This is a very rare 'Hui' (Muslim) martial art - developed and practiced within China by descendants of Arab merchants (and travellers) who settled in China around a thousand years ago (and at other times after this date). These men were generally highly respected by the Chinese Authorities and often married Chinese women - altered or changed their surnames to fit-in - and sired 'Chinese' children often brought-up within the Islamic faith. This martial art was developed by three respected Imans serving in the Bozhou (亳州) Mosque of Beijing during the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Daoguang (r. 1813-1820) and is comprised of various Chinese martial arts techniques as gathered by Hui people living primarily in the Henan, Anhui, Shandong areas - as well other places:
If I am reading this name correctly (see HERE for more information), this art is emphasising intellectual and physical study (晰 - Xi), a process which builds 'Yang' (阳) energy which represents the 'sun' or 'brightness' (the literal meaning of 'Yang') represented by Allah! As Muslims only practice for self-defence the 'open-hand' or 'palm' (掌 - Zhang) is emphasised over the closed fist. Yin and Yang are developed equally with the inner and outer body being made strong and healthy so that the practitioners can a) pray properly and recite the Holy Qur'an in the Mosques, b) perform wholesome labour properly within society and c) maintain the strength to carry-out charitable work and help others free of charge. As this art builds outer strength for praying and inner strength for recitation - by cultivsting Yin and Yang (using martial techniques derived from at least three other provinces) - it is also known by the name of 'Three Considered Profundities' (三议妙 - San Yi Miao). The art itself must only be used to protect vulnerable individuals (including the practittioner) from attack (or 'insult') within society - but the rules for this are very strict (Halal).
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!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.