The History of Seven Stars Praying Mantis

Our tale begins 350 years ago with Wong Long a shoalin monk.  Wong had opposed the Manchurian takeover of China and joined a temple in Honan province to learn kung fu in order to become a skilled fighter and defender of his people.

The emperor, after hearing tales of defiance at this temple sent his army, thousands strong, to eradicate the monks.  Long and his fellow monks defended the temple for a day and night, escaping into the mountains at dawn.  Only 128 monks survived the attack, less than half of the original number.

Once the remaining monks felt safe, they settled in Shang Tung province.  In a few short years, their elderly Sifu passed away and Long and his brother Feng became the leaders of the survivors.  To determine supremacy, Feng and Long battled in front of the group with Feng defeating Long.  Feng thus became the Abbot (leader) and Long the Si-Hing (Eldest Student).

Over the next five years Long could never best Feng in combat and seemed destined to remain a loyal advisor to his brother.  Feng left the group to travel and gain knowledge for a 3 year pilgrimage and Long was left to lead the order.

One day after practice, Long observed how a praying mantis fought and defeated an enormous cicada.  Long was so impressed that he captured the insect and spent day and night studying the movements.  To complete the movements, Long infused strength and powerful footwork into the Shaolin style.  He accomplished this by studying the monkeys of China, renowned for their deft and powerful movements.

Long built forms and powerful, quick strikes in the coming months that captured the essence of the mantis.  When Feng returned, Long dominated his brother in sparing matches and quickly overtook his brother as Abbot.  Wong taught Feng his new style and it became known as Praying Mantis Kung Fu.  It became the highest level of fighting within the order and taught only to the students who had proven their dedication and skill at the craft.

Decades passed with Wong and Leng passing away, leaving the knowledge with the new Abbot.

A travelling Taoist master Seng Sil Tao arrived at the temple and watched in bemusement as the mantis style was demonstrated.  He was not impressed and challenged the monks to a friendly sparring match.  His disdain quickly grew into humility as he was defeated by each student he challenged.

Humbly, he asked the Abbot to stay and learn the technique, apologizing for his disrespect.   The Abbot agreed and Sil Tao quickly grew into the order’s most skilled and powerful monk.  Sil Tao left the order years later and only taught the complete system to one student, Lee San Chen.  Chen, using the knowledge, set up security system in his youth and in his sixtieth year decided to travel and teach the praying mantis system to an individual worthy of its power.

When Chen arrived in Futzang he heard of a local champion called Wong Ywing Sun.  Chen met with Sun and asked Sun for a demonstration of his skill.  Lee San Chen was very critical of Sun’s style which caused the local champion to become angry.  Sun challenged Chen to a short fight.  Within moments it became apparent that Wong Ywing Sun’s skill was no match for the mantis style.

As it was 100 years before, Wong Ywing Sun humbly asked to learn from Chen and thus the knowledge was passed on.

Sun later took on a student named Fan Hsu Tung, nicknamed “The Giant Fan”.  Fan Hsu Tung weighed 300 pounds and gained infamy when he stopped an attacking bull and killed it with his bare hands.  Fan Hsu Tung studied with great dedication under Sun.

Fan later had a student, Lo Kwoon Yuk who made a name for himself as one of the Ten Tigers of China as well as the first instructor of the famous Ching Mo Athletic Association.  Kwok Cho Chiu, one of Lo Kwoon’s most dedicated students, became the next disciple of the style.  Chiu persevered against all odds as Kwok Cho was born with a club foot.  Surgery at this time was not an option and Kwok Cho bore his disability with pride and rose to become Yuk’s most masterful student.

In 1970, Kwok Cho Chiu gave leave to his most decorated student, Kwing Fai Kung, to travel to Canada to study.  As amazing as it seems, Kung began teaching Seven Starts Praying Mantis here in Red Deer at the College.  Again, by way of chance, a young Mike Purnell met with Kung and decided to join his class.  Purnell had trained in nearly every type of martial art including boxing, but was impressed to the point of awe by the style.  After many years of practice and trips to Hong Kong to study with Kwok Cho Chiu and Kung, Purnell returned to Red Deer to become our Sifu.