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Iron Door Bolt

The best of the Praying Mantis Boxing techniques!

Praying Mantis Boxing is known as a fighting style containing the best fighting techniques of eighteen masters. Yet, we rarely have a chance to look closely at the techniques of those masters and examine what makes them so valuable. Iron Door Bolt is one of the techniques passed down to us from Master Meng Su, the 15th master.

Master Meng Su’s technique is an almost universal move that can be found in many styles besides Praying Mantis Boxing. Unfortunately, in not knowing the technique by its name ‘Iron Door Bolt’, it doesn’t receive the respect it deserves. In the west, the name Iron Door Bolt is seldom mentioned. Few people are even aware that the name Iron Door Bolt is included in the oldest Martial Art manual published during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Iron Door Bolt in the Wah Lum School of Praying Mantis

Nowadays, Iron Door Bolt is known as both a technique and a form. This is probably owing to the history of half a millennia of Iron Door Bolt. In America, a form originally called Iron Door Bolt is trained in the Wah Lum school of Praying Mantis. Chan Poi, who started Wah Lum in America in the early 70’s was one of the earliest to openly teach kung fu to Westerners and this is where Iron Door Bolt entered America. The name, 'Iron Door Bolt' ('Tie Men Suan' in Mandarin and 'Teet Bay Sow' in Cantonese) was translated into English as 'Little Mantis'. For this reason Wah Lum students may be unfamiliar with the name Iron Door Bolt. Chan Poi’s senior kung fu brother Chan Wah Ching, gave an interview in the early 70’s where he elaborated on the unique characteristics of Wah Lum Praying Mantis relative to other branches of Praying Mantis. He mentioned that Iron Door Bolt is a unique form in the Wah Lum School and added that it is also called ‘Xiao Tang Lang’ which literally means ‘Little Mantis!’

Master Chan Poi of Wah Lum

Iron Door Bolt in Taiji Mantis Boxing

Iron Door Bolt also exists as a specific technique. It is found in the form ‘Throw and Pull.’ This form is technically less demanding than the Wah Lum Iron Door Bolt form, but with the technique Iron Door Bolt clearly labeled in Cui Shoushan’s hand written manual, this form is invaluable in understanding how to cleverly apply Iron Door Bolt.

First Combination Using Iron Door Bolt

The first combination of the form Throw and Pull.

April does lift and strike. The idea is that with this low strike the opponent will attack your top gate.

April enters with Iron Door Bolt. The right hand at the waist has control of the opponent's hand
Iron Door Bolt is finished off with a double palm strike, here called Double Clubbing.

Second Combination Using Iron Door Bolt

April advances with the lulu fist.
As she advances with lulu fist she suddenly steps with the left and enters with Iron Door Bolt. The right hand at the waist has control of the opponent's hand
Iron Door Bolt is finished off with a series of three connected punches starting with the right fist.

Like Pushing an Old Fashioned Bolt into a Door!

The name of the form may descend from how doors were closed in the old days. Since ancient times it has been the custom to bolt shut the city gates at sundown.


Great Big Gates

Here some pictures of the entry way where large gates were once found. It must have take some strength to get these doors shut!

When I first moved to Taiwan I lived right near the Eastern Gate. One of the remaining pieces of architecture from the Qing Dynasty. I trained kung fu under the gate when it rained.


This is the Southern gate of Tainan City. The outer and inner wall are still standing. This is where I filmed the two person short whip.


Iron Door Bolt Applied (1st)


Jeff throws a right hook punch to Phil's head. Phil blocks the hook punch with a left block.



While Phil's high block is still in contact with Jeff's hook punch he  plucks with the right hand. This is called stealing hand (tou shou).

Phil securely grabs Jeff's lead hand and pulls it down, leaving Jeff's head exposed.



Iron Door Bolt applied! Legs are hooked together as Phil pushes the bolt into the door.



To defend, Jeff only has to dodge his head out of the way.


Phil throws his left fist into Jeff's face which Jeff blocks. Now, Phil has the chance to control both of Jeff's hands.


From Here Phil Strikes with both hands to Jeff's chin or throat (or chest).


Second Application to Iron Door Bolt


In the 2nd application of Iron Door Bolt Phil follows up with three straight punches either to Jeff's solar plexus or throat


Ming Dynasty Roots of Iron Door Bolt

When talking of spear and empty hand martial arts of the Ming dynasty General Qi Jiguang’s (1528-1587) New Book on Effective Training is often cited as a reference. Yet, we seldom hear of where General Qi learned his martial arts. Besides his giving credit to General Yu Dayou for staff (General Yu and the Escaping Pirates), he also gives credit to General Tang Xunzhi on explaining and teaching him subtle details of the application of spear. Over a decade prior to the appearance of General Qi’s New Book on Effective Training (sometime in the Jia Qing reign 1522-1566), came General Tang’s book Martial Chapter. When General Qi asked General Tang about his skill Tang replied, ‘This is 10 years of kung fu!’ Thus giving proof to the meaning of the Chinese word kung fu (gung fu) as a skill attained through hard work and explaining where the mystery of marvelous skill comes from: hard work!

Martial Chapter is probably the best link we have to the weapons and empty hand methods of the early Ming Dynasty. General Tang compiled information on spear, staff, saber, archery, halberd, etc, as well as the listing and explanation of empty hand methods of the day.

Martial Chapter contains the earliest version of the Longfist manuscript which later became the basis of our well known Taiji Quan form now practiced all over the world. But, what interests us most is that this book contains the 1st mention of Iron Door Bolt.

It contains a list of techniques that work in combination with Iron Door Bolt. General Tang assumes that the reader is already familiar with Iron Door Bolt and leaves us with no explanation as to its application. For that, we must turn to Praying Mantis Boxing.

The Roots of Iron Door Bolt in Praying Mantis

There are two places to find the old roots of Iron Door Bolt in Praying Mantis Boxing.

  1. An old manuscript called 9981 Short Strikes

  2. The manuscript Seven Maneuvers Gathered within Continuous Fist Make the 18 Combinations (Seven Maneuvers)

In 9981 Short Strikes we find,

Bottom leak (di lou) is where Iron Door Bolt starts. Iron Door Bolt is where bottom leak ends.

In other words, Iron Door Bolt is bottom leak. What is Bottom leak? It is merely a clever way of applying the hook punch or inner forearm elbow.

Surnames of the Founders of Eighteen Styles is where we first come across Meng Su and mention of his Seven Maneuvers.

14. Meng Su's Seven Maneuvers’ of Interconnected Fists.

In the chapter explaining those maneuvers we have a section called 5th Step Iron Door Bolt where it explains the applications and combinations in a short form.

Throw the leak advance the step iron door bolt.
Sealing and closing rushing to the face.


Like the application shown above, once Iron Door Bolt is used our hands rush to the face

Many thanks to the collaboration with Niki Deistler and his shifu Zhou Zhendong. This summer I will fly to Shandong to met up with Niki and Shifu Zhou.



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