Introduction of Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing
(1) Brief history and its characteristics
Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing (or Liu He Tang Lang Quan in Chinese) was first brought to Chinese Kung Fu society by a hermit named Wei De Lin of Lai Yang county, Shan Dong province in China during Qing Dynasty. No one at that time knew the exact background of Wei De Lin, he was normally called Wei San. His martial arts were only witnessed by Lin Shi Chun family when Wei stayed in Lin's home in Zhao Yuan County (Shan Dong province) for wound nursing.
Wei called himself as a grand disciple of Praying Mantis Boxing founder: Wang Lang and Wei's amazing Kung Fu only passed on to one man, his sole disciple Lin Shi Chun.
Lin Shi Chun was brought up in a martial arts aficionado’s family and had practised traditional Liu He Quan in his childhood; he then learned Liu He Tang Lang Kung Fu from Wei De Lin for ten years and became an accomplished martial artist.
Lin Shi Chun passed his skill on to his three disciples:
Ding Zi Cheng & Wang Ji Chen, both from Huang Xian County, and Zhao Tong Shu of Zhao Yuan County, all of them from Shan Dong province. Of the three, Ding Zi Cheng had more students and disciples as he owned a well known martial arts academy at that time ( year1923~1928). Hence the awesome Kung fu made itself known in the world.
Many famous contemporary Chinese martial artists like Zhao Qian Yi, Zhang Xiang San, Liu Yun Qiao, Shan Xiang Ling, Chen Yun Tao and so on are the disciples of Ding Zi Cheng. My master Ma Han Qing's Praying Mantis Kung Fu comes from both Shan Xing ling and Chen Yun Tao.
In Praying Mantis Boxing family, "Qi Xing Tang Lang" (Seven Star Praying Mantis), "Mei Hua Tang Lang" (Plum blossom Praying Mantis) and "Liu He Tang Lang" (Six Harmonies Praying Mantis) are three major branches. Among the three styles, "Liu He Tang Lang" used to be the most secretly reserved one. It was seldom seen publicly as it’s no frills forms hide some of the most powerful and harmful techniques.
Compared with other styles of Praying Mantis Boxing, Six Harmonies Praying Mantis has its unique characteristics.
From its appearance, it is looked a little mellow and soft, once you are attached, you can feel its powerful hidden vigour which is issued in a spiral or a circular form called "Chan Si jin" or "silk reeling power". It is this "silk reeling power" that gives Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing a name of “Soft Mantis”.
The footing stance of Six Harmonies Praying Mantis is also unique in mantis boxing family. Its basic stationary stance is very similar to "Xing Yi" stance --- "San Ti Shi" which requires the practitioner's 30% ~ 40% body weight being on front foot and 60% ~70% body weight on rear foot. Its major mobile stance is a sliding form of its basic stationary stance, plus those quick deceiving monkey like foot work being seen in Monkey boxing system, Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing therefore is also called "Ma Hou Tang Lang"( Monkey Style Mantis).
Its basic body manner is similar to those "Internal Martial Arts" and that of "Pi Gua Quan". It requires that practitioner's head to be naturally erected like what required in Tai Chi; the shoulders, the chest and waist should be naturally relaxed which are similar to those in Tai Chi except the chest not to be reserved; the hips should be sunken and lower abdomen area should be solid like what required in "Xin Yi"; both arms should be as extended as possible which is similar with "Pi Gua Quan".
The essentials of the style are a set of three "outer" (or physical) and a set of three "inner" (or more spiritual) harmonies. They are:
Outer : 1,the hands harmonise with the feet,
2,the elbows harmonise with the knees,
3,the shoulders harmonise with the hips,
Inner : 1,the heart harmonise with the intent,
2,the intent harmonise with the Qi energy,
3,the Qi harmonise with the power,
Altogether, there are Six Harmonies.
These above mentioned characteristics safeguard a significant movement rhythm of Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing: tidal waves behaviour. This behaviour made Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing one of the most sought after Kung Fu in Chinese Martial art history.
(2) Key skill points
According to my master Ma Han Qing , the characteristics and essentials of Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing mentioned in part one are represented by 16 key words. They are:
1, Guo --- hook. 2, Gua --- suspend. 3, Ju --- saw. 4, Cuo --- file.
5, Zhan --- paste up. 6, Nian --- stick on. 7, Bang --- bind up 8, Tie --- adhere to.
9, Kun --- tie up. 10, Feng --- seal off. 11, Gun --- roll over. 12, Lou --- leak out.
13, Shan --- dodge around. 14, Zhuan --- turn around. 15, Teng --- jump over. 16, Nuo --- shift over.
Like a string running through beads, these key words link up all routine forms and their applications. In many ways, these key words are closely related with those key points in classical Tai Chi scriptures.
As I have mentioned in part one, most movements in six harmonies praying mantis boxing work in circular or spiral planes, these kinds of movements accumulate combined powers while neutralising opponent's attacks. Once the accumulating is done, the hidden potential is released as a form of wave like power.
This wave like power is generated from both feet, coiled and stored through both legs, adjusted and converted by the hips and waist, then transferred into both arms and hands while the hands and arms emphasise on "sticking" and "listening"(Ting jin) in a relaxed sunken state.
