Middle Particle - 𣏟 (pai4) = 'Hemp' or 'Linen'
Lower Particle - 手 (shou3) = 'Open-Hand'
During a two-week visit to Hong Kong and the New Territories during February 1999 - which included a visit to the 'Chan' (陳) ancestral village in the Sai Kung area of the New Territories (as well as a trip over into Shenzhen to visit other relatives), I engaged in the usual gongfu activity of 'Form Swapping' with any other interested parties. Chinese gongfu Forms are like a form of cultural currency that involves a 'sharing' process which develops the over-all understanding of China's martial heritage of each individual involved! It is not that these 'new' or 'unfamiliar' styles are necessarily integrated into existing styles, systems and schools (although sometimes they are), but rather that practitioners of a certain level of attainment possess the ability to 'look beyond' and 'see through' the usual stylistic barriers that usually 'separate' and 'define' martial traditions! Indeed, as Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) has a good reputation in the area, I was approached by various individuals to 'share' a gongfu Form over a friendly cup of tea! One such individual belonged to the now very affluent and exclusive 'Beggars and Wanderers Society' who offered to exchange one of our Longfist Forms for a Tiger and an Arahant Form preserved in their tradition. The members of this Society used to walk the roads of ancient China 'stealing' or 'borrowing' the gongfu Forms of local gongfu schools and passing these systems around, through and into places the population of which would usually not have encountered these types or sets of movements.
These 'Beggars' were also tough and developed these Forms through the practicality of having to fight for their survival! Today, however, this Society is now comprised of families that have done well for themselves in business, and which form a type of 'Guild' around the fact that a distant relative was once a wandering beggar - similar to an itinerant Buddhist monk - but without the support of the establishment! Travelling from place to place, and penetrating the clans and social systems of other places was a highly unusual pastime during feudal China - where China was controlled within the empire through a stringent conservativism where every household, community and area was expected to be an exact copy of the imperial house! Moving 'between' communities was viewed as being strictly unnecessary unless there was a good reason for it - but 'Beggars' often possessed the ability to move in and out of places 'unnoticed' and 'unhindered' providing they did not draw attention to themselves. This is how they 'acquired' their extensive martial knowledge - which is said to cover 'Northern' and 'Southern' fighting styles in equal measure! The style featured on this post is said to be a mixture of 'Northern' and 'Southern' styles and is termed '羅漢十八摩' (Luo Han Shi Ba Mo) or unusually' 'Arahant Eighteen Abilities of Touch'!
The use of the ideogram '摩' (mo2) is interesting - particularly as it seems to be replacing the more familiar '拳' (quan2) which denotes a closed fist. The ideogram '摩' (mo2) is comprised of:
Upper Particle - 厂 (han2) = 'Cliff'
Middle Particle - 𣏟 (pai4) = 'Hemp' or 'Linen'
Lower Particle - 手 (shou3) = 'Open-Hand'
Therefore, the use of '摩' (mo2) might denote the 'careful' and 'gentle' plucking or picking of plants from the edge of a cliff - a dangerous activity that requires skill, timing and precise movement. Indeed, this leads to the other meaning of '摩' (mo2) which is to 'study' so that the 'touch' of the individual becomes highly skilled and yet free of all malice. As this style is said to have been developed by Chinese Buddhist monastics (possibly premised upon Indian Buddhist prototypes) - it is more than likely that the use of '摩' (mo2) signifies the non-presence of greed, hatred and delusion, the three taints all Buddhist practitioners are expected to 'uproot' through hours of seated meditation and the behaviour modification enforced through stringent (Vinaya) self-discipline! I suspect this indicates that this style of 'Arahant' self-defence preserves an older naming system. The arrangement of the ideograms seem to suggest that there are 'Eighteen' fighting techniques the 'Arahants' are expected to 'Study' if the sentence is read from left to right (which I am assuming). If the arrangement is meant to read right to left, then we have 'Study Eighteen Arahants'. Whatever the case, it is more usual today to place the number 'Eighteen' BEFORE the word 'Arahant' (十八羅漢). It seems that the use of the ideogram '摩' (mo2) suggests methods whereby the Buddhist monastics emulate the techniques of 'closing the distance' between themselves and their opponent - without involving any malice of fore-thought!
