The Founder Of Praying Mantis Kung-Fu
A statue of Wang Lang in Shantung Province, China. The founder of Northern Praying Mantis kung-fu, Wang Lang was reputed to be a great swordsman from the Shantung Province who created the Praying Mantis style roughly 400 years ago, sometime during the latter part of the Ming Dynasty. He was proficient in the Northern Shaolin style, forming the basis for much of its foundation. Wang studied the movements of the praying mantis, along with the swift, bipedal footwork of the monkey - incorporating both of these characteristics into his style. Wang's style of Praying Mantis kung-fu would later be known as Seven-Star Praying Mantis.
The Moon Rabbit, a.k.a. Moon Hare and Jade Rabbit. In Chinese mythology, folk religion and Taoist folklore, the Moon Rabbit lives on the Moon, based on pareidolia that identifies the markings on the Moon's surface as a rabbit pounding or grinding herbs in a mortar and pestle (in the West, we instead perceive this pareidolia as "the Man in the Moon").
Many stories depict the Hare as a companion of the Moon-Goddess Chung-Ngo (Chang-O in Mandarin), constantly pounding the Elixir of Immortality and other herbs for her. As a result of ingesting a pill bestowing her immortality, Chung-Ngo floated up to the Moon, where she must reside as a the Goddess of the Moon, separated from her husband Hou Yi, a heroic immortal who is often depicted as a god of archery. While she became lonely on the Moon without her husband, she did have company: a jade rabbit, who manufactured herbs and elixirs, also lived on the Moon.
Han Dynasty poets call the rabbit on the moon the "Jade Rabbit" or the "Gold Rabbit", and these phrases were often used in place of the word for the Moon. The Moon Rabbit is a strong symbol for health and longevity. The story exists in many cultures, particularly in Aztec mythology and East Asian folklore, where the Hare is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle. Similar legends of the Moon Rabbit occur in Japanese, Korean and Native American mythology.
Our Wong style Tai Chi has been occasionally colloquially referred to as the "Grinding Form", or "Moon-Grinding Form", which refers to its inherent Pa-Kua movements and concepts. The "grinding" movements have been likened to the Moon Rabbit's consistent grinding herbs in a mortar and pestle, which makes the legendary lunar lepus a sort of a "mascot" for our unique Tai Chi style.
The Jing Mo Athletic Association
The original Jing Mo Athletic Association (Jing Mo pronounced JEENG MOE) - a.k.a. Jing Mo Physical Cultural Association, Chin Woo Association and Ching Wu Association - was a legendary center of kung-fu training founded in Shanghai by Huo Yuan Chia in 1909 and further developed by Chao Lin Ho. The Jing Mo Association was one of the first public martial arts institutes in China and featured some of the era's greatest masters of kung-fu and Internal styles who came to teach there, including Lo Kwang Yu (Seven-Star Praying Mantis), Chan Tzu Ting (Northern Eagle Claw), Wu Chien Chuan (founder of Wu style Tai Chi), Keng Kai Kuan (Hsing-I) and others.
The basic curriculum drew from several popular and effective styles of Chinese martial arts, giving practitioners a well-rounded foundation, in addition to whatever style they wished to specialize in. The basic curriculum would take most students about two years to complete, before they were able to move on to the style or styles they wanted to specialize in.
The Jing Mo Association inspired the Republic of China's government and military officials to form their National Martial Arts Institutes. More branches of the Jing Mo Association would later appear, most notably the Kwangchow (Canton) Jing Mo Association.
In the late-1920s, the Jing Mo Association established a famous branch of itself in Hong Kong (then known as the Kowloon Jing Mo Association). In 1966, the Jing Mo was shutdown by the government of the People's Republic of China, forcing many of its teachers to go to Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of Asia, while some ventured to the United States. The Jing Mo was allowed to re-open after the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1976. The Jing-Mo Athletic Association was essential in the proliferation of traditional kung-fu to mainland China, Hong Kong and finally, to the West.
Many masters belonging to the Northern Shaolin/Praying Mantis Kung-Fu Association's lineage either studied or taught at the original Shanghai Jing-Mo Association (and later, at the Hong Kong Jing Mo Association).
