Brothers in Arms
Mantis Boxing vs Ultimate Boxing
Although these arts have very different purposes in today's world, they share so much in common and are intertwined in history, and geographic location. For the past few years I have been working intermittently on this project. I noticed similarities back in 2012 while researching texts.
At the time, I was doing an article on the Kao (Lean) principle in Mantis Boxing (Tang Lang Quan), and I decided to look up the Supreme Ultimate Boxing (Tai Ji Quan) character for 'Lean', found in their 13 characters/principles, and see if it was the same 'Lean' found in Mantis Boxing's '12 Keyword' formula.
Sure enough, they were the same character. This lead to further research and comparisons, and soon I had a series of principles and sub-principles that drew a solid link between the two styles. The English translations people used can vary, but the character is found to be the same for each style. Below is a work in progress but it is far enough along that I can share it.
Use the color coding to match up commonalities in the defining principles of each system as handed down from generation to generation:
肘 - Elbow (Zhou)
one of the core forms of Mantis Boxing is known as 8 Elbows, or Ba Zhou. The use of elbows is highly prevalent in Mantis Boxing. This correlates to the emphasis placed on the Elbow Strike in Tai Ji Quan and is listed as one of it’s primary principles.
勾 - Hook - (Gou)
Used in Taijiquan, but listed as a primary principle in Mantis Boxing. Similar usage in application of Single Whip versus Slant Chop.
The two styles share kicks in common, along with striking/blocking combinations. Some of the kicks found in both styles are the Heel Kick, Toe Kick, and Cross Kick.
Striking & Blocking
The two styles share striking attacks and counters.
- Deflect, Parry, Punch from Ultimate Boxing, is found in Mantis forms as well.
- Both styles depend on an upper block combined with a counter strike down the middle; known as Bend Bow Shoot Tiger in Tai Ji Quan, this move shows up in forms such as Tou Tao in Tang Lang Quan.
- The use of the 'chopping fist' shows up in both styles.
- The Beng Quan (Crushing Fist) is used predominantly in both.
- White Snake Spits Tongue is also a shared attack in both systems.
The two styles took very different paths as time passed, yet emerged with a similar outcome. Tai Ji Quan was very condensed; using one form to house the entire system of 30+ applications. Mantis had 2 or 3 original forms, and later became bloated as more and more forms were piled on, and the system was split into other styles of Mantis Boxing.
Tai Ji Quan was transformed into a health practice in the early 1900’s for those who could not perform high impact exercise, and split off into different family systems before and after. The original Chen family style, and Yang family styles were combative and extremely condensed.
Mantis was also absorbed into the national movement for better health and fitness (Jin Woo, Nanqing Guo Shu Institute), but with a different methodology - by adding more forms, performed at faster pace, and generally more athletic in purpose.
In the end, it saved neither from becoming obsolete and losing their teeth. Lucky for us the forms, and principles survived so reassembling the arts has still been possible.
Below are a couple of maps included to show the provinces in China where these styles originate. Eastern Henan Province, Western Shandong, and Hebei province. As Douglas Wile points out in his book - Lost Tai-Chi Classics of the Late Ch'ing Dynasty, the Yellow River basin was a hotbed for martial arts training and fighting. Many famous boxers emerged from this region and went on to be accredited with founding of their own fighting systems.
Crossover of techniques and principles that work, or the use of a technique that defeated another opponent, would surely be picked up and used among anyone in the know. The common use of Beng Quan in Xing Yi Quan, Tang Lang Quan, and Tai Ji Quan being a clear example.
Research Bibliography and Character Sources:
- Lost Tai-Chi Classics of the Late Ch'ing Dynasty, Douglas Wile, 1996, SUNY Press
- 12 Character Formula by Michael Dasargo
- Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan - Fu Zhongwen, translated by Louis Swaim 1999, North Atlantic Books
- The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan, Yang Chengfu, translated by Louis Swaim, 2005, North Atlantic Books