The History of Eight Step Praying Mantis (Ba Bu Tang Lang)

The history of the Praying Mantis Style of Kung-Fu (T'ang L'ang Ch'uan) began in Gimore County in the Shantung Province, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). From the oral tradition and the writings of later Mantis masters, we know that the founder and patriarch of the style was Wang Lang. Wang Lang was the smartest and most talented child of his family, and from an early age had developed a great interest in the martial arts. He had travelled widely through China to learn the various arts, and soon became well known for his skills. Despite his mastery, Wang Lang felt that something was missing from his technique and decided to test himself. As it is well know, there were no better martial artists than those that were to be found in the temples of Shaolin. So, during the mid-Autumn festival, Wang Lang set out for the Lao Shan mountains to challenge the monks of the Shaolin Temple. Upon his arrival, the first thing he saw were taoist monks practicing the art of boxing in the main plaza of the temple. Wang Lang counted some sixty positions and styles that he had never seen before. Sensing that this was the perfect place to test his abilities, he challenged the monks but was ignored. Time and again he issued his challenge, but the silent monks would have no part of it. It took much time and patience for Wang Lang to persuade the monks at the temple to test him, but eventually they decided that he would fight a lower level student. Wang Lang had trained hard for many years and was confident in his abilities. This was the moment he had been waiting for. The fight was set. Wang Lang and his opponent of the famous Shaolin Temple were face to face. Wang Lang fought hard and with great swiftness but was defeated, for the abilities of the monk were far superior. There was much for him to learn. Wang Lang returned home. Determined and dedicated, he practiced very hard. After two years of continuous training, Wang Lang was in the best shape of his life. The time had come to test himself once again at the temple. Wang Lang returned to Shaolin, much more powerful and fierce than before. Once again he faced a student of the temple. This time Wang Lang was victorious. His rigorous training had paid off and his improvement became more and more evident as he moved higher through the ranks of monks. Wang Lang fought one monk after another until he was face to face with the head abbot of the monastery. Wang Lang had fought many fierce opponents and had proven himself a courageous fighter, but this was the true test. Wang Lang fought his best but was easily beaten by the abbot. Humiliated and aching, Wang Lang realized the depth of the abbot's martial skills and immediately left the temple. He had trained hard, but having tested himself he realized he would have to have much better technique as well. As Taoist masters have recognized, the answers to many questions can be found in nature by those who observe. It was in just this way that fate stepped in and changed the life of Wang Lang and the future of the martial arts. Resting his tired body, Wang Lang sat for a moment near a willow tree on the wooded slopes of the Lao Shan mountains. As he pondered on his unsuccessful fight and the reasons he lost it, his mind came to focus on his surroundings. He heard some curious sounds which grabbed his attention. Finding the source of these sounds, Wang Lang was amazed at the sight of two insects battling for their lives--a cicada and a much smaller praying mantis. The movements of this praying mantis were astonishing. With its strong legs and amazingly strong arms the mantis waited, ready. Drawing its opponent in, then striking with devastating power and fast, instinctive movements, the mantis was able to defeat its much larger and fiercer opponent. Wang Lang had discovered the key to what he had been missing. Astonished by the skills of the insect, Wang Lang captured the praying mantis and carried it with him on his return home. Having built a cage for his new friend, Wang Lang had decided to keep the mantis and study itÕs movements. Using chop sticks, Wang Lang spent much of his time battling with his tiny opponent, and very carefully watched to see which actions the mantis would take in order to defend itself. Wang Lang took these techniques and incorporated them into his training. Having learned the techniques of the Praying Mantis and having trained much harder, Wang Lang felt the time had come to test himself once again. Wang Lang could not forget the beating he had received last time, but he was dedicated to truly perfecting his skills. His defeat was all the more reason to return, and it was further evidence he had indeed chosen a worthy test. Wang Lang returned once more to the Shaolin Temple. The monks recognized Wang Lang and agreed that he should be able to test his skills. Once again he stood face to