Principles, Tactics, and Strategies of Hakka Mantis Boxing

Use these to Internalize your training.   Instill them in your memory.

The essence of Hakka Mantis Boxing is summarized in three:   Root, Feeling Hand, Target Practice.

Intent – Warrior Spirit

The first principle is intent or will-power.  Intent is simply defined as the “warrior spirit.” Without it, there is no focus of the body and mind into one purpose. Strike with the soul, and you will never miss. Thought and action are one.

Inner and Outer

Inwardly arouse the spirit but outwardly appear to be calm and at peace.

Broken and Constant

The spring power is broken into three but the warrior intent is constant.

Rooting in Stance

Rooting is the skill of developing the force of one thousand pounds in the feet.  With it, the stance is as firm as Mt. Tai and not easily moved.

Without rooting, the power of the fist will be stagnated in the chest and one’s feet will not be steady allowing him to be easily thrown about.

Strong legs and loose shoulders and the chi will sink down.  The root will be deep and iron steps firm and steady.  If one cannot root, stick and neutralize after years of training, he will always be controlled by his opponent. 

Feeling hand – Borrowing Force

Feeling hand is the reading of the opponents intent. It is as if the hand (body) has an eye of it’s own.

Controlling hand is the result of feeling hand. It is the jamming, trapping and deflecting and attacking of the opponents intent. This is done based on the control points of the body.

The motto, is “hand to hand, heart to heart, you don’t come, I won’t start.” (The hands are placed (chambered) above the heart and the elbows cover the ribcage to protect the internal organs).

Two man training is to know others.   Single man Shadowboxing is to know one’s self.

Vital Point Training – Target Practice

Variations in locating the points also exist.  Using the distance of one’s finger width, each spot may be located.  Some say from the head to the toe about every one inch contains a large spot and every 10th of an inch a small spot.  Chinese kungfu usually at the deepest level, speaks of these 36 large spots and 72 small spots – 108.

Hands are a Pair of Doors

Open the doors you expose the centerline, close the doors and you protect it. Above the solar plexus is the upper gate, between it and the groin is the middle gate and below the groin is the lower gate. Opening and closing the centerline, you use hands I use hands, you use feet, I use feet.  

When you show your temper, hold your hand.  When you show your hand, hold your temper.

Fists to Face

Visible fists strike invisible blows.

Centerline Theory

Centerline theory is military science, ie pistol training.  To stop a man dead in his tracks, destroy the brain;  Secondary target, the heart, although the aggressor may continue to live 6 minutes and fight 3 of them.  The next weakest links in the chain of life are the internal organs.  All these lie on the center line.  In mantis, the forearms and elbows are used to protect the centerline.


Contact, Control, Strike

This principle of contact, control and strike (until the opponent is red) is central to all mantis action and is based on the three powers of the arm; from the shoulder to the elbow, elbow to the wrist, wrist to the fingertips.

One Arm – Three Hands

Defend and attack with one arm is done by using the forearm for defensive movement while simultaneously attacking with the hand or fingers.  This can only be accomplished if one has understood the Centerline theory.

The mantis arm is composed of three “hands;” from the shoulder to the elbow, from the elbow to the wrist and from the wrist to the fingertips.  A good Mantis Boxer will use his “second hand” for control by pressing the forearm into the Centerline of his prey, at the same time striking a vital area with his “first” hand or fingers.

A skillful Mantis Boxer will defend and attack using one arm to trap and control the prey’s two arms, leaving one hand to attack freely, at will.

Sticky Hand

Sticky training is to learn relaxation.  It is the ability to not blink when being struck.  It is attaching to the center of the opponent’s being, neither pushing into nor pulling away from him. It is being perfectly attached in stillness and motion.  

Feeling hand is the result of sticky hand.  One must learn to neither anticipate the opponent’s movement nor telegraph his own.

Bridging, Range, Distance

A bridge is any part of the body used to close the distance to the opponent.  Arm and hands are commonly the bridge.  Single, Double, Triple bridging is possible using hands and feet.

Three methods are hard bridge (smash thru the opponent); soft bridge (borrowing force); and evasive bridge in which contact with the opponent is avoided or neutralized.

Any and each of the 18 offensive and defensive hands may be used as a bridge and their turning power then used for immediate striking.

Bridge Tactics

If there exists a bridge, then cross the bridge.

If no bridge exists, then make a bridge.

