Below is an Article published originally in Chinese in celebration of Master Li's 90th Birthday. This article contains the truths as passed down to Dr. Yan by his Masters and their families.
Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Great Grand Master Li Zen Si
From my early days of
leaning Chinese Kung Fu, I had often heard people talking about Shi Da Xing (10
big shapes), in
My journey with Great Grand Master Li began on a sad day in my life. On the 10th of October 1987, one of my closest Kung Fu masters, Grand Master Ji Jin San, suddenly died due to complications of a severe stroke in Zhong Shan hospital in
When I think back to that day, I feel very sad that I was unable to save my Master and feel a great loss for not being able to inherit his martial art system. I also feel that some of the essence of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts has been lost forever.
When Master Ji was alive, he liked to tell me about the interesting events that happened in the Wu Lin (martial art world). Before 1949, Master Ji Jin San was the most highly respected and feared master of the Shanghai Wu Lin. Master Ji had 3 martial arts friends who followed him closely; they were Li Zen Si, Hai Zao Xiang and Yu Hua Long. Master Li Zen Si and Master Yu Hua Long both specialized in Cha Chuan and Xin Yi Liu He Chuan.
Master Li Zen Si followed Cha Chuan Grand Master Ma Zhong Qi from Hernan. Yu Hua Long learned from Ma Zhong Qi's student, Ma Xiao Quan. Masters Li Zen Si and Yu Hua Long are also 2nd generation disciples of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Master Yuan Chang Qing. Yuan Chang Qing taught Yuan Hong Liang, Mai Jin Kui and Chen Jin Po, and many other. Mai Jin Kui then taught Li Zen Si while Chen Jin Po taught Yu Hua Long.
In recent years there has been a misunderstanding which has led people to believe Yu Hua Long was a disciple of Lu Song Gao, which is completely incorrect. Yu might have been an observer of Lu Song Gao's classes, but he was never admitted as a disciple, so he cannot be called Lu Song Gao's disciple. Yu Hua Long's Xin Yi Liu He Chuan is very different from Lu Song Gao's, and cannot be confused with the same thing. Yu Hua Long's disciple Xu Gu Ming (George Xu) clearly stated this in is book on Xin Yi Liu He Chuan that Yu Hua Long learned from Chen Jing Po for the period of 1 year. I have also visited Lu Song Gao's, 1st, 2nd and 3rd term students to check if Yu Hua Long was Lu Song Gao's disciple, among those interviewed was Lu Shao Jun (Lu Song Gao's son) and all have denied that Lu Song Gao directly taught Yu Hua Long. I was told Yu Hua Long might have learned a few things from Lu's student's Xie Xing Bang and Sun Shao Fu.
I have met Master Yu Hua Long a few times and he has always come across as a well spoken, humble and sincere gentleman. He has never personally claimed he was a disciple of Lu Song Gao or that he was in fact Lu's number 1 student as has been documented in the video series, "
Please see my soon to be released book on Xin Yi Liu He Chuan history entitled "My journey of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan". In this book I will detail the correct lineage of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan as handed to me by my Masters and in strict accordance with their family trees.
Master Ji Jin San often recognized Great Grand Master Li Zen Si's Kung Fu, saying "After Lu Song Gao, Li Zen Si is the real Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Master in Shanghai." So from these statements, I already had a lot of respect towards Master Li and Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Kung Fu in general.
After the memorial service in August 1987 Great Grand Master Li approached me and said "Xiao Yan, your master and I were close brothers, now that your teacher has passed on, you are welcome to learn from me, don't disregard your Kung Fu training". After hearing this I felt quite touched and performed Bai Shi (initiation ceremony) to become a student of Master Li's in Mai Zhuangtu's Xin Yi Liu He Chuan.
Master Li Zen Si was born on 28th of May 1918 to a poor muslim family in Shenqiu, Hernan, he loved martial arts from a young age and when he was 10 started to learn Bei (Northern) Shaolin Chuan from a local Kung Fu teacher. When he was 13 he went to the Shaolin temple to become a student, although he didn't want to be baptised as a monk, so he stayed as a non baptised student for 3 years. After leaving Shaolin temple, he met the most famous Cha Chuan Grand Master Ma Zhong Qi, who was also living in Shenqiu. Ma Zhong Qi at one time was the body guard of Yuan Si Kai, who was the governor of
"Invincible" Ma had also lived in a place called Ying Hua Li of
At the age of 16, Master Li became Ma Zhong Qi's disciple, first learning Cha Chuan's "Shi Lu Tan Tui" (10 segment flicking legs), Er Shi Lu (20 Forms) Cha Chuan and 18 different weapons. Ma Zhong Qi saw that Li had a firm foundation, was clever, and trained very hard and relentlessly, therefore he inherited all his skills, becoming Ma Zhong Qi's top student.
