Note: I wrote this article for my teacher, the late Gene Chen, circa 1989 and then published it in my MAC magazine, 1991. Unfortunately, the article is erroneous and contains many errors. If you want more info about this, email me. You are forewarned about the article. Search and Prove all things. ---RDH
Hakka Praying Mantis
Chugar Gao: The Real Southern Mantis Boxing
Martial Arts of China Magazine, 1991
Roger D. Hagood for Sifu Chen Ching Hong (Eugene Chen)
Chu Gar Gao (Chu family religion) is a way of boxing developed with one purpose in mind: destroying the enemy. Understand that Chu Gar was created by the Ming Emperor's family (Chu Fook To) to serve the Ming Dynasty at a time when the Ching (Northern Manchurians) had invaded and taken control (1644 AD). Restore the Ming; Overthrow the Ching, was the primary purpose of the Chu Gar Style and the slogan of the day. It was the ruthlessness, bloodshed and violence of the Manchu rulers as they hunted down and destroyed revolutionaries of the Ming dynasty (Chu family) that caused Chu Gar to develop into a direct, deadly military fighting style---destroy the enemy before being destroyed.
Chu Fook To, of the Ming imperial court retreated to the sanctuary of the Northern Shaolin monastery and in pursuit the Ching court burned Songshan Shaolin forcing Chu and the Ming loyalists to flee southward where they settled at Fukien Shaolin with Chu Fook To becoming abbot and changing his name to "Tung Sim" (anguish) due to his deep anguish and hatred for the Ching's reign of terror and suffering. It was during this time that the Chu family boxing style was nicknamed "Southern Praying Mantis" in order to confuse the style with the Northern Shandong Mantis styles and avoid the persecution of the Ching soldiers.
The Chu family and Ming Loyalists who fled from the north southward became known as the Hakka (Ke-ren or guest people) in South China and the style was kept a Hakka secret as it passed generation upon generation until 1949 when Lau Sui, the Grandmaster who brought Hakka praying mantis to Hong Kong taught the first Non-Hakka generation (although this non-Hakka named Yi Sui became his son-in-law). From the time of Chu Fook To, the Chu family boxing passed to Lam Pok Koon who taught Chu Nam Chea, who then settled in Kwantung province. At this time the "South Mantis" followers were enough to form a large army and became recognized as a "para religious sect" or Chu Gar Gao. Others such as Wong Chun So, Wong Wo Wing and Wong Wo Chek continued to propagate Chu Gar down to Lau Choi Koon who during the Tai Ping (boxer) rebellion in the early 1900's taught the militiamen how to fight. Still others such as Yuen Chun, Kwai Chi Bong, Hon Loy Chung, Lee Mok Long carried the style to the present with great distinctions. The style as it is known today in the USA is primarily due to the brothers Lau Sui and Lau Fu Yuen who settled in Hong Kong in 1915.
Lau Sui opened the style in 1949 in Hong Kong when his five disciples each separated and created three separate streams within the style.. Chu Kwong Wha was Hakka, Chu Yu Hing was Hakka, Lum Wha was Hakka, Wong Hong Kwong was Hakka and Yi Sui who married Lau Sui's daughter became the first Non-Hakka to learn the system of Chu Gar Gao. After Lau Sui's death, his son-in-law, Yi Sui created the second stream known as Zhao Gar, named after Zhao An Nam who he proclaimed was the first ancestor of the style. Kwong Sai Jook Lum Southern Mantis became a third door of the style when a student of Lau Sui in Hong Kong wanted to make a movie in which the South Mantis would be defeated. When Lau Sui would not approve, the student broke away to create the Kwangsai Jook Lum stream of the style. Thus today, we know of three Southern mantis styles with one origin: Chu Gar, the original, Zhao Gar created by Yi Sui, and Kwong Sai Jook Lum created by Lau Sui's student.
I began to learn the Chu Gar style in 1953 from Chu Yu Hing's top disciple, Dong Yet Long, who was a cook at a local school. I was only a school boy then and when I approached Master Dong, he at once refused to teach, denying any knowledge of the art. However, through persistence and after approaching him again with my Mother by my side and making offerings of chicken, pork and wine I was finally accepted and introduced to Chu Yu Hing. Under his tutelage for 6 or 7 years the learning was slow but precise and it was at this time Choi Gam Man, a student of Chu Yu Hing taught me Yang's Tai Chi.
In 1959, along with my family I moved to the USA and it wasn't until 2 years later that I returned to Hong Kong to see Master Dong Yet Long and the Chu Gar family. During that time I trained with Yi Sui, Chu Yu Hing and Dong Yet Long and after six months resumed to the USA The next year (1962). I returned to Hong Kong and saw all the Chu Gar family but Yi Sui spending several months there. It wasn't for three years that I would return again to see everyone (except Wong Hong Kwong who had passed away). In that year (1965) Dong Yet Long gave a big banquet and Lum Wha, Yi Sui and Chu Yu Hing were all in attendance. During the banquet Yi Sui invited me to visit him the next day and I did so carrying gifts of herbs and teas. In exchange Yi Sui passed some Chu Gar sets on to me as a gift. His student Ho Ju Yuan was still around at that time and our friendships increased.
In 1970 Master Dong Yet Long conferred on me the title of Chief Instructor with certificate and Chu Yu Hing granted the title of Instructor with Certificate in 1971. During the 1970's I returned several times to visit my old teachers, classmates and friends and during this period I began to teach Chu Gar in the USA to a few selected students. In 1975 I stopped teaching the style due to the increased interest in the style and because I couldn't teach the style to just anyone based on the fact that the style is primarily focused on fighting.
