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Dig Out The Hole To Defeat Your Opponent

Most schools of Praying Mantis Boxing recognize that our style descends from 18 Families of Chinese Boxing. This is recorded in the ancient manuscript Surnames of the Founders of Eighteen Styles.

The 16th of these founders records our great-great grandmaster Cui Lian and his powerful technique 'wo li pao.' The original quote is shorter than we would like.

Cui Lian's dig out the hole fist

Dig out the hole is an unusual name for a kung fu technique and one that is not used by many schools these days. Hole means the empty spot, or soft spot and describes a location vulnerable to attack. Heart hole and eye hole were two common names of specific targets in past times.

'Dig out' describes striking with a powerful force like a shovel breaking new ground when digging a hole. To strike with the power equivalent to digging out a hole or cave evokes a powerful imagery of the spirit and power of this technique.

 A Shaolin monk uses the handle of his shovel to attack.

Modern Names

Some of the names commonly used nowadays for dig out the hole are tiao bao cha chui. 'Lift, embrace and stick in the fist' or just tiao bu chui. 'Lift and add a fist.' These names are descriptive of the actual technique's actions. The problem with the modern names is that a student of Mantis Boxing that only learned these modern names would not know the ancient origins and essential nature of this technique. They would have no way of linking this technique to the several lists of original mantis techniques such as Eighteen families.

Secret Door Mantis Digs Out the Hole

One day while training our kung fu shifu decided that it was time to begin a two man drill for training the skills of 'dig out the cave.'

After we had trained until our forearms were sore Shifu told us that this training method had been passed on to him by Zhang Dekui, famous as the teacher whose style of Mantis would later come to be known as Secret Door Mantis Boxing.

He himself only called his mantis gu tang lang, 'old mantis.'

Zhang De Kui of Secret Door Mantis demonstrates his mantis hands.

Dig Out the Cave Applied

Rick, wearing all black, throws a straight punch at Jeff.







Jeff defends by raising his right hand and blocking. His left hand follows and pushes Rick's elbow up.

While still controlling Rick's elbow Jeff enters with a punch to the soft part of Rick's ribs.

These pictures are the application of dig out the cave.

The following pictures show the method of interconnecting attack and counter attack.


A Training Drill for Dig Out the Cave

By having Rick apply the simplest counter attack, block and punch, Jeff is able to train 'dig out the cave' with both his right and left hands.

Continued from the previous move. Rick defends by lowering his right punch. This method of block is called di beng, 'lower collapse.' Without delay Rick applies a straight punch. His hands move together as a single motion.

Jeff defends from Rick's punch by raising his left arm. Notice that Jeff's left forearm connects to the OUTSIDE of Rick's forearm.

If Jeff had connected to the inside of Rick's forearm then he would have to attack with a different technique.


Once Jeff has lifted Rick's arm he uses his right hand to support it.

If you look carefully you can see an imaginary line from Jeff's rear foot to his upraised hand.

Keeping the body and arm in line with the rear foot maximizes Jeff's strength in supporting Rick's arm. Rick, in turn, keeps a sinking downward energy in his arms that makes it difficult for Jeff to push Rick's arm up.

Now that Jeff has opened up Rick's central gate he can apply the straight punch to Rick's solar plexus.




Rick does low collapse to Jeff's punch and follows with right straight punch to the face. Rick keeps contact with Jeff's right arm.


Jeff continues with his moves of lifting, supporting and adding in a punch.

Through continuous training both students can learn from this drill how to apply dig out the hole from both right and left sides.

Once they have mastered this the next technique add the mandarin duck kick the sealing hand collapsing fist and other moves from the eighteen families[

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Shaolin monks photo from, The Way of the Warrior Chris Crudelli

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