Mantis master Mu Wei Shan is a practitioner of Taiji Mantis and Seven Star Mantis, who is famous in Yantai for his fighting skill. When
he was younger, he challenged anyone and everyone who was teaching kung fu and gained a reputation as a tough guy. He first trained under his father, Mu Chuan Zu, who trained Seven Star Mantis under Yang Wei Xin and later Taiji Mantis under Ji Chun Ting. He also spent some time training under grandmaster Cui Shou Shan as well as learning Bai Yuan Tongbei Quan.
Although he was a top fighter, he realised his system was incomplete, and so sent his son, Mu Dao Le (on the right of the photo) to study with my teacher, Zhou Zhen Dong. Mu Dao Le trained hard and attained a high level, becoming the official successor to my teacher.
Master Mu, I heard your father studied Taiji Mantis under Ji Chun Ting and Seven Star Mantis under Yang Wei Xin. Could you explain to us how your father found them….
I’ll explain as best as I can, but I’m old now, my mind isn’t clear. Somethings I can’t remember. My father’s name was Mu Chuan Zu, he was from Yantai, and later he moved to Shanghai. In Shanghai he attended a kung fu performance at a martial arts school. He was invited up to also perform. Later, an onlooker followed him out and challenged him. He used a “di bang” (a double handed press) to knock the guy down. After the guy stood up, he asked “who is your teacher?”
“Yantai city’s Yang Wei Xin”
This guy then asked my father to bring Yang Wei Xin to Shanghai to teach. This was the same time that Luo Guang Yu was teaching in Shanghai. Later, my father went to Qingdao. At that time, he had challenged a master of Sun Bin Quan, but lost and realised his kung fu wasn’t good enough. So he went to find Ji Chun Ting to improve his skill. He learnt 4 sections of Zhai Yao, Da Fan Che, Luan Jie.
And what did he learn under Yang Wei Xin?
Mostly Bai Yuan Tou Tao, Bai Yuan Chu Dong, Cha Chui, Si Lu Ben Da, stuff like that…..
How did you come to learn?
My father didn’t teach openly, he taught me after I was 16 years old. My father didn’t regard many masters highly in Yantai, mostly only Cui Shou Shan. He always said “only Cui Shou Shan played well”. So when I had learnt everything from my father, he took me to Cui Shou Shan to learn. That was around 50 years ago, I’m 73 now!
And how was the training under Cui Shou Shan?
He was very tough. When he taught me “pu zhou” ( a downward palm/forearm strike) I asked him how could such a short movement be any use. He then stood up and showed me, he grabbed one of my arms and then hit me so hard I don’t remember anything after that! He’s really the best master I ever met! No matter whether he used one fist, one palm, one block whatever, he would knock you straight down. When we trained, first we would stretch, then hold stances; gong bu, ma bu, han ji bu. But he taught me too slowly, he was so strict. Every movement had to be with the full body. So later I decided to train with a master of Bai Yuan Tongbei instead, as he was living much closer to me. Tongbei is a very good style too, really fast, and a lot of striking to the face.
Do you have any advice for people training kung fu?
Nowadays, most mantis players in Yantai can’t fight. There’s very few people I respect. Very few. If you’d have come here a few years back, when my health was better, I could have shown you a thing or two. Most people can talk the talk, this form, that form. Nowadays they are all about looking good, not about how to generate power. When you are learning kung fu, not only do you need a good shifu, you also need good training partners. Take single movements, drill them over and over. You need to learn to feel how to issue power, how to control distance. And you know, we never wore gloves, that makes your hands “dead”. Wearing gloves you can’t feel the opponent, you can’t control his arms. It’s not just about kickboxing, its about really using your mantis techniques.
The most important things are “yu huan bu” (jade ring step) and “yu huan shou” (jade ring hands), you need to seperate these. Normally when we say “yu huan bu”, we will take the opponents arm as it enters, seal it, and then move it with the feet and lean with the shoulder. A sudden burst of the power and the opponent falls. “Yu huan shou” you will grab the neck with a mantis hook. Don’t have your stance too wide, it’s “dead”. Cui Shou Shan taught me to have a medium stance, that way you can move quickly, but still be stable. We can say everything in mantis comes down to “la feng shou” (pull and seal hands). “La feng shou” means both of us using techniques on each other. When you seal the opponents arm, don’t seal at the wrist, the higher up the arm the better. Control their centre and move to the side. Move in close and make them feel locked up.
And finally, Master Mu, can you tell us was there much difference between the mantis taught by Cui Shou Shan and Ji Chun Ting?
Yes, quite different. When they sparred, Ji Chun Ting liked to enter with beng chui (a downward backfist), but Cui Shou Shan preferred fan zhang (reverse palm). You see fan zhang is more adaptable, it’s quicker and can change to other movements quicker. Their movements were very different too. Ji Chun Ting had learnt a lot of Long Fist, so his movements were longer and more expansive. His footwork was different too. Cui Shou Shan used smaller movements, and more full body power.