If Northern Praying Mantis kung fu is the epitome of popularized, widely dispersed kung fu, then the true Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu counterpart must be the most secretive. It was developed as a style by the Hakka Chinese, considered to be outsiders by the other indigenous peoples of Guangxi province, and the need for personal defense was indeed great. Little is known surrounding the origins, but the style evidences elements of Lamaistic training, and close adherence to Yin Yang philosophy. Practitioners are skilled in Dim Mak or the ‘death touch’ and healing arts. Two schools developed, these being the Chu and Chow, and both share so much in common as to use the same name for the method, “Bamboo Forest”.
The secrecy surrounding Bamboo Forest Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu is replete with myths and legends, largely initiated and propagated by the practitioners themselves. Becoming a student is extremely demanding and involves nothing less than being adopted by the master and pledging one’s life to him. Even family ties are second to attitude and mental readiness in choosing the disciples.
Unlike the northern schools, Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu rarely emphasizes one type of technique; the mantis hook is employed, but so are numerous other trapping and controlling maneuvers. The typical closed fist of other styles is absent from the southern sect, which instead favors the mantis fist, a modification of the leopard punch, but concentrating all of the striking force through a single finger. Stances are low to moderate, but firmly anchored to the ground. There is tremendous use of the knees, elbows and low, powerful kicks. There are few feints or distraction strikes; everything is designed for 100% power output, and is, thus, potentially lethal.
There is reason to believe that at least some of the Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu method was a direct result to ward off a political oppression during the mid-19th century, which is further reinforced by the secret society nature of the sect. Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu employs fighting philosophies common to Wing Chun and White Eyebrow kung fu, and there is stylistic evidence to support the idea that strong exchange of information has occurred between these schools.
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