Cha Chuan

An important system in China is Cha Chuan, 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.

Soon 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.

Even 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.

A truly great and proud style with a long past