|Tang Lang Quan
True Concepts of Luo Guang Yu's Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu
In this piece I would like to
provide clarification and insight,
regarding some important misconceptions about Seven Star Praying
Mantis. In particular there has been recent speculation regarding what
does, and does not, constitute Seven Star Praying Mantis, arising from
the following commentary on Luo Guang Yu’s Seven Star Praying Mantis.
“Master Luo Guang Yu, on the
other hand, began to blend Mei Hua, Qi
Xing and Guang Ban forming his own Tanglang. Hong Kong Tanglang is not
Qi Xing or Mei Hua, it is a mixture. Today some HK styles call
themselves Qi Xing but this is not either historically or technically
This article will highlight
some very important concepts fundamental to
Mantis kung fu, address some current misconceptions, and provide
further clarification regarding a few points defining Seven Star
Praying Mantis. The source of this information comes from my
twenty-four years of experience with Seven Star Praying Mantis,
encompassing the knowledge passed down to me from my teachers, and my
teacher’s teachers, as well as evidenced from Luo Guang Yu’s boxing
manual, which he received from his teacher Fan Xu Dong.
In good faith, and as a
disclaimer, I would like to mention that my
intentions are to neither attack nor discourage those individuals from
continuing to conduct future academic research. Although I would hope
that a more comprehensive and rigorous approach be considered.
Furthermore I hope readers find this article both informative and
helpful in their understanding of what Seven Star Praying Mantis is.
Common Misconceptions of
Seven Star Praying Mantis
1) The description of Luo Guang
Yu’s Seven Star Mantis as a composition
of approximately 70% Seven Star, 20% Mei Hua and 10% Guang Ban is
reference to the DIRECT COMPOSITION of forms and their ORIGINS
in the system.
This is false.
It is not a literal
interpretation. Luo Guang Yu, and Wong Hong Fun,
not to mention many other masters understand that these represent
conceptual LEVELS of training.
2) “Pure” Seven Star Praying
Mantis and other “pure” branch systems such as Mei Hua and Guang Ban to
name a few, are NOT MIXED SYSTEMS.
This is false.
The truth is that all of these
family systems regardless, contain some degree of overlap in all LEVELS
of training, making them all mixed in nature.
3) Origins of forms and their
corresponding names represent the essence of a system, and therefore
This is false and quite the
opposite. It is the strategic and
conceptual approach to fighting that comes first, then manifesting
itself in techniques and finally forms.
4) The additions of forms
and/or techniques into a system are viewed as
absolutes, both automatically and fundamentally changing the essence of
This is not necessarily true.
The system must be assessed on
both holistic and relative terms. Only
after which can an assessment be made (by a competent practitioner of
5) With the advent of China’s
cultural-revolution and the government
sponsored introduction of competition wushu, traditional Praying Mantis
systems were altered, and are therefore no longer fundamentally
“Mantis” as a result of mixing. This is not necessarily true.
Same as the misconception
above, one must view the system in its
entirety and assess whether or not the introduction of variations has
fundamentally affected the essence of the system.
6) Most Important
Misconception: The system defines the system.
This is false.
People define the system. It is
the comprehensive theoretical and practical combative knowledge of the PRACTITIONER
that defines the system. There are many “hua jia zi”, or “paper tigers”
out there who perform forms beautifully, but are unable to execute in
an applied context.
Conceptual Background: Li,
Jing, and Qi
In Seven Star Praying Mantis
there exists three concepts; li 力, jing 精, and qi 气.
Li is power, Jing is the spirit or mind, and Qi is internal strength.
In turn these three levels correspond to beginning, intermediate and
advanced levels in training. Each of these concepts forms a building
block for the next phase, and true mastery of the system requires that
the practitioner possess an in-depth theoretical and applied
understanding of all three levels. If you have not developed good
fundamental power, then you cannot begin to develop jing. If you have
not developed good jing, then you cannot begin to develop qi. If you
have not developed good qi, then you cannot say you are a true master
of the system.
Power 力 : A Fundamental Base
Li in kung fu equates to power
development of the physical body and the
ability to deploy such (i.e. fa jing). This is the foundation of any
system, and with out it you cannot properly advance into further stages
of training. Various aspects of this level include development of
proper foot work, body positioning, balance, coordination, explosion,
speed, stamina, strength, and body conditioning. Any deficiencies in
the ability to develop li, and the practitioner will be unable to
properly advance their training to the next level.
Mind 精 : Intermediate Level
and Skill Development
Jing or essence, equates to the
mind. This is the next phase of
training and relates to the ability to both skilfully and effectively
execute the wide arsenal of mantis techniques with focus and intent.
Without skill and intent, the practitioner will be unable to further
advance into the last conceptual level of training.
