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Tang Lang
Also known asTong4 Long4
FocusStriking, Grappling
Country of originChina China
CreatorWang Lang (王朗)
Parenthoodsee Origins section

Northern Praying Mantis (Chinese: 螳螂拳; pinyin: tánglángquán; lit. 'praying mantis fist') is a style of Chinese martial arts, sometimes called Shandong Praying Mantis after its province of origin. It was created by Wang Lang (王朗) and was named after the praying mantis, an insect, the aggressiveness of which inspired the style. One Mantis legend places the creation of the style during the Song dynasty when Wang Lang was supposedly one of 18 masters gathered by the Abbot Fu Ju (福居), a legendary persona of the historical Abbot Fu Yu (福裕; 1203–1275), to improve Shaolin martial arts.[1] However, most legends place Wang Lang in the late Ming dynasty.[2][3]


Comparison of a technical drawing of a mantis arm and the "mantis hook" hand posture.

The mantis is a long and narrow predatory insect. While heavily armoured, it is not built to withstand forces from perpendicular directions. Consequently, its fighting style involves the use of whip-like/circular motions to deflect direct attacks, which it follows up with precise attacks to the opponent's vital spots. These traits have been subsumed into the Northern Praying Mantis style, under the rubric of "removing something" (blocking to create a gap) and "adding something" (rapid attack).[4]

One of the most distinctive features of Northern Praying Mantis is the "praying mantis hook" (Chinese: 螳螂勾; pinyin: tángláng gōu): a hook made of one to three fingers directing force in a whip-like manner. The hook may be used to divert force (blocking), adhere to an opponent's limb, or attack critical spots (eyes or acupuncture points). These techniques are particularly useful in combination, for example using the force imparted from a block to power an attack. So if the enemy punches with the right hand, a Northern Praying Mantis practitioner might 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. Alternately, he/she might divert downwards with the left hook and rebound with the left wrist stump to jaw/nose/throat. The "praying mantis hook" is also part of some of the distinctive typical guarding positions of the style.

Northern Praying Mantis is especially known for its speed and continuous attacks. Wrist/arm techniques in particular are emphasized, as well as knee and elbow strikes. Another prominent feature of the style is its complex footwork, borrowed from Monkey Kung Fu.

The core of the Mantis system is made up of the following forms: Beng Bu, Luan Jie, Fen Shen Ba Zhou, Zhai Yao and Fan Che.

According to the writings of Liang Xuexiang, the original forms of the system, as passed down by Wang Lang, were Luan Jie, Fen Shen Ba Zhou, and the Mi Shou (secret hands, not a form but solo movements). Others have stated that Beng Bu, Luan Jie and Fen Shou Ba Zhou are the original. Zhai Yao was created later, and is a compilation of the most important techniques and combinations of the system.


There are many legends surrounding the creation of Northern Praying Mantis boxing. One legend attributes the creation of Mantis fist to the Song dynasty when Abbot Fu Ju (福居), a legendary persona of the historical Abbot Fu Yu (福裕) (1203–1275), supposedly invited Wang Lang (王朗) and seventeen other masters to come and improve the martial arts of Shaolin.[5] The Abbot recorded all of the techniques in a manual called the Mishou (祕手 – "Secret Hands") and later passed it onto the Taoist priest Shen Xiao. This manual supposedly disappeared until the Qianlong reign era when it was published under the name "Arhat exercising merit short strike illustrated manuscript" (Chinese: 罗汉行功短打; pinyin: Luóhàn Xínggōng Duǎn Dǎ).[5] Some sources place the folk manuscript's publication on the "sixteenth day of the third month of the spring of 1794".[6] The manual records Wang Lang "absorbed and equalized all previous techniques" learned from the 17 other masters.[2][6]

The 18 Masters Invited to Shaolin
# Name Technique Master
1 Changquan Long Fist Boxing Emperor Taizu of Song
2 Tongbeiquan Through the Back Han Tong
3 Chan Feng Wrap Around and Seal Zheng En
4 Duanda Close-range Strikes Ma Ji
5 Keshou Tongquan Knocking Hands and Follow Through Fist Jin Xiang
6 Gou Lou Cai Shou Hooking, Grappling and Plucking Hands Liu Xing
7 Zhanna Diefa Methods of Sticking, Grabbing, and Falling Yan Qing
8 Duan Quan Short Boxing Wen Yuan
9 Hou Quan Monkey Boxing Sun Heng
10 Mien Quan Cotton Fist Mien Shen
11 Shuailue Yingbeng Throwing-Grabbing and Hard Crashing Gao Huaide
12 Gunlou Guaner Rolling, Leaking and Piercing the Ears Tan Fang
13 Chuojiao Mandarin ducks kicking technique Lin Chong
14 Qishi Lianquan Seven Postures of Continuously Linked Strikes Meng Su
15 Kunlu Zhenru Hand Binding and Grabbing Yang Gun
16 Woli Paochui Explosive Strikes into the Hollow Body Parts Cui Lian
17 Kao Shen Leaning Body Techniques Huang You
18 Tong long Praying Mantis Wong Long

