exploring bamboo mantis freehand

Training mantis fist involves  partner drills and exercises that are set in pattern, but you should also work from a less scripted perspective from time to time (duh). This is the part of training that everyone wants to jump into. However, I would advise you to train the foundation skills and drills with extreme dedication before you start to open up the rules. Many find this training to be very confusing and frustrating. But with enough time actively training, a moment of pure zen will be had for each technique. The things that are  most difficult now will become strong in the student (that lives in disciplined focus ).

If you do not understand the basic methods of hand to hand combat, this will just turn into a  shit show right quick. Even if you do have a basic understanding, Mantis fist aims to fuck with your knowledge. You can gas out pretty quickly if you are not careful.

To train free play, we MUST rely upon maintaining correct body structure so that we do not lose sight of our motive, which is to get better at mantis fist. There is zero point to training a set of directives as intensely as we do in mantis if we are going to just ignore them when put under pressure in favor of an unrefined brute strength. The mantis drills are to be found in free form training by extracting the principles from the many taolo and various jongs.

To help with the learning process,  we may take basic push hands and confine it to a specific formula or isolate  foot movement such as in fixed step training. At other times, we may open up the foot work but require a consistent bridge. We will also work strictly from a broken bridge perspective.  In time, we will break all the barriers down to work all ranges and tactics.

In my experience, it is less then useful and sometimes futile for a student to skip progressions.

It is a fact,  shit goes crazy under spontaneous pressure.

There is not much you can you to deny this reality.

You must prepare for it.

You must get used to being put into an  uncomfortable place if you are going to get good putting another there.

In my way of compartmentalizing the skills of mantis, we can  look to a few principle ideas to gain a basic understanding.  These skills are trained to highlight specific principles from which to utilize in free form training or, should the need arise, during self protection application.

To put things in an oversimplified grouping:

  • The art of resistance training is honed through the various chy sau or grinding bridge drills where strength in structure is the internal focus to build hard power
  • The art of  chi sau or sticking hands is where you work on the feeling / listening skills of mantis fist used to control momentum for relaxed power.
  • The art of targeting is found within the saan sau drills often associated with ‘application’ training. These are trained for developing skill in an organized attack.

If you put these three basic principles to proper use while training the Buddhist Hands (by isolating them before combining),  then you will gain a deeper understanding of their individual energy–hundreds of hours are spent training jongs.

Nevertheless,  only through  free form training will the opportunities manifest for each principle to be primed for  a self protection situation and even then you need to also address conditioning ( da sau).

Here are some  unscripted free play clips of me teaching during some 1:1 sessions from last night.   My focus here was  simply providing lenient pressure and advice while the guys looked for answers and entrances to the center-line and/or disrupt structure-using their skill set.

Fixed step push hands is a great way to reinforce basic center line structure and proper rooting. The rules here are simple–relax and work your geometry. You are not allowed to move your feet.  Once one of you breaks root, then you both reset and try again. You should refrain from letting your structure break in order to get your partner to move.  You are looking to keep rooted as you intercept, redirect, and or absorb pressure while working to break your partner’s rooted structure through structural awareness.  The objective should be to remain in control of all movement and refrain from jerky unrefined energy.   See how the student here tries to respond and dominate me with out resetting which is essentially cheating but more importantly,  it is not a wise strategy…this is him resorting back to an unrefined mindset.

You should remain playful and in control always.

In free form training, the value of chi sau is in maintaining contact and if contact is broken, to  find a way to make bridge. As you hunt down your partners structure,  your listening skill will help address the momentum and pressure being used against you.  If you can relax and control everything you do then you are  gaining skill.

Once you understand the center-line by first isolating its  function, you can  then introduce  footwork to accompany the hands.  Although, it is a terrible mess if you have no foundation from which to rely upon..so again, I urge everyone to relax and train smarter.  When dealing with skilled chi sau,  you  yourself  can become tangled up rather easily by just flailing around, which MAY provide you a chance blow but nothing worth relying upon…time in training is the great teacher here.


When you find yourself  training from a broken bridge perspective, it is sometimes difficult to respond appropriately, thus students often waste precious energy by trying to get one over.    However, if we can draw upon the art then we can efficiently eat space while  we  simultaneously hunt the center.  Timing and angles are two very powerful components to making first contact  but these must be reinforced by proper conditioning and body mechanics. Training mantis footwork will address this reality.


Mantis fist teaches the value of our sacred geometry. This is the basis for learning to pace yourself and in-turn  you do not run out of energy before you learn to express it. You must  have functional discipline to make your body function.


Time in training is the only way to address unrefined strength….This unavoidable reality becomes clear under pressure.  Discipline in training reinforces the definition of martial gung fu. We must abandon many expectations and work on foundation. Mind. Body.Spirit.

Mantis boxers train daily and enjoy “touching hands” often…It is what we do.