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Martial arts>Styles>Style descriptions: P

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Some styles of martial arts that begin with the letter P

Pa-qua (China)

A form of Daoist boxing meaning "eight diagram palm," referring to the eight trigrams symbols used as the basis of the Chinese classic, I-Ching (Book of Changes), that reflects the constant change and intuition central to pa-qua practice. Pa qua is classified as an internal system along with hsing-i and tai-chi.

Pa-qua's central exercise is walking in a circular pattern with careful foot and body postures, however, this should not be confused with the art's strategy. Many assume that a pa-qua practitioner circles an opponent looking for an opening, but the circularity instead refers to the use of circular movement, shifting, adjusting, and turning as a method of gaining advantage to the side or behind.

Opponent attacks are avoided, redirected, dissolved, lead, or unbalanced, which permits short, powerful counters. Defenders sometimes flow around an opponent's center; sometimes they enter into the center. They are always spinning, unbalancing, and controlling with constant counterattacks of sticking, open hand attacks, elbows, and striking palms, while always avoiding any fixed position or direct resistance. The effect is to create circular energy and power within the circular movement of the opponent, similar to aikido's strategy.

Although pa qua's origin is unknown, history recounts that the discipline was taught to Tung Hai Ch'uan (1798-1879) around 1820 by an unnamed Taoist priest in Kaingsu province who found Tung nearly dead from starvation and nursed him back to health. Later, Tung moved to Peking and became quite well known for his boxing skills. There he was challenged by another famous boxer, Kua Yun-Shen, from a rival style, hsing-i (divine hand), that was known for its direct and powerful linear style. The match lasted three days.

During the first two days, neither could gain an advantage; both were equally matched. On the third day, Tung took the offensive and ended up defeating his challenger. The two ended up as friends and vowed thereafter to teach the two styles together. Thus, even today when you find one system, the other is often taught along with it. Both are classified as internal disciplines that develop and utilize the internal energy of ki (chi in China). Both disciplines share the concept that the mind unites actions and thought into one. Thus, training the mind allows transformation of the internal to the external technique.

Praying mantis (tanglangquan/tanglangpai) (China)

This style imitates the movements of the praying mantis, an insect with a killer instinct and blinding speed. Tanglangpai is a combat system composed of several sub-styles that, due to the richness and complexity of their techniques, are considered styles by themselves.

Some of these styles were created by combining praying mantis boxing with other wushu systems. Some writers count more than 40 praying mantis styles. This description will only comment on the more ancient and traditional ones.

Wang Lang, the creator of tanglangpai, was born in the Jimo district, in Shandong Province. He lived during the fall of the Ming dynasty and as he was a patriot, some masters say he was the uncle of the last Ming emperor, he decided to excel in the martial arts to fight against the Qing dynasty's Manchurian rulers. He entered the Shaolin monastery in Songshang, but after being prosecuted by the Manchurians, he traveled throughout China, training in places where he could find gong-fu masters. In this way, he learned 17 Chinese boxing styles.

After this travel, Wang Lang entered the Laoshan monastery. Once there, he was always defeated by the abbot of the temple despite his deep knowledge of the fighting arts. One day, while he was meditating in a forest, he saw a fight between a praying mantis and a cicada. He was impressed by the aggressive attitude of the mantis and he began studying its movements. After a long learning time, he combined the praying mantis hand movements with the monkey steps he had learned, to enhance the coordination between hands and feet. With this new style, Wang Lang defeated the monastery abbot. Wang Lang kept modifying his system and when he felt satisfied with his creation, he accepted some disciples.

Even though praying mantis sub-styles are quite different, they all contain the basic structure created by Wang Lang:
  • 8 stances.
  • 12 keywords.
  • 8 rigid and 12 flexible methods.
  • 5 external elements.
  • 5 internal elements.
  • 8 non-attacking.
  • 8 attacking points.

Northern praying mantis is a style characterized by fast hand movements. The hook hands are the trademark of the style and they are found in all the Northern sub-styles. Northern tanglangquan's main weapon is the blinding speed of the hand that attempts to control and punch the opponent. It has a balanced combination of circular and straight movements.

Other important elements are the simultaneous block and punch, and strong chopping punches, which are practical movements for full contact or street fighting. Some Chinese martial artists say that seven-star praying mantis boxing (one of the sub-styles) is the most aggressive style created in China. Grappling, kicking, nerve attack, and weapons are also part of the Northern branch.

Southern praying mantis is very different. It is an infighting system that resembles wing-chun. Qigong is very important in the southern praying mantis. Movements are continuous and circular, and soft and hard, except when attacking, when the middle knuckle (phoenix eye) of the index finger is used like a needle to pierce the internal organs. The theory is that a punch with the fist produces an external muscular bruise, while striking with the phoenix eye produces an internal bruise.

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