It is said that as a qualified six harmonies praying mantis boxer, one's hands and arms should be like drilling bits and steel whips, the waist should be like a driving shaft, while the whole should be like a rolling steel ball which rolls in all directions with a universal axle and the power should be like tidal waves --- overwhelming.
Master Ma Han Qing once told me that he regarded six harmonies praying mantis boxing as being like a fast form of Tai Chi. He said that Liu He Tang lang Quan has strong wave rhythm because it has a strong nature of running water, once it stars, it advances wave after wave, wherever the resistance is met, it either turns around or overturns the resistance smoothly without stopping until to the end. He further pointed out 10 key points on performing six harmonies praying mantis boxing routine, which are as follows:
1) Correct postures.
2) Intent guided forms.
3) Smooth movements.
4) Concentrated spirit.
5) Correctly transformed power.
6) Coordinated body shifting.
7) Harmonized eyesight with hands.
8) Clearly demonstrated fighting methods.
9) Distinct waves like rhythm.
10) Natural breathing.
My personal practising experience in Six Harmonies Praying Mantis is this: the true flavour of the awesome Chinese Kung Fu style is based on these 16 key words plus the 10 key points.
(3) Key fundamental training
The core of Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing system is based on its key fundamental training called "Liu He Tang Lang Ji Ben Gong".
This "Ji Ben Gong" consists of three parts:
(A) Basic body conditioning training.
(B) Basic techniques training.
(C) Basic routine forms training.
(A) Basic body conditioning training
The purpose of the body conditioning training is to cultivate practitioner's fighting ability and endurance under attack.
Traditionally, the major conditioning training includes:
1, Stick tapping --- cultivates practitioner's endurance under attack.
2, Iron palms --- toughens practitioner's palms and forearms.
3, Iron ball catching or jar gripping --- cultivates practitioner's gripping ability.
4, Rubbing beans --- toughens practitioner's fingers and palms.
5, Cardboard punching --- develops practitioner's fists and cultivates practitioner's punching power.
Most of these body conditioning training methods need 1~3 years constant practising under supervision.
(B) Basic techniques training
The purpose of the techniques training is to condition the basic skill needed in both routine performance and in real application.
Traditionally, these conditioning training include:
1, San Chui (slipping fists) --- basic posture and attack techniques.
2, Mo Pan Shou (milling/sweeping hands) --- basic catching and locking techniques.
3, Feng Shou (sealing hands) --- basic blocking and seizing techniques.
4, Gou Shou (hooking hands) --- basic rolling, catching and hacking techniques.
5, Quan Chiu (hooking fist) --- basic attacks techniques.
6, Zuo/You Da Zhan Pai (left / right wing spreading) --- combination of hand and foot attacks.
7, Fu Ren Jiao (hatchet foot) --- basic foot attacks.
8, Zuo You Deng Ta (paddle kicks) --- combination of kicks.
As these techniques are the foundation of routine work and real application, they need to be done before any routine forms started.
(C) Key routine forms
Traditionally there are 7 key routine forms in Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing training. Although these routine forms are independent sets and can be practised in any order, they are still related to each other from basic set to the advanced ones. In my opinion, they should better be practised in an order of starting from shorter or easier ones to longer or more complicated ones. The names and natures of these forms are explained as follows:
1, Zhe Shou Quan (intercepting ring) --- basic routine form. Focusing on frontal breakthrough at middle level.
2, Tie Ci (iron pricks) --- basic routine form. Focusing on frontal breakthrough from upper and middle levels.
3, Xian Shou Ben (raiding hands of immortal) --- lower intermediate routine form. Focusing on frontal and flanks breakthrough from
upper, middle and lower levels. Contains Pi Gua flavour. Multi-directional and multi-functional.
4, Cang Hua (hiding / hidden flowers) --- intermediate routine form. Focusing on frontal and flanks breakthrough from upper, middle and lower levels with full blast. Multi-directional and multi-functional.
5, Zhao Mian Deng (lightening fist) --- upper intermediate routine form. A combination of above mentioned routine forms. Vigorous and fierce. Multi-directional and multi-functional.
6, Shuang Feng (double whips) --- advanced routine form. A typical Liu He Tang Lang style. Subtle and tough. Multi-directional and multi-functional.
7, Duan Chui (short punches / thumps) --- advanced routine form. A typical Liu He style. Dangerous and ferocious. Multi-directional and multi-functional.
Beyond these "Ji Ben Gong", there is a "San Shou" summary training based on a confidential manuscript called ‘93 Shou Zhen Chuan Mi jue’ or ‘Genuine 93 secret application techniques’ in English which is directly passed on from elder grand master Ding Zi Cheng.
At time before I left China for Australia in 1988, it was only allowed to be hand copied one by one by formal disciples from their master and should not be shown publicly. As far as I know, only some of the descendant disciples know all the names and their applications of ‘93 Shou’.
Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing is a quite rare practical Kung Fu style. It has been passed on in a quite reserved way for many reasons and many years. Yet with Chinese martial arts rapidly spreading throughout world nowadays, more and more sincere practitioners will find its true value soon.