face with the head abbot of Shaolin Temple, but this time Wang Lang was victorious. Everyone was perplexed by this strange new form of fighting. How did he learn such skills, where had they come from, they asked. Wang Lang had defeated some of the Shaolin Temple's most fierce monks but now he had faced the fiercest and most skillful of all and had beaten him. The monks could hardly believe what they had seen. They could not let Wang Lang leave until they too learned these techniques. Wang Lang did not want to stay with the Shaolin monks so he left quietly in the night. The monks were left only with the memories of what they had seen Wang Lang use. Back home again, Wang Lang continued his training. He had discovered a very effective style but wasn't about to leave it at that. Wang Lang had fought many opponents in his lifetime and now he had faced the best in the world. Wang Lang now had the experience needed to develop and refine a fighting style that would be effective over any style or level of fighter. Wang Lang then dedicated himself to further develop the Praying Mantis system of fighting throughout his lifetime. Although his Praying Mantis techniques were very effective, Wang Lang realized a large part of his failure in his first fight with the head abbot of the Shaolin Temple was due to a lack of footwork. Once again an answer was to be found in nature. Carefully looking for the for the stepping techniques needed to complete his system, Wang Lang discovered the fast and deceptive footwork of the monkey. Their movements were swift and agile, skillful and tricky. The stepping and jumping techniques of the monkey were a very effective addition to what Wang Lang had developed, so he decided that he would incorporate them. During the rest of his life, Wang Lang further refined his Praying Mantis techniques until it was easily considered one of the most effective and fierce martial arts styles that had ever been seen. The art of Praying Mantis had become very famous, everyone had heard of its incredible effectiveness and many sought to learn, but despite all this the Praying Mantis system was kept very secret. Almost no one saw the techniques performed and little was heard other than the legendary stories and accounts of great men performing this elusive and secret style of fighting. Many years passed before in Tai City, during the 1800's, "Ghost Hands" appeared. Chiang Hua Long was the 7th generation master of the Praying Mantis system. Before him, much of this art form was shrouded in mystery. With his appearance people would again marvel at skills that had only been dreamt of. Famous for his lightning fast hands, "Ghost Hands" became a very prominent figure in Chinese history. Not only did Chiang Hua Long posses great skills as a martial artist, but he proved to be a person with the highest of morals as well. Taking from the rich to distribute to the poor, it is easy to see similarities between Chiang Hua Long and Robin Hood. Chiang Hua Long's courageous and selfless acts won him the love and admiration of the Chinese people. His mastery of the Praying Mantis system won him the respect of martial artist everywhere, and the fear of his enemies. To uphold his responsibility as Grandmaster of the style, Chiang Hua Long could never be short sighted. The very energetic jumping style of the monkey footwork was very effective but it required a great deal of energy. Chiang Hua Long realized that if he were to live up to his obligations he would have to maintain his fighting abilities well into his old age. He would have to create a new system of footwork that would use energy efficiently but also maintain the MantisÕs devastating effectiveness. Changing the Mantis system was not to be taken lightly, but as Grandmaster he was responsible for strengthening any weaknesses. Being well respected by the masters of the martial arts throughout China, Chiang Hua Long was in an advantageous position. Traveling throughout China, Chiang Hua Long met with masters of many styles. To have such a man as Chiang Hua Long ask about their techniques was a great honor. The masters of martial art's most effective systems openly shared their techniques and secrets with him. Chiang Hua Long studied the footwork of many styles such as Bagua and Tom Pei. He spent a great deal of time studying and experimenting with each movement. Having an incredible amount of experience Chopapplying his skills, Chiang Hua Long knew what would be an improvement and what would simply be change. Very carefully he considered each technique until, after ten years, he had narrowed down the most effective to eight short and eight long steps. Chiang Hua Long had taken one of the very most effective fighting systems in the world and was able to improve it. The Eight Step Praying Mantis system had been born. Although the Praying Mantis system was very famous, nothing was yet to be known about Chiang Hua Long's