Northern Praying Mantis
The Northern Praying Mantis is one of the most iconic forms of kung fu in China. The creator of it mainly absorbed the techniques of how mantises fight, such as aggression and flexibility. When professionals duel with each other, they are supposed to resemble a battle between two mantises.
There are many legends around the creation of this type of kung fu but a man named Wang Lang from the Ming Dynasty is normally credited. One of the legends is that he saw two mantises fighting with each other after he was defeated in a boxing competition. The fierce, flexible and swift nature of their fighting impressed and inspired him.
He then caught two mantises and studied their techniques carefully. During the studying time, he continued to compete with others to learn from others' strong points and thus reduce the inferiority gap. After a period of hard work, the Northern Praying Mantis was created. Thousands of people have developed the concept since. Today, one can find many sub-types such as "Seven Star Praying Mantis Boxing", "Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing" & "Taiji Praying Mantis Boxing".
Generally speaking, the main feature of the Northern Praying Mantis is the imposing power, as well as bravery and boldness. One of the most recognisable features of it is perhaps the "praying mantis hook", a hook made of one to three fingers directing force in a whip-like manner. The hook can be used to divert force (blocking), grab an opponent's limb, or hurt him/her by attacking some vital points. These techniques are particularly useful in combination. If the enemy punches with their right hand, the reply may be to hook outwards with the left hand (shifting the body to the left) and use the turning force to attack the enemy's neck with a right hook.
Other than the mantis's hook, the spirit of mantises when they are fighting is also highly admired. They are always brave, aggressive and never give up. To practice the Northern Praying Mantis style, it's important to be spirited, strong willed and prepared to train. This kind of spirit is also important in other kinds of boxing and fists.
Those who practice the Northern Praying Mantis believe that technique is more important than just brute force. For this reason it can not only be applied in a real combat situation, but it can also be considered an art with a fantastic performance value.