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Book Review: The Complete Guide to Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu by Stuart A. Olson

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Thought to be originated by Wang Lang over 300 years ago, Praying Mantis Kung Fu is often classified as a hard/soft style of kung fu that is based on the fighting skills of the Mantodea. This system is famous for teaching practitioners to overcome larger opponents by drawing on swift, insect-like movements for attack and defense.

The Complete Guide to Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu provides a much-needed look at the history and practice of this martial art. This book includes detailed descriptions of all major schools, styles, and lineages of Praying Mantis Kung Fu. In addition, the author devotes a significant portion of the book to common Praying Mantis fundamentals. The author Stuart A. Olson starts out with an examination of theory and tactics, after which he devotes the latter part of the book to step-by-step descriptions of Praying Mantis fundamentals. Included in his overview of fundamentals are commons stances, footwork, and kicks — all beautifully illustrated by over 200 photographs.

As a former practitioner of Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu, I find two things in this book standing out for me. First, the author conducts an excellent examination of Chinese martial history by drawing on the lineages of T.T. Liang, Feng Huan-I, and Wang Han-Fon. Not only does Olson introduce the reader to unfamiliar Praying Mantis masters, but he also honestly admits that much of what we do know concerning Praying Mantis has been passed down by oral tradition, and is often hard to substantiate. Second, the mere fact that someone is presenting Praying Mantis fundamentals is significant! Simply put: one is hard-pressed to find many books that cover Praying Mantis fundamentals, period.The Complete Guide is recommended for all styles of Praying Mantis Kung Fu. In addition, those with a strong interest in kung fu will also enjoy this book. The Complete Guide to Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, as well as other martial arts-related titles, are available from Blue Snake Books.

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