DODGING HARDNESS BOXING SET
by Huang Hanxun [Wong Honfan]
[translation by Paul Brennan, April, 2019]
By Huang Hanxun:
Dodging Hardness Boxing Set
– calligraphy by Wei Guanchang
Some congratulations for completing this book:
Let us wash away the insult of being the “sick men”.
As he has trained his body, we will also train our bodies.
Let us see his example and follow it by going into his book.
As his spirit has come to life, our national spirit will also come to life.
With a deep understanding of hardness and softness, energy will flow.
Let us recognize our true selves, and return to being our true selves.
If we do not train our people, we will just become slaves.
Our boxing arts are the best, and so our potential is extraordinary.
– sincerely inscribed by Wei Guanchang, autumn, 1947
N 北 南 S
POSTURES NAMES FOR THE DODGING HARDNESS BOXING SET
 FOUR-LEVEL POSTURE, BOTH FISTS STORING POWER
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, PALMS STRIKING EACH OTHER
 ADVANCE, REVERSE THRUSTING CLAW
 RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
 FLINGING PALM, RIGHT GRAB-KICK
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 WITHDRAWING STEP, LEFT DODGING HARDNESS
 WITHDRAWING STEP, RIGHT DODGING HARDNESS
 DOUBLE SEALING HANDS, THRUST PUNCH
 HOOKING HAND, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LEFT HOOKING HAND
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SUBDUING PUNCH
 THREADING HAND, ATTACKING HIS STANCE
 MILLSTONE HANDS, DOOR-CLOSING KICK
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SWINGING PUNCH
 RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT LEADING-DOWNWARD PUNCH
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, SEAL & THRUST PUNCH
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, HEART-STEALING PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT PROPPING ELBOW
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LOW CHOP
 RUNNING STEP, HIGH CARRYING HAND
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
 STEP TO AN ANGLE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
 FLINGING PALM, RIGHT GRAB-KICK
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT LEADING-DOWNWARD PUNCH
 TWINING SILK, LARGE TURN
 BIG DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
In the age of monarchs, when officials had an audience with the ruler, they would perform the ritual of both kneeling down and kowtowing [which means “knock head”]. When greeting each other, they would give but a slight nod of the head [a less extreme gesture of the “knock” and without the deep bow]. When people in the lower classes encountered officials, they would usually bow deeply to them [prostrating themselves in an exaggerated way without the knocking of the head]. The version of these politenesses chosen by martial artists to perform is usually the deep bow [placing them in the position of the lower classes], expressing respect to surrounding spectators. To make our performances more elegant, Master Luo instructed us to do this. To have any standing in society, one should be polite and conciliatory. Before his students went onto a stage to perform, they always had to stand up and bow to the spectators. This is the position we stood in both before and after the bow. It should be austere, body straight, gaze forward. This is called “giving sincere respect to the audience”. See drawing 1a:
Posture 1: FOUR-LEVEL POSTURE, BOTH FISTS STORING POWER
The Avalanche Steps boxing set starts with STANDING STABLY, BOTH FISTS STORING POWER, which involves facing sideways [toward the left] before sending out its first technique, and is thus in the standing-stably position. Dodging Hardness begins by facing straight ahead and is thus in the four-level position, the starting point in the east. After bowing, you have to shift your whole body to be facing toward the east, then your hands tightly grasp into fists and are drawn close to your body, storing power. See drawing 1b:
Your hands grasp into fists, which gives your arms a quality of wrapping. Let energy course through your whole body, your breathing be natural, your blood circulation be smooth, and increase your strength. This is a posture of readiness to send out the punch in the next posture.
Posture 2: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
From the four-level posture, in which your feet are together, first your left foot slightly shifts to the left, then your right foot steps out forward to make a big-dipper stance as your right fist thrusts out forward, your left palm and right fist hitting each other on the way. The fist is used to fill the space that your palm has just vacated, thus it is called a “filling” punch. (This technique is described in Mantis Boxing Curriculum (1953) in this way: “This involves the hands colliding as the punch goes out. It is a technique unique to Mantis Boxing. As your right fist goes out, your left palm meets it halfway, fist and palm striking against each other with an audible crack. As for its function, when an opponent sends out a punch, I first use my left palm to slap away his incoming fist, then send out my right fist to attack him. It is the same technique on either side, whether I am slapping with my left palm and striking with my right fist or slapping with my right palm and striking with my left fist.”) See drawing 2:
An opponent advances upon me, coming straight in with a punch to my middle area, so I drop into a stance and turn my body sideways to dispel it, at the same time using my left palm to pat aside his elbow, causing a gap to open in his middle area, and so I use a filling punch to fill the gap. This is mostly the same as the idea of “snatching a pearl from under the sea”, the only difference being that you are turned more sideways rather than facing squarely.