innovations. The techniques of the Praying Mantis had been kept secret for centuries. Chiang Hua Long had a great many, dedicated students. If this new system were to be passed on, Chiang Hua Long would have to find a disciple that was worthy and able. The city of Yan Ti in the province of Shantung was the home to Fong Hua Yi. He had studied Shuai Chiao and Eagle Claw and had become well known as a powerful fighter. Fong Hua Yi was a confident young man; he trained hard and had won many fights. It was a real shock for him when a friend of his was able to defeat him. This friend studied Praying Mantis under a student of Chiang Hua Long. Fong Hua Yi begged his friend to share his techniques but he refused. If he were to learn the techniques he would have to go to the source. Fong Hua Yi went straight away to the school of Chiang Hua Long. If there was a student that could beat him, he would have to learn the techniques. At that time, joining a school was more than registering and paying tuition. It was necessary to prove your dedication before being accepted. Fong Hua Yi went through a lot of trouble to join. Once he was allowed into Chiang Hua Long's school it was still necessary for him to prove that he was a dedicated student. He spent six years working at the school, cleaning and cooking and was only allowed to participate in the basic physical drills. Then finally, Chiang Hua Long took special notice of Fong Hua Yi. Fong Hua Yi had trained hard and was dedicated; it had become evident that he was worthy to begin learning under Chiang Hua Long's tutelage. Chiang Hua Long had something very special in mind for his young student. He was to be the first to learn the new Eight Step Praying Mantis. Fong Hua Yi eventually mastered the new footwork so well that those that witnessed his agile movements named him "Ghost Shadow." Chiang Hua Long continued to teach everything he know to Fong Hua Yi until his death at the age of 106. Fong Hua Yi was now the 2nd generation Grandmaster of Eight Step Praying Mantis. He had learned the entire system of fighting, which included incredible hands techniques, long and short range techniques, as well as pressure points and devastating ground techniques. All that really could be added were throwing techniques and joint locks. This was just where Fong Hua Yi could make his contribution; this is what he learned during his childhood training. Fong Hua Yi went through all of his throwing techniques and, because of his education under Chiang Hua Long, was able to refine and perfect each technique until it was truly worthy of becoming part of the system. Fong Hua Yi was already famous because of his association with Chiang Hua Long. As Chiang Hua Long's student, Fong Hua Yi had a lot to live up to. Fame can cause a lot of jealousy and this in turn seems to always lead to foolish acts. Many people had come to the conclusion that if they were able to defeat Fong Hua Yi that they too would become very famous. Although this could very well be true, it would very likely be a deadly chance to take. Some men were willing to take this chance. Fong Hua Yi was having tea one day in a local teahouse when a fight broke out. One man, seeing this as an opportunity, kicked over the table were Fong Hua Yi sat. As he jumped out of the way the attacker quickly stabbed him with a knife. The group of men at the teahouse immediately saw that they might have a chance to defeat this famous master and gain instant fame. They then chased after Fong Hua Yi who fled, not wishing to get involved in such a foolish situation. Running out of the village, Fong Hua Yi came across a small hut. Seeing that this man was badly hurt, the owner of the house hid him inside. As the villagers caught up they demanded to know if he had seen anyone run past. The man said that he had just seen a man go by, and that he had continued running down the path and out of view. Fong Hua Yi had spent a few days recuperating when one morning he went outside to see the man who had helped him participating in some activity with his son. He asked what it was that he was teaching his son. The man replied that he was teaching him Kung Fu. Amused, Fong Hua Long said that his son was likely to be killed if he were to attempt to use such techniques. Becoming quite angry with this seemingly ungrateful man, he demanded to know who he was to be qualified to make such a statement. Having no pictures during this day and age, the man had no way to recognize his face; but upon hearing his name, Fong Hua Yi, the man was completely dumfounded. Falling to his knees, he begged that his attitude be forgiven and that he please teach his son. It seems as though fate had stepped in. There could have been no better teacher nor could there have been any better pupil. Fong Hua Yi's new pupil was Wei Hsiao Tang. This young boy would spend his life studying coinEight Step Praying Mantis and was destined to become the 3rd