Q &A 4/30/17

Q: Does Mantis have  iron shirt/fist type conditioning exercises?

A: Absolutely.
Southern Mantis is, by design, a combative art, and the skill of turning the body into a weapon is a fundamental focus for  practitioners.  There are several stages to the martial conditioning, taking one from their base level to iron  and then to cotton. The more you train, the more advanced your conditioning will become.   Along side the standard surfaces, there are many specialty skills as well that can be conditioned, such as the various claw hands, finger strikes, etc.  However, contact conditioning is trained systematically  with each progression regardless of skill level so as to not cause unnecessary damage to our joints,muscles, or bones.

First and foremost, I should note that the majority of the striking and contact skills are  reliant on having a partner to work with.  Live power is always best for real time feed back in martial application and will also greatly reduce your chances of long term injury. Training should always be done with contact in mind–even when training soft hand. As you are working on your technique, your partner is working on effectively receiving the output of energy,  all while  using the least amount of force to do so. Least amount of force does not mean weak force. Instead you should use relaxed force so that you do not waste energy.   With correct technique, you will cancel each other out or redirect and loop the sequence. If your technique is not correct, you will  immediately receive feedback.   That is to say you get a physical reminder. This is why we  increase the power of the strikes over time rather then using brute force on every exchange.  To regulate like this is for safety as well as comprehension. The harder you hit the harder you get hit.

hammer fist / palm conditioning

When there is no partner,  we do have tools to use so that we may continue training and gaining.  Bags of mung beans, stones and iron shot are used in various ways as are the standard heavy bags and other common striking mediums. We also have in house  tools to help specialized skills.   Here you also learn to understand the expression of power.  As a note:  I use bricks more for grip training then I do for striking.

The conditioning skills of Bamboo Mantis must allow for proper nerve function as well as the full articulation of the limbs and joints. The process is NOT designed to kill nerves or build up skin or bone callouses. These are considered less than desirable for long term use. We must not cause damage to ourselves in training if we expect to have the weapon at the ready afterwards.   My point here is that conditioning is more than slamming your hands, fists, elbows, shins  into hard things. Although this is a part of the process, it is only a part.
There are  numerous “gungs,” or skills, that use self regulatory breathing  and anatomical activation of the muscular system. The principles here are applied  to the lo-han conditioning process to facilitate striking power and for absorbing a blow. This aspect of conditioning would include martial yoga based principles as well as weight training and calisthenics. These are all part of  our martial fitness exercises.

 Q: Is Chi-Sau the Mantis equivalent of sparring or does it also have a different type of sparring that involves contact?
 A: Chi sau is  more of an advanced skill  that can be applied in sparring. There are several aspects to sparring in mantis fist.
Chi sau or Sticking hands can be used in close range while standing or while involved in grappling or wrestling to lock,trap and control. Chi sau is not a set pattern or singular exercise like many think although, there are many pattern drills to learn. It is the principle of redirection, control, trapping, etc.  These skills are decoded through systematic training of  the various angles, shapes, and pressures.  Chi sau is the art of  occupying the empty space. In that, it rides the space between you and your opponent.  It operates in the middle of  give and take and is in some ways the catalyst to the strike.

Chi Sau is the art of occupying  the empty space

Saan Sau would be the more common broken bridge expression of contact sparring that many envision.  This is trained to highlight fisticuffs from the broken bridge point of view.  First you learn to respond to an attack with a basic bridge hand and then to follow up with consecutive strikes in a set direction or combination exercise—usually 3 or 4 moves at a go. Each drill will highlight a tactic for entry worth recognizing.

kick defense

Over time, you learn to entwine these two principle skills together. These, along with the soft and hard hand technologies, are introduced to free hand rough housing or sparring.

Q: Mantis seems to be heavily focused on attacking, but does it also have blocks and defensive maneuvers?

 A: Mantis is an aggressive fighting art. Self protection is the driving force behind the training.  To properly protect yourself requires you to understand pressure…So we train with this intent.   As we work with our partner to strike vital targets  using saan sau, chi sau, or both we also learn how to respond by cutting angles, striking, intercepting, absorbing or evading the attack all together. Each hand shape has the ability to defend and/ or attack. Each hand shape has the Jeet ( interception) application built in.

With this thinking, we generally do not focus on defense as an individual skill but rather a consequence of engagement. While we may deflect or absorb a strike on our way to the center,  the block is never hard-line but rather a side-effect of the initial attack being intercepted.  Remember, the idea is to attack the nearest point of contact while moving through to the mother-line (dead center) of your opponent.

facing off

Over a short time, this concept will translate into the aggressive play common in a training hall. But in order to do so with real time strikes we must be consistent in our basic shapes and structures.

 With the comprehension of this basic methodology, the mantis boxer will not spend time “chasing hands” but maintain the ability to absorb and redirect the bridge.  It could be said that the most defensive aspect of mantis is found in the foot work.

Q: How do you balance the violence of martial art and the rest of your day to day? I heard that you can become too aggressive from training.