Posture 3: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, PALMS STRIKING EACH OTHER
With your stance not changing, your right fist withdraws toward the left, becomes a palm, and strikes across [against your left hand], your right hand turning over so that the back of your right hand is hitting into the left palm of your left hand. See drawing 3:
Once my right hand does the filling punch, my left side is noticeably open, so the opponent takes advantage of my focus toward one area and inattention toward another by suddenly sending a palm to strike to my left temple. I have to immediately bring my hand back to save myself, scraping along his arm on the way, and then seizing the opportunity to strike out at him with my palms, the back of my right hand positioned against the palm of my left hand.
Posture 4: ADVANCE, REVERSE THRUSTING CLAW
After withdrawing with a scraping action, defense can switch to attack. If you want to strike forward, you have to advance in order for it to be effective, thus your right foot goes forward a few more inches, your body urging forward, your left foot following forward to keep you in a big-dipper stance. At the same time, your left hand tightly seals off the opponent’s incoming hand as your right hand forms a reverse hooking hand and darts in under his arm to attack his organs. See drawing 4:
The organs lying behind the ribs are one of the “eight recommended targets” in Mantis Boxing. However, because they are positioned in a very cramped area, the impact from a fist would be too dispersed on the surface, and if you instead try to poke through with a finger, I fear it will be beyond your ability. Therefore choose a reverse hooking hand [i.e. wrist strike] in order to use the smallest amount of effort and yet get the greatest penetrative impact.
Posture 5: RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
Come down from your right big-dipper stance to make a right mountain-climbing stance [as your right hand “grabs”, your left hand “pulls”] and your right hand advances to “take”. (This technique is described in the Curriculum in this way: “The finished posture looks the same as the SEAL & THRUST PUNCH. [It does not look like the version in Posture 23 of Dodging Hardness, instead see the version in Posture 8 of Charging Punches] However, in that case it is simply a matter of sealing with one hand at short range and striking with the other at long range, whereas in this case there are three hand actions combined together: one hand hooking away, the other hand sealing, and then the first hand sending out a punch. This one-two-three method is a fundamental technique in Mantis Boxing, and for a Mantis practitioner is something that is always on the tip of his tongue.”) See drawing 5:
Hooking outward is “grabbing”. Sealing inward is “pulling”. These two actions are continuous, and then you add a punch, which makes “taking”. This technique is ingenious. Grabbing, pulling, and taking are three of the “twelve terms” in Mantis Boxing. When combined and used together, they are limitlessly adaptive.
Posture 6: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
Your left foot comes forward to stand next to your right foot and then your right foot advances a step, thereby switching you from a right mountain-climbing stance to a right big-dipper stance, as your left palm carries out from below your right fist, your right fist at the same time sinking down, and then your right fist punches out to fill the gap made by your left hand’s carrying action [your left palm now withdrawing toward your right shoulder]. See drawing 6:
If my hand gets sealed off by the opponent, I will be under his control, thus in the instant that he is sealing, I must immediately escape, and so I send my left palm forward and carrying upward, then send my right fist striking out to fill the gap created from carrying. This is a technique of taking advantage of an opening and attacking it.
Posture 7: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
Your left foot goes forward a step to make a left big-dipper stance as your left palm goes on top of your right wrist and your right hand changes to a hooking hand, making the position of “twining silk”. See drawing 7:
It says in the boxing classics: “Attacking meridians, acupoints, or joints is a vicious thing to do.” Methods of twining silk belong to the category of attacking joints. There is also a distinction between large twining and small twining. This technique is an example of small twining silk. Long ago, it was taught to only a few people. If my hand gets sealed off and I respond with a twining-silk maneuver, not only does this throw off his sealing action and dispel his power, it also turns the tables and gives me control over him.
Posture 8: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
With your stance not changing, your left hand blocks across in front of your head, guarding your headtop, your right fist going along with its momentum by striking straight to the opponent’s solar plexus. See drawing 8:
“For defeating straight attacks, block across. For defeating sideways attacks, go straight in.” This principle is not easy to understand. In this instance, the opponent attacks me with MT. TAI CRUSHES THE HEAD, chopping down, so I bring my [left] hand across to block it and then counterattack with a thrust punch. The intention is to draw him in and then strike him.
Posture 9: FLINGING PALM, RIGHT GRAB-KICK
The “flinging palm” involves bringing your left palm over your right shoulder and then flinging it straight out. In order to keep it from being sealed off or pulled in, your right fist becomes a palm and forcefully grabs the sole of your right foot at the endpoint of a lifting kick, your right leg ideally at the same height as a heart-piercing kick. See drawing 9:
The flinging palm and grab-kick flow in succession, defending above and then attacking below, an intention of threatening one area but then attacking another. Applying punches is easy, but applying kicks is difficult, a point that is typically understood by martial arts practitioners. However, when using them together, the hand acts as camouflage so that the kick can be sent out with less risk, making it easier to catch the opponent by surprise.