If under the bridge, then return to the top.   If on top of the bridge, stay on top and immediately cross.

If the opponent is stronger, enter the side gate.  If the opponent is weaker, enter the center gate.

Regular training may make one aggressive in nature.  And the constant rubbing, feeling, and turning of power acquired during feeding hands gives one confidence to defeat the enemy.

Dead Ging Power

If one’s ging cannot be easily changed according to the opponents reaction power and intent, then it is called “dead power”.  We see this in many Karate movements where force is met with greater force.  It is “dead ging” because once exerted it usually cannot change or re-issue power until it has been regenerated usually by chambering or pulling back the hand as in the reverse punch.  It cannot stick and follow the opponent because it is tense and stiff.

Live Ging Power

In contrast, “live power or ging” strikes, sticks to, follows and regenerates power by using the opponents movement.  The power is continuous and flowing without the need for pulling back the hand or recoiling the arm. One blow changes to another blow without ever breaking contact and always following the opponents movement. This is refined in Hakka Mantis two man training.


Ging Power

Ging (Jing) is based on the Lik (natural strength) of a person but it is not natural.  It is a refined strength, a strength that is acquired after special training.  Martial art often speaks of “fa jing or fat ging”, that is the issuing, emitting or sending forth of refined strength by various skills.

Lik and Ging Power

Think of the body builder.  He has both lik and ging.  His natural strength (lik) is due to his body size and his refined strength (ging) is developed in the movement of lifting weights. Therefore, his ging is useful in moving weights.  The person who digs ditches with a shovel will develop a refined power (ging) that allows him the greatest ease and comfort at shoveling.  We can see the better our (lik) natural strength the greater our refined strength will also be.

Ging not Buffalo Strength

Crossing hands one attempts to diffuse incoming forces by feeling and redirecting them. One should use refined force and technique and not rely on buffalo strength or brute force.  From the feet, waist, and shoulders power will arrive in the hands.

4 Word Secret of Ging:

  • Float – Ping Shu
  • Sink – Bao Zhang
  • Swallow – Gop Shu
  • Spit – Jek Shu

In essence, the 9 Defensive hands are Swallow and the 9 Offensive hands are Spit.  Float and Sink are functions of posture and ging.

Spring Power

Mei Hoc Kuen Do, Xin Hoc Ging – before you train the fists, train ging – explosive force (spring power).

This produces a live springy power (action-reaction force in a sticky way).  It is produced by the whole body in spiraling motions, as a spring is twisted and then released.  It is the function of the hand and foot arriving at the target intently at the same time.  There is a saying, “any deficiency of power in the hand can be found in the root and center.

The hand moves, the arm rotates and the weight is transferred from the ground up the heels matching the ankles, knees and hips.

When rooting, spring and spiral becomes skillful, one feels as if he is anchored fully to the earth.

Hakka Mantis Body Posture

Eyes to eyes, hand to hand, heart to heart – you don’t come – I won’t start.  You start and I will hit you first and continuously until you bleed.

Hands extended like a beggar, front leg bends, back leg struts.  Heel to toe, centered and shoulder’s width apart. Pull up the stomach, push down the ribs, elbows sink to the front.

Practitioners emulate the mantis fighting posture by extending their hands forward, with the elbows slightly bent and tucked in close to protect the centerline – like a mantis.  

The feet are separated by the distance of about 18-24 inches, shoulder width apart, with the bent lead leg supporting most of the weight, while the slightly curved leg acts as a strut.

Whole Body Power

For the feet, legs, and waist to act together as an integrated whole, to develop whole body power as one hand, one must keep heel to toe and shoulder width apart so that while advancing or withdrawing one can grasp the opportunity of favorable timing and advantageous position.

Center and Sink

Centering is a sinking power.  If the stance is too wide, too narrow, too long or too short, the center will be unstable.  Imagine an upside down triangle standing on it’s tip and you can see the slightest force will cause it to topple.  This is a floating center and should be avoided.


Centering is the development of the root. It is the lowering of the center of gravity within the body.  It is accomplished by breathing and correct body posture.  Like a triangle, one must develop a base in relationship with the other parts.

Sever the opponent’s root and center of gravity so that he can be defeated quickly and certainly.

One must develop the ability to disrupt the balance of an opponent by “feeling” where his or her center of gravity is and exploiting it.


Correct Horse is the father of Power.  Mor Sao (Grinding Hand) is the mother of hands.

