Southern Mantis History

The history of chinese martial arts are traditionally passed orally from generation to generation. As a result, with such anecdotal evidence, it is quite often very difficult to establish the absolute truth from the many tales that may have been added on or exaggerated since the very first telling. In the case of Chow Gar Tong Long Kuen, oral tradition credits the founding of the style to Chow Ah Nam from whom the style is named. Chow Ah Nam was purportedly a young man who through rich living had fallen ill during his travels. As a result he was tended at the shaolin temple in Fujian province and after his recovery was subsequently employed as a cook. He also undertook martial instruction from the monks there. (Interestingly, the Fujian shaolin temple is involved in the founding stories of many styles including Wing Chun Kuen, but there has yet to be any historical or archaeological evidence to support its existence).

One day while journeying through the forest he noticed a praying mantis defending itself successfully from a small bird. Inspired by the spectacle, Chow Ah Nam decided to capture some praying mantises and analyze the way they defended themselves against an antagonist. From his observations coupled with internal teachings learnt from Sim Yan Dai Shi, Chow Ah Nam developed his own style of fighting which would eventually be named in his honour.

After developing his style, Chow Ah Nam taught his new style to his fellow monks including a monk named Wong Fook Go. Little is known of Wong Fook Go except that he was a travelling monk during the end of the 19th century running from persecution from the then failing Qing Dynasty. Through his travels he became acquainted with Lau Soei, an acomplished Ma Gar Kuen master in the village of Hung Yuen in Wai Yearn prefecture. Having been found wanting by Wong Fook Go, Lau Soei was accepted as a student by the wandering monk who taught him for three and a half years before continuing on his travels. Lau Soei subsequently decided to move to Hong Kong to teach and it is from this point that the oral history becomes known documented history.

Lau Soei taught in Hong Kong for a number of years with his final school opening in Kowloon at Bulkeley St. During his time in Hong Kong, Lau Soei attained a reputation for martial prowess with many stories of great martial skill attributed to him. However, during the period of Japanese occupation in Hong Kong, Lau Soei contracted an illness from which he would never recover. Tending the dying master was his student Ip Shui who together with his wife had taken Lau Soei into their own home to care for him. It was during this time that Lau Soei passed the mantle of teaching Chow Gar Tong Long to Ip Shui. Ip Shui would go on to teach for almost 60 years before passing away in 2004. Master Man Sek Wing began his training with Master Ip Shui in 1964 and began teaching in the mid 1980s in the New Territories, Hong Kong, until his passing in January 2011.

Tags:  Kung Fu
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