Posture 10: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
When you send out the grab-kick, your lower area will be open. If the opponent targets you there, you will feel a sense of being in great peril. Therefore after the grab-kick, you have to immediately bring your foot down [while retracting your right hand] and follow it by sending out a filling punch to fill the gap that he is showing above. See drawing 10:
I am supported entirely on one foot. If the opponent takes advantage of this, I will be in danger. Thus I should use a filling punch to fix this situation. However, even if he does not take advantage of where I am vulnerable in that moment, I am still positioned to attack him with a filling punch anyway.
Posture 11: WITHDRAWING STEP, LEFT DODGING HARDNESS
Your right foot retreats diagonally to the [right] rear, making a more acute angle, and then your left foot shifts back and to the [right] side, making a more obtuse angle. At the same time, your left palm goes underneath your right forearm and scrapes out upward as your right fist forcefully draws back [becoming a palm]. The power of one hand pulling back as the other hand scrapes out means that whatever the opponent is trying to do to you, be it sealing or twining, you will naturally be able withdraw from it. See drawing 11:
This technique can be divided into emptying and filling:
– [Filling] If a hard strike comes in, forcefully draw back your hand while scraping out with your other hand to match the opponent’s attack.
– [Emptying] Or if he suddenly sneaks in a soft technique [i.e. a twining-silk grab], use quick diagonal steps to evade it, preventing yourself from getting caught in his twining action. [In this case, the technique could arguably be called DODGING SOFTNESS.]
Posture 12: WITHDRAWING STEP, RIGHT DODGING HARDNESS
Your left leg shifts to the right [left] and then your right foot follows diagonally, your body evasively retreating [i.e. to the side rather than just back]. At the same time, your right palm goes underneath your left forearm and scrapes out upward. This technique is performed on both sides as a continuous action, keeping you from getting trapped by the opponent. See drawing 12:
Same as in Posture 11.
Posture 13: DOUBLE SEALING HANDS, THRUST PUNCH
Your hands go outward to the right with a sealing action as your right foot comes down with a stomp, then your rear foot goes forward to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your right fist follows upon the chopping force of the sealing action by striking out to the opponent’s chest. See drawing 13:
Those who are skillful with their fists and feet are good at changing from one technique to another. If you are using stiffness and wrestling against your opponent, there is no skill to speak of. This is why masters of boxing skills will use an offense that leads back into a defense, and a defense that contains the potential for another offense. When advancing to attack, first retreat to defend. Withdrawing a step to switch feet is not a matter of retreating in defeat and instead contains profound meaning. After the techniques of LEFT & RIGHT DODGING HARDNESS, to make a surprise attack with this thrust punch is the perfect choice.
Posture 14: HOOKING HAND, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
With your stance not changing, your right thrust punch now hooks away upward and your left fist does an avalanche punch to the opponent’s face, both hands working in concert. See drawing 14:
My thrust punch has been blocked by the opponent, so I smoothly turn my fist into a hooking hand and forcefully drag away his block, my left fist then immediately dropping an avalanche punch onto him. This is a technique of drawing him and then striking.
Posture 15: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LEFT HOOKING HAND
Switch from a mountain-climbing stance to a big-dipper stance [by shifting back], your right fist withdrawing to your waist, your left hand hooking out. See drawing 15:
This posture is a method of switching from fullness to emptiness. As I strike out with the avalanche punch, the opponent happens to be unusually aware and immediately sends out a threading hand to block my attack, then continues to advance with the technique of SENDING THE SHUTTLE THROUGH [Posture 13 of White Ape Steals a Peach], so I slightly shift back, switching from my position of fullness to a state of emptying, thereby diminishing his power, at the same time using a hooking hand to seal him off.
Posture 16: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
Your right foot advances to make a big-dipper stance as your right fist strikes out to fill the gap on the opponent’s left side. See drawing 16:
Once I have hooked away the opponent’s incoming hand, I have taken charge of the situation, but now the opening to attack is actually on his left side. This is why there is the technique of the filling punch, to fill a gap. This is a method of taking advantage of a weak spot by advancing and attacking it.
Posture 17: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SUBDUING PUNCH
Then your front leg goes forward to change your right big-dipper stance to a mountain-climbing stance as your left hand goes forward and seals downward, in the same manner as the pulling action [of the “grab-pull-take” technique], and your right fist shoots out upward from below. The finished posture looks the same as an avalanche punch, but they each have a different way of arriving in it. See drawing 17:
Everyone has techniques of throwing strikes and thrusting strikes, but they only work by getting in close to the opponent and thus are very risky. The subduing punch is reliable and powerful because I first seal off the opponent’s incoming hand, and then it is easy to roll my forearm over and whip it toward his upper area. In this way, if I happen to miss the target, I have not spent any energy, nor am I likely to get hurt.
Posture 18: THREADING HAND, ATTACKING HIS STANCE
Your front foot slightly lifts [and advances, your rear foot following,] as your left palm scrapes upward along the underside of your right forearm, your right fist withdrawing downward, the elbow sinking, heading toward your own face, and then your fist arcs across [rightward, using the heel of the fist] toward the opponent’s front knee [your left palm withdrawing toward your right shoulder]. See drawing 18:
This action of striking above and attacking below is actually a maneuver of threatening one area in order to attack another. My subduing punch attacking above has been blocked, and so I smoothly sink down and forcefully cut across to the opponent’s front leg. However, if I sit too low, I will invite attack to my upper area, and thus I have a hand guarding above.
