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Tanglang Quan (Mantis Chuan)

Tanglang Quan or the mantis Chuan is also an animal-imitating style of fist play. It copies the form and actions of a mantis adding the attack and defence skills of the martial arts. This unique style of Chuan boasts an assortment of routines which generally fall into the northern and southern styles.

The northern-style mantis Chuan is said to have been created by Wang Lang of Jimo County in Shan-dong Province at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Legend has it that Wang was fond of martial arts and went to study Wushu at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. After the temple was burnt down by the imperial army, Wang Lang returned to Jimo where, because of his shorter stature, he was beaten again and again by his senior fellow apprentice.

Wang resolved to practise hard for three years but, much to his dismay he lost the duel again. One day in the forest, he saw a mantis wielding its forelegs while fighting a big cicada in a tree. Before long, the mantis killed the cicada. Wang found that the mantis had a good rhythm in attack and defence and controlled its catch and release well. It fought both from distance and close-up with hard and soft blows characteristic of martial combats. He captured a number of mantis and took them home. Watching them closely while they fought, Wang Lang compiled a mantis Chuan by adding the essentials of the Shaolin Chuan to the actions of the mantis, even including the expression of the mantis. There are two other propositions about the origin of the mantis Chuan. One holds that Wang Lang created it while fighting the long-style boxers of the school created by the first emperor of the Song Dynasty; the other believes that between his fights with back-through boxer Han Tong, Wang saw a mantis capture a cicada and fight a snake and so created the mantis Chuan.

The mantis Chuan has many routines and branches. The major five schools are as follows:

1. Seven-star mantis Chuan, which is also called Arhat mantis, features seven-star steps, hard-hitting, and vigorous movements. It tends more towards hardness than suppleness and its stances are comfortably spread and extended. The basics of this school include waist technique, leg technique, shoulder technique as well as standing skills and hitting skills.

2. Plum blossom mantis Chuan, also called Tai Chi plum blossom mantis Chuan, uses small steps and its movements are continuous, deft and smart, like blossoming plums. It is almost an exact copy of the mantis. This style of Chuan demands clear-cut rhythms in unleashing the tricks and emphasizes a smooth, deft and supple generation of power. It uses more sideway than straightforward force.

3. Six-combination mantis Chuan, also known as monkey mantis Chuan, stresses the inner and outer, three combinations which make six combinations. It uses mind to guide the movements of the body and pays equal attention to both the mental and physical. It uses hidden, rather than obvious hardness and resorts more to inner forces.

4. Hand-wringing mantis Chuan is also called plum blossom hand-wringing mantis Chuan. It comes from the plum blossom mantis Chuan but because it uses hand wringing tricks in its routines, it came to be called hand-wringing mantis Chuan. When delivering blows, the hands are in the shape of palm; when retreating, they are in the form of hooks.

5. Twin mantis Chuan. This style of Chuan also comes from the plum blossom mantis Chuan. Its movements have a delicate symmetry and thus it is called twin mantis Chuan.

The mantis Chuan features force, power, dexterity, speed, a combination of hardness and supple-ness, of substantial and insubstantial tricks and blows and of attack and defence. It necessitates a good command of catch and release and a variation of actions. Mantis boxers will attack if pro-voked; they will not attack if untouched by opponents; they deliver fist blows in quick succession when offended. These characteristics of the mantis Chuan are well known among Chinese martial artists.

A common feature of various styles of the mantis Chuan is that their actions are accurate and performed in earnest. Mantis boxers move lightly, yet powerfully and their attacks are very strong with tricks that are delicately connected. The mantis Chuan stresses eyesight, hand play, footwork and body movements as well as speed, agility, steadiness and careful choice of moves. Its power generation is strong but not stiff, supple but not soft, quick but not unconnected nor out of rhythm. The mantis Chuan boasts of many skills and techniques and can beat its opponent with unpredict-able changes of tricks and combinations of hardness and suppleness.

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