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General Yu and the Escaping Pirates
At 55 years old General Yu Dayou was renown for his military planning. He was suppressing pirates that had been launching raids from their stronghold on Zhou Shan Island, making repeated attacks off the coast of the heavily populated Zhe Jiang Province. Though General Yu’s naval troops had besieged Zhou Shan Island they were repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to take it over, After almost a year General Yu’s opportunity appeared, spies reported that the pirates had grown tired of the harassment and planned to escape Zhou Shan Island. But, Yu’s superior, Supreme Commander Hu refused permission for the attack and simply let them sail away.

Ship formations from the time of General Yu


The Arrest of General Yu

The pirates successfully escaped Yu’s area of responsibility and sailed to Fu Jian where they continued raiding the countryside. A censor of Fu Jian, enraged by the sudden influx of bandits and pirates, accused Supreme Commander Hu of deliberately sending them to Fu Jian so that he wouldn’t have to deal with them. Supreme Commander Hu immediately suspected that General Yu, a Fu Jian native, had made the pirates release known to the censor of Fu Jian.
In April of 1559 Supreme Commander Hu had General Yu arrested, ironically, the charge was failing to pursue those same pirate fleets that had escaped Zhou Shan Island. General Yu was impeached from office and dismissed.

Between the time of General Yu’s dismissal and his later reinstatement on the ‘barbarian frontier,’ sometime in 1567, he finished the martial classic, Compilation of the Righteous Hall. It includes the famous Sword Classic, detailing Yu’s stick fighting method known as "Jing Chu Long Sword" as well as several general formulas that can apply to both empty hand and weapons fighting.

‘Governing Formula of Mantis Hands,’ Cui Shoushan’s mantis manuscript, is a rewriting of Yu Dayou’s (General Yu) formulas. One of the most interesting of the formulas defines hard and soft.


Yu Dayou

Straight through the center 8 hard 12 soft.
Shave when high roll when low divide left and right.
For striking and killing connect high, low, left and right.
The moving hands follow each other and work together.

Mantis Formula

Straight through the center apply hard and soft.
Raise when high, roll when low divide left and right.
When moving your hands connect high, low, left and right.
The moving hands follow each other and work together.


"Raise when high," When a strike enters high, push it up so you can attack below. "Roll when low," when a strike enters low your first hand keeps it low, second hand controls it and third hand enters.


Taking Advantage of His Strength

Most of the old mantis forms and theories have either a preface or postscript which gives some formula for the application of the techniques. The eight elbows form, one of the oldest forms of mantis has a postscript which is almost exactly the same as Yu Dayou’s formula;

Yu Dayou’s version
Hard is applied before encountering his strength.
Soft takes advantage of his strength.
He moves in haste while I calmly wait.
Through knowledge of striking can you fight accordingly.

This is the definitive explanation of hard and soft. The sentence, ’He moves in haste while I calmly wait.’ predates the first appearance of the main principle of the internal school of martial arts by 100 years written by Huang Zongyi in 1669, ”...the internal school uses stillness to prevail over movement.”


I strike the opponent with an unbendable force and take advantage of his defense to enter. This is to 'take advantage of the opponent's strength.' A principle first written by Yu Dayou but later used by Mantis Boxing and other styles to describe a fundamental fighting theory


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Information on Yu Dayou from The Cambridge History of China Vol. 7 Part I


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