Six Harmonies Tanglang quan
(liuhe tanglang quan )
English version kindly revised by J. Freitas, Portugal
Liu Jingru's "Shuangfeng"
Altough so not well known as "Seven Stars" and ""Plum Blossom (Meihua)" styles, "Six Harmonies Praying Mantis" or Liuhe Tanglangquan (henceforth abbreviated LHTLQ) is the third major school of Praying Mantis Kungfu, a branch of the Shaolin tradition.
It has a few peculiarities, namely its differences from the two other schools. LHTLQ does not use the classical diaoshou (hooking hand), except in one of its taolu (training set) called Shuangfeng (Double grasping, one of the major ones in thre style). The hands in LHTQ are used in continuous vertical circles, and sometimes horizontal circles, allowing the practicioner to strike, trap or defend. Simply the use of these continuous vertical circles allows an observer to immediately recognize the flavour of this school. Furthermore, while we can observe sometimes mabu position (horse stance) we can only (if ever) exceptionally see Dengshanshi stance. Usually the legs/feet position of LHTLQ is similar to Xingyiquan's santishi. Also Ruhuanshi (otherwise known as Xiao dengshanshi), the half squatting stance with the weight on the front leg and the back-foot heel lifted, is little used in LHTLQ. Liuhe Tanglangquan basic feet position is called "neither dengshanshi nor mabu", indicating in this way that the weight is found in a middle way, a kind of ban mabu (half horse-stance ) or santishi.
This type of stance is the reason for the other name of this school, mahou tanglangquan or "Orang-outang Tanglangquan". As is well known, the founder of Tanglang, Wang Lang, is said to have combined the "hand" movements of Mantis with the nimble stepping of the monkey.
I studied Liuhe Tanglangquan over two summers during which I worked both on forms and fighting techniques. It was only in 1990 that I finally had a look at this school, when Mr. Liu Jingru, who until then had taught me only Baguazhang, showed me the beautiful taolu "Shuangfeng". I was really astonished because until then I did not care for Praying Mantis; I was instantly struck by its beauty and its circular (vertical) movements. So, when I returnded to Italy, I spent an entire year wanting to learn this kind of Tanglang, and in 1991 I was eventually taught four forms, Tieci, Canghua, Duanchui and Shuangfeng . In 1992 I was taught the remaining forms, Jieshou quan, Xianshou ben and Zhaomian deng , with the applications for every single movement.
As said before, the peculiarity of LHTLQ is the fast vertical running of the hands. When your arm strikes the opponent face, it can strike using the edge of the hand or the forearm, and if the opponent blocks or parries, the attack changes into a grab and the other hand continues the attack. This vertical circle, combined with advancing steps, provides speed and jin. Another kind of attack is along horizontal circles with the hands that strike using the edge of the palm or of the wrist.
Six Harmonies Praying Mantis fighting techniques
The main hand attack techniques are: Saobian shou (horizontal cutting attack), Lianhuan shou (vertical attack), Tanglang goukan (slanting frontal attack with trapping potential). As for other Praying Mantis schools, trapping is very important. This is testified to by the fact that every taolu contains da fengshou, "great grab technique" and kunfeng shou, "Trapping and grabbing hands". The target is not only to trap but to throw the opponent to the ground. Kunfeng shou is a particularly elaborate technique. But Tanglang goukan also provides excellent grabbing technique.
A classical piece of the arsenal of Praying Mantis (every school has it) is Gou lou chui (to hook, to wipe, to strike). Liuhe Tanglang adds to it with mopan shou: one hand grabs, the other wipes, the first hand strikes. In Duanchui ("Short strikes") the last strike may be executed vertically as a classical western uppercut. There are many hand-techniques but not many kicks. Usually these are: Titui, Caitui and Chuaitui (sidekick) at short range, and Dazhanbai, corresponding to Jiutui of other Tanglang schools. All techniques can be arranged under four major categories: Kun, Feng, Lou, Di. Kun is to trap, feng is to grab, lou is to find a hole, to slip inside the opponent's defence, di is to throw the opponent or to begin a technique from downward to upward.
