7 STAR PRAYING MANTIS
Under Grandmaster Lee Kam Wing
'Throughout Chinas turbulent history there have been many styles of Martial Arts that owe their development to the Shaolin Temple in Henan province. The Temple has acted as a catalyst for the development of the Chinese Martial Arts for generations.
According to tradition the founder of the Seven Star Praying Mantis style was Master Wong Long, an unshaven monk of the Henan Shaolin Temple. Wong Long was a native of Shandong province, he came from a wealthy family and studied the martial arts in his youth. Wong Long entered the Shaolin Monastery around 350-400 years ago in the period between the Ming ( 1368- 1644 ) and the Ching ( 1644-1911) Dynasties, it was a time of chaos for China with the Manchus committing many atrocities. The Manchus were Mongoloid people of Manchuria who conquered China in the 17th century establishing an imperial dynasty that lasted until 1912. At Shaolin, Wong Long would train with his Kung Fu brothers, but no matter how hard he trained, he could never reach their standard and was always defeated by them. Wong would often travel to other areas of China seeking out famous Kung Fu masters to help improve his skills. When he returned to Shaolin he would again train with his Kung fu brothers, although he had obtained the techniques of seventeen different Kung Fu styles he could still not defeat the other monks. While he was away his martial skills had grown to a higher level, but his Kung Fu brothers were also training hard and so their skills had kept pace with his.
One day while out walking, Wong Long witnessed a fight between a Praying Mantis and a Cicada (a large broad winged insect of the homopterous family). Although at first glance it would appear that the small Mantis had a distinct disadvantage against such a large insect, it fought with great courage. Wong was fascinated by the aggressiveness, speed and strength of the apparently overmatched Mantis. When the Cicada attacked, the Mantis would angle its body to the side, and with lightning speed and strength it would pin the Cicada with its powerful forearms. Wong Long took the Mantis back to his living quarters for further study, he used a reed to prod the Mantis and carefully studied its movements, examining how it reacted to various situations,. Wong would then imitate these actions and over time the system slowly evolved. Wong Long compiled these movements into what is known today as the 12 Key Words Verbal Formula, the Seven Long, 8 Short, 8 Rigid hand Patterns, the 12 Flexible Hand Patterns, the Eight Vulnerable and 8 Lethal points of attack. This led to the development of the Praying Mantis style of Kung Fu with its characteristic strong and rapid movements.
When Wong Long was satisfied he added to the new style the best techniques from the other seventeen styles which he had previously studied. The more he practised, the more he realised that although the structure of the style was very fast, depicting the power and speed of the Mantis, the footwork was inadequate to deliver these speedy blows. Wong later observed monkeys playing and fighting, the solution was very clear. If he could blend the clever footwork of the monkey with the hand movements of the Mantis, both speed of hands and feet would be assured. After a further period of training Wong Long tried his newly created style while practising with his fellow Monks. Much to their surprise he was able to defeat them, so much so they continued to train and research together to further improve the skills of this new style. On leaving the Shaolin Monastery Wong returned to Shandong and helped to establish a Temple at Laoshan.
The Seven Star Praying Mantis style takes its name from the star constellation the Big Dipper, the inside meaning being the disciples of this style should spread all over the world . Some historians link this with the Secret Societies whose aim was to overthrow the Ching and restore the Ming . Others say that the Mantis which Wong Long caught had Seven Stars on its body. Of course, with the passing of time it's very difficult to verify these stories, the oral tradition of our school however leans in favour of the first explanation'
- Extract from www.LeeKamWing.co.uk
TAI CHI & QIGONG
'Tai Chi is an ancient martial art based on ancient principles over 3,000 years old. The art itself stems from China but has influences from India, said to be the birthplace of the martial arts. All Chinese martial arts are said to have originated in the Shaolin Temple where the Indian monk Ta Mo first taught the monks combat exercises to improve their physical well-being.
The origins of Tai Chi as a complete martial system go back many centuries to a Chinese Monk called Chang San Feng. It is said that while staying at the Shaolin Temple, he was inspired by the spectacle on Wudang mountain of a snake fighting a magpie. Every time the magpie spread its wings to attack, the snake would dodge slightly sideways while maintaining his position and circular shape. Chang San Feng concluded that soft (the snake) will win out against hard, direct attacks and that a circular system of fighting was the most powerful. He is credited with the thirteen movements of Tai Chi that exist in every modern style today.
It is thought that Chan San Feng lived in the 14th or 15th century. However, many scholars dispute his very existence, due to a lack of verifiable historical material. Within the Tai Chi community itself, Chan San Feng is often attributed more mythical status than factual. Nevertheless he is an important figure as he symbolises certain key concepts that defined Tai Chi as a unique system. These concepts fly in the face of conventional combat theory and distanced it from the prevalent Shaolin martial arts of ancient China. The concepts are: defeat strong with soft, overcome speed with slowness and one man defeats many.
Tai Chi's martial foundations may be much older than 800 years for it was in the sixth century AD. that Bodidharma came to visit the Shaolin temple from India. Ta Mo, as he is often called in China, was horrified at the poor physical state of the Shaolin monks who spent many hours each day in silent mediation. He brought with him martial concepts from India that have much in common with Yoga and taught the monks his Eighteen Form Lohan exercise. Over years this was developed into Shaolin Kung Fu and several movements from that form survive today in modern Tai Chi. Ta Mo was said to have inhabited the Shaolin temple in the sixth century.
Chi Gung or Quigong, the system of breathing, present in all Chinese martial arts dates from 1122 BC. The book of changes written some 3000 years ago is the first text to mention Chi energy, the vital force upon which Tai Chi is founded. At this point in time, the study of Chi Gung was mostly of a metaphysical and philosophical nature associated with meditation. Throughout the centuries the study of Chi became inextricably intermeshed with the health and the study of martial arts, and today martial Chi Gung experts are known to put on dazzling shows of superhuman physical resistance.'
- Extract from www.talktaichi.co.uk
Bagua Zhang, also called Bagua Quan, is one of the most famous Chinese martial art. It is based on the idea of Bagua from Yi Jing. During less than 200 years, many famous masters have been trained in this style and at the same time have developed its techniques. No other style like Bagua developed so quickly in such a short time. Today there are many different Bagua styles practiced and taught. In YCGF, three very famous Bagua styles are practice; they are Yin Style, Cheng Style, and Liu Style.
Who was Bagua Zhang invented by and when? Nobody can answer that question. However, Dong Haichuan was the first person who taught Bagua Zhang publicly. For many reasons, we believe that Dong Haichuan was the founder of Bagua Zhang. Dong taught Bagua Zhang in Beijing. He had great reputation for his fighting skill. Many people studied with him. Later some of his students earned their own reputation and set up their own style. The most famous of them were Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Song Yongxiang, and Liu Dekuan.'
- Extract from http://www.oocities.org/ycgf/bagua.htm