CLASS ACT: Master instructor in Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu Sifu Jody Blatch instructs his Grafton students. Photo: Adam Hourigan
CLASS ACT: Master instructor in Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu Sifu Jody Blatch instructs his Grafton students. Photo: Adam Hourigan Adam Hourigan

Praying Mantis is armed with a wealth of knowledge

FORGET the grasshopper*, the praying mantis is where it's at when it comes to martial arts.

The Southern Praying Mantis that is, a kung fu fighting style born in Hong Kong about 200 years ago but only making its debut in Grafton a few weeks ago.

And its teacher is no ordinary one. He is Master Instructor Sifu Jody Blatch who operates the Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu Academy of Australia from its headquarters in Lismore.

Sifu Jody spent 13 years training and passing 12 grades to earn that title, one he takes very seriously.

He said he was first introduced by a friend to this form of kung fu when he was 15 and has been mastering the art of it ever since.

"It's very new to the Grafton area and I'm excited to bring it down here. It's really something everyone can do, but because of the physicality required the starting age is 13 years."

Keen Clarence martial arts student Keane Renshaw initially inquired through the academy about having classes in this area, which now operate once a week with Sifu Jody teaching one each fortnight and his new apprentice Keane, the alternate week.

"It's early days yet but we hope to make it two classes a week soon," Sifu Jody said.

Apart from the obvious fighting skills you acquire, Sifu Jody said there were other benefits to partaking in a Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu class.

"It improves fitness and strength as well as confidence and concentration which can help with everyday activities and your working life."

He said this style of fighting involved internal and external training.

"Internally in mind and breathing and externally in energy through its hard dynamic techniques."

He said the technique is 99% hands and no leg work, and uses gangtarn ging energy, a combination of shock and power, with elements of yang style tai chi.

"We use the eagle claw and cotton palm which helps increase sensitivity. It's a bit like a game of chess. You are always six moves ahead of your opponent. They really don't know what is going on."

So has Sifu Jody ever had to call upon his praying mantis skills out in the real world?

"Yes, unfortunately. Let's just say the provocateur was pretty stunned afterwards."

* Karate Kid reference for those born post 1990

Praying Mantis Kung Fu

There are two distinct styles - Northern and Southern style.

The Northern style is characterised by the low stances and much leg work.

The Southern style has hardly any leg work, except for some low, effective kicks and reduces the footwork to 'stepping' with powerful and effective hits delivered from a solid 'foundation'.

The 'full fist' and knuckles are hardly used when attacking an opponent, placing greater emphasis on the other parts (side and palm) or shapes of the hand (like the 'one knuckle' variation) to deliver force to 'nerve points' and the more vulnerable areas of the body - like the neck.

Southern Praying Mantis is free of 'fancy' non-effective moves; instead it focuses on practicality, fast, powerful, direct techniques that deliver maximum force, with minimum effort, by returning the energy generated by an opponent back to its sender.

Every technique is designed for maximum power. Breathing techniques and relaxation exercises help harness internal strength.

It is also known as 'sticky hands'. Constant contact with an opponent through the sense of touch allows control and detection of openings in his/her defence. The style is 'close range'.

The practitioner prefers to be as close as possible to an attacker, yet far enough away to deliver effective strikes.

It focuses strongly on the improvement and co-ordination of both body and mind. Maximum results can only be achieved if physical strength is combined with correct breathing and inner power - chi.

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