A third of the masters listed all come from fictional novels. Yan Qing (#7) and Lin Chong (#13) come from the Water Margin and Emperor Taizu of Song (#1), Han Tong (#2), Zheng En (#3) and Gao Huaide (#11) come from the Fei Long Quan Zhuan (飞龙全传 – "The Complete Flying Dragon Biography"), which was published prior to the aforementioned manual.[7]

Another legend connected to the Song Dynasty states Wang Lang participated in a Lei tai contest in the capital city of Kaifeng and was defeated by General Han Tong (韩通), the founder of Tongbeiquan. After leaving the fighting arena, he saw a brave praying mantis attacking the wheels of oncoming carts with its "broadsword-like" arms, Mantis fist was born shortly thereafter.[8] However, most legends place Wang Lang living in the late Ming dynasty.[2][3]

Connection with General Yue Fei

The "Four Generals of the Restoration" painted by Liu Songnian during the Southern Song dynasty. Yue Fei is the second person from the left. It is believed to be the "truest portrait of Yue in all extant materials."[9]

As previously stated, the Water Margin bandits Lin Chong and Yan Qing, the adopted of Lu Junyi, are said to be part of the 18 masters supposedly invited to Shaolin by the legendary Abbot Fuju. According to the folklore biography of Song dynasty General Yue Fei, Lin and Lu were former students of Zhou Tong, the general's military arts teacher.[10] One martial legend states Zhou learned Chuojiao boxing from its originator Deng Liang (邓良) and then passed it onto Yue Fei.[11] Chuojiao is also known as the "Water Margin Outlaw style" and "Mandarin Duck Leg" (Chinese: 鴛鴦腿; pinyin: Yuānyāng Tuǐ).[12] In the Water Margin's twenty-ninth chapter, entitled "Wu Song, Drunk, Beats Jiang the Gate Guard Giant", it mentions Wu Song, another of Zhou's fictional students, using the "Jade Circle-Steps with Duck and Drake feet".[13] Lin Chong is listed above as being a master of "Mandarin ducks kicking technique".

Northern Mantis Lineage Master Yuen Man Kai openly claims Zhou taught Lin and Lu the "same school" of martial arts that was later combined with the seventeen other schools to create the Mantis style.[14] However, he believes Mantis style was created during the Ming dynasty, and was therefore influenced by these eighteen schools from the Song. He also says Lu Junyi taught Yan Qing the same martial arts as he learned from Zhou.[15] Master Yuen further comments Zhou later taught Yue the same school and that Yue was the originator of the mantis move "Black Tiger Steeling [sic] Heart".[15] Note that the various branches of Yue Jia Quan (Yue Family Boxing) do indeed have an analogous postural movement named "Black Tiger Steals the Heart". Also various Yue Jia Quan sets feature a "Preying Mantis Pounces on Prey" claw hand posture as well.


Widespread styles

There are several styles of Northern Praying Mantis, the best known of which are:[16]


Mantis fist is usually the main antagonist's style of choice in various forms of media.


David Chiang learns this style from the Mantis in The Deadly Mantis (1978 film) a.k.a. Shaolin mantis (1978)

The Style is performed in Yuen Siu-tien's starring Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979)

In The Tricky Master (1999), Stephen Chow's apprentice beats an overweight card sharp in a "fixed" high-stakes poker game. When taunted, the card sharp jumps onto the playing table and defeats Chow's deaf, cross-dressing bodyguard with a "long lost kung fu" called "Fat Mantis", which is the "most powerful...and kills without blood." In the end, Stephen Chow sprays the card sharp with a can of insecticide. He falls to the ground dead with his hands and legs held into the air like a bug.

In The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), the "Silent Monk" (Jet Li) employs mantis fist in his battle over the Monkey King's magical staff with Lu Yan, the "Drunken Immortal" (Jackie Chan). But his Mantis boxing is shortly thereafter overpowered by Lu's Tiger boxing. The movie's screenwriter, John Fusco, is a long-time student of Northern Praying Mantis and worked closely with Jet Li during production.

