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Wang Lang and his Pair of Swords

Mantis Boxing is based on chopping with the hands and forearms in moves such as beng (collapsing-the back fist) and pi (cleaving). These same motions are constantly seen in weapon techniques. Is Mantis Boxing closely tied to the techniques of chopping weapons? This month I uncover never before seen relationships between Mantis Boxing and paired weapons.

Earliest Verifiable Record of Wang Lang

The book Chang's Pugilist Volume (Chang Shi Wu Ji Shu), Published in Henan sometime during the Chien Long reign (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty, references Wang Lang, historical founder of Mantis Boxing, when it describes double sword maneuvers.

"Double Straight Sword Content of Names (Shuang Jian Ming Mu)," Is the name of this section of Chang's book. Though Wang Lang is named in the book it does not prove his existence, but it does show that his name was associated with movements of the double sword form.

In addition to being the earliest verifiable recording of his name found so far in published material, it also indicates a link between Wang Lang and techniques having to do with chopping motions.

The Chopping of Wang Lang's Mantis

The section with Wang Lang is short but descriptive.

 

Wang Lang chops the earth.

Shoot the body up.

Lower down the pair of swords.

Crouch the body chop the earth.

Left grab

Right Chop

The key word here is 'chopping.' The pictures above show left grab right chop as done in the Mantis Boxing style. with a little imagination you can put a pair of double straight swords in his hands.

I first wrote about this discovery in Mantis Quarterly of 2004*. Since that time new information has come to light relating the chopping strikes of twin weapons to the Mantis Boxing sonnet Essential Treatise of Short Strikes.

Short strikes as it relates to Mantis Boxing are those techniques involving the various grabs such as hooking, plucking and sealing as well as other short range maneuvers like hanging and lifting. When these are coupled with strikes of hands, feet, elbows, shoulders and other short range weapons of the human body for strikes, locks and throws it is called short strikes.

Short strikes are a key ingredient of what makes up not only the Mantis Boxing style but many other styles of martial art as well.

The theory of short strikes is also the underlying method of weapons. Recent discoveries have uncovered a new link between the short strikes of Mantis Boxing and that of weapons.

In other words there is a triangle relationship between;

  1. Wang Lang and chopping with double straight swords from the above manuscript.

  2. The Essential Treatise of Short Strikes of Mantis Boxing.

  3. And finally a manuscript and picture that tie double chopping weapons together with the Essential Treatise of Short Strikes from a non-Mantis Boxing source. This recent discovery also dating back to Qing Dynasty documents.

24 Keywords

Essential Treatise of Short Strikes is built on 6 groups of keywords containing four characters each for a total of 24 keywords. The keywords are defined with mnemonic language helping the students to remember key aspects of the short strikes fighting methods.

The key words are based on the yin and yang principle of transformation. The changes of yin and yang define the key words of short strikes. The keywords are a way to help students understand the transformations of fighting. Such as how false and real intermingle, advancing and retreating coexist, hard and soft are both required and so on.

Fighting can be seen as an imbalance of yin and yang seeking resolution. These keywords arise from astute observations of our martial ancestors who applied them to their training.

Advancing, retreating, false and real.
Rushing, jumping, attacking and entering.
Dodging, deceiving, leaping and turning.
Opening, shutting, taking and closing.
Long, short, rising and falling.
Gang, rou, yin and ran.

The final group of key words is not easily translated. Gang and yin both mean hard in English. Rou and ran both men soft in English, but look at the following subtleties of definition.

That which is hard can not be bent.
That which is yin can not be broken.
Soft is like a branch that flutters in the wind whipping back and forth with no escape.
Ran is like the winding waters soaking into the sand. There is no place that they can not enter.

These types of short rhyming phrases are used by the teacher when he feels that the student is receptive to a sudden enlightenment of the technique.

 

Their usefulness lies in saying them to the student at that certain moment in training when the student will suddenly arrive at a new level of understanding of the technique.

 

The Short Stick

 

One of the deadly weapons of kung fu is the short staff or duan bang. It has a handle like a straight sword, but it is not sharp. Instead it has a bumpy or knotted surface, often with sharp corners such as octagonal shapes.

 

Unlike a sword it has no sharp edges that become dull. It is a thick and sturdy weapon. It doesn't break as easily as the straight sword does against heavier weapons.  Often made of solid brass or iron or some such alloy it is much heavier than the straight sword.

 

Its application is similar to the chopping movements of the straight sword.

 

The Double Short Stick

Just like a saber it is not uncommon to see them used in pairs. The double short stick is also similar in application to the double straight sword. The main difference is that the short stick chops to crush and pound, while the sword chops to cut and slice.

 

While researching a historical martial art book by Ma Ming Da I came across an artistic looking picture from the Qing Dynasty. On second glance I realized that it is an outline of the 24 keywords of our Essential Treatise of Short Strikes.

 

A picture from a Qing dynasty manuscript of unknown origin. It is a man performing with double short sticks. The sonnet written around the man's body is known to practitioners of Mantis Boxing as the outline to Essential Treatise of Short Strikes.

 

 

Short Strikes are the Forefather of Bladed Weapons

 

Is the title of an introduction in Cui Shoushan's manuscript. Though he may have written it himself it is more likely that he himself copied it from a much older text.

The eighteen types of bladed weapons are variations of short strikes. 

In general, the techniques of bladed weapons are the applications of short strike methods.

To change the short range to long take the close quarters' techniques and apply them at a distance.

In fact, short strike methods are bladed weapon techniques.

Once you have mastered the short strikes method enlightenment with bladed weapons comes easily.

From the manuscript of Cui Shoushan on his introduction to weapons.

From the above examples it would seem that there is a strong relationship between the short strikes of Mantis Boxing to the short strikes of weapons.

Though we may never really know what methods of empty hand and weapons styles Wang Lang practiced we ourselves can attain our own enlightenment through the steady and diligent practice of our martial art. It requires an uncommon dedication to the training[

 

Sample of two person double sabers using double short sticks. This was performed at Cheng Geng University in Tainan Taiwan.

21.3 MB

Youtube version

More articles on the idea behind the Essential Treatise of Short Strikes can be found here;

Dodging, deceiving, leaping and turning was written about in Deception Within the Boxing of Shaolin and Mantis

Rising and falling were written about in The Rising and Falling of the Mantis Fist

Long and short were written about in Sparrow Brushes the Water

*Mantis Quarterly 2004 Volume 2 issue 3

More Articles

Wang Lang kan di. Zong qi. Luo xia shuang jian. Dun shen kan di.

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