(NOTE: the circa 1904 photo above shows the Jing Mo school in Shanghai prior to its official inception as the Jing Mo Association)
15 Champions Of All China
They were the 15 Chinese martial arts masters that emerged victorious at the legendary First National Tournament, held at Nanking's
then-new provincial Central National Martial Arts Institute in 1928. Over 600 martial artists competed in the tournament. The fighting division had no body weight or time limits, nor was any body protection used.
15 finishers were established out of the 333 competitors who entered in the fighting division. The 15 masters all voted for our Great-Great-Grandmaster Ku Yu Cheung as the "best fighter" of them all, with Hsing-I master Chu Kuo Chen chosen as a close second. Some of the 15 Champions went on to teach at the Institute. The 15 Champions were (in no particular order):
1. Ku Yu Cheung (Northern Shaolin & Hsing-I)
2. Chu Kuo Chen (Hsing-I & Northern Shaolin)
3. Chu Kuo Fu (Hsing-I & Northern Shaolin)
4. Chu Kuo Lu (Hsing-I & Northern Shaolin)
5. Wang Won Pang - a.k.a. Wang Siu Fei (Seven-Star Praying Mantis)
6. Wang Shao Chou (Northern Shaolin & Cha Fist)
7. Dou Lai Gang (My-Jong I)
8. Yang Fat Mo (Shuai-Chiao)
9. Yang Si Mon (Northern-style Plum Flower Fist)
10. Ma Yu Fu (Northern Shaolin)
11. Ma Chang Gee (Northern Shaolin & Hsing-I)
12. Li Hsin Wu (Northern Shaolin, Tan Tui & Hsing-I)
13. Jang Chang Yi
14. Jang Wai Tung
15. Jang Ying Tsun
Our Great-Great-Great-Grandmaster of Pa-Kua Fu Chen Sheng won in the Internal forms category, while Keng Te Hai (Tai Shing Pek Kwar - Monkey style) won in the weapons forms category.
The Central National Martial Arts Institute (a.k.a. Central Martial Arts Academy or Central Kuo Shu Institute), was the first of several provincial schools established in Nanking by the Chinese military and Kuomintang government in 1928 for the propagation of Chinese martial arts. The Institute was also created to help to determine the best martial artists in the nation and to bolster the combat skills of the military. It was an important center of martial arts for over a decade. Kuo shu ("National art") was the term for martial arts adopted by the Republic of China at the time. Our Great-Great-Great-Grandmaster General Li Jin Ling was a key figure in the creation of the Institute with other provincial martial art schools that were soon to follow further south in the Kwantung Province.
In the Chinese martial arts, External styles (or wai-chia) are normally characterized by fast and explosive movements and emphasis on physical strength, stamina and dexterity.
While not all External styles are "hard styles", all hard styles are External styles. External styles include both the traditional arts focusing on application and self-defense, as well as the modern styles adapted for competition, exhibition and exercise. Some examples of (Chinese) External styles include Northern Shaolin, Seven-Star Praying Mantis, and Choy Li Fut kung-fu. External styles begin with a training focus on muscular power, aerobic movement, speed and application, generally integrating their Chi development during more advanced training, after their desired physical level has been attained.
In the Chinese martial arts, Internal styles (a.k.a. Wudon Fist and nei-chia) are considered to be styles primarily involved with Chi-related aspects, differing from External styles, which tend to focus their approach on more physiological aspects (at least, at first). The Internal styles are also known as Wudon Fist, named for their association with the Taoist monasteries of the Wudon Mountains in China.
A few examples of Internal styles include Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing-I Chuan and Pa-Kua Chang, the three most famous styles. Internal styles emphasize the awareness and development of Chi, the spirit, and the mind. The use of relaxed motion and leverage is preferred, rather than muscular tension or force. Redirection and soft deflection is also the preferred method over forceful defensive techniques. However, this is not to say that Internal stylists do not involve themselves with basic physical training, stance training, stretching, or conditioning exercises.
Tai Chi Training
Tai Chi is a blend of physical movement, relaxation, sensitivity, visualization and breathing techniques. It should be performed in a gentle, relaxed and fluid manner. Its movements are rounded and flowing, with no perceptible hesitation between movements and postures. Moving with the center of gravity under the body generates a feeling of strength and graceful motion, ensuring good balance and proper distribution of weight and energy.