Posture 19: MILLSTONE HANDS, DOOR-CLOSING KICK
Your rear foot steps up next to your front foot as your palms swing out to the right in three continuous motions – right palm, left palm, right palm. This is one of “triple hands” techniques, specifically the “millstone hands”. On the third motion, your right leg does a door-closing kick, hand and foot striking out together. See drawing 19:
The “triple hands” techniques are divided into “triple catching hands”, “triple hanging hands”, and “millstone triple hands”. This posture uses the millstone triple hands, supplemented by a door-closing kick. When applying it, use the triple hands to shield yourself, on the last one sending out hand and foot together, with speed and precision.
Posture 20: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SWINGING PUNCH
Your right foot comes down fiercely and then your left foot steps forward from the rear to make a left mountain-climbing stance, your right hand at the same time withdrawing and then swinging inward from the outside, your left hand forcefully propping against your right forearm. See drawing 20:
Kicks have to be quick and must not linger. The longer you hold your foot up, the more you waste energy, and for no purpose. It is also easy for an opponent to take advantage of. Therefore once you have sent the kick out, you must immediately withdraw it. As soon as I have kicked, I go right into stepping down and sliding forward with an advancing step, while first using my left hand to seal off the opponent’s incoming hand and then swinging my right fist across to his [left] temple, having the same effect as an avalanche strike, except at angle rather than directly forward.
Posture 21: RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
With your stance not changing, your right hand “grabs”, your left hand “pulls”, and then you add a thrust punch. This makes the “grab-pull-take” technique. See drawing 21:
The grabbing [and pulling] is light and easy. The taking is heavy and solid. These two parts consist of hand actions that involve lightness and heaviness, as well as going to the side and then going forward. This is a continuous movement which then goes right into an attack. This technique has the effect of seizing, sealing, and striking. [These words might seem like they would be a clearer name for the posture, except that they would lack the sheer greed implied by “grab-pull-take”. This is a mantis that is not only stealing a peach with its disproportionately huge arms, but also taking a defiant chomp out of it right in front of your face. “Grab-pull-take” = “You-are-mine”.]
Posture 22: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT LEADING-DOWNWARD PUNCH
Your rear foot urges forward a step so that your feet are standing together [and then your left foot steps forward to maintain a left mountain-climbing stance] as your left palm flings out along your right arm, [both arms] rising, carrying over your head, and then your right hand arcs out upward from below as a backfist [your left palm striking against the wrist area]. See drawing 22:
My hand has been grabbed by the opponent, and so I have to immediately escape in order to avoid being under his control. To merely escape is not the way of Mantis Boxing. The way is to go from escaping right into counterattacking, and so I viciously whip out a backfist upward from below [to smash his groin]. This technique should not used rashly or you may end up causing some damage that you will feel guilty for.
Posture 23: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, SEAL & THRUST PUNCH
You have so far been traveling from east to west. Now you will begin traveling from the west back to the east. With your feet staying in their location, turn around [rightward] as your right fist does a reverse sealing action [i.e. backfist], striking away behind, your left fist going along with the turn of your body by thrusting out straight ahead. See drawing 23:
Striking above and then attacking below, striking to the right and then defending to the left, attacking in front and then attending to what is behind, and so on, are staples of boxing methods. This particular technique is an example of attacking in front and suddenly turning to attend to what is behind. As soon as I attack ferociously forward, I am suddenly being attacked from behind, and so I use this technique. This is the technique of BLACK TIGER STEALS THE HEART from the Yue school of boxing, which is to be linked together with the following posture as a continuous action. You have to give it great attention, relishing the experience of it, and then you will naturally obtain its essence.
Posture 24: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, HEART-STEALING PUNCH
Your front leg slightly lifts and takes advantage of the momentum generated from the lifting (due to the weight shifting slightly back and then bouncing forward again) by darting forward to make a horse-riding stance, your right fist at the same time going from a position of storing power at your waist to striking out in the same manner as a filling punch. See drawing 24:
When Yue Fei was tutored by the archer Zhou Tong, he received civil and martial training equally. Yue said: “If I become a general, I will make every soldier in my army an expert in boxing arts so that they have a backup arsenal of skills for dealing with whatever may happen on the battlefield.” He taught the technique of BLACK TIGER STEALS THE HEART when he later commanded an army. He gave personal instruction to his troops and they repeatedly performed amazing deeds. This is one of his simple and practical techniques.
Posture 25: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT PROPPING ELBOW
Your rear foot comes forward and stomps down next to your front foot as your left palm flings downward over your right arm to keep the opponent from seizing it, your right fist lowering and withdrawing, then your right foot steps out to make a big-dipper stance as your right arm bends back and the elbow props up. See drawing 25:
Techniques like “stripping hand” and “propping elbow” are close-quarters techniques, superb at short range. Whenever you swing an elbow across to either side, advance while sending out a stripping hand, use a propping elbow, or any other elbow technique, they are all for when the opponent is already close to you. When the situation is an emergency, it is necessary to rely on a succession of short-range techniques to get the best results.