With such a high level of Cha Chuan, Master Li could have established his own schools. Master Li decided instead to persist in searching for the higher levels of traditional martial arts. Master Li travelled to Hankou to become a student of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Master Mai Jin Kui. Master Li already possesed a high level of skill, so under the whole hearted teaching of Mai, he progressed rapidly, inheriting Master Mai's skills, one of them which his master was famous for was the Liang Jie Gun (2 long segment staff).
Xin Yi Liu He Chuan was founded by Ji Long Feng from Zheng
In the beginning of the early 1940's, 25 year old master Li went to Shanghai to make his mark, he met his Cha Chuan brother Hai Zao Xiang and also another Cha Chuan master Yu Hua Long, the 3 of them had just arrived in Shanghai at roughly the same time, they together started to follow Ji Jin San, who at that time had a fearsome reputation in the Shanghai martial art world.
There are numerous stories associated with Master Li, one of which is when master Li had to rescue a friend's wife who had been forced into prostitution by
For the purpose of understanding other Muslim martial art systems, Master Li became a student of Guo Wen Zhi (7 postures). Master Li was living in
Lu's students were very suspicious of who exactly "Master Bai" was. The only information they had was that "Master Bai" was from the same generation as Mai Zhuangtu. It wasn't until the 1950's that Lu Song Gao revealed "Master Bai's" true identity to his students Wang Shu Wen and Yang Zhao Ji. "Master Bai" he was in fact named Ding Ren. Ding Ren was the only disciple of Bai Xian Shi, and wanted to find 1 or 2 successors to his art. Ding Ren finally selected Lu Song Gao in
Ding Ren's other student Ding Jing An later moved to
After years of research on Kung Fu, Master Li came to the conclusion that Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Kung Fu was the ultimate martial art, so he practiced it harder and more persistently than ever before. In early 1940s, for the purpose of covering up war atrocities and the invasion of
Master Li demonstrated Xin Yi Liu He Chuan's Si Ba (4 strikes), Liang Jie Gun (2 segment staff) and Cha Chuan, Da Lian Zi. Master Li was tall and well built, so during the demonstration he looked quite formidable and won much applause from the crowd. Master Li was later awarded a medal for excellence from the Japanese Emperor. It was taken away from him by the Red Guards, during the Commuist Revolution and was never returned. This medal incited a lot of jealousy from Japanese martial artists. The Chinese martial art delegations triumphed at the games through unsurpassed skill and indomitable spirit.
One Japanese martial artist issued a challenge to Master Li, to have a contest between skills. Although almost half of
The Chi Mei Gun has 6 segments. The Chi Mei Gun sutra states "Excellence in application, message all from the rear leg, hit with inch force, no breaks no postures, follow in, follow out. To sense the enemy's intention, using resistance in your sensing indicates a low level of skill, it should change spontaneously is the real essence, using hard force to block is also a low level skill, the true methods of Xin Yi Liu He Gun is very rare and precious, when the fighting is won by unexpected strike to win the conflict, it does not need to block, only follow the principles of Xin Yi Gun, it never needs more than one strike to end the fight, focus on one strike to end the battle, rather than on repeated strikes."
(First segment) Chicken leg, dragon body, tiger embrace head, chase the wind, racing with the moon, no pause, no breaks, hit high to the head, downward strike with accuracy, horizontal strike to head, very direct, lower chop with thunder, break the flow of the water.
(Second segment)Dragon interchanging shoulders, left and right striking methods are extraordinary; Xin Yi Liu He Gun methods are so rare in the world, up and down changes to be used anyway you like, to start to strike and finish Xin/Yi.
(Third segment)Bear exits cave, neutralizing and changing simultaneously to seek the fighting spirit, advancing and retreating matches your will, the intention never breaks, dragon and eagle steps very firm and stable, stick strikes out and retreats, contract and expand, needs to be practiced diligently.
The Japanese had his Katana pointing towards master Li, seeking an opening in master Li's posture, master Li's posture remained neutral and calm, but his eyes reflected a venomous intention. So the Japanese used extreme caution and waited patiently, master Li used Ji Bu (chicken step) to move in quickly pointing the tip of the stick at the Japanese warrior's face, the Japanese reacted lightning fast and tried to chop the incoming stick in half, but failed to realize, that it was in fact a feint, hiding Master Li's true intentions. Master Li slid the stick back in his palm giving it the appearance of being shorter, so the Japanese chopped empty air; Master Li however was using Xin Yi's unique footwork to chase him and to penetrate his unprotected flank. Following the momentum of the lifting of his stick, he uses the back of the staff to strike both wrists of the Japanese at the same time generating Lei/Shen (lightning, thunder). As soon as the sound had finished resonating from Master Li's inner core the Japanese Katana had flown several metres away and the Japanese himself had been blown back with the initial force.
