The Legendary Mufu Mountain Martial Arts of Hunan - An Intangible Cultural Display of China! (6.11.2022)
(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Translator's Note: There are thousands of martial arts Styles existing throughout China and the Chinese diaspora! Only a small number of these Styles are known outside the Chinese community. Although these Styles were only passed down (secretly) within families - or through the cultivation of one or two carefully chosen 'Disciples' - today, the onus is on 'openness' and the 'sharing' of ALL Chinese cultural arts and crafts. The United Nations (UN) refers to these arts and crafts as 'Intangible Culture' - and pursues a general policy of recording, supporting, maintaining and spreading these distinct bodies of cultural knowledge. This policy is part of a broader initiative to generate 'peace' throughout the world by the 'familiarising' humanity with the distinct culture generated by each ethnic (human) group. Understanding prevents 'fear' and encourages 'friendship'. This Chinese language article records the fact that the UN has officially recognised the 'Mufu Mountain Wushu' Style as being a prime example of Chinese 'Intangible Culture'! ACW (6.11.2022)
Mufu (幕阜) Mountain Martial Arts (武术 - Wu Shu) is an ancient and rare fighting system. As such, it neither belongs to the Wudang (武当), the Shaolin (少林) nor Emei (峨眉) faction. It has a unique temperament - a system of its own - and is destined to be original. Mufu Wushu is a representative example of provincial ‘intangible cultural heritage’ (i.e., an example of an art or craft passed down through the generations) originating amongst the population of those cultural groups inhabiting Yueyang City area – which is situated within Northeast Hunan province (Mainland China). It is a martial art which developed at the foot of Mufu Mountains (幕阜山 - Mu Fu Shan) - with the purpose of creating healthy individuals who are calm, kind and a benefit to society!
Legend has it that Ge Hong (葛洪) - who served as Prime Minister during the Jin Dynasty (266-420 CE) - was once sat in deep meditation facing a tranquil stream after resigning from his post. He eventually became aware of a tiger which was stood staring into the entrance of a dark cave situated at the foot of a nearby cliff (Mufu Mountain). Suddenly, a giant python burst out of the darkness with tremendous energy and fighting spirit! The head of this snake was as big as bucket – and its body was as strong as a tree-trunk! This snake was completely unafraid of the tiger and immediately went on the attack! The two animals then engaged in a fierce and frightening battle!
As the battle progressed – the tiger continuously jumped and changed position – whilst the snake coiled and sprang forward only to recoil, change direction and spring forward yet again! As Ge Hong watched this encounter – he suddenly experienced a profound insight into the nature of reality! Although Ge Hong had practiced martial arts during his life – he had never seen such a display in his life as the two animals fought one another to a draw – both leaving the area in different directions. Eventually, both animals returned and occupied the same area without conflict – seemingly reconciling their differences. From this experience, Ge Hong integrated what he had learned from this experience into his existing martial knowledge – and generated a new combat system he named the ‘Dragon-Tiger Fighting Nest Fist’ (龙虎争巢拳 - Long Hu Zheng Chao Quan)! Later, a deer stumbled into the area and was killed by the tiger and swallowed by the python! After seeing this unfortunate event, Ge Hong pondered the problem of repelling the tiger. He then developed the art of the ‘Mufu Energy Centre Self-Cultivation Cliff Stick’ (幕阜丹崖棍 - Mu Fu Dan Ya Gun).
The complete Mufu Mountain Wushu System is comprised of unarmed (punching and kicking) routines - weapons and implements routines - and qigong (气功).
The Mufu Mountain Wushu System has five unarmed routines (or ‘Forms’):
a) Dragon and Tiger Fight for the Nest (龙虎争巢 - Long Hu Zheng Chao)
b) Dragon and Tiger Interact (龙虎戏 - Long Hu Xi)
c) Dragon and Tiger Developing Energy Centre Self-Cultivation Cliff (龙虎斗丹崖 - Long Hu Dou Dan Ya)
d) Dragon and Tiger Climb Mountain (龙虎登山 - Long Hu Deng Shan)
e) Dragon and Tiger Reunite (龙虎团圆 - Long Hu Tuan Yuan)
The Mufu Mountain Wushu practitioner can strike with effortless power – advancing and retreating with a requisite ease. The guard can be opened and closed at will with a continuous adaptation being the key. This Style can be practiced alone, in pairs, or with three or five people – and can easily be adapted to accommodate multiple people at the same time. A single practitioner can fight one or many assailants at one time with no problem whatsoever. The advanced Mufu Wushu practitioner can choose to be ‘still’ with the strength of ‘Mount Tai’ (泰山 - Tai Shan) - and move like ‘flowing’ water - never resting for an instant! Such a fighter can express ‘softness’ (柔 - Rou) and ‘hardness’ (刚 - Gang) at will!
1) Mufu Energy Centre Self-Cultivation Cliff Stick (幕阜丹崖棍 - Mu Fu Dan Ya Gun)
2) Eight Trigrams Descending Dragon Broad Sword (八卦降龙刀 - Ba Gua Xiang Long Dao)
3) Penetrate Throat Four Gates Spear (点喉四门枪 - Dian Hou Si Men Qiang)
4) Chasing Ascending Spirit Volting Tiger Straight Sword (追魂伏虎剑 - Zhui Hun Fu Hu Jian)
There are a total of twenty-four exercises which comprise the Qigong component. These exercises evolved according to the twenty-four solar positions. All these exercises strengthen the mind and body in readiness to participate in the act of combat. The mind and body become both ‘strong’ and ‘elusive’ - so that a Mufu Wushu practitioner can naturally dominate the opponent and the immediate environment. The strikes generated to combat an opponent are highly technical in nature and devastating to encounter. One speciality is the ‘claw’ (爪 - Zhao) which is used by both the dragon and the tiger! For this technique to work – the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons of the hands (fingers, thumb, palm, wrist and fore-arm) must be extensively conditioned and strengthened! The fingers must become enthused with ‘qi’ energy so that a ‘soft’ finger (through an act of ‘intent’) can transform and become as ‘hard’ as iron! This type of conditioning is applied throughout the body so that the Mufu Wushu practitioner is not afraid to be struck – and is able to hit with tremendous power! If iron and stone training aids are struck in training – the striking limbs become as hard as the objects they are hitting! Mufu Wushu is generally passed down through the method of mentoring and apprenticeship. Under the active promotion of Li Liangxing (李良兴), more than 1,000 apprentices have been successfully taught. In 1987, in order to encourage the popularization of Mufu Wushu - Li Liangxing was awarded the title of ‘Fist Master’ (拳师 - Quan Shi) by the Hunan Provincial Sports Commission – due to the special fighting skills he possesses and his deep knowledge of Qigong. This is why Li Liangxing was granted this honour!
Chinese Language Source:
非遗展示月 | 源自幕阜山的传说——幕阜武术
幕阜武术是创始人和历代传承人潜心演练，不断研究出来的武术派系，产生于幕阜山，它古老、独特、稀有，既不属少林、武当，又不是峨嵋派系。因独特的套路体系，极具武术门类的学术价值。在社会价值方面，幕阜武术始创于晋代，其演变历程也侧面体现了历史 文化的发展以及社会习俗的变迁。 在日常生活中习练幕阜武术，既能起到强身健体的作用，还能陶养情操。
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.