Posture 26: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LOW CHOP
Without changing your stance, your right arm seizes the opportunity by chopping down with a vertical fist, the arm and your left palm striking against each other on the way, making an audible crack. See drawing 26:
When my right elbow props up, my middle area and lower area are now open and prone to being suddenly attacked. Once the opponent sneaks a hand in, I have to use a technique that is extremely quick in order to deal with this imminent threat. Staying where I am and simply chopping down will be very effective.
Posture 27: RUNNING STEP, HIGH CARRYING HAND
Your left foot advances, then your right foot, so that you are standing with your feet together. However, this is a position that would be too easy to take advantage of, and so you lunge straight in, as though with a leaping stride, while your [right] hand carries upward from below, the arm and your left palm again striking against each other on the way. As your [right arm] reaches its final position, you are making a [left] big-dipper stance [your left foot going forward following from the lunging step of your right foot]. See drawing 27:
Once my low chop has dropped down, my upper area feels too open. The opponent is sure to take advantage of this opening and sneak in to attack my upper area. Before he can reach me, I have to lunge straight in and whip my right hand upward, with which I easily carry away his attacking hand.
Posture 28: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
With your position not changing [your right foot advancing to make a right big-dipper stance], your right hand withdraws, then strikes out with a filling punch, same as in Posture 2. See drawing 28:
Same as in Posture 2.
Posture 29: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
Explanation & application:
Same as in Posture 7. See drawing 29:
Posture 30: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
Explanation & application:
Same as in Posture 8. See drawing 30:
Posture 31: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
Explanation & application:
Same as in Posture 6. See drawing 31:
Posture 32: STEP TO AN ANGLE, RIGHT TWINING SILK
From doing a straight-line punch with a sealing hand, turn to the right with a twining-silk action [your right foot pivoting outward a hundred thirty-five degrees, your left foot stepping around it and forward to the right side], making a large turn that brings you facing toward the right side [your head turning ninety degrees, your torso torquing further]. See drawing 32:
Same as in Postures 7 and 29, except that once the opponent has been grabbed, he this time steps away diagonally toward my right side, so I go along with his movement by turning, not allowing his attempt to escape.
Posture 33: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
Go into a diagonal left mountain-climbing stance as you execute a hanging hand and a thrust punch. The previous occasions [of going from twining silk into a thrust punch (Postures 8 and 30, and then again in Posture 38 below)] were performed in a big-dipper stance. This version is different because it uses a stance that fills rather than remaining empty. See drawing 33:
The opponent has escaped my twining-silk maneuver and now chops down toward my upper area, so I use a hanging hand to block it and counterattack with a thrust punch. This is a technique of switching from attack to defense.
Posture 34: FLINGING PALM, RIGHT GRAB-KICK
This is mostly the same as in Posture 9, except that in that case it was coming from a big-dipper stance whereas in this case it is coming from a mountain-climbing stance, a more grounded position, and so the two instances are different in terms of their level of hardness or softness, emptiness or fullness. See drawing 34:
When I send out the thrust punch, the opponent has to deal with it urgently, so he slightly retreats in order to evade it. If he seals off my punch, I will end up in a disadvantageous position. Therefore I immediately use a flinging palm and grab-kick to fend him off, which enables me to dispel his sealing hand and then suddenly attack him with a kick. This is a technique at a high level, something other techniques are no match for.
Posture 35: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
A filling punch usually involves the same hand and foot going forward, but this posture changes the pattern by instead going from the grab-kick into a withdrawing step and then sending out the punch, thus putting you into a left mountain-climbing stance even though you are doing a right filling punch. See drawing 35:
Once my leg is lifted, stepping straight down to punch may bring me too close to the opponent, giving me no room to do the punch. Therefore this is an adaptive version of the technique for when retreating is what is required.
Posture 36: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT LEADING-DOWNWARD PUNCH
Your left palm threads out from your right armpit as your right fist goes upward, to the rear, and arcs forward, going out as a backfist, your left palm striking against it [against the wrist area], your rear foot at the same time going forward a half step [followed by your front foot also going forward a half step] to make the same mountain-climbing stance. See drawing 36:
The opponent has sealed off my filling punch. If I allow him to get away with sealing or twining, I would be putting myself in a disadvantageous position, and so I first extricate my hand by way of threading and carrying, then whip out a backfist upward from below toward his lower area. This is a technique of drawing him in and then striking.