generation Grandmaster. Wei Hsiao Tang practiced very hard and was a very dedicated student. He managed to develop phenomenal strength and incredible speed. So much so that he come to be known as "Thunder Hands". Wei Hsiao Tang was chief instructor in the Chinese Military. He was in charge of instructing the 25th Regiment in fighting techniques. After serving in China, Wei Hsiao Tang went to Korea where he was an instructor to their military. It was here that a famous incident occurred. It happened that one day while Wei Hsiao Tang was walking through town he came across a fellow Chinese, who was working as a merchant, involved in a dispute. As Wei Hsiao Tang came upon the scene a great many Koreans had begun beating the Chinese merchant. The situation was out of hand and Wei Hsiao Tang immediately intervened and asked for everyone to stop. Attacking with sticks and different manner of weapons, the mob would not quiet down. They soon turned on Wei Hsiao Tang, angered by his interference. The next day all of the of the papers told of the mob scene in which Wei Hsiao Tang drove off 50 men, injuring most and killing 4. The Korean government immediately set out to capture Wei Hsiao Tang. If it were not for friends in the Chinese underground, he might not of been able to escape. Back in China, hiding under an assumed name, Wei Hsiao Tang eventually made his way to Shanghai. Here in 1930, he met and became friends with Grandmaster Wu Ching To, master of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan. They were both the highest of masters who had come from an incredible lineage. Their respective styles were complete, with little else that could be added and nothing to change. The only thing they could do was to exchange their systems, so that is what they decided. They taught their respective systems in their entirety, holding back no secrets. Soon after, Master Wu died, taking with him what he had learned. Fortunately he had left Wei Hsiao Tang with his knowledge. In 1949 the communists took over China. Chairman Mao Tse-Tung gathered huge military support from among China's poor peasants, and began a Cultural Revolution which attacked everything from China's "feudal and superstitious" days. The ancient martial arts were outlawed, many masters were killed, and schools were closed down until the new government could decide whether they were in line with their political ends. As many did, Wei Hsiao Tang left China for Taiwan. In 1950, the Shyun family moved to Taiwan from China. The youngest of the Shyun Family, a young boy, had become very ill. They were a successful family, with a good deal of money and number of other resources that they could call upon. They spread the news everywhere that they desperately needed someone that might be able to save their son. Searching among the finest of doctors, both Chinese and Western, there seemed to be no one that could save their son. They were told to prepare for their son's death. One day a friend of Mr. Shyun said that he had heard of someone that might be able to help. This friend went off in search of the friend who had told him of this healer. His friend did not know where to find this healer but he had a friend that surely know where to find him, so they both set off to find this other friend. This man knew where to find the man they sought and together they set off to meet him. This troublesome search led them to Wei Hsiao Tang. All on bicycle these four men went to the Shyun home. Wei Hsiao Tang examined the young boy carefully. The boy was indeed very ill and Master Wei was unsure if he could save him. He did, however, make a promise. If the parents would agree, he would take their son to his home in the mountains. If he were able to heal the boy he would return with him in one year. If he was unable, he would bury this young child and they would not hear anything further. Very fortunate for the kindness of Wei Hsiao Tang, it was agreed upon that this was what had to be done. Wei Hsiao Tang took the young child with him to his home. There, around his home in the mountains, Wei Hsiao Tang busied himself gathering herbs and preparing medicines. Taking one full year Wei Hsiao Tang was able to completely cure the boy. At the age of six, Shyun Kwong Long was returned to his overjoyed parents. It was a miracle! The Shyun family could not have guessed if they were to ever see their son again but now after one long, painful year, here he was alive and well. Wei Hsiao Tang had done them a favor that they were so very thankful for. Wei Hsiao Tang returned home and the Shyun family, with their son with them once again, went back to living their life happily as a family should be. This might of been all that were to come of this fateful meeting. Some time later though, Wei Hsiao Tang became involved with a business investment. He had put everything he had into the deal when the people he was involved with left, leaving him