UNDERSTANDING THE AVALANCHE STEPS BOXING SET
by Huang Hanxun [Wong Honfan] of Shunde
as taught by Luo Guangyu of Penglai, Shandong
postures performed by Mai Huayong & Dai Jincheng
postures photographed by Tan Yili
text proofread by Tan Yiren
[published in Hong Kong, 1955]
[translation by Paul Brennan, May, 2020]
Understanding the Avalanche Steps Boxing Set
– calligraphy by Guan Zhuo
 STANDING STABLY, BOTH FISTS STORING POWER
 SITTING-TIGER STANCE, DIAGONAL FILLING PUNCH
 SITTING-TIGER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT CHARGING PALM
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 LEAP, SEAL & THRUST PUNCH
 KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT PILING ELBOW
 KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT AVALANCHE PUNCH
 KICK FROM BEHIND, DOUBLE DEFLECTING HANDS
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, DOUBLE SEALING HANDS
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, HOOKING HAND, CHOPPING PUNCH
 RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
 SITTING-TIGER STANCE, WHEELING TECHNIQUE
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT CHARGING PALM
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, DOUBLE SEALING HANDS
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
 LIFTING LEG, LEFT HOOKING HAND
 LIFTED LEG, REVERSE LIFTING HOOK
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, RIGHT CRUSHING CHOP
 TWISTING STANCE, LEFT STICKY ELBOW
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT PROPPING ELBOW
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT DIAGONAL PALM
 HORSE-RIDING STANCE, FORWARD FILLING PUNCH
 DOUBLE HOOKING, LEFT SCOOPING KICK
 DOUBLE HOOKING, RIGHT SCOOPING KICK
 SITTING-TIGER STANCE, DOUBLE SNARING HANDS
 KICK, JAB TO THE EYES
 LIFTING LEG, STRIKING THE PALMS TOGETHER
 HOOKING HAND, REVERSE THRUSTING CLAW
 LEGS TOGETHER, RISE UP, SWINGING PUNCH
 LIFTING LEG, DOWNWARD INTERCEPTING FIST
 LIFTED LEG, CARRYING FIST
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, SEALING, EQUALIZING PALM
 REVERSE SEALING, LEFT TWISTING HIS FIST
 BLOCK & SEAL, RIGHT TWISTING HIS FIST
 HANGING HAND, PUNCH TO THE NAVEL
 GULP & SINK STANCE, RIGHT FANNING
 GULP & SINK STANCE, LEFT FANNING
 GULP & SINK STANCE, RIGHT FANNING
 DRAWING THE NEEDLE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT SWINGING PUNCH
 MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LEFT HOOKING HAND
 BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
 SITTING-TIGER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
Mantis Boxing was created about three hundred years ago and has been passed down through seven generations, no brief period. Over the generations, the art was recorded in handwritten manuals, and thus people who are not students of Mantis Boxing have heard of the art but are not aware of the source material for its skills.
While Master Luo was alive, I often stated an ambition to publish books about the art, and for this he gave me both permission and support. Just as I had started writing, war in the Pacific broke out and Luo decided he had to return north. Before leaving, he presented to me the posthumous writings of his teacher Fan Xudong and urged me to carry the art forward. Luo died the following year in Shanghai and I have since never dared to forget his last advice to me for a moment.
After the war had been won, I threw myself into writing. Secrets of the Mantis Boxing Art was published in 1946. An initial two thousand copies were printed, which were sold out by last spring. By the beginning of winter [Nov, 1954], the second edition was published. Avalanche Steps Boxing Set was published in 1947. Again an initial two thousand copies were printed, which were sold out by last autumn. I then made use of the photos I had inherited of Luo performing the set. There were only forty of these photos, so I supplemented them with a further seven photos of myself and produced the revised version, which forms Volume 8 of the Mantis Boxing Series.
Readers and gentlemen from many places who have helped support this work have urged me to make a book about the two-person version of this set, and hence here it is. As to whether it is of any worth or of low quality, I am not qualified to determine this. I can only do my best and then leave it up to your discerning judgment.
DISCUSSING THE “UNDERSTANDING” BOXING SETS
The Mantis boxing art is almost three hundred years old and everyone in martial arts circles has come to know of its innovative principles such as hardness and softness complementing each other, equal use of long range and short range, movements that are fast but not floating, and footwork that is stable but not sluggish. The art was created by Wang Lang, passed down to Fan Xudong, and then spread throughout Shandong. Luo Guangyu and Yang Weixin then came to Shanghai to teach these skills, and they gradually came to be renowned by southerners. Luo later came to Hong Kong to spread the art, where it earned the admiration of those in Cantonese martial arts circles.
The usual practice of boxing arts is simply a bunch of solo sets used for cultivating a certain level of skill, but Mantis Boxing has a unique feature: the “understanding” sets. What is taught through these sets is built entirely upon the original movements. [Many Chinese martial arts involve partner sets, but they are typically arranged from scratch rather than having the partner’s actions grafted directly upon the solo sets themselves.] Each posture in a set is given an interaction with an opponent in order to generate an appreciation for its function. This quickly causes the practitioner to be able to intuit many applications based on one realized example instead of resulting in learning the art but having the barrier of not knowing how to use any of it at all.
