Six Harmony Mantis

Six Harmony Praying Mantis, or liuhetanglang, is a style popular in the ZhaoYuan and HuangXian regions in the ShangDong province of China. It is also called the "soft praying mantis" because the style's movements can be described as primarily soft with hardness embedded within. This is in contrast with the more popular Seven Star Praying Mantis (qixingtanglang) where the movements are primarily hard with softness contained within. Except for the generation and utilization of the jing strengths, the two styles are essentially the same as far as techniques are concerned.

According to Mr. Zhang XiangSan's book "Liu He Tang Lang Quan", the primary lineage of Six Harmony Praying Mantis is Wang Lang - ? - Wei San - Lin ShiChun - Ding ZiCheng. A more comprehensive bilingual lineage tree of liuhetanglang can be found in Ilya Profatilov's mantis page.

According to Zhang's book, Lin ShiChun was from ZhaoYuan of ShanDong province and was already accomplished in his own family's martial art. His grandfather took in a refugee from the army, who taught Lin the Six Harmony Fist (liuhequan). Later, Lin's father invited Wei San to teach Praying Mantis to the Lin family. Wei was a quiet and private man, and he said very little about his background and lineage. He only mentioned that he was from a direct lineage under Wang Lang, but he never mentioned his teacher's name.

Wei was nicknamed "Duck Palm Wei San" because the little, ring, and middle fingers of his left hand were always stuck together. He was also an eccentric character. When something pleased him during a teaching session, he would suddenly go into a lengthy monologue, and would become angry when interrupted. His comings and goings were quite secretive. He would go off without notice on a long journey and disappear for days. In some cases his absense lasted for years. Once in his old age he returned to the Lin family from the northeastern China, and showed Lin ShiChun a "cat-ear" spear-head. He told Lin about an encounter in the mountains of the northeast with a spear-wielding young man who had sought him out to challenge him. They fought for three days and nights until Wei finally killed the challenger. During the three days and nights Wei learned the man's spear techniques, and taught them to Lin. After his return Wei realized that he was becoming too old to travel, and settled down with Lin's family to concentrate on his teaching. He died of old age in a year.

Lin ShiChun and liuhetanglang became famous after a famed encounter in the city market. He was involved in a verbal dispute in the market, causing a gang of 20-odd men to attack him. Somehow his trouser sash burst open at the start of the encounter, thus he was forced to hold his pants up with his left hand. He was still able to defeat the entire gang of attackers using only his right hand and footwork.

The Six Harmony Mantis practiced today were probably developed by Lin ShiChun, and includes six routines of mantis forms and one routine of Six Harmony Short Punch (liuheduanchui). At the time, Six Harmony Mantis was only popular among the wealthy families in the region. Ding ZiCheng was from the wealthiest family in HuangXian, having a near monopoly of the pawn shop business in the region. He not only invited Lin ShiChun to his own family to teach Six Harmony Mantis, but also acquired substantial knowledge of other martial art systems from the bodyguards he hired for his pawn shops. A more comprehensive biography of Ding ZiChen can also be found in Ilya's homepage.

The account of Grandmaster Liu's discipleship with Great Grandmaster Ding can be found in previous pages. The picture on the right was taken during this time (the original photo was kept by Grandmaster Liu). The young man in black was Grandmaster Liu. Standing to the left was Ding ZiCheng. Mr. Zhang XianSan, whom we mentioned earlier, was standing on the far left of the photo. He was Grandmaster Liu's fellow disciple under Ding. Both Zhang and Liu came to Taiwan separately during late 1940's, and was reunited through mutual friends. Because Zhang was senior to Grandmaster Liu both in age and under Ding's discipleship, Grandmaster Liu never taught liuhetanglang in Taiwan. Any students who were interested in this style were always referred, by Grandmaster Liu, to Zhang. When Grandmaster Liu visited Toronto in 1981 and was asked about the finer details of the style through Mr. Guo's copy of Ding ZiCheng's hand-written "Tang Lang Shou Fa Mi Jui", Grandmaster Liu demonstrated a mastery of Six Harmony Mantis techniques and was able to explain the techniques in great detail. Even though he had not publicly taught this style for almost half of a century, he was able to remember and perform all the routines with ease. It was evident that Grandmaster Liu's reluctance to teach the style was out of respect of his senior. This reflected the respect and loyalty among the older generation of Chinese martial artists.