Posture 37: TWINING SILK, LARGE TURN
This is the same thing as turning from a big-dipper stance [as in Posture 32, in which your right foot was the front foot], except that this time you are turning from a side angle all the way around back to the main straight line of the set [going from a left mountain-climbing stance, in which your right foot is the rear foot]. From your right hand twining around the opponent’s, follow him all the way around in a circle to the right until you are back on the straight line [your right foot pivoting outward two hundred and seventy degrees, your left foot stepping around it and straight ahead, your head also making a turn of two hundred and seventy degrees, your torso torquing further]. See drawing 37:
The opponent tries to seal off my hand, so I turn my right hand over and twine around his, but he is too quick, turning his body and stepping away [to my right], so I turn around along with his movement, tightly following him, not letting him escape.
Posture 38: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, HANG & THRUST PUNCH
Same as in Posture 8. See drawing 38:
There is a defending and a counterattacking, which should be distinguished from each other.
Posture 39: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CARRYING, FILLING PUNCH
Explanation & application:
Same as in Posture 31. See drawing 39:
Posture 40: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
Turn around toward the front to make a [left] big-dipper stance, your hands arcing along with the turn to make the position of “catching a cicada”. See drawing 40a:
My hands go first outward and then inward to catch the opponent’s hand while I use a big-dipper stance to control his front leg. Getting pulled above while being jammed below makes it hard for him to escape. This is the final posture of the Dodging Hardness boxing set, and indeed is a common final posture for the sets in Mantis Boxing. Usually involving a sitting-tiger stance, or in this case a big-dipper stance, it is one of the more distinctive postures in the art.
As you finish the set, the direction you are facing changes. When you stand up to bow to the audience, you are not really bound to a fixed direction. The audience is mostly in a certain direction (i.e. in front of the stage) but might be spread beyond that area, and thus you must turn toward them in order to be able to bow to them. This is not much different from the opening posture, except that in that case you were bowing before the posture rather than after. This is a movement that is done after your performance is finished. See drawing 40b:
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[This book was combined together with Charging Punches and Eighteen Elders as a special volume celebrating these three core sets of the Mantis curriculum, published 45th year of the cycle, 2nd month, 26th day (i.e. Mar 24, 1968), for which an additional piece of cover calligraphy was added.]
Combined in One Volume: Dodging Hardness Boxing Set, Charging Punches Boxing Set, and Eighteen Elders Boxing Set
– calligraphy by Huang Pengying
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[View an original Chinese edition of Combined in One Volume, provided by the Ravenswood Academy.]
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[As a bonus, included below are half a dozen chapters from Huang’s Notes on the Mantis Boxing Art (1951).]
DEBUNKING IMPERVIOUSNESS TO SABERS AND SPEARS
Our nation’s five thousand years of culture and history is known of throughout the world. We have gone through many national calamities and still we are here, thanks to our culture and history binding us together. However, there have been some silly writers with zany ideas. Frustrated at not being accepted among the highest literary circles, they have used their elegant phrasings to instead make ceaseless distortions of reality, writing fiction comprised of the most absurd and bizarre fantasies, leading people into superstitious beliefs. In modern times, there are people who are even more shameless, those who make comic books, which are filled primarily with depictions of magical marvelous heroes. They include just a few words in speech bubbles in order for it to be easier for women and children to read. The makers of these “books” do not realize the effect they have on impressionable children, inspiring them leave home to go engage in some ascetic training in the belief that they can become just like the “sword immortals” that they had read about.
This gives heartache and headache to people who have a more worldly awareness, who are critical of such mystical practices, and who have requested that I expose some of these tricks, bringing falsehoods back down to earth so that truth can rise up, like a spring breeze scattering seeds. Over the course of teaching for the last eighteen years, I have always refrained from ranking the worth of different styles of martial arts, concerned only with the building of skills and improvement over time.
If something in the training is difficult, I encourage students to bring it up and ask about it. When I then respond with the seed-spreading breeze of demystifying an issue, students often remark that they feel quite relieved to have it cleared up. However, a younger student once asked me: “Will practicing boxing arts one day make me impervious to sabers and spears?” At first I was taken aback by his question, then I realized he had simply been seduced by dangerous nonsense and explained to him that it was just a metaphor. Most have comfortably accepted reality, but there are still some who are too enchanted by the idea and refuse to awaken to the truth. In order to clear up this erroneous notion, I will briefly give the gist of it below.
Examine what sabers and spear tips are made of. They are constructed of tempered steel cast from purified iron and are peerlessly sharp. Even if they are made of bronze, which will break from a single swing that clashes against another blade, the flesh and blood of the human body nevertheless cannot withstand it. A certain gentlemen argued with me: “I’ve seen this done with my own eyes. A performer at a fairground had someone use a spear to stab to his throat and then use a saber to slash to his body, and he ended up without a scratch. Was his skill fake? Should I not believe my own eyes? Can you prove it wasn’t real?”
I said: “This is just how street performers make a living. Since you and I are both scholars of what they do, we shouldn’t be trying to wreck their livelihood. But for your own sake, the next time you see this, carefully observe how it’s done. For the spear to stab to the throat, the shaft has to be extra pliable. He starts by causing it to have some bend and only then brings the tip to his throat. It’s not a straight stab. For the saber to slash the belly, a duller blade is chosen. The belly is very springy and able to absorb quite a bit. By using a dull blade and keeping his belly soft, he won’t get hurt.” After he saw these feats performed again, he did not claim that what he saw was real. But alas, the world has developed an appetite for the supernatural.
