movements.
In my teaching, the principle of intent or "will-power" is first discussed. Intent may simply be defined as the "warrior spirit." Without it, their is no focus of the body and mind into one purpose. Rooting and centering are next discussed. Rooting is the skill of developing the force of one thousand pounds in the feet. With it, the stance is as firm as Mt. Tai and not easily moved. Without it, the power of the fist will be stagnated in the chest and one's feet will not be steady. Centering is the development of the root. It is the lowering of the center of gravity within the body. It is accomplished by breathing and correct body structure.
Body structure is a key element. Like a triangle, one must develop a base in relationship with the other parts. In the body it is a sinking power. If the stance is too wide, too narrow, too long or too short, the center will be unstable. Imagine an upside down triangle standing on it's tip and you can see the slightest force will cause it to topple. This is a floating center and should be avoided.
Many styles mimic the movements of animals, but the Jook Lum Mantis is based on the structure of the human being. The practicer stands upright with the feet firmly placed heel to toe 18-24 inches apart. Gathered through the feet and up the legs and back, the power is expressed in the hands. This produces a live springy power (action-reaction force in a sticky way). It is produced by the whole body in spiraling motions, as a spring is twisted and then released. It is the function of the hand and foot arriving at the target intently at the same time. There is a saying, "any deficiency of power in the hand, can be found in the root and center."
Being that the structure of this kungfu is based on the natural movements of man and the hand movements of a mantis, the style's form and function express themselves as one. How many times have we seen dozens of different stylists, all practicing their various forms, only to enter the fighting competition and become indistinguishable from each other? That is to say, that their form and function is not the same. Jook Lum Mantis is one style that exhibits form and function inseparably.
Once found, one must learn to move the center while remaining stable in all positions. This is the function of stepping and is based on the body structure and the use of power in attack and defense with the feet, shins, knees and hips. Jook Lum has both linear and circular stepping such as three steps forward, four corners and eight directions.
Once a rooted stance is developed and one is able to move the center of his body by stepping forcefully and agressively without a break in the root, he may learn to "box" using the hand. When the stance is rooted and one can move the center, it is said the whole body has become a hand.
The mantis arm is composed of three "hands;" from the shoulder to the elbow, from the elbow to the wrist and from the wrist to the fingertips. A good mantis will use his "second hand" for control by pressing the forearm into the centerline of his prey, at the same time striking a vital area with his "first" hand or fingers.
In my teaching, I first introduce 18 hands individually, one by one, combined with the steps. One learns this as a single man exercise but quickly begins two man, "partners," practice in offense and defense. This is "attaching to the center of the opponent and controlling him." These 18 hands can be likened to the alphabet. A follows B turns to C, etc. Once the alphabet is learned, we can make words, which make sentences, which make paragraphs and books and so on. At last, the practicers arrive at 18 continuous hand combinations.
By daily training and repitition, of these hands offensively and defensively in high, low, middle, left, right, center and back positions, the mind and body will gradually come to an instinctual action or reaction based on the "partners" intent. It is too late if one must think in combat.Ancillary exercises during the basic training are numerous. Of course, standard exercises include kicking, sweeping, chinna, grappling, ground fighting and the likes, but more specific Jook Lum exercises such as two man internal strengthening, two man body conditioning, sticky elbows, hooking hands and ging power explosive force are also included. And there are numerous two man "sticky-feeling-controlling" exercises.
Sticky training is to learn relaxation. It is the ability to not blink when being struck. It is attaching to the center of the opponent's being, neither pushing into nor pulling away from him. It is being perfectly attacthed in stillness and motion. Feeling hand is the result of sticky hand. One must learn to neither anticipate the opponents movement or telegraph his own. Feeling hand is the reading of the opponents intent. It is as if the hand (body) has an eye of it's own. Controlling hand is the result of feeling hand. It is the jamming, trapping and deflecting and attacking of the opponents intent. This is done based on the control points of the body. The motto, is "hand to hand, heart to heart, you don't come, I won't start." (The hands are placed (chambered) above the heart and the elbows cover the ribcage to protect the internal organs).
Once the basics are learned, next is taught the form Lah Sao (or loose hands). It is a short, medium and long range two man (A-B) hand set with low kicks, high kicks and sweeping. Although the form is based on stickiness, there are three separations of the two men. Both sides (A-B) must be learned by both men as one continuous "round" to complete the form.Next is the basic form, "three steps forward." It strengthens the structure and teaches gathering, exploding and borrowing power. It is followed by the two man "three steps forward" form. It is the application of all the principles and philosophy in a realistic way.
This is followed by the "five fist" form. It is four directional and includes the evasion of takedowns and sweeping. Next is the two man "five fist" set where the skills are further refined.Moi Fa, follows and is a circular two man set teaching one to attack vital points below the navel.This in turn is followed by the 18 Buddha Form as a single man set and then a two man set. This set teaches vital point striking with the knuckles and fingertips in forward, left and right positions.Now a two man set, "seven point fist" is taught to advanced practitioners who will not "graduate" the system. Those who will must be formally accepted by the master to receive the "masters form" called 108. It is a sticky hand two man set teaching one hundred eight vital point striking, defending and countering. I call it acupuncture boxing. Herbals and Shun Kung (spirit) teaching follow. Traditionally, the Late Lum Sang Sifu only taught, the forms three steps forward, 18 point, seven point fist and 108 with their two man sets.
In the book, Complete Guide to Kungfu Fighting Styles, it is clear that the author, J. Hallander, had little or no experience with Southern Praying Mantis. Many erroneous statements are made about South Mantis including the basic history. Unfortunately, misinformation is abundant regarding this style, especially on the internet today!
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