Once you have learned the Avalanche Steps solo set and can perform it at a high level of proficiency, you can then grab a fellow practitioner [who is also at a high level with the set] and go through the entire set, making the function of every movement clear and precise. Next you can switch roles so that both of you can obtain the same results. This will not only have an enormous effect on your movements, it will also help to mature your performance of ordinary two-person sets, making them more pleasing to the eye and exciting to watch. Then other basic boxing sets such as Dodging Hardness, Charging Punches, and Eighteen Elders can all be trained in this way, and by going through this process, you will already understand eighty or ninety percent of the material in more advanced boxing sets by the time you get to them.
Mantis Boxing practitioners who have not yet learned one of the understanding sets are actually lacking the most important part of the training. Because of this, I am starting with Avalanche Steps as the first book explaining the understanding sets in order for practitioners of this set to obtain a precise knowledge of it, and also for those have not yet practiced Mantis Boxing to get a look at the general workings of the art. I hope to continue along these lines and publish further such treatments about other sets so that those who are interested in studying Mantis Boxing will be able to get an authentic look at it.
Posture 1: STANDING STABLY, BOTH FISTS STORING POWER
In the photos, the person dressed entirely in black is Mai Huayong, who will be referred to simply as Person B, and the person dressed in black pants but with a blue jacket is Dai Jincheng, who will be referred to simply as Person A. A will be performing the actual Avalanche Steps boxing set. B will be the attacker. Both of you stand at attention, A standing in the east, B standing in the west. See photo 1a:
Both of you, grasp your hands into fists and pull them back at your waist as you look toward each other. There is a distance of about three feet between you. (This distance is based on average height and can of course be adjusted according to circumstances [the distance reducing below three feet for shorter people and increasing beyond three feet for taller people].) See photo 1b:
Posture 2: SITTING-TIGER STANCE, DIAGONAL FILLING PUNCH
B, your right foot advances to make a mountain-climbing stance as your right palm goes out to attack A’s face. See photo 2a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, your left foot shifts back and your right foot goes out to make a diagonal sitting-tiger stance as your left palm deflects B’s incoming palm and your right fist goes straight in to attack his armpit with a filling punch. See photo 2b (showing B not yet responding to A’s action):
Some people also call this technique SNATCHING A PEARL FROM UNDER THE SEA, indicating the cavernous area of the armpit and the pearl-like shape of the striking fist. To perform a filling punch in a sitting-tiger stance, which is an empty stance, is less common in Mantis Boxing than to perform it in a more grounded stance, but a solid technique above paired with an empty stance below is an equally excellent method, for it is actually easier to transition into.
Posture 3: SITTING-TIGER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
B, first your right palm slips down to seal off A’s incoming fist as your right foot withdraws, then your left foot advances to make a left bow & arrow stance as your left palm strikes to his face. See photo 3a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, first retreat your right foot and use both hands to make a “catching a cicada” gesture to seal off B’s left wrist and elbow while your left foot lifts up with a raising kick to his groin. B, your right palm chops down to dispel A’s incoming kick. See photo 3b:
This is the “catching a cicada” posture, frequently seen and used in Mantis Boxing, but usually only done in a sitting-tiger stance without lifting the foot. However, Master Luo often reminded us: “Whenever you’re in a sitting-tiger stance, you’re ready to kick.” In the two-person version of this set, we actually have the chance to try it this way, and so now the principle makes more sense.
Posture 4: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT CHARGING PALM
B, first cast off A’s sealing hands as your left foot steps back, then your right palm strikes to A’s face [as your right foot steps forward]. See photo 4a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, charge forward with a stomping action to again make a left mountain-climbing stance as you first send out your left palm to deflect B’s incoming palm [while stepping forward with your left foot] and then your left hand continues into doing a charging palm to his chest [as your right foot comes forward with a stomp and your left foot goes farther forward]. See photos 4b and 4c:
Posture 5: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
B, your right palm sinks down to seal off A’s left palm as your right foot retreats and your left palm strikes to his face. See photo 5a:
A, your left palm pulls back and deflects B’s incoming hand as your right foot advances and your right fist thrusts forward. See photo 5b:
B, retreat as you send your right palm carrying upward from below to block away A’s incoming fist. See photo 5c:
Posture 6: LEAP, SEAL & THRUST PUNCH
A, first your right fist becomes a sealing hand and seals off B’s right hand, then you leap forward into a one-legged stance on your left leg as your left fist goes forward to attack his face. See photo 6a:
B, your left palm threads upward to block A’s incoming fist. See photo 6b:
Whenever there is leaping in boxing arts, it should go high and far, and there should upon landing be an immediate establishing of stable balance. Wobbling indicates a superficial level of skill. By going high and far, the distance to the opponent is dramatically reduced, putting you in a commanding and superior position, but if your body is very light, you will have to completely rely on support from a strong sense of balance in order to avoid giving the opponent a gap to make use of.
