L au Soei was a student of several Shaolin animal systems, and by the time he had reached his early twenties, he had already acquired a reputation. The woodlands surrounding his home village were known to be riddled with wolves, and locals lived in fear as these hungry animals had taken to attacking villagers during the night. One dark evening, Lau Soei was making his way along the perimeter of the village, when he was set upon by a vicious wolf. The animal lashed at Lau Soei, and, snarling, leapt for his throat. The speed of the wolf was no match for the reflexes of the young Kung Fu student.
H e sidestepped the oncoming attack and, as the wolf turned and leapt again, Lau Soei delivered an unforgiving kick to the animal’s throat, knocking it to the ground. Before the predator had an opportunity to rise and attack once more, Lau Soei moved in with a heavy stamp, finishing his adversary off for good. When villagers heard of this incident, they were keen to learn the skills Lau Soei had employed to defend himself. His name spread throughout the region and soon many people were coming to him for tuition. The monk told Lau Soei that he was welcome to test his skill, and offered the young man initial strike. Lau Soei accepted, advancing with a powerful straight punch. The monk appeared to move ever so slightly. Even so, young Lau was hurled some distance away.
L au Soei realised that the Monk had just demonstrated something that was far beyond his abilities. He recognised the Monk's martial skill was far superior. Kneeling before the Monk, he asked if he would accept him as his student, and the kindly Wong Fook Go agreed. Lau Soei invited Wong Fook Go back to his home for tea. Once seated he asked 'I felt as if I had been shocked by lightning when I made contact with you. How is it that you move so fast?' The Monk laughed and said 'you possess great strength, but I was able to redirect it back to you. Therefore it was your own strength which you logo felt.
T he technique I used takes its force from internal energy, known as 'Chi', except that my system refines this energy into something known as Geng Khan (Shock Power). Consider the mantis. This small insect has an explosive power, which enables it to overcome opponents many times its own size. Follow my teachings diligently, and you too can achieve this kind of power'. Lau Soei had proved that his character was indeed worthy of learning this high level of Kung Fu. The afternoon of the demonstration, the Wong Fook Go had been watching Lau Soei perform, and knew that the young man had great potential as a Kung Fu master.
W hen Wong Fook Go had stepped into the arena that afternoon, his words had been a test. Luckily, Lau Soei had shown humility, which is why the monk had decided to accept him as his student. Six years later, the Monk had passed all of his knowledge on to Lau Soei, and the Master and student parted company. Wong Fook Go continued to travel and seek his enlightenment. Lau Soei, as a gesture of respect to his Sifu and Si Gung, named his fighting system 'Chows Family Praying Mantis'. He founded schools in China where many thousands of students came to learn from the great Master.
A few more curiosities about the Chow Gar Kung Fu Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu is one of a small set of similar self-defence arts including, for example, Dragon Style Kung Fu, White Eyebrow Kung Fu and White Lotus Kung Fu. To a slightly lesser extent, it is also related to Wing Chun Kung Fu. Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu is rare and consequently little-known outside martial-arts circles despite having a formidable reputation amongst knowledgeable martial-artists. Chow Gar is one of four major branches of Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu extant today, the others being Chu Gar and Jook Lum (meaning "Bamboo Forest") and Iron Ox.
S outhern Praying Mantis Kung Fu should not be confused with better known Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu systems such as Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu. What is Chow Gar? Chow Gar gets it's name from the man who is attributed with the development of the style, one Chow Ah Naam. Chow Ah Naam was an immigrant from the North of China living in the South. (Immigrants such as he were known as Hakka or "Northern Guests"). Early this century, it's chief exponent moved to Hong Kong where the first non-Hakka student was taken on. This student was Cantonese and he is now the Grandmaster of the Chow Gar style and still lives in Hong Kong. Chow Gar is currently being taught both publicly and privately all around the world. It is one of the few unadulterated, traditional Chinese martial arts available to prospective students today. First and foremost, Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis kung fu is a highly efficient self-defence martial art.
T he training methods are entirely applicable in self-defence situations because the form and function of this style are the same. Strikes (including blocks) are executed in the most economical manner possible. Most individual techniques have more than one application and often these applications are used simultaneously. An example could be a blocking technique that both attacks the assailant and deflects his attack at the same time. Further, each technique is designed to cause maximum injury through knowledge of the body's vital points. The basic weapon (i.e. "fist" or "hand") used in the style is known as the phoenix-eye fist which features a single extended knuckle.
T he phoenix-eye fist is a multi-purpose weapon but it's first function is to strike the body's sensitive vital points using the protruding knuckle. By focussing the power of the strike into a small point, the energy in the strike can penetrate deep into the attacker's body, causing serious internal injury. Other economical features of this art include avoiding the use of high kicks, leaps and other aerobatics. Much time is saved because strikes emanate from the current position of the hand concerned (rather than first being "chambered" or "cocked"). Man-made weapons are used without modifying the empty-hand techniques.
C how Gar Southern Praying Mantis kung fu is considered a "high" system. It emphasizes the cultivation of Chi as a fundamental aspect of the art. Chi power is an integral component of the style, being both required for the development and execution of effective techniques. Simultaneously with improving martial technique, chi work brings with it the benefits of increased long-term health and well-being. These features contribute to an extended active life with a lesser degree of general deterioration (e.g. brittleness in bones or loss of sensory function). At advanced levels of practise, training incorporates meditation which plays an ever more important role in martial development and development of the practitioner as a whole person.