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SYMBOLISM #1: The Mantis as a Fighter

Chinese Lore: Inspiration for the founding of Kung Fu

Of the many versions I found, the basic story was that Wang Lang was hiking through the mountains where he sat to rest on a log. There he saw 2 mantises battling (some versions use different creatures). Studying how the mantis feigned, prodded, and struck lightening fast, he developed the Praying mantis Kung fu system.

Nature observations:

The mantis is a predator and is at the top of the food chain within the insect world. The very name for a praying mantis in Japanese is Kamakiri. Kama means scythe or sickle. Kiri means to cut. The name itself implies the ferocity of the insect. Observing the mantis in the wild, the mantis has 2 main forms of hunting, 'wait and sit' and the 'slow stalk' methods. In the first method, the mantis deceptively waits in a praying manner until prey comes within reach and then is struck with lightening fast accuracy. In deference to the mantis posture, “a district within NAGANO, people call a mantis TAIFUSAN, or OTAYOSAN, the very meaning of a Shinto priest.”2

In the second hunting method, the mantis creeps upon its victim with undetectable fluid swaying motion until it is within reach. The swaying motion may mimic a leaf blowing or seems to confuse the victim. The mantis almost always goes for the neck to kill. “Seisan” a karate technique teaches how to get inside the opponent's attack while developing a strong foundation (a characteristic of a fighting mantis). In fact, the Mantis has been known to take on much larger creatures and defeat them using these described abilities. It is very understandable when observing the mantis that it is revered by the orient, as well as, all over the world. These hunting and fighting methods have Zen/Buddhist/Taoist like qualities: of patience; unassuming stealth; imitating nature; calm yet deadly posturing; and total focus.

Examples in Fittings: The mantis is often depicted in its praying stance.

Fig. 1: Close up Mantis tsuba #23Fig. 2: Mino Fuchi Kashira 17-18th ctry

Symbolism #1: The Mantis as a Fighter

Symbolism #2: Bravery and Know Thyself

Symbolism #3: Being Too Short Sighted

Symbolism #4: Circle of Life

Symbolism #5: The Mantis as Samurai

Final Notes

Go to Symbolism #2: Bravery and Know Thyself

Go Back to Symbolism Introductary


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