Posture 7: KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT PILING ELBOW
A, first your right foot comes down and then your left foot follows it forward to make a kneeling stance as your left hand seals off B’s left hand and your right elbow bends and presses down against his arm. B, your right foot retreats to make a left kneeling stance, as your left arm bends to prevent A’s piling technique from injuring your elbow, your right palm guarding at your left shoulder. See photo 7:
The attacker in this situation has the high ground, and thus his power is like a heavy weight, causing pain that is difficult to bear. Bending your elbow is the only way to diminish the danger, and then you can send your elbow upward to dissolve the pressure. If you do not respond in this way, your arm will be at risk of getting broken. I hope practitioners will give attention to this point.
Posture 8: KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT AVALANCHE PUNCH
For both of you, your stance does not change. A, once B has bent his elbow and thus dispelled the effect of your piling elbow, abandon that attack and switch to attacking his upper area by striking downward to his face with an avalanche punch. B, send your right hand blocking upward to keep his punch from reaching you. See photo 8:
In the boxing arts of Guangdong and Guangxi, an avalanche punch is called a “hanging punch”. It delivers a great deal of power. Starting from a piling elbow, there is natural flow in switching to a downward strike to the face. This is a fierce technique within fighting. To deal with this attack, you have to be very alert.
Posture 9: KICK FROM BEHIND, DOUBLE DEFLECTING HANDS
B, continuing from facing each other in the same position, quickly pass behind A and use your right palm to strike to the back of his head. See photo 9a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, rise up and send your right foot kicking behind you as your palms counterattack behind, your left palm at long range, right palm at short range. See photo 9b:
B, your right foot lifts to evade A’s kick as your right palm slides down his arm to block his incoming hand. See photo 9c:
Posture 10: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, DOUBLE SEALING HANDS
B, once you have dispelled A’s simultaneous attacks above and below, then advance in front of A and send your left hand swinging across. See photo 10a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, your right foot quickly withdraws from its kick behind to make a horse-riding stance as your hands close toward each other to forcefully seal off B’s left arm, your right hand at his wrist with the center of the hand facing downward, your left hand at his elbow with the center of the hand facing upward. See photo 10b:
This posture was originally called LEADING A SHEEP WITH EASE. The attacker grabs the opponent with a downward-facing hand at the wrist and an upward-facing hand at the elbow and pulls. Within this action, there is also an intention of breaking his arm. Going along with the retreating momentum of the withdrawing foot is why the technique is named “with ease”. If you are affected by such a pull, first bend your elbow to dispel his potential to harm the joint, then follow along with his pull as a means to enter his space, while also seeking a weak point in order to counterattack him there. This in an advanced maneuver.
Posture 11: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, HOOKING HAND, CHOPPING PUNCH
B, staying where you are, send your right fist chopping down to A’s head. See photo 11a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, switch to a mountain-climbing stance as your left hand hooks away B’s incoming hand and your right fist chops to his head in return. See photo 11b:
B, your left hand lifts to block A’s incoming hand. See photo 11c:
Posture 12: RIGHT GRAB-PULL-TAKE
A, your right fist turns into a hooking hand and comes down to seal off B’s left hand [“grab”]. See photo 12a:
A, continuing by bringing your left hand over to the right to switch places with your right hand [“pull”] and thus enable your right fist to go straight in [“take”]. See photo 12b (showing B not yet blocking):
B, your right fist goes upward from your waist to block A’s punch. See photo 12c:
Posture 13: SITTING-TIGER STANCE, WHEELING TECHNIQUE
A, once your right fist has been blocked, it quickly changes to a sealing hand and seals off B’s right hand, then your right foot comes forward with a stomp and you crowd his space with a sitting-tiger stance as your left fist threads upward from below, thrusting to his chin. See photo 13a:
B, your left foot retreats a step to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your left palm threads out from below your armpit, your right fist sinking down in order to dispel A’s sealing hand. See photo 13b:
The original name of this posture is AVALANCHE STEP, therefore this posture represents the entire set. Whenever this posture appears in other sets, I have usually called it WHEELING TECHNIQUE, and so I have also done so in this case to make it consistent with the naming pattern for the rest of the sets. With the hands performing the successive roles of one hand sealing and the other hand whipping out, and since both hands are going upward from below, this name seems to suit it better.
Posture 14: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT CHARGING PALM
B, once [your left hand sets your right hand] free of this tangled position, and with your stance not changing, your right palm swings [leftward] to strike to the left side of A’s face. See photo 14a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, step forward to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your left palm deflects B’s incoming hand. See photo 14b:
A, then your left hand slides along the inside of B’s right arm and attacks. See photo 14c (showing B not yet responding to A’s action):
Posture 15: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
B, your right foot retreats a step as your right palm slides down to fling aside A’s incoming palm and your left palm counterattacks to his head. See photo 15a:
A, your right foot advances to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your left palm goes to the right to deflect B’s incoming hand and your right fist goes straight out from your waist to attack his middle area. See photo 15b:
The idea of a “filling punch”: when you see a gap, fill it. This filling punch, which follows through from a charging palm, goes beyond literally filling a gap, now involving a component of drawing attention with one hand in order to attack with the other. While your left palm dispels the attacks from B’s incoming left hand, he drops his guard on his right side and is now primed for you to fill the gap in his attention. Although this kind of technique occurs frequently in Mantis Boxing, do not take it for granted.
