Tradition has it that a 17th-century Shaolin monk observed a praying mantis hunting and - inspired by its deft use of its hooked forelimbs - adapted the insect's movements to his own style and added elements from other arts to create Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Like all legendary origins, this tale is impossible to verify. Still, several Chinese martial arts that emulate the mantis' methods survive today. The style described below is a type of Northern Praying Mantis. Southern Praying Mantis also exists but shares only a name - not techniques or history.

Mantis is noted for its narrow, low stances that mimic those of its namesake insect, with close-in elbows and both hands extended forward, often held open or claw-like. Its signature move is the "hook": the stylist grabs his enemy's arm in order to pull him off-balance, push his guard aside, apply an Arm Lock, throw him, or otherwise impede him. This is a grapple attempt - ideally, executed swiftly enough to be a Deceptive Attack. An attempt to pull the foe offbalance is a Beat (pp. 100-101) if the aim is to reduce his defenses, a takedown (p. B370) if the goal is to put him on the ground. Mantis fighters also use Judo Throw (preferably a damaging throw; see p. 75) to take down a victim and position him for a finishing move.

Stylists use Wait and Evaluate until their opponent commits. They seek to void their attacker's aggressive movements by stepping aside or parrying, and then counterattack with a cascade of precise strikes - often using a Rapid Strike to launch two attacks, or a feint and attack to overwhelm the foe quickly. Practitioners value placement and skill over brute strength. Mantis punches use the open hand, a vertical fist, and various Exotic Hand Strikes (details depend on the style variant, and might involve a single finger, a protruding knuckle, etc.).

Staff Fighting

Staff fighting is as widespread as stickfighting (p. 157). In the age of spears and polearms, a warrior would train to use his pole weapon as a staff should its head come off in battle. In any era, the staff's simple construction and ease of use make it an extremely accessible weapon.

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