Qi 气 : Advanced Level:
Internal Strength and Iron Palm
Conceptually the most advanced
stage of training is Qi, which as you
all know equates to the mind’s ability to both generate and control
energy. On a more applied level this training relates to the
development of such skills as iron palm. If one has not attained
mastery of this last and final level, then they are not a true master
of the system. However on a more practical side note however, and in
more applied terms, a practitioner without having fully achieved
mastery in the last and final level, may still in fact posses a very
high level of free fighting skills, but will not be proficient iron
Literal Interpretations are
Misleading: Seven Star, Mei Hua, Guang Ban
Now that you have a clear
picture of the three levels of training and
some of their corresponding skill sets as expressed in the physical
body, I will now specifically address the very common, yet deeply
flawed “literal interpretation” of what Seven Star Praying Mantis is
You will often hear Seven Star
Praying Mantis, particularly from the
quote in the introduction, being described as primarily “Seven Star”,
with a lesser weighting of “Mei Hua”, and finally an even lesser
weighting of “Guang Ban”. This statement in its most elemental form is
accurate; however the problem arises when individuals interpret
this too literally
and begin academically defining the essence of a system according to
forms, the numbers of forms, the origins of forms, and the very system
itself, after which they begin making generalized conclusions based on
Although an interesting
academic exercise in its own right, it is quite
limited in value, and will only lead one further away from
understanding the bigger picture of Seven Star Praying Mantis. On a
side note I would like to remind all practitioners alike that the true
meaning of Mantis can only be absorbed through diligent and long term
practice with a knowledgeable and skilled teacher.
Conceptual Meanings: Not
When we talk about Seven Star,
Mei Hua, and Guang Ban in the context of
Luo Guang Yu’s Seven Star Praying Mantis, we are not just talking about
the names of branch systems of mantis, or the origins of forms in the
system. On a deeper more conceptual level we are talking about li
(power), jing (mind) and qi (human energy) respectively. This is
fundamental to understanding everything else.
Each system of mantis utilizes li, jing and qi, and trains them at
various levels, however the degree and extent to which they are
physically and strategically employed in the overall picture differs.
Same Insect, Different
Approach - Expression of Li, Jing, and Qi
For example Seven Star Mantis
systems in general tend to make
RELATIVELY greater use of li, in strategic approach to combative
fighting, thus resulting in a relatively greater outward expression of
power, although it also employs both jing (a.k.a Mei Hua) and qi (a.k.a
Guang Ban) as well. Tai Ji Mei Hua from Li Kun Shan’s lineage, as an
example, tends to place RELATIVELY more emphasis on the
strategic use of jing, although it also employs li and qi. Finally
Guang Ban tends to place RELATIVELY
more emphasis in the strategic use of qi, resulting in an obviously
greater relative use of iron palm techniques. Take note that each
concept also possesses a multitude of physical expressions.
At this point it should be very
clear to the readers that Qi Xing, Mei
Hua and Guang Ban represent concepts, strategies principles, and levels
of li, jing and qi, and are not just the names of “pure” praying mantis
systems. Therefore when we talk about Luo Guang Yu’s Seven Star system
being a combination of primarily Seven Star (li), with lesser degrees
of Mei Hua (jing) and Guang Ban (qi) respectively, we are not talking
in absolutes, but rather the relative strategic approach and emphasis
it takes to executing li, jing and qi in combat, as well as the levels
at which they are trained.
Mixed Mantis and
Purity of system is a concept
that never existed in Praying Mantis.
Everyone knows that Praying Mantis in its most original state was an
amalgamation and integration of “eighteen different” systems and/or
techniques, give or take, thus making it one of the most innovative
mixed martial arts of its time. In the past it also went by other names
such as the Eighteen Family Luo Han Praying Mantis system 十八家罗汉螳螂派 .
Over time and as a result of individual preferences and
interpretations, Mantis witnessed add-ons and innovations in techniques
and strategies eventually leading to the various branch systems like Qi
Xing Pai, Mei Hua Pai, Guang Ban Pai, Ba Bu, etc…, all expressing the
concepts of li, jing, and qi, to different and varying degrees, while
maintaining the overall original Mantis concept.
All branch systems within
the mantis family are mixed systems
containing a largely relatively homogenous set of principles,
techniques, and fighting strategies, while developing, expressing, and
employing those aspects to varying degrees and levels (i.e.
specialization). In the case of Luo Guang Yu’s lineage, and the issue
of whether or not his interpretations and add-ons fundamentally changed
the system to the extent that it is not Seven Star anymore, is in
itself fundamentally flawed. Regardless of LGY’s adjustments to the
strategic use of li, jing, and qi, in his teachings, the system as he
taught was, and as it is today, is still distinctly, and predominately
Qi Xing (i.e. li) in flavour.
If you examine any of the
traditional Seven Star family styles you will
find that they are all predominately li (i.e. Seven Star) in “flavour”,
while simultaneously utilizing other aspects of jing (Mei Hua) and qi
(Guang Ban). It is a misconception that pure Seven Star does not
utilize jing and qi and their physical manifestations in the system.
However one could theoretically
argue is that if an individual were to
restructure the Seven Star system in such a way that makes it
predominately, or relatively more jing, or qi, in relation to overall
Mantis strategy and expression. This in itself seems reasonable.
I sincerely hope all of you
found this piece both informative and
interesting. The ideas of li, jing, and qi, I discussed today are NOT
all-encompassing, however they do represent some very key ideas to
Seven Star Praying Mantis in both theory, training, and application. I
would also like to reiterate once again, that everything comes down to
the practitioner. If you train a family style of Seven Star Praying
Mantis, but are a “paper tiger”, then you are not really training Seven
Star Praying Mantis.
Perhaps in the future I follow
up with a brief introduction to some of
the more technical and applied expressions of li, jing and qi, in Luo
Guang Yu’s Seven Star Praying Mantis system.
Kai Uwe Pel
Shanghai - February 7, 2004