Posture 16: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, DOUBLE SEALING HANDS
B, your left foot retreats a step to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your right palm carries upward to dispel the threat from A’s incoming fist. See photo 16a (showing A not yet responding to B’s action):
A, your right fist changes into a sealing hand and seals off B’s right wrist as your left palm threads out underneath to seal off his upper arm, then you pull to the rear as you retreat to make a horse-riding stance. B, being dragged, you also switch to a horse-riding stance. See photo 16b:
The final position [for Person A] is the same as in Posture 10, except that in that case you were retreating a kick behind, whereas in this case you are retreating from a position of facing forward. This technique uses great strength, hence its original name of TYRANT INVITES A GUEST, for it involves an intention of forcing someone to do something, and it this regard it is the opposite of the situation in Posture 10 [in which you were pulling the opponent when was already moving forward, making use of his momentum, whereas here you are pulling him when he is retreating, forcing a complete reversal of the direction of force.]
Posture 17: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
B, your body turns to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your left fist goes out to strike to A’s face. See photo 17a:
A, with your right hand still holding B’s right arm, your left hand lets go of his right arm and seals off his left hand. See photo 17b:
A, Your right foot stomps and you shift forward into a left mountain-climbing stance, trapping B’s front leg, as your right hand lets go of his right hand and goes out as a palm with a diagonal slice to his waist. See photo 17c:
Posture 18: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
B, first hop back to keep your front leg from getting trapped and use your right hand to slap down onto A’s left wrist. See photo 18a:
B, then seal off A’s left hand [as you pull back your own left hand]. See photo 18b:
A, send out your right hand to seal off B’s right hand, freeing your left fist to send an avalanche punch downward to his face. See photo 18c:
Posture 19: LIFTING LEG, LEFT HOOKING HAND
B, first send your left fist from below to block A’s avalanche punch. See photo 19a:
B, [bring your left foot forward a half step and] use your right foot to kick to A from behind. See photo 19b:
A, your right fist withdraws and your left foot lifts as your left hand hooks away downward next to your body. See photo 19c:
Posture 20: LIFTED LEG, REVERSE LIFTING HOOK
B, now that A has avoided your attack by lifting his leg and hooking away your kick, if you do not quickly change your position, it will not be difficult for him to control you. Therefore continue by making use of a hopping method: quickly lift your left foot before your right foot has come all the way down and kick him from the front. A, simply send your left hand forward and carrying upward as a reverse hook, causing B to have no way for his kick to reach you. You can take advantage of this position by carrying still higher. B will want to bring his leg down right away, but if you can act quickly enough and carry his foot well beyond the horizontal line of his leg, then he will be at risk of losing his balance and have to quickly find a means of saving himself. See photo 20:
Posture 21: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, RIGHT CRUSHING CHOP
B, once A has spoiled your kick, follow through by bringing your left foot down into a horse-riding stance as you send your left fist out to attack his waist. See photo 21a:
A, use your left hand to seal off B’s incoming fist, then come down advancing into a horse-riding stance to trap his front leg as you send your right fist across to smash his neck. See photo 21b:
B, your right palm threads out past your left shoulder to brace away A’s chop. See photo 21c:
Posture 22: TWISTING STANCE, LEFT STICKY ELBOW
A, with your chopping punch deflected by B, switch to sealing off his wrist as you twist your stance to the right, bending your left elbow, and use it to prop up from below in order to break B’s elbow. See photo 22a:
B, switching to a mountain-climbing stance, sink your right arm down to dispel the force of A’s attack. Not only is it a very quick action for A to simply twist his stance, but the short-range sticky-elbow technique is quick and powerful. For using an elbow to break an elbow, there is no better method than this. You can retreat to try evade the brunt of the attack, but sinking the elbow to resist against it is actually the most appropriate and effective method. See photo 22b:
Posture 23: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT PROPPING ELBOW
A, since B has spoiled your sticky-elbow technique, advance to make a left mountain-climbing stance, your right hand still sealing off his right hand, as your left elbow slides along underneath his right arm to smash into his armpit. See photo 23a:
B, due to the fierceness of A’s attack, retreat to evade it and then sink your right elbow to press it down so that it has no way of reaching you at all. This can temporarily stop A’s propping-elbow technique, but he can continue to press the point with another sticky elbow and another propping elbow, and so on. Because it is difficult to prevent him from using further elbow techniques in such a position, you will have to step off at an angle to reorient yourself entirely and thereby take away his ability to advance with the same thing over and over. See photo 23b:
Posture 24: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT DIAGONAL PALM
B, from your sinking elbow position, advance your left foot so that your torso is squared with A’s and use your left palm to attack him. See photo 24a:
A, your right palm deflects B’s incoming palm. See photo 24b:
A, your right palm slides along his left arm, charging toward his chest, your left fist withdrawing to your waist. See photo 24c:
Posture 25: HORSE-RIDING STANCE, FORWARD FILLING PUNCH