with nothing. Hearing of this, the Shyun family was anxious to help. Being able to be of assistance, they invited Wei Hsiao Tang to stay in their home. This was to be the beginning of Shyun Kwong Long's formal training. Shyun Kwong Long was six when he began training in martial arts. Twelve years later he was a strong, young man ready for his first big fight. Wei Hsiao Tang had taught his young pupil a great deal and was confident in him. Shyun Kwong Long was entered into the International Full Contact Martial Arts Championships. This was a very intense competition which at times even proved to be fatal. This would be a genuine test of Shyun Kwong Long's abilities. Before his first match Wei Hsiao Tang told Shyun Kwong Long that he would give him a signal in order to let him know which techniques to use. His first match of the competition was underway, Shyun Kwong Long looked to his master for a signal. As he turned to look, his opponent struck him. Looking to his master once again the same thing happened. This continued until Shyun Kwong Long was knocked to the ground. Shyun Kwong Long lost his first match. In the traditional competitions losing your match did not take you out of the running. If you chose to continue you were put into a line up which required that you fight everyone who had lost their match, and if you managed to beat everyone you would then continue on to fight with those who had won. This is what Shyun Kwong Long did. Fighting as many as 80 matches, Shyun Kwong Long climbed his way to the top and won first place! Shyun Kwong Long continued his success and remained champion through five consecutive years until everyone refused to fight him. He then retired from tournament fighting. Once he had completed his training under Wei Hsiao Tang and inherited the Eight Step Praying Mantis system at the age of 26, Shyun Kwong Long traveled to Singapore, Japan, West Germany, France and Australia. Everyone had heard of Shyun Kwong Long and they all sought after him to teach their military and law enforcement agencies. Considering many offers, Shyun Kwong Long made his way to the United States where he worked instructing law enforcement agencies. Now known as James Sun, he made an important decision. He had seen that many styles of authentic Kung Fu had been lost. Grandmaster James Sun realized that in this modern day the same could happen to the Eight Step Praying Mantis system. He had to take steps to prevent this from happening. This is when he decided to open his school in San Francisco. The year was 1984. In 1990 Grandmaster James Sun (Shyun Kwan Long) made the decision to further protect the system. He adopted the name of Shyun Style Praying Mantis so that people could discern the authenticity of this system's heritage and lineage from those that are in imitation. It was in the new San Francisco school, in 1986, that Master Dean Economos was to meet Grandmaster James Sun. Enduring many years of arduous training, Master Dean has gone on to open his own school in Buffalo, New York. There he has trained his own students, some of which have gone on to open their own schools. One of these students Shifu Michael Haley began learning martial arts in 1981 studying Hung Gar from Master Ting Fong Wong, "one of the 10 tigers of Canton" He then changed his focus into the japanese art of karate in 1983. After obtaining a black belt in Okinawan Karate, he switched interests back into the Chinese martial arts after attending a seminar hosted by 5th generation Master (Shyun Kwan Long) James Sun. He then began to train in (Ba Bu Tang lang) 8 Step Praying Mantis under Shyun's 6th generation disciple Shifu Dean Economos in Buffalo NY in 1989.

Michael Haley had the rare opportunity to move to San Francisco, California, with Shifu Economos to continue studying 8 Step Praying Mantis and Wu Style Tai Ji Quan directly under Master Shyun. In 1995 he became certified and ranked as a 7th generation Shifu under the great grandmaster Jiang Hua Long.

In 1996 while living in San Francisco he met world famous Qi Gong master, (Yan Chu Feng) Angela Yan, and began training in (Jin gon Tzu Li Gong) medical qigong, and became her first American (tudi) student. (Yan Chu Feng) Angela Yan later moved from San Francisco, California, USA to live with Shifu Haley and now resides in Buffalo, New York,
Shifu Haley teaches Wu style taji, iron palm and 8 step Praying Mantis kung fu which Joel Sutton used, when he won both alternate bouts in UFC 6 & 7 Located at:

Cobra Mixed Martial Arts Academy
30 Patrick Lane Depew NY 14043 716-683-8300

The Eight Step Praying Mantis System has been passed down from generation to generation -- master to disciple, for over 150 years. Consisting of the famous fighting techniques as well as the healing arts. The Praying Mantis System is one of the last pure and authentic Chinese Martial Arts existing today.

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