Northern Praying Mantis is an advanced style of Chinese kung fu, sometimes also known as Shandong Praying Mantra, after its province of birth. It was developed by Wang Lang, who was known at that time as Jiu Yip Man. He developed the concept of focusing one’s strength against an opponent, rather than attempting to overpower him physically. This led to significant changes from the original Shaolin style, with the emphasis being more on internal power than external aggression. The name, Northern Praying Mantis, was given as a reference to the way in which the practitioner would focus his force against an opponent, rather than trying to overwhelm him.
Originally, it was the Shaolin monastery where this form of martial art was originated. Monks, there were trained in the Tantric arts, but, much to their credit, did not put these movements to use in combat, nor did they teach them. Some say that this is because the monks were not aware of the benefits derived from using the movements, although others say that the techniques could be used effectively. Regardless, the concept spread and became popular amongst Kung fu practitioners all over the world.
In its original form, the Northern Praying Mantis style is a very fast, highly developed style of Kung Fu. It is rare for a Kung Fu martial art to be completely fast, but the Shaolin form of Kung Fu combines the strongest attacks with the fastest possible motions. It is an extremely refined form but also contains strong natural defense aspects. The martial art can be characterized as being “clay tailed”, i.e. having a strongly rooted system of internal energy or chi.
The Northern Praying Mantis moves are characterized by their heavy, powerful kicks.
The practitioners use both their feet and their hands to strike their opponents. These kicks can come in the form of quick slaps of the foot or kicks aimed at the opponent’s knees, groin, or head. The strikes are delivered with a full thrust of the whole body, using the entire body weight to strike. This makes the technique highly exhausting for the opponent and highly dangerous for the practitioner if not carefully practiced or executed properly.
In Southern Shaolin, there is little or no use of footwork, and the technique is characterized more by explosive short kicks. The practitioners do not hold anything in the air, and the only weapon they carry is their feet. The kicks are delivered with a sudden, explosive force, and the speed and power are such that the opponent is knocked backwards, unable to defend himself. However, being knocked back is also a point of weakness, and the Southern Shaolin student must be able to make up for this weakness in order to survive a battle. In comparison, Northern Praying Mantis styles emphasize the use of the legs, often swinging them around in an attempt to hook and trap an opponent, or the use of the hands, to strike hard and straight.
The Northern style Mantis has a close, protective stance, and uses its speed and fist to strike at the opponent. The movement is characterized by a sharp, double-handed strike made to either the left or right of the opponent. The key to success in this style is the speed of the strike. The strikes can be quick, but they lack the power behind them. The speed, combined with a strong body structure, makes this a challenging style to learn. It requires years of practice, or a lifetime to become an accomplished practitioner.
The Southern Shaolin styles are much larger in size, and the fighting takes place entirely on the ground. The fighting involves trapping the opponent and strangling him in order to pin him to the ground. The purpose of this is to drain all energy from the opponent and allow one to regain his footing. Though the insect style is much smaller than the kung-fu version, it still has some of the same characteristics.
Both the southern and northern praying mantis style have a great number of fans worldwide. However, many people believe the southern Shaolin’s insect style is superior due to its ability to drain energy from the opponent and allows one to regain their footing after being caught. This style is also much more advanced.
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