Every genuine martial arts style from North China is quite often linked to the Shaolin Temple of Henan – or contains techniques that are associated with temple’s gongfu training. The Chinese term ‘罗汉’ (Luo Han) refers to the Indian Pali term ‘Arahant’ - and in this instance includes the so-called ‘Arahant Fist’ (罗汉拳 - Luo Han Quan) - an ‘enlightened’ martial art which Bodhidharma brought from South India to China around 520 CE. An ‘Arahant’ is a man or woman who has achieved enlightened within the Early School of Buddhism – represented by the Theravada School today (and its Pali Cannon). This article presents exercises that are often linked to ‘squat-kicking’ in various styles – or exercises used to a) build the external (physical) structures and strength of the entire leg area, and b) develop the ‘internal’ awareness of how energy and bodyweight manoeuvre through the centre of the bone marrow. Quite often the exercises remain the same or are only slightly altered to build the foundation for the next stage of training. Below is the ‘Arahant’ exercises for building ‘internal’ strength, power and endurance through the entire bone-structure of each leg. As the ‘circular’ structure of the joints and bones are incorporated – the ‘iron vest’ armouring of the legs is also developed. This develops the advanced internal ability to harmlessly absorb, reject or deflect any incoming power from a hostile blow.
Lifting pose: Standing up naturally, with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed and hanging, all ten fingers slightly bent, eyes level, and the whole body relaxed. Get rid of distracting thoughts, concentrate on the pubic area. Breathing should be natural, slow, deep, and even, with 7 breaths as appropriate, with blood flowing through the whole body. (figure 1)
1) Stand upright: hold both hands on the top of the head from the side of the body, cross your fingers with the back of your palms facing up, and inhale at the same time, then turn your palms toward the sky, do not touch the top of your head, slowly bend your knees and squat, and exhale at the same time; When squatting, the head and body are upright, do not lean forward, bend the knees as far as possible not to exceed the toes, intend to guard the Yongquan (涌泉) point, then slowly stand up, and inhale at the same time, squat 7 times, so the blood flows through the whole body. (Picture 2～3)
2) Sunrise Over Eastern Mountain: Make a fist with both hands, flexing the elbows and raising them on both sides of your shoulders. Still in the squat rises slowly, with breathing, 7 times is appropriate, the rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 4～5)
3) Worshipping Buddha in Ten Directions: Put your hands together in front of your chest, palms together, and do the same squat slowly and rise 7 times. Breathing is the same as other requirements. (Picture 6～7)
4. Embrace the moon with your arms: hold your arms in a round shape, with your fingers facing each other, palms facing inward, and do squatting and rising slowly for 7 times. (Picture 8-9)
5) Two Dragons 'Spit-Out' Pearls: Make a fist with both hands, elbows with both arms flat in front of the chest, in balance, with fists facing down, still slowly squatting and raising 7 times, and the rest are the same as above. (Picture 10-11)
6) Swallow Yin - Build Yang: Fold your hands behind your waist with your palms facing outwards. Do the same slow squat and rise 7 times. The rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 12～13)
7) Ten Thousand Dharmas Return to a Single Source: Fold your palms on top of each other, palms facing inward, place your the hands on the lower abdomen and down into the expand the attention into the pubic area. Squat up 7 times with slow breathing to keep your pubic field. It also requires that the head be straight and the knees bend but toes. (Pictures 14-15)
Closing style: The method and essentials are the same as the starting style. Key points of Arahant Seven-Postures: When squatting up, do not bend your knees forward over your toes, let alone bend your head down, keep your eyes straight, keep your body centered, and keep your spine as straight as possible.
Chinese Language Article:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.