B, first your left palm slides down and deflects A’s right palm, then your right palm strikes to his face. See photo 25a:
A, your right palm arcs around to the left to slap away B’s incoming palm as your left fist shoots out from your waist. See photo 25b:
B, your palms close inward and smash down onto A’s incoming punch, your right palm at long range [and thus onto his upper arm], left palm at short range [and thus onto his forearm]. See photo 25c:
Posture 26: DOUBLE HOOKING, LEFT SCOOPING KICK
B, once you have dispelled A’s incoming punch, quickly step over to A’s right side and send your right palm to strike to the back of his head. See photo 26a:
A, first use a right hooking hand to seal off B’s incoming hand at the wrist, then turning your body rightward, use your left foot to hook around his front leg and a left hooking hand to attack his throat. See photo 26b:
B, your right foot lifts to eliminate the threat of A’s scooping kick as you send your left hand out to eliminate the threat of his attack to your throat. See photo 26c:
Posture 27: DOUBLE HOOKING, RIGHT SCOOPING KICK
[B, your right foot comes down behind you to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your right fist withdraws to your waist and your left hand attacks A.] A, tightly seal off B’s left wrist to prevent that hand from being able to do anything to you, then quickly advance your right foot with a scooping kick to his front leg as your right hand becomes a hooking hand and attacks his throat. See photo 27a:
B, your left foot lifts as your right hand threads out, eliminating the threat of A’s attacks above and below simultaneously. See photo 27b:
The scooping kick is one of the characteristic techniques of Mantis Boxing. To apply this leg technique, it is necessary to first seal off the opponent’s incoming hand and then use your other hand to attack his throat, causing him to lean back. Once he is put in this position, a sudden attack to his lower body will be successful. If instead the kick was performed by itself, he would just calmly evade it.
Posture 28: SITTING-TIGER STANCE, DOUBLE SNARING HANDS
B, your left foot retreats to make a right mountain-climbing stance as [your left fist withdraws to your waist and] your right hand attacks A. A, take the initiative by lifting up your right foot and leaping forward, using the strength of your whole body, to crowd B as your hands pounce down to seize his right arm at the wrist and elbow, putting him in a position that could break his arm. See photo 28:
B, now that you are in an inferior position, the most important thing to do is rescue your right arm. Right when A’s hands arrive upon your arm, you will bend the elbow and sit into your stance in order to reduce the threat, then use your left hand to counterattack A where he is unguarded [which is depicted in photo 29a below], forcing him to let go in order to deal with your left hand. This is the tactic of “besieging Wei to rescue Zhao”.
Posture 29: KICK, JAB TO THE EYES
B, with your right arm having been seized, use the tactic of “besieging Wei to rescue Zhao” by sending out your left hand with a two-fingered jab to A’s eyes. See photo 29a:
A, adopting an “eye for an eye” attitude, first use your left hand to seal off B’s incoming hand, then hop forward and attack with a jab to his eyes and a kick to his groin at the same time. See photo 29b:
B, send your right hand up and left hand down to block A’s incoming attacks. See photo 29c:
Posture 30: LIFTING LEG, STRIKING THE PALMS TOGETHER
B, your right hand [retracts and then] shoots out to strike to the left side of A’s face. See photo 30a:
A, your right foot withdraws to make a one-legged stance as your left hand does a reverse sealing action to B’s incoming hand and your right hand pulls back, both palms coming together to strike his hand. See photo 30b:
This is the tactic of “to shoot a man, first shoot his horse” [from the poem “Forward to the Frontier” by Du Fu], or “to strike a man, first strike his hand”. I hope you will not underestimate the tactic of striking the opponent’s hand. Striking his hand in this way can not only stop his attack, it can also produce opportunities to counterattack. When you have no other choice, this technique can actually prove surprisingly effective, and thus we who work hard at practicing boxing arts have to give it attention.
Posture 31: HOOKING HAND, REVERSE THRUSTING CLAW
A, once you have stopped B’s incoming palm, your right hand becomes a hooking hand and slides along underneath his arm to thrust to his armpit with your wrist area. See photo 31a:
B, having been struck [on the hand] by A and now about to be struck again, suddenly jump away [and grab his right wrist] to eliminate the threat. See photo 31b:
A, before B pulled away and sealed off your right hand, you sent out a reverse claw. There is a reason for this use of a reverse claw instead of a fist or palm. Because the armpit is a small target, a fist may just run into some muscles, which would disperse the shock, whereas a reverse claw forms a smaller and sharper point, enabling the force of impact to penetrate all the way to the internal organs.
Posture 32: LEGS TOGETHER, RISE UP, SWINGING PUNCH
A, your left foot stomps forward to stand next to your right foot as your right [left] hand slaps downward to seal off B’s right hand, allowing your right hand to get free and swing across as a fist to his left temple. See photo 32a:
B, pull back your right hand, escaping from A’s grip, as you switch to a low horse-riding stance, ducking out of danger. See photo 32b:
According to the photo of my teacher performing this posture, it is to be done with a lifted leg, but I do it standing straight, which may spark some confusion. The swinging punch is a technique of hardness, while a one-legged position makes an empty stance, thus producing a top-heavy condition of solid above, empty below. Furthermore, the following posture involves lifting the leg anyway. Since there seems to be little reason to hold the leg up for both postures, I have thus decided to make these postures more distinct from each other.
