Daily kung fu practice provides an energetic aerobic workout well suited to teenagers and young adults. Through a series of punching and kicking drills, students are taught to coordinate hands and feet with speed, focus, and timing with the ultimate aim of developing and using power efficiently.
“What I teach is based on the efficient application of physical principles to the fundamentals of how the body and mind work together,” says Fong.
Northern praying mantis kung fu (T’ang L’ang Ch’uan) is said to have originated in Shandong province, China, during the Song dynasty (around 960-1127 CE). Martial artist Wang Lang found inspiration by observing a praying mantis defeat a much larger insect in combat. By studying its movements and combining them with what he already knew, Wang developed a complex system which combines rapid “monkey” footwork with relentless attacks, advanced trapping, blocking and joint locks, and the distinctive hooked hand style. Sifu Fong teaches the seven star variation, said to be the “hardest” of the praying mantis styles.
First, students warm up using drills that focus on building strength, increasing speed, and developing footwork. Then they break up into smaller groups and, depending upon background and conditioning, they may work on details of various praying mantis forms, non-contact sparring, or applications of various kicks, joint locks, and punches. Other training methods may include long staff techniques, staff and sword fighting, other weapons forms, and for more advanced students, free sparring.
Fong focuses on teaching students to coordinate mental and physical communication by waking up the central nervous system and keeping it awake. Why do this? For progress to be made, students have to become aware of their bodies and their bodies have to be ready to work. This training actively challenges and enhances one’s mental focus and physical stamina: it is, in fact, the underlying key to progress for both health and martial arts training.