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Tanglang Chuan Origin and Basic Fighting Principles

Tanglang Chuan, also called Praying Mantis or Tong Long, is a style of Kung Fu. The initiator of this style was a martial arts fighter named Wong Long. It appears that after constantly being beaten in Chinese boxing matches with his fellow monks, despite his hard training, he finally retired to practise religious contemplation.

While sitting in a garden in a reflective mood, he observed two insects, one a praying mantis and the other a cicada that is a type of grasshopper, were locked in combat to the death. Wong Long’s observations led him to realise that the mantis was fighting a definite pattern, even though the cicada was much bigger and heavier. From its two front limbs the mantis made lightening quick withdrawals, attacking first to the left and then to the right in a vigorous manner. Among the insect’s various striking methods, there were attacks from outstretched limbs as well as from limbs slightly retracted. These movements confused the cicada, which eventually flew of soundly defeated.

Wong Long caught a mantis and took it home with him. For days Wong Long played with the insect, prodding it with a blade of grass to analyse its reactions. He particularly noted that it could hook its claw, in all directions. Wong Long then formulated a series of techniques based upon the mantis’s mode of combat. Perfecting them over a number of years, he returned to the monastery ready to fight and beat monks there. The abbot was immensely impressed, and the new art was named after the insect that had inspired it.

The system employs two basic principles. The first is the grab. This is affected by shaping the hands to resemble that of a mantis’s claw, with the index finger pointed forward. Pulling, to expose certain areas of the body follows grabbing. Then strikes are made to these vital points. Skilled pulling also ensures that the opponent is off balance. The second principle is what is known as ‘monkey footwork’, which does not, as the name implies, copy the footwork of a monkey, but rather imitates its speed and agility, while still giving the support and balance. The stances are short, with a quick sideways stepping motion.

Although both northern and southern Mantis schools use the name of Praying Mantis in their titles, the methods and fighting principles of the styles are quite different. Northern Mantis stresses long-range fighting tactics and also include a wide variety of kicks. Southern Mantis schools rely heavily upon in-fighting techniques delivered from close range with a more stable stance. Although kicks are seldom used, when they are, they are aimed at the groin or kneecaps.

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