The beneficial effects of Tai Chi Chuan have much to do with its characteristic features, namely:
1) The exercises require a high degree of concentration, with the mind free from distractions;
2) the movements are generally slow yet uninterrupted, like a flowing stream;
3) the breathing is natural, involving deep respiration, and is performed in rhythmic harmony with body movements.
From the viewpoint of Chinese Medicine (and many sports medicine experts), these characteristics are important factors contributing to the prevention and treatment of many illnesses. The high degree of concentration required in Tai Chi exercises also benefits the functions of the cerebral nervous system. These exercises stimulate the cerebral cortex, causing excitation in certain regions and protective inhibition in others. This enables the cerebrum to rest and relieves the cerebral cortex of the pathological excitation caused by ailments, helping to alleviate certain nervous and mental diseases.
In regard to cardiovascular efficiency, Tai Chi can enhance the supply of blood to the coronary arteries, causing stronger heart contractions and improved hemodynamic processes. The exercises ensure adequate supplies of blood and oxygen travel to the tissues of the various organs of the body. Tai Chi can help to reduce the rate of hypertension and arteriosclerosis among those who engage in its regular practice. Routine practice of Tai Chi can increase the elasticity of the lung tissues, the ventilation capacity of the lungs, and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Likewise, systematic practice of Tai Chi can also strengthen the bones, muscles and joints with little or no risk of injury, due to its placid, non-ballistic movements. Unlike purely physical forms of exercise, Tai Chi can be enjoyed for the rest of your life.
When practicing Tai Chi, keep the following principles in mind:
Respiration - Easy, relaxed and deep breathing without tension in the diaphragm or intercostal muscles.
Eyes - Focused and alert; the eyes initiate movement and dictate direction. The eyes should always looking in the direction where the form is moving (i.e. - look where you're going).
The Body - Relaxed and loose, with a straight back at all times throughout execution of the form. Rigidity and strength must be "emptied" from the upper torso and "sink" into the Dan-Tian (a point just below the navel). Maintain flexibility in the waist; the waist is the foundation of all bodily movements, particularly in Wong style of Tai Chi.
The Hands - Moving fluidly, without any tension.
Footwork - Stances should be strong and exact, but do not have to be very wide or deep.
Visualization In Tai Chi
Essentially, Tai Chi is one part movement and proper body alignment, one part breathing, one part sensitivity awareness, and one part visualization techniques. This image helps to illustrate the visualization of the "energy ball", the "pearl", or Chi as we practice Tai Chi Chuan.
In Wong style Tai Chi, we visualize the movement and manipulation of Chi - or energy - and that energy is in the shape of a sphere that consistently changes its size, but always retains its circularity. The sphere is malleable; able to flatten out, stretch, contract, or expand. The visualized sphere is almost always positioned between the palms. It is also in constant motion.
As mystical as it may sound, this visualization technique helps to maintain the "roundedness" and fluidity of the form, while continuously reminding the practitioner to keep their movements and techniques circular and relaxed. When combined with proper body alignment, footwork and sensitivity awareness, this technique aids in defensively controlling an opponent's movement and center of gravity.
Hsing-I Chuan Five Elements
(the Five Elements of Hsing-I Chuan kung-fu are shown in the diagram, above)
Hsing-I Chuan means "Mind Form Fist", "Five Fists" or "Five Phases". The Ng Hung (Cantonese) or Wu Xing/Wu Hsing (Mandarin) are the five classical Chinese elements that metaphorically represent five different states of combat and serve as an interpretative framework, or "combat formula", for reacting and responding to attacks. Essentially, the Five Elements correspond to five types of fighting power and techniques, while the 12 Animals give Hsing-I its enhanced adaptability, incorporating the spirit of each animal to augment its techniques.
The Five Elements are related to Chinese and Taoist cosmology although the names do not literally correspond to the cosmological terms. The system of the Five Elements was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. Aside from Hsing-I Chuan, it was employed as a device in many areas of early Chinese thought, including feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese Medicine, music and military strategy.
The Five Elements are:
Wood (Muk), Fire (Fo), Earth (Tou), Metal (Gum) & Water (Seoi)
An example how the Five Elements work:
Wood feeds Fire - Fire creates Earth (ash) - Earth bears Metal - Metal carries Water (as in a vessel; or water condenses on metal) - Water nourishes Wood.
Wood parts Earth - Metal chops Wood - Fire melts Metal - Water quenches Fire - Earth dams (or absorbs) Water.
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