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Little Four Hands

Shaolin's earliest existing manual of empty hand fighting, The Pugilist Methodology Essential Reference (Quan Jing Quan Fa Bei Yao) asks,

"Why do you move diagonally when using the dodging footsteps?"



It is in order to avoid that which comes straight towards you and to evade that which charges at you.
Avoid his charge and fly diagonally when his force is difficult to stop.
How can you defend yourself from a straight attack without dodging?
Go sideways and immediately go straight.
Occupy his space so he'll be injured by a fall."

In Praying Mantis Boxing there is a form called Little Four Hands which trains how to charge your opponent and how to evade his charge. It all relies on the hooking hand. When I teach this method to students, usually starting on the first day of class, I use the order of

1. Solo form; Little Four Hands

2. Two person hand drill

3. Two person form; Little Four Hands

The Solo Form

Here Raquel demonstrates the solo form Little Four Hands. The names of the four attacks should be shouted out as they are performed, for this reason the Chinese is a terse one or two syllables for each technique.

The four attacking techniques are

  • Quan Chui-Hook Punch
  • Ji Tou-Attack the Head
  • Ti-Kick
  • Da-Strike

Bao Zhou-Embrace the Elbows

1. Xia Zha-Low Smash

Bao Zhou-Embrace the Elbows

1. Xia Zha-Low Smash

2. Gou Shou-Hooking Hand 3. Quan Chui-Hook Punch

2. Gou Shou-Hooking Hand

3. Quan Chui-Hook Punch


4. Ji Tou-Attack the head

5. Ti-Kick

4. Ji Tou-Attack the head

5. Ti-Kick

6. Da-Strike 7. Tun Zhang-Pushing Palm

6. Da-Strike

7. Tun Zhang-Pushing Palm

8. Yan Zhou-Covering Elbow 9. Xia Zha-Low Smash

8. Yan Zhou-Covering Elbow

9. Xia Zha-Low Smash

The last technique is the same as the first. From the last move you can continue training without end in both the solo and two man form.

Gou Shou-Hooking Hand

In order to "... avoid that which comes straight towards you and to evade that which charges at you..." While still being able to counter attack one must use the hooking hand.

In our class we start the two person training section of class with gou shou-hooking hand. Simple to train and easy to understand. It is best to train at least 100 times per class on each hand. When both students are proficient in the drill it takes a little over a minute to perform 100 repetitions per hand.

1. Jared on the left and Alex on the right. Jared begins by placing his palm on the shoulder of Alex.


2. Alex hooks Jared's hand 3. Notice how Alex turns his waist. As he is turning his right hand should pull closer to his waist (not shown)


4. Alex's hand smoothly shoots out and pats Jared on the shoulder. That is one down for Alex, 99 repetitions to go. 5. Jared now repeats the drill by hooking Alex's hand pulling it to his waist and reaching for his shoulder. From here they can continue without end.

Little Four Hands the Two Man Form

When last I was in Brasil I had the opportunity to visit Coach Jander's school for his grand opening. While I was in his new school I took the chance to have some pictures. We photographed Little Four Hands. The arrangement of Little Four Hands is such that when you start the drill you begin with the third and fourth attack of the form, namely; kick and punch. This is the charging attack. A technique common to many martial art styles.

The solo form opens with xia zha-low smash, the defense to Jander's attack, and counters with the hook punch straight punch combo, another attack common to many martial art styles.

There are two characteristics of this drill unique to Praying Mantis Boxing.

1. The reliance on the right hooking hand in order to deliver the left hook punch.

2. The interconnected method of training with no pause, the more you train this drill the faster you move.

Jander attacks me and I swing my hand down. My head is not well protected.


Jander strikes at my unprotected head. I reach out with my hand and hook his wrist.

If his hand recoils from the punch I will utilize that recoil to help propel myself forward.


Jander Ducks my hook punch and tries to push his palm into my ribs.

I don't let go of his right wrist.


My right hand punches toward his face.

He steps back and defends.

To continue the drill I would kick toward his groin and perform the attacks that Jander started the form with.

From here this form can continue without end giving the student the ability to examine the subtle details of technique.

Inside Jander's School. Left to Right Elen, Jander, Kevin (me), Andre, and Marcio

Outside Jander's school in Sao Paolo Brasil


The beginning method of Praying Mantis Boxing is an excellent way for students to become acquainted with training the proper speed, power and targeting of techniques. The responsibility of the Shifu is to make sure the students are using full speed, full strength and are striking close enough so that if one student is too slow they will get hit


The form in a handy reference paper


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