REAL VERSUS FAKE
There is a common saying: “A musk deer’s scent is already strong enough. It doesn’t need a breeze from the east to help spread it.” We likewise do not need to be posing like gilded cowards and should instead resist such a tendency. Martial arts are supposed to be a practical field of study. Without going through the hardship of training, it is difficult to expect to get anything meaningful out of it. There are quite a few people who perform with uncommonly seen “archaic” weapons just so that they can then brag that they have a “rare” skill. They may perform with artistic and expressive motions in order to appeal to ordinary spectators, but they draw scorn from knowledgeable people.
We who practice martial arts have one goal: to obtain genuine skill, and to do so in such a way that it conforms to proper principles of improving one’s health. As for a desire to gain an empty reputation, how would that make you any better than a clown on a stage? By analogy, imagine a handsome young man standing tall in his Europeans clothes and polished leather shoes, but who never has a penny on him. He may look like a wealthy businessman, but that does not mean he has what it takes to be one. If we can instead thoroughly understand the secrets of these arts, we will be able to use them to defend our nation without ending up in disgrace like that young poser is destined for.
Therefore, my patriotic martial arts comrades, we should heighten our vigilance for distinguishing between real and fake. As long as we do not get deceived by degenerate frauds, there will then be hope for the future of Chinese martial arts. Otherwise there will nothing left but a footnote on a page of history. What a terrible pity that would be.
THE MEANING OF “FAST HANDS, SLOW SET”
Many practitioners of Mantis Boxing know the concept of “fast hands, slow set” [i.e. the speed of the hands in application being dependent on practicing the set properly], but it is both difficult to understand and difficult to do, and so there is little point in blaming students for going down the wrong path without noticing. When my fellow students and I practiced our techniques in front of our teacher Luo Guangyu, he often scolded us with: “What a mess!” He did this to give us an awareness of where we were making mistakes so that we could fix them right away, then quickly habituate doing them properly, and thereby progress to a level of success. Otherwise even several decades of practice would have been futile. Our teacher stayed in Hong Kong for more than ten years, where more than ten thousand students came to learn from him, but only a few managed to do the work to really get something out of it.
Because the movements in Mantis Boxing are fast, the punches, kicks, and steps can often get mixed up together. Added to that, beginners are in a hurry to learn everything, an attitude which consequently affects their performance, and so they cannot help but fall into the trap of making an incoherent mess. If this kind of error is allowed to continue, Mantis Boxing will end up distorted beyond recognition. If instead we can constantly guard against having such a mentality, we will perform the boxing sets and weapon sets well.
Although the hand goes out fast, the posture should remain stable. Although the foot rises fast, the stance should remain natural. Ignore how fast other people are doing the movements and keep your mind on what you yourself are doing. Strive to make your postures both beautiful and natural. The techniques are to be performed quickly and crisply. Send your kicks high without forcing them to get there. Advance and retreat in an orderly manner. Express power at a consistent level. Your gaze should be level and focused. When it is time to go low, you should drop down to crouch on the ground. When it is time to go high, you should rise and prop up. When it is time to go far, you should lunge forward. When it is time to retreat, you should immediately withdraw. If we can maintain these principles, we will ensure that Mantis Boxing always has its full page in history, and we will thus be worthy of being called students of the art. This is not only my hope, but should also be felt by future practitioners to be a duty.
In ancient discussions of warfare, the saying [from Art of War, chapter 7] “warfare is all about deception” was revered as the golden rule on the subject. [Or to put it another way: “The first ‘1st Rule of Warfare’: cheat!”] When people discuss warfare these days, they wax lyrical about “human wave attack”, “dominant firepower”, “triphibious assault”, and “total war”, currently considering these to be the best strategies. However, strategies such as “appear where he does not expect”, “attack where he is not prepared”, or “threaten to the east but strike to the west” are examples of deception.
When you are facing an opponent from a distance and you are both focusing your attention on each other, you should go right up in front of him and try to get him to shut his eyes for a moment, and then you will have an opportunity to exploit. Even if he urgently seeks a way to escape you once you are upon him, it will not be easy for him to find one. I heard my teacher Luo Guangyu say that he once suddenly spat in the face of an opponent, and that the opponent was so surprised by this that he closed his eyes and titled his head away, thereby giving Luo an amazing opportunity to attack him. Unless one is well-experienced, it is difficult to defend against this kind of situation.
Or if you happen to be fighting on sandy ground, pretend to stumble to the ground, grab a handful of sand, and then when the moment is right, throw it in your opponent’s face. As long as he does not detect what you are doing while you are on the ground, your ruse will work. Or if you are equally matched with your opponent, wave a hand and shout for help as if you have a friend behind him. This can cause him to turn his head, and then you can take advantage of the opportunity to charge in. This trick has never failed me.
