Double Closure 螳螂雙封手

The technique Double Closure is first recorded in the form Peach Thieving (Bai Yuan Tou Tiao, lit. peach thieving by a white gibbon). It is the first movement of the form, while at the same time, the ending movement in other forms within the Mantis School, including those in the the Six Harmonies style.

The name of the school, Mantis, is taken after this technique, for it looks like the arms of a praying mantis in its performance. That said, the technique is not meant to be performed on its own in the air, and it is not to imitate the praying mantis: the movement is used to read and control the opponent’s movements. This reading is not static, one has to exert pressure on the contact points on the wrists in the manner of a whirlpool to ask for the opponent’s resistance.

The simplest interpretation of the Double Closure is using the controlling methods of ladle (diao) or hook (gou, not to be confused with a hook punch) to control the opponent’s wrists. Ladle and hook are very similar, and it is not helpful to give them clear distinction for their applications, as which one to use is entire contextual. Yet, in the attempt to further our discussion with a common parlance, we can say that a ladle is the method of control of the opponent’s wrist using the thumb and either index or middle finger in the manner of an elastic band, whereas, a hook is to control the opponent’s wrist by hooking your own wrist without a tight grab.

Both ladle and hook start with sliding your arms from the opponent’s elbow, and ending with a control position of the wrist in a circular motion. These movements can be performed from either outside or inside lines, and the form Peach Thieving gives us the directions from the outside.

The form Crushing Steps (Beng Bu) describes a variation with one arm in the inside and one outside. Another interpretation with the same move in the same form is with both arms go from one side, this is then called Pouncing (Pu Chan) or Double Catch (Shuang Cai). The movement can also start by having both arms from the inside, but instead of doing the ladle or hook, it is better to flip your hands inside out so the palms face up and outwards: this move is a redirection of the opponent’s pressure and a setup for attack at the same time.

As discussed above, there are many names to describe the same technique in different forms, and it is important to note that the names are simply there to record the however slight variations, but the core concept remains the same. The technique of Double Closure is not to tell you how to attack or defence, as that would be a very superficial description. Instead, the Double Closure, as one of the core concepts of the Mantis School, is to describe how the two sides in the act of fighting would form an imaginary sphere between their chests, with application the conflicting force (pressure and counter-pressure), whether and how to attack, defence, or counter-attack depend entirely on which direction the sphere rolls.

The sphere can roll forward and backward, up and down, left and right (these would be the so-called Six Harmonies in terms of direction), horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and with the staggering movements, i.e. the movements of Ying Yang, these rolling directions would tell you where the gaps are, so that you would know where and when to attack and counter in a continuous flow.

The New Treatise on Military Efficiency (Ji Xiao Xin Shu) of 16th century gives us some principles or proverbs on martial arts, such as “an attempt in parring will receive a punishment of ten hits in return”, “to impose on the enemy, but not to be imposed by him”, “wait till the previous force has just passed and hit while a new force has yet to generate” etc., can only be achieved with the idea of the sphere with conflicting force. Once this idea is thoroughly understood, whichever school you are from and whichever technique you are going to use and call will no longer be a matter.

To learn the technique of the Double Closure, one can use the movements to control the central line and shake the opponent’s balance slightly, with your wrists sticking on top of his wrists. If his body leans forward, you can pull back and thrust his eyes; if his body pulls backward, you can lean forward to thrust his eyes. This called the eye thrust, but note that it does not matter if you can injury his eyes, as it is also a movement to force your opponent into defence, which gives you the opportunity to impose your will.

In the attempt to open the opponent up from the inside, you can also thrust his face, and when he parries outside-in, you can follow his force and perform a hook punch in the manner of a leak, If he dodges the hook, you can then follow and perform a back fist. If he dodges the back fist, you can follow by a punch to the stomach with your other hand. If he can parry this one, then you can again leak and perform another hook punch. The flow does not stop. The above techniques are detailed as the first three movements of the Peach Thieving form, and the ideas behind are very simple: Double Closure, Thrust, and Leak. Other variations depend entirely on the opponent’s movement and resistance, and it is impossible to describe them all here.

「雙封手」記錄於梅花螳螂拳「白猿偷桃」的套路當中,為該套路的起手式,也是其他各個套路的收勢動作,包括六合螳螂拳諸套路。螳螂拳一名就是源自「雙封手」如螳螂手臂一樣的神態,但該動作不是一個憑空擺動的架勢(坊間對螳螂拳的誤解),也不是為了模仿螳螂的神態,是為了在戰鬥過程中閱讀和控制對方動作而用。這種閱讀並非靜止的,而是要在手腕的點上如漩渦一樣施加壓力來獲得對方的反應。

「雙封手」最簡單的解讀是雙手以刁或勾的方式控制對方手腕。刁與勾甚為相似,在使用時難以區分。嚴格來說,刁是以手指與拇指箍著對方手腕,勾則是不箍而以勾的形態貼著手腕,螳螂拳的刁與勾均是先從對方手臂滑下,以圈的路向拿著對方手腕。這些手法可以從外門上,也可以從裏門上。「白猿偷桃」記錄的是雙手從外門上的方法,換成一裏一外,則是「崩步」中「雙封手」上手方式;如換成雙手從外門勾著一手,就是「崩步」的「撲蟬」或「雙採手」;亦可兩手從內往外翻以化開對方的力量,連消帶打。

手法多樣名稱所記的,很多時候是一個核心概念於不同形態的表現。「雙封手」的重點並不在於手法如何變化或進攻、防守,那只是它的表述。「雙封手」,作為螳螂拳的核心概念,是描述雙方如何以爭勁在胸前形成一個想像中的立體圓球,攻擊與反擊的路線是取決於圓球的滾動路向,前後、左右、上下(方位上的六合),橫面豎面或斜面,再配合前手與後手陰陽互換,乘隙作出不間斷的攻勢或反擊。《紀效新書》所言「犯了招架,便是十下」,「致人而不致於人」,「舊力畧過,新力未發」等事,皆是利用爭勁中的立體圓而來。明白了這點就不會在乎招式,亦不會在乎門派之別。

以「雙封手」取中線配以爭勁輕輕的動搖對方平衡,手貼在對方腕上,對方往前可以刺他眼睛迎他,往後則可以以刺乘他,這就是「螳螂點睛」:點睛中不中並不重要,因為它也是要手的一個方式,重點是以攻勢控制對方的運動。從內開對方門戶也是直刺其面,他格開內手則順勢以底漏圈捶進攻,躲開再反背一拳,躲開反背則以另一手進窩肚捶,格開又可以再上圈捶,如此連綿不斷。「白猿偷桃」所記錄的首三式,背後的理念就是雙封手、點睛、偷手底漏圈。其他變化則是根據對方的反應即時而定,沒有固定的形式與路向,於此處不能盡錄。

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