The Legend Begins. . .
Wang Lang tired of going through the Dan Dao broadsword form. He had been working on both his unarmed skills and weapons techniques every spare minute since his Kung-fu brother, Feng, had left to visit other monasteries. Feng, the Abbot of the Lao Shan Temple, had many duties, being the successor of the Shaolin Buddhist heritage. He was also a master martial artist, defeating Wang every time they met in practice.
As Wang rested in the woods surrounding the temple he heard the faint sounds of something in the nearby grass. Turning, he saw the strange sight of two insects locked in combat. The mantis was clearly outsized by the other insect, and Wang thought that it would be a matter of time before the fragile creature would be overcome. Instead, to Wang's astonishment, the mantis engaged the larger insect aggressively. It grabbed and damaged the cicada's legs and antenna with its forearms, literally climbing its opponent.
Wang reached out and interrupted the mauling, taking the tiny mantis into his hands. "Maybe you have something to tell me," he said softly to the still struggling insect. Carefully, he grabbed up his belongings and returned to the temple.
During its stay at the temple, the mantis was prodded with straw, and Wang observed how it grabbed and its aggressive approach to defense. To this idea, he combined the seventeen systems of fighting in which he had trained for years.
Upon the return of Feng, Wang engaged him in practice once again. However, this time Feng found himself on the defensive and quickly thrown to the ground. Rising, he was intrigued by Wang's new ability, the strange postures and aggressive tactics. Wang explained all, and together they refined the system, which they named Mantis Boxing (Tang Lang Ch'uan). Wang liked to call the style Seven Star Praying Mantis (Chi Xing Tang Lang) because he hoped that the followers would become as many as those who could see the Ursa Major constellation (which has seven stars) pictured on the right. Astronomers say the whole constellation is in the shape of a bear. If you ask me it looks more like a Praying Mantis.
The year was 1644, the Ming Dynasty (Han) had been overthrown by the Ching (Manchurians). Wang desperately hoped that the system would enable the Han Chinese to successfully revolt and to be free once again.
Within the next ten years, both Wang and Feng died. Before passing on, though, Wang put the most fundamental ideas of this new style into a form called Bung Bo (the Crushing Step).
The Legend Continues. . .
Shen Xiao - Li San Jian - Wang Rong Sheng
About fifty years after the passing of Wang Lang, a Taoist, Sheng Xiao came upon the temple. While there he witnessed the Shaolin monks engage in the practice of Mantis Kung-Fu and determined to learn it. For many years he practiced the art, teaching no one. Then, while on one of his travels, he happened upon a band of robbers attacking a caravan. The guards, badly outnumbered were being overcome by their adversaries. Sheng intervened and helped to route the outlaws. Among the guards rescued that day was Li San Jian of Haiyang. Li became a student of Sheng Xiao.
Li, having mastered the Praying Mantis system used his skills to open his own guard service. It was said that whenever his banner flew in a caravan no one would dare attack.
At sixty, Li settled in Shandong Province and taught one main disciple Wang Rong Sheng. Wang was a man of leisure and a member of a very prosperous household. It was not until his later years that he taught Fan Xu Dong of Shangdong.
A legacy is born. . .
Fan Xu Dong
Fan was a giant among Chinese of that time, weighing as much as 300 lbs. Under Wang's tutelage he mastered Praying Mantis Kung-Fu and began set about making it known. He was tremendously powerful. He once killed two bulls that attacked him in a field. As they charged he kicked one in the side, then grabbing that bull, used its horns to gore the other.
Such actions caught the attention of the Chinese people at a critical juncture in history. During the period of the Boxer Rebellion, international forces virtually ruled China. Thus unchecked by local law enforcement, warriors from many nations determined to prove the superiority of their arts on Chinese soil. Fung was to stand steadfastly in the way of this movement.
It is recounted that a Japanese Samurai was traveling the length of China, from the coast Northward, challenging and defeating Chinese swordsmen. As he passed, he heard of the prowess of the giant, Fan. Soon he arrived in Shandong to challenge the boxer to a sword duel. Fan accepted and chose the Dan Do, (broadsword), as his weapon. When the met on the day of the duel, the Japanese charged swiftly raising his sword high and, yelling sharply, he brought the blade downward to slice the Chinese in half. Surprisingly, the Chinese was not there. Instead Fan, the giant, had dropped to the ground and simply avoided the descending blade. However he had sliced upward at the same time with the broadsword cutting the Samauri from the groin upwards. The Samauri died within seconds.
Not too long ago. . .
Lo Kwang Yu - Chiu Chi Man
The most well known student of Master Fan, however, was Lo Kwang Yu of Penglai. Master Lo came into prominence at the urging of Master Fan. In 1919 the Ch’ing Chung Committee requested the Master Fan come to head mantis at the Ching Mo Society. Fan responded by sending Lo in his place. This decision disappointed many because they wanted a man of fame like Master Fan to head that branch in order to draw students. However, their disappointment was short lived when Lo entered and won grand champion in the first athletic games held in Shanghai. Master Lo was a consummate master of Praying Mantis Boxing. He established branches of the Ching Mo in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The story is told of Master Lo being challenged by another Kung Fu master intent on proving the superiority of his system over mantis. Master Lo attempted to dissuade him but to no avail. As they circled, Master Lo did not attack but allowed his opponent to feint and threaten with punches and kicks. When the challenger attempted a powerful punch, Master Lo reached out and caught it out of the air with his Dieu Sao (mantis hooking hand). His opponent attempted to retract the fist but found his arm firmly controlled by Master Lo's three fingers. "I suggest we stop", said Master Lo. His suggestion was met with a powerful pull and scream by the opponent. Master Lo released the arm to reveal torn flesh where the three fingers had been and blood pouring from the veins beneath. The bout was ended.
Master Lo had over a thousand students with several students of note. Among them were Chiu Chi Man, Chun Chin Yee, Kwock Cho Chui and Wong Hun Fun. With the outbreak of World War II, Lo left Shanghai to return to Shangdong Province. There he passed of natural causes.
His decendents have spread the art throughout the world. Chiu Chi Man and his disciples sought to teach others in fulfillment of the wish of the founder, Wang Lang, that the practitioners of Praying Mantis be as many as can see the stars.
Where are we now?
Chiu Leun - Raymond Fogg - Chuck Perry
Chiu Leun can be thought of as your great grandmaster with Raymond Fogg as grandmaster on down to Chuck Perry who we know as Sifu. This is our proud and cherished heritage. Treat it with the same respect you would treat one another. Make every effort to become a part of such storied traditions that have been preserved for ages. Be proud to be a part of something as grand as Wang Lang's Chi Xi Tang Lang. You are a special part of this history. One day your Kung Fu may write its own chapter in the book of Seven Star Praying Mantis!