Posture 33: LIFTING LEG, DOWNWARD INTERCEPTING FIST
B, because A’s attention is focused upon attacking your upper area and his lower area is consequently open, due to dropping into a horse-riding stance to duck his attack, take advantage of the situation by thrusting out your right fist from your waist to attack his waist area. This thrust punch in a horse-riding stance is very powerful and should not be used casually. A, lift your right leg to guard against B’s attack as your right fist follows through from its swing by arcing downward and blocking across, your left palm guarding at your right shoulder to prepare yourself against any surprises. See photo 33:
Posture 34: LIFTED LEG, CARRYING FIST
B, with your right fist having been intercepted, A will take advantage of your position if you do not quickly find another means of attack, and therefore withdraw your fist and do a second thrust, now to his upper area, [as you shift into a right mountain-climbing stance]. A, with your stance not changing, your right fist switches from intercepting below to carrying above, causing B’s incoming hand to miss its target and denying him an advantageous position, your left palm guarding at your belly in case he attacks again to your middle area. See photo 34:
Posture 35: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, SEALING, EQUALIZING PALM
A, your left hand threads out from below your right elbow to seal off B’s right wrist. See photo 35a:
A, your right foot comes down to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your right fist becomes a sideways palm and flings out underneath B’s right arm to attack his rib area. See photo 35b (showing A not yet responding to A’s action):
This posture looks similar to Posture 31, except in that case you were thrusting out with a reverse claw, whereas in this case you are using a sideways palm to slice to the opponent’s ribs. Practitioners of Mantis Boxing often perform attacks that seem similar to other attacks, but instead of simply being repetitive, they have the ingenuity to make unpredictable changes.
Posture 36: REVERSE SEALING, LEFT TWISTING HIS FIST
B, once you have been attacked, leap away, and once you have gone back an appropriate distance, your right hand seals of A’s right hand. A, do not wait for B’s sealing to sink in, send your hand upward from below to seal him off instead. See photo 36a:
A, once you have sealed off B’s hand, turn his wrist over until it is facing upward, then your left hand twists back his hand, locking his joint with a “coiling silk” method. See photo 36b:
Because you must not fail to take advantage of any opportunity, the thing to do here is to bend back the opponent’s hand. Locking joints and striking acupoints are major skills in boxing arts, and everyone with even a modicum of study is aware of their advantages and disadvantages. Striking acupoints is a challenge to even comprehend and is not easy to apply without a deep level of study and training, but once you have fully realized the methods of twisting bones and sinews, then everywhere the limbs can bend and move becomes a target.
Posture 37: BLOCK & SEAL, RIGHT TWISTING HIS FIST
B, if you do not quickly escape once your wrist has been grabbed by A, you are going to have a broken wrist, therefore turn your body around to the left and send your left fist striking down to his face [as your left foot steps forward]. See photo 37a:
A, first your left hand lefts go of A’s right hand and seals off B’s left hand. See photo 37b:
A, then your right hand twists back B’s wrist. See photo 37c:
Posture 38: HANGING HAND, PUNCH TO THE NAVEL
B, switch your feet, turning your body, and use your right fist to chop down to A’s head. See photo 38a:
A, stomp with your right foot and advance with your left foot, making a left mountain-climbing stance, as your left hand goes upward to block away B’s incoming hand and your right fist whips out upward from below to his navel, the center of the fist facing upward. See photo 38b:
B, retreat your right foot to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your left fist threads across [outward from inside] to block away A’s incoming fist. See photo 38c:
Posture 39: GULP & SINK STANCE, RIGHT FANNING
A, once your punch to B’s navel has been blocked, your left hand threads from below to seal off his left wrist, then your right foot advances to make a gulp & sink stance in order to trap his front leg as your right hand forms a claw and goes across to the right to snatch his right ear. See photo 39a:
B, your left foot lifts to avoid getting trapped as your right hand threads out to block A’s incoming hand. See photo 39b:
Performing a scooping kick involves a sealing action and then the use of hard power. This method of gulp & sink with fanning is similar to a scooping kick, but a scooping kick is an obvious attack and strikes with hardness, whereas this technique is more subtle and guides the opponent with softness. With this technique, the opponent can be seized and not really know what is going on until it is too late, and therein lies the ingenuity of it.
Posture 40: GULP & SINK STANCE, LEFT FANNING
B, pass behind A and use your right palm to attack the left side of his face. See photo 40a:
A, turn around and use your right hand to seal off B’s incoming hand. See photo 40b:
A, stomp with your right foot and step out with your left foot [to trap B’s right foot], making a gulp & sink stance, as your left hand reaches out to snatch his left ear. B, your right foot lifts as your left palm threads out, dispelling A’s simultaneous attacks above and below. See photo 40c:
Posture 41: GULP & SINK STANCE, RIGHT FANNING
B, your right foot retreats to make a left mountain-climbing stance. A, your left hand seals off B’s left hand, then your right foot advances to make a gulp & sink stance as your right hand reaches out to snatch his right ear. See photo 41a (which shows B already blocking A’s incoming hand):
B, as your right hand blocks A’s right hand, your left foot lifts to avoid getting trapped. See photo 41b:
The gulp & sink technique is very similar to a sweeping kick, but a sweeping kick reaches deeper and sits lower. Because the sweep involves dropping very low, the kick has less power. The gulp & sink method reaches out the foot not quite as far and stands slightly higher, which means that it advances more quickly and can retreat more easily. Initially it comes in rather lightly, and then once it has trapped the opponent’s front leg, it can express a great deal of power [especially with the hand swiping across in the opposite direction above]. The power level of the gulping technique is between a sweeping kick and a scooping kick [sweep = low power, gulp = medium power, scoop = high power]. I hope you will give this technique attention.