The sutra goes on to states "Come like a wind, hit like an arrow, chase the wind, racing the moon without hesitation".
As soon as the Japanese had fallen, Master Li used Kuai Bu (fast stepping), likened to a horses' gallop and a tigers pouncing, turning the stick head towards his fallen opponents throat, using the technique "Rotate the stick head, feared pointing". If at that moment, Master Li had used Dan Tian Jin, to deliver the killing force, the staff head would have pierced his opponent's throat. In sparing the Japanese life, Master Li demonstrated how high Chinese Martial Art's morality was. The impact he had made on those that were present was enough to end the challenges.
Master Li never stopped his research and his learning in the arts, apart from humbly learning from Lu Song Gao, he also had looked after and discussed Xin Yi with Li Hao You when he was visiting
Master Li's Xin Yi Liu He Chuan skill is well renowned throughout Shangai. There was an old Xin Yi master called Tie GuoCheng, who had been teaching Xin Yi very close to Jing An Si (Jing An Buddhist temple) in
When he was alive, Master Tie often commented of Master Li Zen Si's skill and often talked of his excellent Xin Yi Liu He. Master Tie's Xin Yi Liu He Chuan is different from Zhou Kou's branch. Before his death he requested his wife to gather all his students and then sent them to follow Master Li Zen Si (among these students, there is 1 person I am familiar with, he is called Yu Quan Jin, this year he turned 74) from this case you can clearly see Master Li's position in Master Tie's heart.
By the end of the 1960's, there was a famous Ba Gua master called Wang Zhuang Fei who was Gong Bao Tian's top disciple. At his home Wang erected a sign which said "Number 1 palm of the world!”. After hearing this Master Li went straight round to Master Wang's and issued a challenge of palms, in which master Li would use Dan Ba (single strike) and Shuang Ba (double strike). Master Wang had heard of how master Li could break stone tablets with these strikes. So upon Master Li arriving, Wang stayed on his seat, resistant to move. One of Wang's family members became upset and contacted the police, but when the Police arrived Wang greeted them and said, "I don't know what this misunderstanding is about, we are friends". Afterwards they settled their differences and became friends. I have met master Wang Zhuang Fei before and was fascinated with his beautiful Ba Gua movements.
At that time in
Master Li Zen Si also spent a lot of time tidying up old Xin Yi Liu He Chuan sutras, in the 1970's he let his student Wan Xiao Xian to write 2 volumes of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan sutras, later he presented me with these and also a copy of Hua To's secret medical formulae. When I received these priceless gifts I felt a huge responsibility had been given to me.
After the Cultural Revolution, master Li was aquitted of any misunderstandings with the Chinese government. In 1982 Master Li was elected the judicator of the China Traditional committee. Also in 1982, he participated in the China Second Minority sports games, winning 1st prize for his Kung Fu. In 1985 he was awarded the title of leading instructor by the China National sports committee, this award placed Master Li at the top of 1000 other instructors nation wide. Further on in 1986, he participated in the 3rd China minority games in which he was awarded 1st place, there was however a little drama at those games caused by the media which led to a dispute, I will recount the event as follows.
There is a student of Master Li's, a famous buffalo wrestling champion Han Hai Hua, who comes from Jiaxing,
Afterwards the media got it
confused and reported that Li Qing Shan had taught Han Hai Hua. After hearing
this Master Li was infuriated by this and went to hunt down Master Li Qing
Shan. Master Li Qing Shan avoided Master Li Zen Si which stopped any
further conflict between them. I have met Master Li Qing Shan and he is a very
humble and sincere man, he was nice enough to share Xin Yi Liu He Chuan's
"stick with whip" with me.
Master Li attained a high level of skill in which Xin Yi Liu He Chuan says, "Bravery, Aggression, Short range fight, poisoning, attack the vital points, fast, urgent, hate, anger, lightening, speed, clear, clean movement, changing spontaneously and endlessly, all these are Xin Yi Liu He Chuan's important key points."
Master Li Zen Si has over
100 students, among these the most famous are Han Hai Hua, Tao Guang Wen, Er
Mao, Sun Shuang Xi, etc. Tao Guang Wen is known as the "oriental
strongman", who can weild a 40kg Kwan Dao and pull 5 heavy bows all
at the same time. Shun Shuang Xi, has been running his business in Yi
In 1991, 74 year old master Li Zen Si was invited by me to visit
I have traveled many
In 2005 I took my student Jon Dyer and my son Jonathan Yan to
By the end of this year Master Li Zen Si's students are planning on holding a celebration for his 90th birthday, at this moment I am writing this article out of respect and admiration for my teacher and wish Master Li Zen Si a great fortune as vast as the ocean, longevity comparable to the south mountain, and students that are as many as the flowers of the peaches and pears around the world.
Dr. Stephen Yan (Zi Yuan
President of the international Wu Tao federation
President of the