Originally known as Meihua mantis, the system was renamed Taiji mantis by Song Zi De, to seperate the branch from others which ,although used the name Meihua, he felt had undergone outside influences and changes. The name Taiji has nothing to do with the style Taiji Quan, it is merely a nod at the philosophical principles of Yin and Yang which are present in every aspect of the style. Song Zi De had two main disciples, Cui Shou Shan and Wang Yu Shan, who along with Li Kun Shan (disciple of Jiang Hua Long) were known as the Laiyang San Shan (three mountains of Laiyang) and famed for their skills and martial prowess. Taiji Mantis is known for it’s use of a unique kind of power, called Hu Lun Jin (囫囵劲) which uses the whole body in unison to focus power into a single point.
The syllabus of Taiji Mantis is notably smaller than other branches, containing only the essence of praying mantis. Weapons include sword, sabre, large sabre, long spear, staff, short stick and whip. Below are the main hand forms:
Beng Bu 崩补
Beng Bu is the first form taught, it is also the original form of praying mantis, along with Ba Zhou and Luan Jie. The movements within this set are all aimed at giving the practitioner explosive power and footwork. The form is particularly difficult and so gives a good foundation to build upon. It was said that Cui Shou Shan required students to practice this form for three years before he taught more advanced material.
Luan Jie 乱接
Luan Jie is made up of 36 techniques, which are said to be the mother techniques of mantis. The footwork is more compact and the techniques are more fluid than Bengbu. The form starts with Taiji (upward and downward), then goes on to the four directions (si xiang), which relate to the six lines of the hexagrams in Yi Jing. These are combined with six principles, yin/yang, xu/shi (empty/real), gang/rou (hard/soft) to form 36 techniques.
Mei Hua Lu 梅花路
“Plum flower road” was thought to be created by Song Zi De, and is a condensation of important mantis techniques and concepts. Master Zhang Kai Tang called Meihua Lu and Zhai Yao “the son forms”, as the techniques and theories have grown out of the original mother forms of Luan Jie and Ba Zhou. The names of the moves in Meihua Lu are written out as a poem in Chinese and show the creator was highly cultured. (video provided by my Kung Fu brother Niki Diestler, who teaches Taiji Mantis in Vienna, Austria. check him out here http://taijiarts.at/)
Zhong Lu Fan Che 中路翻车
“Middle road overturning the cart” is a form which was created by Li Dan Bai. He had originally learnt Chang Quan, but due to him always fighting got kicked out of that school. He had only learnt one form, Fan Che. Later he became friends with Jiang Hua Long and the two exchanged techniques, so Fan Che was absorbed into mantis. The form’s techiques are purely hard; no blocking or countering, just chopping and smashing the opponent regardless of what he does. The form contains few moves (around 5 core moves) with more repetitions.
Ba Fang 八方
This form translates as eight directions and is named as the opening to the form sees the practitioner leaping to the eight directions. It also contains some simple groundwork.
Ba Zhou 八肘
“Eight elbows” in fact relates to eight short-ranged methods; rather than specifically using the elbow, it also includes using the wrists, shoulders, hips etc to strike. It is also one of the orginal mantis forms, along with Beng Bu and Luan Jie and further expounds the ideas contained in Luan Jie. It takes eight concepts, yin/yang, xu/shi, gang/rou, jin/tui (advance/retreat) which combined with the eight elbows gives 64 techniques, organised into four or five short forms. The movements are performed slowly with the body held in tension, with strong, heavy footsteps and occasional bursts of explosive power, to build a kind of hard energy called Zhuo Jin (拙劲).
Zhai Yao 摘要
Zhai Yao means literally “to take what you want or need” and this is often translated as “the essentials”. Liang Xue Xiang taught a set of techniques and combinations called Mi Shou (secret hands) to Jiang Hua Long, who organised them into the Zhai Yao routines, which are divided into six parts. Parts 4-6 are considered high level forms and traditionally were not openly taught. There are said to be 365 techniques in line with the Yijing. “derived are the 360 days to a cycle. It is said heaven has 4 seasons, man has 4 limbs, fists have 4 shapes. Heaven has 8 sections, man has 8 sections etc….also delivering heaven has 365 days, Man has 365 parts, Fists have 365 hands. Heaven has 3 treasures (Moon, Sun, Stars) and Man has 3 treasures (Qi, Blood, Essence) and so forth.” Master Zhang Kai Tang condensed the six forms into one form named “zhai zhai yao” but unfortunately the form was not passed on.
There is also a part seven, which teaches falling and tumbling techniques as well as groundfighting skills.