In the animated movie Kung Fu Panda, one of the six kung fu students is an actual praying mantis who uses Northern Praying Mantis kung fu.[18]


In Hung Hei-Gun: Decisive Battle With Praying Mantis Fists (洪熙官: 决战螳螂拳) (a.k.a. The Kung Fu Master, 1994), Donnie Yen plays the titular role of legendary martial arts hero Hung Hei-Gun. After being beaten up as a Child, Hung's parents send him away to study Kung Fu. He returns eight years later to find his father (who is secretly an anti-Manchu rebel leader) working as the military arms instructor for the Qing government, much to the chagrin of the local villagers. Despite his years of training, a rakish manchu Prince easily overpowers Hung with the mantis style. After the supposed death of his father, Hung faces the prince once more. When the prince shoots poisonous arrows from his sleeves, Hung twirls his staff to collect the projectiles and then flings them back. The Prince dies from his own poison arrows.[19]

In the 2014 Netflix TV series Marco Polo, Jia Sidao, the main antagonist, portrayed by Chin Han,[20] uses praying mantis kung fu.


Mantis is about a half-Vietnamese serial killer who murders erotic dancers because he believes his pet praying mantis tells him to do so (which is quite similar the real life case involving the "Son of Sam"). He uses this style of fighting utilizing his fingers to attack the neck veins and the eyes.[21]

Video games

Lion Rafale, a character from Sega's Virtua Fighter series, uses Praying Mantis style. He was introduced in Virtua Fighter 2. It is also used by Kung Lao and Shujinko in the Mortal Kombat series. Wulong Goth, the leader of the evil "Black Mantis" sect, employs Praying Mantis in the game Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus. Gen, from the Street Fighter series of video games, uses this technique, which he can change at will with the Crane style. In the Eternal Champions series, Praying Mantis is used by Larcen Tyler.


  1. ^ Japanese translation of the Chinese name.


  1. ^ Kohn, Livia (2000). Daoism handbook. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004112087.
  2. ^ a b c "Creation of the Praying Mantis". Plum Publications. Archived from the original on 12 April 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b Blanco, Fernando. "Praying Mantis". Atlanta Martial Arts Directory. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Northern Mantis Barrage Training!". Inside Kung Fu Magazine. Beckett Media LLC. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b (2001). Luohan Xinggong Duan Da. JOURNAL OF SPORT HISTORY AND CULTURE (体育文史), No.1, P.36-37,9 [ISSN 1671-1572]
  6. ^ a b What's Praying Mantis Kung Fu? Archived December 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Xuan, Wu (1998). Fei long quan zhuan (Di 1 ban. ed.). Chang chun: Ji lin wen shi chu ban she. ISBN 978-7806262580.
  8. ^ (in Spanish and English) SHANDONG WUSHU TAIJI TANGLANG QUAN Archived June 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Xiaoyi, Shao. "Yue Fei's facelift sparks debate". China Daily. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  10. ^ Qian, Cai. General Yue Fei. Trans. Honorable Sir T.L. Yang. Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co., Ltd. (1995) ISBN 978-962-04-1279-0
  11. ^ "Chuo Jiao Fist". Archived from the original on 4 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Chuojiao (thrusted-in feet)". Archived from the original on 16 December 2007.
  13. ^ Nai'an, Shi; Sidney Shapiro; Luo Guanzhong (1993). Outlaws of the Marsh. Translated by Shapiro (1st ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 978-7-119-01662-7.
  14. ^ Man Kai, Yuen (1991). Northern Mantis Black Tiger Intersectional Boxing. Wanchai, Hong Kong: Yih Mei Book Company. p. 7. ISBN 978-962-325-195-2.
  15. ^ a b Yuen: pg. 8[clarification needed]
  16. ^ See Su Yuchang, Pachi Tanglang Chuan: Eight Ultimate Praying Mantis, 2014, pp. 213ff.
  17. ^ Su Yuchang, Pachi Tanglang Chuan: Eight Ultimate Praying Mantis, 2014, pp. 217-18.
  18. ^ Reid, Dr. Craig. "KUNG FU PANDA: Big Bear Cat was "PO-fect"". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  19. ^ "The Kung Fu Master movie review". Hong Kong Digital. Archived from the original on April 29, 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  20. ^ Shackleton, Liz (May 16, 2014). "Chin Han joins Marco Polo cast". Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  21. ^ La Plante, Richard (1993). Mantis (1st ed.). New York: Tor Books. ISBN 978-0312855314.