The Northern Praying Mantis system is characterized by its strength, agility, and quick, perpetual movement of the hands and feet, making it difficult for the opponent to follow the attack. By doing this it increases the capacity for self-defense. The Praying Mantis style has its origins in the Shangdong province. This is a very cultural and academic province, famous for people such as Confucius and Laotse, amongst others. Various technical, strange and superior knowledge martial arts styles also evolved there.
The history of the Northern Praying Mantis style goes back approximately 4000 years ago. It was first documented in the book of Military Startegies, Liu Tao, which was written by prime-minister Chang Tai-Kong, to satisfy the curiosity of the emperor, Chuo Wun-Wang (1232-1135 BCE). It mentiones that the imperial guard was composed of soldiers who had been trained in the Praying Mantis sytle.
It is not only the Praying Mantis system that has an uncertain history before 1640, but Kung Fu styles in general. This is due to the fact of the Manchu invasion in that period. Wanting to finish both the culture and history of the previous Han people, the Manchu tried to eliminate all extraneous aspects everyday life, including the Kung Fu. In these times, the Kung Fu knowledge was nearly always in the hands of the government, thus leading to numerous conflicts with the invading Manchu. This also lead to changing the names of the different styles and techniques, in order to preserve them. The famous Shaolin Temple had to change its name, as its members were considered rebels. It is not until proximately 1644 AC that the history of this martial art can be traced back clearly, and not until 1912 that the original names could be used again.
The founder of what we is accepted as modern Praying Mantis, Wang Lang, is estimated to have been born in 1622. During the Manchu invasion in 1644, Wang Lang’s family was killed. Lucky to escape, Wang Lang sought shelter in the Shaolin temple. As believed, it was not here that Wang Lang was first introduced to Kung Fu. He had studied with his father Wang Man-Tang, who had held a high military rank. Once Wang Lang was in the Shaolin temple, he continued his studies of Kungfu with the monk Shan Ta Shuh. Barely escaping when the Manchu attacked and destroyed the Shaolin temple, Wang Lang fled to his native province of Shandong, seekign refuge in the Taoist temple of San Shen Kong, on mount Lao (Lao Shan).
It is known that during the Ming dynasty, Mr. Shi Chi-Kuang (1528 - 1587 AC) - a general who faught against the Japanese, wrote the book Chi Chiao Hsin Shuh (year 1560 AC). It was only later when Wang Lang compiled movements of the 17 best systems of the time, as they were mentioned in the Chi Chiao Hsin Shuh book, that Wang Lang incorporated a technique which he himself had developed by observing a Praying Mantis insect fighting the footwork of the monkey. Combining these 18 techniques, he created the fundaments of the Praying Mantis system that it is known today.
As Wang Lang started to teach, and the style was passed down through the generations, it started to change, and sub-styles where created. The main sub-styles are considered to be Chishing, Meihua, Papu, Liohoe and Pimen.
Master Su Yu-Chang has studied all five main styles Praying Mantis for over 35 years.