Posture 42: DRAWING THE NEEDLE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
B, your left foot comes down behind you to make a right mountain-climbing stance [as your right hand withdraws]. A, with your left hand still tightly gripping B’s left wrist, follow his retreat to make a left big-dipper stance, hooking around his front foot as your right hand becomes a palm and goes from below on the right side with a diagonal slicing action to his waist, your left hand at the same time pulling his hand in. With these three actions working in unison – pulling hand, trapping foot, slicing palm – this will cause him to lose his balance and topple. This technique uses great softness and yet is greatly effective. See photo 42:
Chief among the Mantis Boxing skills are the “eight hardnesses” and “twelve softnesses”. The technique of DRAWING THE NEEDLE, SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST is the softest of the softnesses. This quality will not be recognized very well in the beginning of the training and you will often execute various movements with too much strength. Not only would that be incompatible with this technique, it would also diminish its liveliness and make it sluggish.
Posture 43: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT SWINGING PUNCH
B, A has control over you to the left and right, above and below. If you are not careful, you will get toppled over, and so your whole body has to leap away, and then once you have leaped back [pulling back your left hand], your right hand seals off A’s left hand. See photo 43a:
A, your left foot comes to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your right hand slaps down onto B’s right hand, sealing off his hand and freeing your own so that you can now swing across to his head with your left fist, aiming for his right temple. B, sit down into a horse-riding stance and duck your head to evade A’s attack. See photo 43b:
When of the most difficult things in practicing Mantis Boxing is distinguishing and applying hardness and softness. For instance, the previous technique is the softest of the softnesses, but then this technique is a sudden change all the way to the opposite: the hardest of the hardnesses. If you are using hardness and softness randomly, not only does this indicate a shallow understanding of Mantis Boxing skills, it also means that you are a long way from being able to apply them.
Posture 44: MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT AVALANCHE PUNCH
B, once A’s fist has passed over you, quickly switch to a right mountain-climbing stance as you pull free your right hand and then send it out to seal off his left hand. See photo 44a:
A, slap down with your right hand to again seal off B’s right hand, freeing your left hand, then roll over your left elbow and send your left fist striking down to his face. B, your left hand goes up to block A’s attack. See photo 44b:
In Mantis Boxing, the combo of swinging punch followed by avalanche punch flows seamlessly from one to the other. Because the swinging punch sweeps across the opponent’s upper area, he must duck his head to evade it, and if not, he will have to block. Once he has ducked or blocked, it is natural to turn your torso to be facing forward and send an avalanche punch down onto his face. Any other response would feel contrary to the situation.
Posture 45: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, LEFT HOOKING HAND
B, your left hand hooks aside A’s left wrist as your right palm comes up and strikes to his left temple. See photo 45a:
A, sit back to make a left big-dipper stance as your left hand pulls back and hooks aside the wrist of B’s incoming hand. See photo 45b:
This action contains the quality of going from blocking to sealing. If you can seal off the opponent’s incoming hand, then you have seized control over the situation. It is a truism in fighting that victory is in the grasp of the one who first seizes control. If it is easy to gain control over you, you will always be in a disadvantageous position and it would be rare indeed for you not to lose. Therefore Mantis Boxing often uses the hooking hand as a means of seizing control.
Posture 46: BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
A, without giving B any chance to adjust his position, quickly advance your right foot to make a right big-dipper stance while sending your right fist thrusting out from your waist. See photo 46a:
B, scoot back in the same stance as your left palm goes across, pressing down A’s incoming hand, and your right palm counterattacks by striking down to his head. See photo 46b:
The filling punch has so far been performed in a mountain-climbing stance [Posture 5 and 15], a horse-riding stance [Posture 25], and a sitting-tiger stance [Posture 2]. With a mountain-climbing stance or horse-riding stance, it is a solid technique in a solid stance. With a sitting-tiger stance, it is a solid technique in an empty stance. Now with a big-dipper stance, it achieves equal parts of emptiness and fullness, hardness and softness. As for exactly which stance it should be applied in, this is ultimately determined by the particular situation. To suggest otherwise evokes the dubiousness of the armchair strategist.
