Although I have been practicing wing chun since 2005, I have always been curious about other traditional Chinese martial arts that look somewhat similar. One of these is Norther Mantis, which has some similar movements (though it lacks the signature wing chun chain punch)
If wing chun doesn’t work for you or just doesn’t excite you, you may want to look into this very traditional martial art that tends to train pretty hard core.
The video above is a demo from the early 1980’s by Sifu Albright, where he demonstrates his amazing skills at Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu in free sparring against another Sifu who appears to be using Hung Gar. When I first looked at the video for a minute or so I thought that Sifu Albright couldn’t be that good because he always had his hands down. Then I figured what was going on. If you know anything at all about Martial Arts you will likely be as impressed as I was by this practitioner.
If, like me, you end up watching the video several times, I suggest you watch it once just looking at his masterful footwork. Another interesting aspect about the video is it shows the Praying Mantis style can be used for self defense from a total relaxed natural position, without posing any stance or even any guard
Northern Praying Mantis is a style that dates back over 300 years when a monk was supposedly so impressed by the fighting skill and ferocity of the insect that he captured one and tested its reactions with chopsticks, and adding movements taken from 17 other styles. Northern Mantis is completely different from and should not be confused with Southern Mantis.
Sifu Albright explains in a recent video that Southern Mantis is actually not Mantis at all, but because at one time all Southern Kung Fu styles were outlawed by the government, founders named a new style, which was somewhat similar to Wing Chun and White Eyebrow, “Mantis”. Allbright claims that much later Southern Mantis adoped some of the hand postures of Northern Mantis.
Northern Mantis shares the characteristics of other Northern Kung Fu styles in that kicking, long range hands, and quick, mobile footwork are all emphasized. There are numerous sub variants of Northern Mantis, including Six Harmonies, Tai Chi Mantis, Eight Steps, but the most popular is probably Seven Star Mantis which emphasizes lightning fast hand strikes, bridging and seizing of the arms, joint locking, and throwing techniques, as well as a complete repertoire of kicks.
One of the biggest distinctions of Seven Star Mantis is the fact that it uses footwork from Monkey Kung Fu. Supposedly, the founder of Seven Star was eventually able to get his hand strikes to be so fast that the old footwork couldn’t keep up with the hands so he had to borrow the quick agile steps from Monkey Kung Fu styles.
Interestingly Eight Step Mantis was supposedly developed because the founder of that style was getting older and wanted to remain formidable but felt that Seven Star footwork, which includes athletic jumping and hopping, was no longer do-able for an older person.
Seven Star is similar to Wing Chun in that sticking is emphasized and even has its own version of chi sao, or at least chi sao like drills It also has its own version of the Wooden Dummy, but with two arms instead of three. However Mantis practitioners do a lot more grabs,joint locks, arm breaks, and throws than any lineage of Wing Chun.
Also the footwork, many of the hand techniques, the method of power generation, the use of Iron Palm training, and the large repertoire of kicks make Northern Mantis very different from Wing Chun. When I was studying under Sifu Lee Moy Shan, many years ago, I was told by senior students that Mantis was the only Kung Fu style that gave Wing Chun fighters trouble, but they were probably talking about Southern Mants.
Seven Star emphasizes forms practice, both solo forms and 2 man forms. Unlike Wing Chun which has only 3 solo forms, Mantis has over a hundred forms, although according to Sifu Albright few people learn more than 30 forms. The solo forms contain large numbers of lightning fast hand strikes and quick intricate footwork and are practiced at top speed.