Cha Chuan and Muslim Systems

info_cha1An important system in China is Cha Chuan (Zha Quan), a fighting style developed by members of the Muslim faith. Muslim immigrants have lived in China for over 1000 years and began an especially large in-flow around the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). In China they are known as the “Hui” people. The main Muslim communities centralized around HeNan, HeBei, ShanTung and ShanXi provinces.

Though at times powerful and influential in China the Hui people have often been considered “outsiders”. As an act of integration, protection and – as some Hui leaders described it – “holy practice” they not only took up the study of Chinese martial arts but excelled. Due to their differences from the typical Chinese population (wearing a white cap, not eating pork, worshipping differently) they were often “caught in the middle” much like European Jewry. As political ping pong balls they soon developed the realization that knowing martial arts was to their advantage. How good did the Hui people become? One of the most famous sayings in Kung Fu was specially modified in their case to: “Southern Fists, Northern Legs and in Shan Dong: Cha Boxing.”

info_cha2Soon they were developing their own Kung Fu methods, such as 10-road Tan Tui (Spring Leg), and Cha Ch’uan. They not only developed expertise in “individual” Kung Fu but assumed important military ranks often showing exceptional bravery and loyalty to the Emperor. For instance the military expeditions which finally expelled the Mongols from control of China and started the great Ming dynasty were aided by powerful generals such as Chang Yu Chun (creator of the famous Kai Pin Spear Method), Hu Da Hai, Mu Ying, Lan Yu, Feng Sheng and Ding De Xing: each of them a Muslim martial artist.

During the Ching dynasty, when the Manchus conquered China, the Hui were so loyal the Manchus never forgave them and after the conquest passed harsh laws restricting their rights to have weapons, congregate, etc. If found violating these laws they were often branded “Hui Zui” or Hui Rebel. Humiliation and suppression was their lot for a long time.

But throughout, the Cha style has been very important in the overall martial picture. Muslim experts have been influential, for instance in:

Jiao Men
Cha Chuan
Tan Tui
Xing Yi (HeBei & Henan styles)
Hua Chuan
Liu He
Tong Bei

And other styles.

info_cha3Even the name “Cha” Chuan is attributed to a transliteration of a Muslim name Chamir. The Tan Tui, one of the most famous of all Northern Chinese sets was not only developed by Muslims but originally had one road each for every letter in the 28 character Arabic alphabet.

Developed by Cha Shang Mir, the Tan Tui is about 400 years old. As the legend goes a Muslim general, Hua Zong Qi, was on a military campaign, got sick and was left behind to be nursed by peasants in a village in XinJiang. Once healed he taught, as a reward, his Spring Leg set to the locals. Tan Tui was not only a foundation to develop the beautiful, graceful and famous Cha Style but was such a rational approach that it was adopted by all sorts of other styles. Among these are the Tan Tui versions from:
Preying Mantis
Lost Track
Liu He
Ching Wu
Southern Shaolin

And many more including 6, 10,12, 14, 16 and 18 road routines and two-person practices.

Eventually the Cha style developed into three “family” branches: Zhang, Li and Yang. Only recently have their been efforts to reconstruct the entire system, including the essential ten core sets.

These ten sets are such typical Long Fist that when the Mainland government wanted to create “required” routines they decided to use the Cha sets as a base for what is now known as “contemporary Wushu” because they were relatively unchanged for centuries. Though in some ways a representative Long Fist style, Cha has some added flavors distinctly its own. It emphasizes a graceful series of actions but with unusual timing and angle changes. Some sets, such as the first set normally taught – Cha Road #4 – are so famous that many styles, such as Northern Shaolin, have a version. But all versions display at least some of Cha’s distinctive timing and changes.

Cha is a wide and deep style with many forms. The Zhang branch, for instance, contains at least the following hand forms:

Cha Fist: Ten sets.
Pao Fist (Cannon Fist): Three sets.
Hua Fist: Three Forms (#3 a duet)
Hong Fist: Four forms.
Tui (Leg) Boxing: Two Forms. Yes, that’s all within one branch of the Cha family.

A truly great and proud style with a long past.

OTHER STYLES of interest include a few so specialized to the Muslim community that they were rarely seen indeed

Chi Shi Quan: also known as “Chi Shi” or the Seven Warriors. Originally the name memorialized the Seven “Saints” of Islam but was altered to the “Seven Forms.” Starting among Muslims in Henan it eventually reached ShanXi. The style, as the name implies, is based on seven essential postures from which sets are constructed. Its skills include:

Shi Lu Tan Tui (10 Road Spring Leg)
Qi Chi (Seven Forms)
Shi San Shi (13 Weapons)
San Lu Pao (Three Road Canon Punch)
Wu Tang Shen Quan (Five Section Spirit Fist)
Liu Lu Zhuan (Rotating Six Roads)
Shi Ba Qiang (18 move Spear)
Er Chi Jie Dao (Twenty-four cuts Saber)
Ma Shang San Shi Liu Dao (Knight’s 36 Saber)
Ba Zhan Shi Ba Dao (Entering Battle 18 Saber)
Shu Gong (Lance work)
Co Gong (Friction work)
Tie Sha Zhang (Iron Sand Palm)

Hui Hui Shi Ba Zhou (Muslim 18 Elbows)

Like Cha this style of Muslim Kung Fu is based on the Semitic alphabet where recombination of vowel-less roots can create artistic creations of great beauty. Eighteen Elbows is a style divided into three parts. The first contains 18 separate actions. The second section is composed of 18 “sets” which can be linked or separated. Each section is from one to five moves long. The forms constructed from these “sets” range from 14 linked together up to 41. In the third level the sets are for two people. The elbows of the title refers not just to strikes but to the actions and variations the elbows are capable of performing.This style was so secret that it was considered lost until the late 1970’s when Wu Shu researchers found a teacher Ju Kui who knew the style (like the famous case of the Book of History being remembered by a wood cutter after Emperor Chen Shi Huang Ti “burned all the books.”) Ju Kui (b. 1886) was from a Muslim family in Tong Xian County, Hebei. At age six he started learning from Sun De Kui of De Zhou, Shandong. He trained for 17 years, learning 19 types of martial arts. At age 33 he also tried to improve himself by studying with Yang Wan Lu, a priest of the Tong Shou Mosque. The style passed to him then was the Eighteen Elbows.

Some related products:
VCDS on Cha Boxing
More VCDS on Cha from the Li Branch
Still more Cha VCDS
English Cha Book