Kung Fu,China Shaolin Kung Fu,Chinese Kung Fu,China Shaolin Kung Fu School
李昆山 莱阳三山之一(青岛莱西市朴木镇朴木村)


 

王玉山 莱阳三山之一


 

崔守山 莱阳三山之一


 

宋子德

Mantis boxing was initiated by a man named Wang Lang (i.e. Wang Wencheng) at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties (about 1600 AD). Born in Chunhua, Shanxxi, Wang Lang learned Shaolin boxing at first. One day, he took part in a duel with a local wushu master named Zhang Qi but lost. On his way home, he saw a mantis fighting a bird, and got something from it. After getting home, he worked hard by imitating the form and combat features of the mantis by combining the attack and defense movements of other forms of martial arts and finally founded the “Eighteen Stunts of Mantis Boxing”.

Wang Lang had an aptitude for learning the strong points of others to make up for his own shortcomings. He improved his “Eighteen Stunts of Mantis Boxing” in attacking skill, force and dexterity by drawing on the essentials of Taiji boxing, back-through boxing and fox boxing. Therefore, mantis boxing had the characteristics of many schools. The movements had some resemblance of Taiji boxing – forceful and agile in motion, firm like a wall on the legs at rest – while the combat features of the mantis was retained. Because of this, the later generations called it “Taiji Plum Blossom Mantis Boxing” or “Taiji Mantis” or “Plum Blossom Mantis” for short.


Zhao Zhu was the second-generation inheritor of mantis boxing. Born in Laiyang of Shandong, Zhao was a genius for both polite letters and martial arts from his childhood. He was successful in the national selective examinations at the end of the Ming Dynasty and won the title of Jinshi. Following that, he was appointed magistrate of Chunhua in Shanxxi Province. After Zhao Zhu’s sister married Wang Lang, Wang decided to teach Zhao mantis boxing. Due to the then corrupt practices in the martial arts circle, Wang Lang refused to teach others. So after he returned to his hometown of Laiyang, mantis boxing fell into disuse in Chunhua of Shanxxi. Later, Zhao Zhu developed the mantis boxing on the basis of Wang Lang’s “Eighteen Stunts of Mantis Boxing” and other boxing techniques, and called it “Luanjie”.

After Zhao Zhu, mantis boxing grew very popular in Laiyang, where many known Wushu masters came from, including Li Bingxiao, Liang Xuexiang, Jiang Hualong, Li Kunshan, Wang Yushan, Cui Shoushan and others. The last three were especially known in Laiyang for their consummate skills and accomplishments.

In 1933, when the County Annals of Laiyang was remade, the then director of the martial arts academy of Laiyang County, Li Kunshan, was asked to provide information on the historical development of mantis boxing. But unfortunately, Li was out in Qingdao. So Li’s disciple Shu Zai offered information in Li’s stead. Shu mistook Zhao Zhu for Li Bingxiao, which resulted in the wrong description in the County Annals that Zhao Zhu was Li Bingxiao’s disciple.

The third-generation successor of mantis boxing was Li Bingxiao. Li was born in Xiaochishan of Laiyang, and practiced medicine from his childhood. As an ethical doctor, he had superb medical skills and often offered free medical treatment for the poor. One autumn day, a thief named Gao Cheng was found dying of illness in the wilderness. Li Bingxiao heard of this and went to take Gao home for careful treatment. After his recovery, Gao was offered accommodation at Li’s home for a year. To show his gratitude, Gao taught Li kungfu. From then on, Li Bingxiao entered into the martial arts circle. No record is available now showing which school Gao Cheng’s kungfu belonged to.

After the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Zhao Zhu returned to his hometown. Li Bingxiao decided to give up medicine and devote himself to the study and practice of martial arts. Li went to Zhao with the hope of becoming a disciple of Zhao. Seeing Li was a good person, Zhao accepted him and later made him a great master of mantis boxing. In his late years, Li Bingxiao made efforts to absorb the strong points of others on the basis of the “Eighteen Stunts of Mantis Boxing”, and worked out “The Essentials of Martial Arts”.

Liang Xuexiang was born in a poor family in Haiyang of Shandong. In his childhood, Liang herded cattle for Li Bingxiao. When he grew up, he became a long-term hired hand in Li’s home. Being clever and eager to learn, Liang learned a lot from Li in secret while tending him during the night when Li practiced boxing. He often practiced away secretly for a whole night after Li went to sleep. Li Bingxiao was greatly moved after he knew it and accepted him as a disciple. Later, Liang Xuexiang grew to be a big-name master of mantis boxing.

Jiang Hualong was a native of Laiyang County in Shandong. At first, he practiced ground tumbling boxing. After defeated by his opponents, he realized his limited ability. So he apprenticed to Liang Xuexiang for mantis boxing. After mastering the techniques, Jiang went to Yantai to teach martial arts. At that time, an influential figure named Song Zide was living in Yantai. Song was from the same county as Jiang. As Song was a wushu fan, he learned boxing from Jiang. There was another boxing instructor in Yantai named Li Zhongxiang, who taught Arhat boxing and ground tumbling boxing.


The three men were like brothers. Jiang Hualong passed on his techniques to Song Zide without any reservation. Li Zhongxiang and Jiang often exchanged ideas and learned from each other. Jiang absorbed some of Li’s stunts such as “overturning carts”, “body protection with the elbow” and “windlass hammer” into mantis boxing. Based on this, Jiang created his own “ground tumbling boxing” in accordance with the characteristics of mantis boxing. By this time, mantis boxing came to a climax in terms of content and technique. Seeing Song’s accomplishments, Jiang left Li and Song for his hometown after staying in Yantai for 8 years.

At that time, there was a famous wushu master in Yantai, named Ji Chunting. He loved mantis boxing very much and cast aside his original profession and went to learn wushu from Song Zide. In six months, Song taught him mantis boxing. Following that, Song returned to his hometown as well.

Both Jiang Hualong and Song Zide set up boxing schools in their hometown. Li Zhongxiang’s nephew, Li Kunshan, learned kunfu from Jiang, while Wang Yushan and Cui Shoushan, both from Laiyang, became disciples of Song. Under rigorous guidance of their teachers, Li, Wang and Cui attained high degrees of perfection in boxing after ten plus years of hard practice. Being invincible at all times, the three boxers became known all over China.

Li Kunshan loved spearplay in his childhood. He once practiced “lions accompanying their mother”. This was a solo set of drills intended for practical combat. Later, he made new developments of the art of spearplay by absorbing the techniques of mantis boxing. He was able to cut the opponent’s skin with a stab at the forehead without causing any internal injury and to unbutton his opponent’s coat in the absence of the opponent’s unawareness. In 1933, Li Kunshan took part in a national wushu contest in Nanjing and won a gold medal for spearplay. Zhang Bingdou was the grandson of Li Kunshan. He learned kungfu from Li from his childhood until Li went to Taiwan in 1949. Before his departure, Li asked his bosom friend named Wang Yushan to take care of Zhang.

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