Gathered through the feet and up the legs and back, the power is expressed in the hands. Without a firm stance there is no root and without a root there will be little power in the hands.

Up and Down – Forward and Back

If the opponent is tall, I seem taller.   If the opponent is small, I seem smaller.   Advancing to me he finds the distance long.   Retreating he finds the distance exasperatingly short.

Keep and Return

Keep what comes in. Return what is going away. Move in, make contact when there is none.   Give back what you get.  With one ounce one may return one thousand pounds.  Two tigers go separate ways knowing both will be injured and one may die.

Solo Training

Although, Hakka mantis combat is only mastered by two man (paired training) the essential skills must be thoroughly trained and made one’s own through solo training.  One must individually set a personal schedule and exercise himself daily until the fundamental skills, basics, single man forms, apparatus, and weapons are instinctually understood.

Paired Training

Self Defense requires two man training to be realistic and cannot be learned by shadowboxing alone.  Paired training is numerous from basic conditioning, strengthening, one – three – nine steps, sticky hands, sticky legs, sticky body, to the advanced two man sets and vital point target practice.  “One must borrow another’s hand but never hang his meat on their hook” is the Hakka saying.

Give yourself up to follow others and your hand will accurately weigh their force and your feet will measure the distance of their approach without mistake.

Physical Traits

As in any martial art one must develop Balance, Timing, Speed, Strength, and Coordination.  Balance from stance, Timing from not being afraid, Speed from repetition, Strength from two man live training, coordination from self exertion.  

Timing is more important than speed.

The hand going out does not miss the target (timing); the hand coming back always bring something with it (off the opponent).

One must develop the ability to disrupt the balance of an opponent by “feeling” where his or her center of gravity is and exploiting it.

Forward Momentum

The centered rooted posture must be expressed in a slight forward momentum to create a forward driving force in attack.  This forward momentum mimics the axis of the earth which is not upright but inclined on an approximate 15 degree inclination.

Form and Function

Being that the structure of this kungfu is based on the natural movements of man and the hand movements of a mantis, the style’s form and function express themselves as one.

How many times have we seen dozens of different stylists, all practicing their various forms, only to enter the fighting competition and become indistinguishable from each other?

That is to say, that their form and function is not the same.

Hakka Mantis is one style that exhibits form and function inseparably.

Body Weapons

When issuing three power rooted spring force, one may employ various bodily weapons in striking;

Head, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, fists (back fist, panther, ginger fist, phoenix, dragon, snake, thumb strikes, hammer fist), fingers, palms, hips, knees, shins, ankles, feet, and toes.

Mantis Tactics

A single movement of the arm may contain several actions.  Tactical operations of the hand include grappling, catching, holding, capturing, clasping with the forearms, slicing strikes with the knuckles, pressing with the elbow, sudden quick pushes with both hands, spearing with extended fingers, flicking of the hands in quick jabs, exploding fingers from the fists,
jerking the opponent’s arm, slicing and chopping with the edge of the palm, hooking and deflecting hands, elbow strikes, claw-like raking actions, and poking with the back of the hands.

Many of the movements are simultaneously defensive and offensive.  

The feet, ankles, knees and hips may mirror the hand movements.

Similarity in Styles

This style is connected by similarity with the Fukien Crane, Wing Chun, Dragon Shadow, and White Eyebrow styles (as well as the Okinawan Karate styles).

Its technique is based on a deep rooted firm upright stance, straight forward explosive force (of a sticky nature) and the use of turning or borrowing power with small deflective angles, circles and hooks.

Its essence is root, feeling hand, and target practice.

Conscious Training

By daily training and repitition, of these hands offensively and defensively in high, low, middle, left, right, center and back positions, the mind and body will gradually come to an instinctual action or reaction based on the “partners” intent.  

It is too late if one must think in combat.

Conscious, Instinctual, and Intuitive are the three phases of training one passes through.

Instinctual Training

In the beginning, one must be conscious of every minor correction before all skills become instinctual without thought.  

Like driving a car, one at first consciously thinks of applying the breaks, blinkers, horn, accelerator, but in time one instinctually drives while adjusting the radio and talking on the phone.  So it is when one reaches the instinctual level of boxing.

Intuitive Training

From Instinct, one will gradually over a long period of time, in two man training, reach the intuitive level where he can read the opponent’s anticipation or telegraphed motions before the
opponent has made them.

Intuitively, one will know the opponent’s intent and react by instinct.