Posture 47: SITTING-TIGER STANCE, CATCHING A CICADA
A, your right fist flings aside B’s incoming palm. See photo 47a:
Both of you, make a “catching a cicada” posture, A turning around to the left rear, B retreating your right foot. This wraps up the entire set. See photo 47b [which shows both people much closer together than they actually would be, resulting in a somewhat amusing impression of one guy tapping another on the shoulder to ask him what time the next bus arrives]:
With the entire set finished, both of you now stand at attention. See photo 47c:
A MESSAGE FOR FELLOW MANTIS BOXING PRACTITIONERS
Among animals, the mantis is just an insect! If you revere it as some kind of divine being, I am not going to argue with you. However, when Wang Lang created this boxing art, he patterned it entirely upon the external image of the animal. He then paired its fast hand movements with monkey stepping, and further accumulated principles such as the “twelve terms”, the “eight hardnesses” and “twelve softnesses”, and the “eight allowable targets” and “eight forbidden targets”. If you only think of the mantis as a supernatural creature, but the boxing skills based on its behavior – hardness and softness complementing each together, hands and feet working in unison, and so on – are entirely unknown to you, then the skills of Mantis Boxing will truly not be understood. All it takes is to imitate the lively actions of the mantis, and then we will have speed and attitude, use both hardness and softness, and combine several hand movements into a single technique, or combine hand movements and foot movements into a single technique, punching with each step.
We should first obtain knowledge, then study further and practice more. The process should take about three years to gain a small degree of success, five years to achieve a large success. Though of course not everyone has the same level of intelligence or will put in the same amount of work, and so one’s progress cannot really be scheduled. Master Luo would often scold us whenever we were doing it wrong because we were in too much of a hurry to succeed with these words: “What a mess!” When learning these skills, everyone wants to quickly surpass their teachers and fellow students. They also feel that having more and more sets to practice makes them somehow special. But learning boxing skills is no different than learning any other kind of skill. [Lun Yu, 13.17:] “If you push to get things done fast, they won’t get done at all.” This is especially true when it comes to the understanding sets, which are the most important part of the Mantis curriculum. Without the understanding sets, you would not know what makes the art tick, and then not only would you have learned a lot of useless stuff, you also would have wasted a great deal of energy in doing so.
When it comes to the understanding sets, you must choose a partner with the right temperament and with a similar skill level to yourself. If the opponent’s skills are immature, it will make your own progress sluggish. If instead the opponent’s skill far surpasses yours and you have to struggle to match his speed, you will both feel it is too awkward and grow to lose interest in it, ultimately accomplishing nothing. Therefore although the understanding sets seem like they would be easy [considering they are based on solo sets that you would have already learned], they are actually quite difficult.
Now that the time has come to publish Understanding the Avalanche Steps Boxing Set, I have to express my wholehearted sincerity to fellow enthusiasts, hoping that knowing how sincere I am will help induce you to give me corrections wherever they are needed.
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[View an original Chinese edition of Understanding the Avalanche Steps Boxing Set, provided by the Ravenswood Academy.]
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[Below are included the “eight allowable targets” and “eight forbidden targets” as described in Huang’s Secrets of the Mantis Boxing Art (1946).]
THE EIGHT ALLOWABLE TARGETS
These are all secondary targets. Although not life-threatening, they are sure to cause injury. If you encounter an attacker who is highly skilled, these will be sufficient to defeat him. But you must not employ them rashly or you may do injury to your own life-sparing virtue. I hope my fellow practitioners will be mindful.
1. the space between the eyebrows as well as the eyes themselves
2. the Ren Zhong acupoint above the upper lip
3. the hollow between cheek and earlobe
4. the spine
5. the lungs under the upper ribs
6. the pelvic bone
7. the soft tissue just below the kneecap
8. the shins
THE EIGHT FORBIDDEN TARGETS
All of these targets are for life-threatening situations [and are thus the primary targets]. If you are not fighting for your life, I hope you will not employ them. Only use them if your attacker clearly does not consider human life to be of any value.
1. the temples
2. the windpipe
3. the solar plexus
4. the false ribs
5. the groin
6. the kidneys
7. the tailbone
8. the ears
[A more extensive version of these targets appears in Huang Yuanxiu’s Martial Arts Discussions (1936), also included below.]
TARGETS OF KICKING & STRIKING
There are three kinds of targets: eight permissible targets, eight emergency targets, and eight forbidden targets. The eight permissible targets can be struck without causing injury during competition. The eight emergency targets are for punishing real-life attackers. The eight forbidden targets are too dangerous to strike. These three kinds of targets must be understood by students, and so they are listed below:
The eight permissible targets:
1 & 2. the upper ribs
3 & 4. the upper arms
5 & 6. the shoulder blades
7 & 8. the thighs
(These eight places can be struck during practice between teacher and pupil without impeding the training.)
The eight emergency targets:
1. the space between the eyebrows as well as the eyes themselves
2. the Renzhong acupoint above the upper lip
3. the hollow between earlobe and cheek
4. the spine
5. the elbow joint
6. the soft tissue just below the kneecap
7. the ankles
8. top of the foot, the toes, or shin
(If you encounter a criminal or ruffian whose actions are vicious, correct him from among these eight targets, rendering him either in pain or unconscious, incapacitating him from committing further evil.)
The eight forbidden targets:
1. the top of the head
2. the ears
3. the windpipe
4. the solar plexus
5. the false ribs
6. the groin
7. the kidneys
8. the tailbone
(Kicking or striking these eight targets will endanger someone’s life, and are therefore forbidden.)