Northern Hakka Gongfu (Email 29.4.2017)

When I wrote my Hakka martial arts article, I had communicated with a number of Mainland Hakka gongfu masters who all told me the same story – namely that their arts originated in Northern China. This is exactly what Master Chan had told me, and it seems to be a Western myth encouraged by ignorance of the subject matter, that suggests that Hakka martial arts originated in the South.

Hakka Gongfu: Iron Ox Cultivates Land (鉄牛耕地)

As the legs sink into the earth, the ox bends the knee and extracts the limb – this is the squat-kick, and as the broad back carries the plough and the farmer – this is the back-raise of the gongfu practitioner. Finally, for many Hakka gongfu practitioners, standing in ‘Horse Stance’ (馬步 – Ma Bu) is actually holding the ‘Ox Stance’ (牛步 – Niu Bu).

Hakka Semi-Circular Round Houses of Meizhou

This bond between the Hakka and their Northern Chinese ancestors is considered a defining Hakka characteristic. So much so that even when Hakka people moved out of China and into foreign lands, when they married non-Hakkas, these outside people were taken back to the old ancestral hall to ritualistically pay their respects to the Hakka ancestors of their spouse, and in so doing, become ‘Hakka’ themselves. This cultural solidarity may well explain why wherever Hakka people have gone, they have brought success to their new countries. As China is affluent and peaceful today, the Hakka people are no longer under threat from attack. They are now legally acknowledged as ‘Han’ people living in the south, and many younger Hakkas have moved out of the round houses, which are now mostly occupied by the elder generation.