A:  There are a few things to keep in mind when addressing  this subject.
First and foremost, it is very true that to study a martial art is to study the art of war. This can cause  a certain type to have blood lust or just a hunger to test skill.  Realize that you are, in fact, spending your time learning how to effectively destroy or at the very least physically dominate another life–  a heavy concept that should be taken seriously.  Continuously firing this energy is stimulating the  CNS  with high intensity which can cause lots of internal chatter and external drama if not kept in check.      However,  as the great Johnny Cash once said,  “I am a dove with claws.”  This really is the answer to this self induced issue. What I mean to say is that if you got your shit together this is not an problem.

I am a dove with claws


It states directly in the sonnets, ” If you don’t strike, then I won’t strike.” This  should help ease any concern of harboring internal violence because of training. The next line in the poem states, ” You strike first, and I will hit first.” This  tells us again that we will respond only to open aggression. The verse concludes, ” Once I have begun I will not stop until the fight is done.” This states that if we fight, then we fight with unyielding tactic and intent–again only if pressed.  So, we know its NOT the system that makes one aggressive but the actions of  humans that brings this to the surface.

     While you are training a combative art it is incredibly easy just to get a big head and find yourself with a short fuse or a hair trigger–because, well, fighting. I have seen it, and I have experienced it. To  assume that you are better than other people is a false head trip that will only set you back, burn bridges, and cause strife in your education.  Let this take root and it will cause conflict both in and out of the training hall; however, this is only the case  if you are not well grounded. So if you are worried that you are not in control of your anger or aggression, take steps to be more grounded–go deeper into your training. Remember, the ones who speak of the ego in others are generally the ones who suffer from it….fuck those people. Keep training.


  If you can touch with control, then you can touch and control. Learn to temper the expression of your strikes without compromising the intent of your training, and you will not only be learning combat technology but you will be practicing mindfulness as well.

If you can touch with control, then you can touch and control.

If you practice mindfulness in training, then you can recognize your natural  temperament and physical strengths.  From there, you can augment them up of down as dictated by the moment. Basically, you learn to self regulate your energy by learning to concentrate on staying calm and focused– this is zen.    Understanding this actually improves the quality of your martial training as you are able to strike with cleaner intent and without  slapdash power.  Regardless of who you are training with, you can gain skill if you train intelligently. There is no room for bullshit in the training hall just as there is an overabundance of it outside.

Chi kung /hei gung  is in many ways  the study of human psychology– through self examination we learn the ways of mankind.   They say that chi kung can awaken dormant emotions or memories, and this is true…They also say that if you can think it, it is because it’s part of you, and if  the actions of another anger you, it’s because it is inside of you, too.    If you start to study the self, you are forced to confront the things within  that are ugly as well as beautiful. Once you recognize these things are within, you can then understand how to proceed in life. The world around you will change.  This is an ongoing process.

Q: Can you explain what Daoist yoga is?

A: The empty space. It might amaze you to know that traditional gung fu is ripe with self regulating exercises including many common “yoga” type skills. These are designed to keep you vibrant.

 For example:  If you look at the basic press up progressions and the get up exercises that  I teach;  these are all coded “yoga” exercises…slow them down and you can see clearly the methodology for this.  Martial art training is meant to strengthen the body and sharpen the mind for all aspect of life, not just self defense. This is why we say self protection. We protect ourselves  by sitting, standing, and moving from various anatomical positions with intent and focus. There just tends to be a strong martial influence seeded with in the practice.  Add to this focused breath and concentrated mind and you will have the yoga you seek.

This template is not seen by those who are in a hurry. All they see is straight line punching !!

I tell my students that they should train the system of mantis fist as a moving meditation– to seriously slow down each position and, more importantly, each transition.  Greater skill is achieved by focusing on the HOW of mantis as opposed to the WHEN of mantis.  You may be surprised at how sophisticated the training sequences are beyond just kicking and punching.

 Just as you can alter your breath for energy and outward power delivery, you can also re-calibrate breathing rhythms to  facilitate a calm, relaxed  mind. You learn to  focus on recognizing the exact structural alignments of your body  and then efficient mobility in conjunction to specific breathing exercises. These are proven methods  used to self regulate your nervous systems fight and flight responses. just take the martial mind out of the equation and see how the pieces fit.

There are specific forms or patterns to memorize as you learn the principles they offer. We have healing sounds and massage techniques as well.

Personally, I  value  mobility over flexibility when it comes to strength training, so my yoga has this as a focus. In this regard, these skills are also referred to as Martial Yoga, Buddhist Yoga, or simply  Dau Yan Hei Gung…the Art of Mind- Body- Spirit.

Q: Can you recommend some reading material?

I could do this all day I have a  library ripe with  American history as well as herbology,  philosophy and martial tactics books.  I very, very, very rarely read fiction, its been probably more then a dozen years since I read  anything to that front.  Books are amazing but I want to learn and I have my own imagination I have no time to read fiction.  Here are a few pics of the books closest to me as I sit here this moment.


Let’s start with a hand full of obvious personal favorites.

  1. The Book of Chuang Tzu by Chuang Tzu
  2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  3. The Tao Te Ching by Lau Tzu
  4. The Dao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
  5. The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff
  6. The War Prayer by Mark Twain
  7. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
  8. Siddhartha by Hermen Hess
  9. Living Buddha, Living Christ  by Thich Nhat Hanh
  10. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreou





If you have questions on martial art or self development
send  an email with Q&A in the title to simplygungfu@gmail.com