There are seven Taolu. In order of difficulty they are:
1) Jieshou quan: it means "Intercepting hands circles".
2) Xianshou ben: "Running wise-hands".
3) Tieci: "Penetrating iron blows" (or, in other versions, "Sticking and drilling").
4) Zhaomian deng : "Burning strikes to the face"; this taolu has 39 movements, divided in four tuan or sections. Its most important techniques are: Fengshou tantui; huadi lou quan (Circular blows from low to high ); double pressing elbow; to split (pijie); goulou chui etc .
5) Canghua (Yedi canghua ); this form has the same name of the celebrated Bagua movement: "Hide the flower under leaf", from the technique that frees a grasped arm using the other arm under the grasped one.
6) Duanchui :"Short blows".
7) Shuangfeng : "Double sealing".
Mr. Liu told me that these taolus can be divided in three groups:
a) Pure Tanglang: Tieci, Canghua, Shuangfeng .
b) Orang-outang (Mahou ): Duanchui .
c) Mahou tanglang : Jieshou quan; Xianshou ben; Zhaomian deng.
He also told me that his master, the famous Chan Xiangling, loved Duanchui very much because, according to him, it was true kungfu, while he found the other forms a little"flowery".
Duanchui, also called Baiquan zhai ("Hundred strikes inventory") has actually a very good series of short techniques. There is no kick at all through the form: only hand.techniques but using a lot of footwork. The most common strikes in it are: Mahou lianhuan gou-tiao; moban shou; Yingmian fanbei chui ("Backfist to the face" ), Lianhuan bafan chui (similar to Xingyi's zuan quan, but in a more "uppercut" fashion ) and several elbow-strikes. The positions are long, hand techniques are continuous and penetrating, punches and elbows are primary, steps and changes are quick. But I have experienced a certain feeling when performing Duanchui, a certain kind of uneasiness: it does not look like Tanglangquan; according to somebody, it might be a form that crept in to LHTLQ from Shaolin liuhequan (a school that was developed under the Qing Dynasty by master Wei Delin and spread from Shandong to Liaoning, Zhilin and Beijing).
Shuangfeng, the last of the taolu (by the way the first one I learnt), is the most similar to other schools forms. The name points to a double grasping or sealing that comes after a two fingers blow to the eyes or after three spear-hand attacks; if the opponent parries we can do a double trapping, shuangfeng . This is the only form that uses a lot of diaoshou, the classical Mantis-grabbing posture. It is the most beautiful form of the system and contains all the kicks, all the grabs and every kind of quan. The entire taolu has fifty-three movements, including shuangfeng, lianhuan sanfeng shou, dandiao shou, kan-pi (to cut and to break), beng-gua (backfist and parry ). The power generated is chansi jin, spiraling energy power, the same as in Bagua, Xingyi and Taiji. This single form spread from Shandong to Liaoning (North) and Guangdong (South ).
TAOLU TRAINING ORDER
Liu Jingru in his book Liuhe Tanglang quan , p.31-32, states that the training order of the seven taolu is:
2) Jieshou quan
5) Xianshou ben
6) Zhaomian deng
But he does states that the order can be changed.
Personally I prefer to put Duanchui as the last one, because it is very long, so my choice would be to retain Liu's order but with this minor change:
1 / Jieshou quan 2 / Tieci 3 / Canghua 4 / Xianshou ben 5 / Zhaomian deng 6 / Shuangfeng 7 / Duanchui.
To sum up, Liuhe Tanglangquan shows itself as a very interesting school, effective and beautiful and without many forms. As ancient Buddhist sutras repeat a formula over and over, so this school has the same movements repeated in different combinations so as to exercise them over and over, adding to every repetition something new: a very interesting way of teaching.
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