Tradition holds that on the day Bajiquan 八極拳 arrived in Hong Kong, a mighty typhoon struck. And the first cup of tea bought, happened to be a cup of Puerh tea 普洱茶. A final act of service before the tea-shop closed in advance of the typhoon. The master was well pleased, before spending the storm-drenched night at the Jamia Mosque in Hong Kong.
Modern folklore, by way of the movies, holds that Bajiquan arrived in Hong Kong, after a glorious kung-fu fight at a barber shop. It could have been alleged that there had been a misunderstanding about a simple financial transaction between concerned parties. Maybe so. Those were the days after all. And as a tea merchant in Australia, selling puerh, one has got to respect it for what it was.
When the first list of internal martial art styles was compiled, many people assumed wrongly that the denominator ‘internal’ implied soft style or cultivating one’s chi. But internal originally meant that the style in question originated from within China by way of Taoist principles, as opposed to coming from the ‘external’ Shaolin Buddhist martial art styles. And as such, Bajiquan was kept off the list because it was known as an Islamic ‘external’ martial art - Huijiao 回教.
It was only years later during the revolutionary period that the masters began to codify the internal principals as we know them today. With Bajiquan sharing many internal aspects with the other three internal styles: Bagua, Taichi and Xingyi.
Chinese muslims, having been a part of China since before the Tang Dynasty, are usually referred to as the Hui people. Regarded as a official minority group, they traditionally have kept their wushu a closely guarded secret.
Nowadays, however, while many still privately practice Bajiquan - the explosive art known for its close quarter elbow and knee strikes, the traditional form of it is gaining popularity with professional security wanting something dynamically effective, yet retaining traditional cultural wushu elements that help to cement it in the wielder’s consciousness.
Puerh tea, the master’s prefered tea, comes from Yunnan Province 云南, which was once an independent muslim kingdom before permanently joining China in the middle ages. This tea under Chinese categorization is classified as a true black tea, meaning that it has gone through the oxidation process completely. And after a long aging process of two years or more, the tea is generally regarded as being caffeine-free. Stimulant free, this means that for Chinese muslims, Puerh tea is Halal.
While chi is sometimes seen as a uniquely Chinese thing, chi is regarded by the Hui as the same life-force that was breathed into Adam by Allah. And that to cultivate chi is to be in communion with Allah. And since Bajiquan holds that all parts of the body are connected either physically or spiritually, the drinking of puerh is just a earthly extension of this concept.