The creator of Chow Gar Praying Mantis was a monk named Chow Ah Naam. He was a Cantonese man, and was born into a wealthy farming family. When he was about ten years old he developed a stomach illness, which many doctors failed cure.
A friend of his fathers suggested the illness may be due to environmental factors, and recommended that he travel to different areas possibly finding a better climate. His father gave this some thought and decided to send his son away. He gave Chow Ah Naam money to travel North with a servant.
When they had travelled some distances his stomach illness grew worse. At the same time his servant became ill, and could not keep up with Chow Ah Naam, so they rested at an Inn. A few weeks later the servant died. After the funeral Chow Ah Naam had run out of money and sent a letter back home requesting more. But he was far from home and the letter was lost.
The owner of the Inn knew of the young man’s illness and his financial prediciment and offered him a position of servant in the kitchen. He also advised him to go to the Shaolin Temple to see a Buddhist Monk named Sim Yan.
This Monk was a famous medical man, who did not usually treat outsiders. However he liked the Chow Ah Naam, and after a few months of treatment the young man had recovered fully.
The Inn where Chow Ah Naam worked was in fact was part of the Shaolin Temple, where the rules included Kung Fu practice for at least two hours each day.
During Chow Ah Naam stay at the Temple he had a work mate named Set. Now Set was a big man with powerful arms and he thought himself the strongest of the lot. He’d been training Kung Fu for many years and was always telling people off and picking on others, so Chow Ah Naam tried to avoid him.
One day Set was carrying two buckets of water and Chow Ah Naam accidentally bumped into him. Set was so angry that he hit Chow Ah Naam. Although Chow Ah Naam tried to defend himself he was knocked down with one punch.
Some time later Chow Ah Naam was in a nearby forest collecting wood for the stove in the kitchen. He heard a commotion and looked up to see a bird using its beak against a Praying Mantis.
Watching closely he saw the Mantis suddenly cut across the birds throat with it’s arm; the bird fell and was covered in blood – it had stopped moving.
Chow Ah Naam was very surprised at this incident and being an intelligent person it occurred to him to copy this insect. He caught the Praying Mantis and many others after it, feeding them and using a twig to test their fighting reaction. Gradually he developed his boxing style based on the principles of these insects.
Nobody knew about this in the Shaolin Temple until one day, a few years later Set was showing off in front of some monks as Chow Ah Naam was passing through. The big man decided to pick on him, and Chow Ah Laam realised he could not avoid the challenged.
Set struck out at Chow Ah Naam, who was cool and avoided all his punches. Set became angry and used all his power to try to knock him down. All the other monks around were shouting and jeering, the noise was loud and so disturbed the Head Monk Sim Yan.
Sim Yan went to investigate what was going on and saw Chow Ah Naam fighting. Sim Yan knew that his fighting style was different to the Shaolin style, and while he was watching, Chow Ah Naam struck out at Set knocking him down to the ground.
Sim Yan stopped the contest and asked where Chow Ah Naam studied his Kung Fu? Chow Ah Naam told old Monk that he had observed the Praying Mantis’ fighting habits and developed a system based on this.
Sim Yan praised Chow Ah Naam’s ingenuity because there were not many people like him. Sim Yan personally taught Chow Ah Naam the highest of the Shaolin Temple training to develop a strong and powerful bridge.
Word of the style and its creator spread. Many years later Chow Ah Naam returned to Canton where he taught a monk named Wong Fook Go. After several years training Wong Fook Go went to a place named Wai Yearn and taught a young man named Lao Sui.
At that time it was the end of the Ching dynasty and Lao Sui went to Hong Kong where he became famous. His Kung Fu was superb and he had thousands of students in Southern China. After the death of Lao Sui there were only a few people who knew the highest of Chow Gar Praying Mantis Kung Fu and Grandmaster Ip Shui was one of the few.