The Chu Gar style is a complete system and is very dangerous. You learn to fight in a short time of training. It is an internal style capable of delivering internal force similar to a bent spring that has explosive force when released.
Although recognized as an in fighting style with the ability to explode power in any direction from short distances, the system's method also extends the arms longer than most northern styles by constantly rounding the back and stretching the arms, shoulders and rib cage also by shifting body angles for extension. Hence, the ability to use explosive force at short and longer than usual distances.
Basic training of this style consists of following the guiding principles such as sink, float, spit and swallow; (hunch back) rounding the back like a woven rice strainer; legs must have the ability to leap like a frog and maneuver like a tiger; no T stance and no 8 stance; punch straight from the center line and standing beggar style with open hands. The most important aspect of training is known as two man feeding. Feeding hands is the constant teaching of feeling and sensitivity, yielding and redirecting incoming power with mantis hand methods and simultaneously striking back with explosive force. Feeding hands is known as 'push hands' in Tai Chi but follows different patterns in Chu Gar with a different emphasis. Feeding hands employs circular movement which appears soft and is generated from the dantien as a pent up spring force all the sudden released with devastating explosive power with impact hard as iron. When feeding hands the emphasis is to never lose contact of the opponent; as long as you can feel the enemy you can control him; this is known as making a bridge. Feeding hands trains one to become extremely fast and alive, that is, able to react to the enemy's power. The majority of styles don't have this 'live power' and their power is dead power, that is, once an attack is launched there is no ability to change until completely executed or no ability to react to the enemy's immediate counter power. This feeding hands includes lower limbs as well. Auxiliary training in the style contains rolling iron bars along the arm 'bridges', using the iron rings along the forearms, training finger strength by special methods of throwing and grabbing sandbags, and use of a medicine ball to strengthen the whole body.
Chu Gar is an internal style. It follows internal principles and it borrows the enemies strength and uses it against them. The fist is also different and is known as "Fen An" or phoenix eye. This allows maneuverability in very quick action. It might be referred to as "acupuncture boxing" due to the fact that the single index knuckle is used to strike vital acupuncture centers in rapid succession without pulling back to a chambered position. Coupled with the internal spring power the mantis strike becomes deadly.
Compare a normal fist strike to a mantis fist strike. A normal fist has a large surface area and when it strikes the rib cage for example it does great damage to the outside of the body, bruising the muscles and tendons on the outside, however, the mantis fist used with the internal explosive force created during feeding hands exercises, goes between the ribs in a focused way doing damage to the outside of the body but also leaving the internal organs bruised and damaged Internally. A practical example of this difference can be seen when striking a heavy cardboard box. Set the box on a table and strike it with a normal closed fist and watch the result. Then strike it with the mantis fist or with a single finger penetration. The latter is focused and creates a single small hole. Couple this strike with the internal spring force and knowledge of acupuncture and Chu Gar becomes deadly.
Learning the Chu Gar style is like learning to drive a car. You learn how to steer, how to brake, how to turn, how to accelerate, etc. and in the beginning each is a task which needs concentration. But after a while, you perform all the operations of driving without conscious effort. So it is with learning kungfu. You learn the basic footwork of the style, the basic hand technique, the forms, the feeding hands, etc. until you perform the movements shifting weight side to side, forward and backward while employing the lightning fast hands of catching, holding, clasping, pressing, spearing, flicking, slicing, chopping, hooking, poking and exploding fingers without conscious effort.
Chu Gar fights from an upright position, never too low to impair response and speed. Using the feeling hands of the mantis, the Chu Gar boxer closes the gap, crosses the bridge, feels his enemies power, yields, then with the weight of the whole body and the explosive power of internal energy concentrated into one small area destroys the enemy within one exchange that doesn't stop until blood is drawn.
Practicing Chu Gar makes one aggressive in nature. And the constant rubbing, feeling, and turning of power acquired during feeding hands gives one confidence to defeat the enemy. Because of this I do not teach the Chu Gar openly today. Even when teaching, there are many techniques which are taught only to disciples within the family.
Chu Gar is a lost art. Few Masters remain and they have no interest to publicly teach this style. It is for this reason that I have considered to preserve and teach the basics of this rare military art through books and video tape, however, I have come to no satisfactory conclusion to do so.
As a member of the Chen's family of Chenjiagou village, I have mastered Chen style Taijiquan and today teach Chen's Taiji in the San Francisco Bay area. Having Chu Gar as a foundation was of great benefit, but in today's society we do not need to concentrate on fighting or overthrowing the officials. Chen's Taiji is also a highly effective and deadly combat art, but it is much more. It is a way of life teaching harmony, relaxation and tranquility. A way of adapting to life's complexities.
About the Author: Sifu Chen Ching Hong (Gene) was born in 1938 in Shanghai, China. A member of the Chen's family village, he is a Master of the Chen's Taijiquan and President of Chen's Taiji Association in the USA Sifu Chen is also one of only a handful of Masters recognized and certified as an Instructor by Lau Sui's Chu Gar Hakka family.
Martial Arts of China Magazine
Vol. 2, No. 1
Left: I made the Tea Ceremony to the late Sifu Gene Chen circa 1989 and became his disciple of Chu Gar Mantis. Chen Sifu only accepted some three Chu Gar Mantis disciples, although, he had a dozen or more Chen's Tai Chi disciples. A tribute to Chen Sifu is contained in Volume Five of the SURVEY eBook.
Back | Top | Next