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. The version taught in Taiji Mantis is considerably longer and more complex than the version practiced in other branches; it was expanded on by Song Zi De.
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 a lot of repetition and combination.
Ba Fang Quan 八方拳
Ba Fang Quan means Eight Direction Boxing and is a form for teaching fighting multiple opponents. The form contains relatively few moves with a lot of repetition to different directions.
Fen She Ba Zhou 分身八肘
“Dividing the Body into 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).
Quan Zhong Zhai Yao 拳中摘要
Quan Zhong Zhai Yao means literally “to take what you want or need from the forms” 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. The techniques of Zhai Yao are arranged into short combinations, typically of 3-5 techniques, and it is these combinations that the term Meihua in Mantis derives from: 梅花开五福, meaning a plum blossom opens into five petals. When looking at the Zhai Yao forms compared to the older forms, you can see a marked difference in the way of fighting, Zhai Yao was a big development in Mantis and really characterised contemporary Mantis.
There is also a part seven, which teaches falling and tumbling techniques as well as groundfighting skills.