The world is a dangerous place and people no longer have a traditional sense of decency. When people get into fights with each other, how are they acting in accordance with any ancient wisdom? In our modern world, pay attention to everything you do, being mindful everywhere you go, and then you will reduce the potential for unexpected things to happen to you. You cannot afford to not be vigilant.
HEALTH & HAPPINESS
When we examine what makes animals tick, we find that their existence is maintained by countless cells. The health or illness of human beings likewise has to do with how healthy our cells are. However, lifestyle also plays a huge role. Comparing the bodies of ancient and modern people, they are as different as clouds and dirt. Ancient people started working at sunrise and stopped working at sunset, their lives were full of structure, their thoughts were uncomplicated, and their minds were rarely overstimulated. Modern people on the other hand are obsessed with sensual pleasures, seeking new diversions all day long.
Between them, there is also a great difference in their amount of energy. This is mainly because so many people nowadays are living in cities. Consider how the foreigners are governing Hong Kong island, how they have covered it in sanitary facilities, how they keep the canals so much cleaner than those of rural areas, how energetically they work to prevent and eliminate tuberculosis. And yet they only get more and more paranoid about hygiene. Just what is the reason for this? It is because city dwellers have lost touch with life’s natural rhythms and regular patterns of eating.
People living in the countryside do not think about “health”. In their daily life, they shovel up piles of cow dung right next to their homes and their food is infested by various pests, and yet it is in the cities that we see illness everywhere. It is often in the news that someone suffering from a long-term illness has commit suicide. In one corner of Hong Kong Island alone, there are well over a hundred hospitals, large and small, public and private.
There is also the problem of overpopulation, which greatly concerns us all. What happens when someone who has been selling his labor for a meager wage [because there are too many people for everyone to get a high wage] suddenly falls ill and is stuck in bed? The members of his family already had no assurance of the next two meals, never mind medicines. How then would his illness not end up becoming terminal? And then after the family borrows what it can, sells what it can, even pawns off the children’s future, he dies anyway [and his family subsequently starves]. The hardship of disease is the greatest threat to human life.
If we want to eliminate this demon, we can build up our health in order to defeat it. And what is the best means of building health? Exercise! There are countless forms of exercise, but for accommodating one’s financial situation, schedule, environment, and capacity to accumulate accessories, there is no method better than martial arts, because practicing these arts does not require special facilities, lots of money, large groups, or an array of specialized equipment. If you wish to train to strengthen your body so that it is resistant against illness, and thereby achieve a state of cheerful contentment, you should not overlook martial arts.
ON THE FACTORS OF AN ATHLETIC LIFESTYLE
Everyone only knows that athletes have strong physiques, somehow assuming that they do not need to pay extra attention to the many details of daily life. It is not understood that there is no moment in which an athlete is not training his limbs or working to improve the condition of his organs so that they produce healthier cells that will further enhance his overall health. If he is careless about his diet to a small degree, it will impede his progress, and if to a large degree, it may even cause him to become ill.
During exercise, the area of the heart and stomach will receive moments of intense strain. If you do not get a proper period of rest after exercising and instead immediately consume cold products such as ice cream or soft drinks, a larger amount of blood will rush to your stomach area to provide heat, something that will invariably produce an upset stomach. Or if you consume hot drinks such as coffee or alcoholic drinks such as wine, your brain and heart will become fatigued from being overstimulated, and this will produce acute affects [such as headaches or heart palpitations]. Although these choices may make you feel temporarily invigorated, behaving in this way in the long-term will likely do harm to your heart and nervous system.
Over the course of exercising, muscles will expand and skin will sweat. I have often seen young people at such a time stand in the wind in order to cool off. There is nothing surprising about seeking temporary relief in this way, but during that moment of rapidly diminishing heat, wind and cold can invade to be hidden within and then spread effects through the whole body, thereby making the body easily susceptible to illness from external influences. However, those in our nation who promote physical education, especially martial arts, never pay attention to this point, and illness commonly manifests as a result.
Notice that when foreign athletes finish a period of exertion, they promptly cover themselves with a thick towel, demonstrating that they are aware of guarding against wind and cold getting into the body. I particularly recall that when the Danish soccer team came to Hong Kong for a competition, it was made a requirement that during each match there always had to be people carrying towels for all of the players so that they would get draped over with towels whenever they came off the field. (This was probably also done deliberately in order to draw attention to the sheer size of the Europeans compared to us shorter and smaller Chinese people.)
This towel-covering obsession shows that foreigners certainly have a great deal of common sense when it comes to exercise. No, I am not trying to curry favor with them by saying so. I am in no way trying to praise the moon in foreign countries as being brighter than the sun in China, so I will simply quote an idiom [from the Book of Poems, poem 184]: “The stones of other mountains are just as good at carving jade.” We will progress better as a species when we make use of the strengths of other cultures to offset our own drawbacks. If we have tunnel vision and become deluded that our culture is superior, I fear that physical education in our nation will have no future.