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Learning the Eight Training Divisions of Praying Mantis Kung Fu

July 30, 2010

Hello to all Martial Arts students.  Today, I am here to shed some light on an ancient Kung Fu technique that most have heard of, but few know much about.  In the martial arts movies and Kung Fu TV shows, it’s common to hear the characters blurt out lines like, “Your Eagle’s Claw is no match for my Dragon fist,” and other animal-type attacks like those.  Do any of us know what these techniques actually refer too?  In the recent Disney movie Kung Fu Panda, one of the main characters is a Kung Fu legend and also a Praying Mantis.  This tiny little 5 inch fighter, it turns out, has the potential to be one of the greatest threats, much like the fighting style itself.

In the book The Complete Guide to Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, written by Stuart Alve Olson, we learn that Praying Mantis Kung Fu concerns copying the insects  swift attacks and defenses in the wild.  The praying mantis, capable of destroying other insects six times its own size, is a perfect model and perfect fighting machine.  The book explains that this form of Kung Fu can be used to increase agility, strength, and even energy.

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Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, in particular, focuses on eight different training divisions.  To gain insight into this art, the student must be able to control these eight pivotal areas and simultaneously capture them in fluid swift motions.  Once these eight divisions are mastered, the student will be able to begin using their inner mantis and unleash it in the face of battle.  These eight training divisions are known as Pa Fa.

1. Hand (Shou): Hands need to be lightning fast, swift, and very accurate.

2. Eyes (Mu): Eyes need to be able to follow quick movements and watch the opponent to anticipate attacks.

3. Posture (Shih): Our posture must be both strong and flexible to keep our body pliable and quick.

4. Footwork (Pu): Feet need to be trained to be able to switch from rooted to the ground or agile and fast when needed.


5. Alertness (Shen): We must remain constantly sensitive to our environment, but also relaxed enough to think with a steady head and keep our composure.

6. Strength (LI): Our strength must be trained both internally and externally to create harmony within ourselves.

7. Energy (Qi): We must always have enough energy reserved and usable whenever needed. It is important to keep breathing steady and to not let our energy escape from us in battle

8. Effort (Kung): Always practice, spar, and fight with sufficient effort to keep ourselves in peak condition.

Theses eight divisions can be more deeply explained in the book, The Complete Guide to Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu along with fighting styles, in-depth training exercises, and a history of Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu.


I for one feel as though modeling fighting styles off of swift and powerful animals is a fool-proof  plan that will inevitably lead to success. The praying mantis in particular has the potential to be the most intimidating and threatening insects in the wild, and serves as a perfect teacher in attack and defense.  Do you feel as though modeling martial arts techniques off of animals and insects can be as effective as other human created fighting styles, or are they just entertaining fighting techniques that are oversold in Hollywood?

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