Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Look into Mantis Fist

I feel that now Ive been learning mantis for more or less 7 months, Im beginning to get a bit of an idea what it is all about. To an outsider, 7 months may sound like a long time, but anyone who has studied Kung Fu will know that it just the beginning of a very long journey.

Master Qu teaches slowly and thoroughly, and he doesnt always tell you things at first. Before, I thought that a teacher should tell you everything, but now I see that its not good to know things too early, you probably wont appreciate or understand them. When I practice forms, he is very thorough, I get one move at a time, and I need to practice that one move until its right, then I get the next one. In some cases, I have spent 2-3 weeks with no new move to my form. While this is frustrating, repetition is very important, to develop good body mechanics, good posture and correct use of power. It also develops patience and determination, as you have to earn the next move.

Mantis uses a lot of trapping and controlling techniques, it has some similarities to Wing Chun in this respect, although Wing Chun is very linear, Mantis is more circular. While to an outsider, the application of the two arts may look similar, the ideas behind it are very different. Wing Chun is based on the principle of economy of motion, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which is the same idea as Xing Yi Quan. Mantis on the other hand uses the idea that circular movements generate more power, akin to Taiji. Every movement uses the whole body in a twisting motion, starting from the feet and twisting from the waist. Each movement sets you up for the next one, like a swinging door. This also uses the centreline principle, except slightly differently from Wing Chun. In Mantis, the centreline is the core of the body, which is the axis for any rotation of the body.

Mantis footwork is very powerful, but agile. Every step is light, yet strong, and provides power for the attacking arms.. The weight is not fixed on any particular leg, but is free to move between the two depending on the situation. For example if I straight punch from my front arm, the weight comes slightly forward, a hook punch from the back arm would bring the weight back again as the body twists. It has similarities in this aspect to the footwork of Ba Gua Zhang, which is why Master Qu teaches these arts together, as they are complementary.

Another interesting thing in Mantis is that despite the fact that on the surface it is vicious, fast and powerful, it is most definitely an internal art. Qigong is an important part of Mantis, standing postures provide the base for this, and then later on there are many movements, designed to strengthen the tendons of the body, open up the channels and meridians and develops deep, abdominal breathing, which strengthens the diaphragm and internal organs. Qigong not only develops these, but quietens the mind, giving clarity of thought and teaches you how to use your intent to generate much greater power than just the muscles.

The thing I like most about Mantis is that it is a very complete system. It contains elements of everything I want from martial arts, harmonizes the internal and external, develops powerful internal energy, is practical for fighting, good excercise for the body, is incredibly effective and vicious and looks stunning when performed well. It is a very complex art, not just the surface movements, but inside too. There is much more going on that what you see when being performed.