Ho Mei Pai, or Er Mei Pai as it is sometimes referred, is an armored military style. What this means is that the people who developed this art dealt with armor. They wore it and fought against it. This is different from armored dragon, and other styles named after armor, in that they try and duplicate effects of armor in their technique. More on that in another page.
The confusion about the name stems from the discussion that at some point in the past this style was influenced by monks who trained at Er Mei Temple. The style from the Buddhist Shaolin is Ho Mei Pai while the the style from the Taoist Er Mei temple is Er Mei Pai, as far as I know. The history says that it is a northern, southern, Buddist, Taoist combined method, hence the confusion.
In the beginning there was long fist. This system deals with power in that it was taught to the military troops who were not considered smart enough or important enough to teach techniques with nuance. Everything is centered around the punch. Three quarters of the techniques are made to keep the target immobile while punching. Joint locks were only to open targets for punching and throws were punches strong enough to knock people over and a concerted effort was made to touch the ground through the opponent. No distinction for ground fighting is made as it is considered merely a lowering of the stance. Grappeling was ignored as a concept and the practioner was taught to simply step back and punch. As a test, the practitioner would punch the trunk of a tree. At level 1. shake the tree 2. knock leaves from the tree 3. knock bark from the tree 4. punch through armour to knock bark off the tree 5. punch through armour and shield to knock bark from the tree. Long fist went on to develop advanced concepts and techniques of its own. Our history split before that and we have different advanced concepts.
On top of this the style contains the five animals (snake, tiger, crane, leopard/panther, dragon) with Five additional animals being Ape, Horse, Bear, Monkey, and Mantis for a total of Ten. No skills were originally added to this style, Iron Palm to someone who could punch through armor seemed beside the point and iron body was a waste to someone who wore armor. No chi gungs unique to this style exist because the duty of a soldier is to die for his country/king/emporer and any thought to the contrary was viewed as cowardly. Needless to say these skills have been added over the centuries since this style was created and taught publicly.
The animals were actually added to make the internal training more efficient. Since iron palm was found to be needed for healing skills to develop, it was added before the animal training along with iron body and other skills. The animals simply refined those skills. Each animal has its own variation on all techniques, all breathing exercises, and internal energy work. These variations are above and sometimes seperate from the parent style. Since all animal training comes from five element training, and are a vehicle for the elements, the first five animals are the most important and somewhat standardized. The other animals were for people who, for reasons of physical, cultural, or mental differences; couldn't get the first five. At the highest level you would have to develop a personal combination of the five elements in order to show your understanding. This personal animal would represent your mastery. Since the animals proved really popular, Ho Mei Pai has developed the animals more fully (as I assume other styles have also done) so far that each animal has become an entire style in and of itself. Each animal is viewed as complete, with its own techniques, weapons, and view of the world. While they may be considered extensions of Ho Mei Pai, they can be skipped and the five elements be taught directly. In order for the animals to be complete, they need all five elements. This makes the animal and element training parallel in complexity and capacity.
This style also has the eight directions. The eight directions were a parallel/extension phylosophy to the five elements. They do about the same things but have a different reason for it. Each trigram/direction is considered a refinement of a five element combination. Five element and eight direction theory are ultimately the same thing but have different phylosophies and expand the mind in different ways. The animals in Ho Mei Pai usually contain five element theory as well as eight direction theory. One is usually taken as a favorite/primary and the other for subtle concepts/movements.
A more descriptive name would be short stance, hammer boxing. As you may infer, all the animals will reflect this and are just as distinctive as the animals from other styles would be. When going to another school, keep in mind that training is always distinctive. Even if you have all the same skills, the school may teach them in a different order - may teach them to different levels of mastery - or have a different way of defining them.
If you enjoy being in the middle of a fight and hitting really hard with large movements, trying to end the fight with each hit, then this style is for you.
If you prefer to dodge and hit people alot, or cause a lot of pain and damage all over the body, you might want to try hung style.