Years of Mantis
Who knew that mantis warriors were being studied by the
military elite 1000 years ago? Around the year 1078
scholars compiled Wu Jing Qi Shu-The Seven Military
Classics, which became the foundation of
examinations in military affairs.
Of the seven enclosed
classics, the book Tai Gung’s Six Secret Teachings,
a book which gained popularity with the ruling class of
the Tang Dynasty (618—907), is the only military classic
written from the perspective of the revolutionary. It is
a supposed recording of conversations between the Tai Gung
and King Wen and King Wu of the Zhou dynasty in the
eleventh century B.C. and is where we find details of
mantis warriors in chariot warfare.
The Tai Gung Goes Fishing
The first secret teaching, called the Civil Secret
Teaching, describes the story of King Wen meeting the
Tai Gung as he fishes.
King Wen intended to go
hunting. So Bian, the Scribe, performed divination
to inquire about his prospects. The Scribe reported,
‘While hunting on the North bank of the Wei river
you will get a great catch. It will not be any form
of dragon, nor a tiger or a great bear. According to
the signs, you will find a duke or marquis there
whom heaven has sent to be your teacher.’
King Wen then observed a vegetarian regime for three
days to purify himself, then mounted his hunting
chariot, driving his hunting horses, he went out to
hunt on the northern bank of the Wei river, Finally
he saw the Tai Gung sitting on a grass mat fishing.
King Wen greeted him courteously and then asked, ‘Do
you take pleasure in fishing?’
The Tai Gung replied,’ The true man of worth takes
pleasure in attaining his ambitions; the common man
takes pleasure in succeeding in his [ordinary]
affairs, Now my fishing is very much like this.’
‘What do you mean it is like this?’
The Tai Gung responded,’ In fishing there are three
forms of authority; the ranks of salary, death, and
offices. Fishing is the means to obtain what you
seek. Its nature is deep, and from it much greater
principles can be discerned,’
King Wen said,’ I would like to hear about its
The Tai Gung
goes on to elaborate on his fishing metaphor for the
administration of civil affairs, hence the title of this
first section, Civil Secret Teaching.
The Tai Gung and the Spear
The story of the Tai Gung catching fish became so well
known that during the Ming dynasty it was used as the
basis for spear postures in General Qi’s New Book on
Effective Training Methods (1562) and Wushe’s
Record of Arms (1662).
Tai Gung Hooks a
This is the banner waving spear method.
This move can be applied
against any maneuver.
By leaning and receiving [the opponent's
attack] you can capture at your ease.
Advancing and retreating like the wind.
Use hard and soft
New Book on Effective Training Methods (1562)
Hooks a Fish Maneuver
From Wushe’s Record of Arms
Spear has always been an important weapon of the
military trained by many thousands of soldiers over the
centuries. Having the name 'Tai Gung Hooks a Fish'
appear in the most famous Ming dynasty manual of martial
arts is a sign of the widespread awareness of the Tai Gung's story.
The Tiger’s Secret Teaching
Of the six secret teachings the Tiger Secret
Teaching, the fourth of six, discusses categories of military
equipment and weapons and how they apply to tactical
principles. The solutions emphasize speed,
maneuverability, misdirection and ambush.
King Wu asked the Tai
Gung,’ When the king mobilizes the Three armies, are
there any rules for determining the army’s
equipment, such as the implements for attack and
defense, including type and quantity?’
The Tai Gung said,’ A great question, my king! The
implements for attack and defense each have their
own categories. This results in the great
awesomeness of the army.’
King Wu said,’ I would like to hear about them.’
The Tai Gung replied,’ As for the basic numbers when
employing the army, if commanding ten thousand armed
soldiers the rules for [the various types of
equipment and their] employment are as follows.
Mantis Warriors and Attacking
The Tai Gung goes on to list the equipment used by
the ‘three armies’ and their application. Included in
this list are the mantis Warriors and Mantis Knights.
Thirty-six great Fu-Xu
Attack Chariots. Carrying Praying Mantis Martial
warriors, they can attack both horizontal and
vertical formations and can defeat the enemy.
Chariots of this era normally carried three men: the
driver in the center, the archer on the left, and a
warrior with a halberd (ge) on the right.
One hundred and sixty
Spear and Halberd Fu-Xu Light Chariots [for
repelling] night invaders from the fore. Each
carries three Praying Mantis Martial Knights. The
Art of War refers to them as mounting ‘thunder
attacks.’ They are used to penetrate solid
formations, to defeat both infantry and cavalry.
From the above description it seems clear that in
this case all the men on the chariot were Mantis Martial
Knights. The dagger ax, or ge, is primarily a hooking
weapon. Wounds are inflicted by swinging down and
pulling forward, with the curved knife-like blade
cutting in and hooking the enemy.
|The 'ge' was
attached to a long stick. Originally only a
hook, in later times a spear point was added.
It was used by both chariot
riders as well as foot soldiers.
The 'ge' with
To defend the Three
Armies deploy Fu-Xu [chariots] equipped with wooden
Praying Mantises and sword blades, each twenty feet
across, altogether one hundred and twenty of them.
They are also termed chevaux-defrise. On open, level
ground the infantry can use them to defeat chariots
In this case the Praying Mantis is a twenty foot long
wooden contraption with protruding sword blades which
will stop rushing cavalry and chariots.
|Here is a Western version of
what it probably looked like. Substitute, the
spikes for blades, then lay some dead soldiers
across it and you can see how gruesome it would
become during a battle.
What exactly this
was is not clear, but something used in water battles on
rivers. Most likely to control or capture other water
There is also the
Heavenly Float with Iron Praying Mantis, rectangular
inside, circular outside, four feet or more in
diameter, equipped with plantern winches, Thirty-two
of them. When the Heavenly Floats are used to deploy
the Flying River to cross a large lake, they are
referred to as ‘Heavens Huang’ and also termed
The Ax of Mantis
Though these Praying Mantis Warriors were known in the
Ming Dynasty there has never been a clear connection
between them and the Praying Mantis Boxing we practice today. Yet,
with one of the oldest of mantis manuscripts Fanche Lu-lu
6636 we find this quote of Mantis.
Mantis has a blade,
it is the fists and elbows. Therefore, it is also
called 'warding off ax.'
Praying Mantis Boxing may have
descended from a Praying Mantis Knight who adopted his
chariot or infantry weapon method to open handed
fighting. Later, he or his students called it Praying
Only conjecture, but further
research on the Mantis Warriors may lead to knew
insights on modern Praying Mantis Boxing
The Chopping of Praying Mantis Boxing
and his Pair of Swords
Fanche Lu-lu 6636
Fist of Fanche
General Qi, his comrades and books
General Yu and the Escaping
Barbarian Surrendering Maneuver
Luan Elbow of Shaolin Luohan
Wu She's Book
Dangerous Flowers of Double
research of this article would not have been possible
without the ground work laid out by Ralph D. Sawyer and
his book The Seven Military Classics of Ancient