The Following is the english language version of an article written by Dr. Yan in celebration of Great Grand Master Li Zen Si's 90th Birthday.
Xin Yi Liu He Chuan Great Grand Master Li Zen Si
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 ordained 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 Korea, during the Qing dynasty and who later became the emperor of China for 30 days.
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).
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 Master Ji Jin San, who at that time had a fearsome reputation in the Shanghai martial art world.
For the purpose of understanding other Muslim martial art systems, Master Li became a student of Guo Wen Zhi(7 posture system Grand Master). Master Li was living in Zhejiang Road, Shanghai, and was located very close to a mosque. Within the close knit Muslim community, Master Li heard of a famous Xin Yi Liu He Chuan master named Lu Song Gao, and was soon privileged to receive instruction from him. 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 China, Japan organised an East Asian games. At that time in history, the occupied area of China was governed by the Wang Jing Wei government. The delegation that participated in the games was led by the foreign minister, Chu Min Yi, from the Wang government. Also among the delegation to participate in the games was Shuai Jiao Master Song Zhen Fu, Cha Chuan Master Hai Zao Xiang (a disciple of Ma Zhong Qi), Wang Chang Sheng (Ma Jin Biao's disciple from Shandong) and Master Li Zen Si, who was at that time was 27 years old. Master Li was representing the art of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan.
Master Li demonstrated Xin Yi Liu He Chuan's Si Ba (4 strikes), Liang Jie Gun (2 segment staff) and Cha Chuan’s Da Lian Zi(Big Sickle). 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. One Japanese martial artist issued a challenge to Master Li, to have a contest between skills. Although almost half of China was occupied by the Japanese, Master Li could not give the impression that the Chinese would accept the mentality of being a colonised slave, so he readily accepted the challenge. He approached the delegation leader and said, "If I should die, I do so without no regret, just send my body back to China, then I will be eternally at peace". He then approached the platform where the fight was to take place, where the Japanese was standing Katana drawn, Master Li's weapon of choice was the Chi Mei Gun (eyebrow high staff).
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, 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."
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.
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(Internal force), to deliver the killing blow, the staff head would have pierced his opponent's throat. In sparing the Japanese his 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 any further challenges. The Chinese martial art delegations triumphed at the games through unsurpassed skill and indomitable spirit.
Master Li never stopped his research and his learning in the arts, apart from humbly learning from Lu SongGao, he also had looked after and discussed Xin Yi with Li Hao You when he was visiting Shanghai in the 1940s. Li Hao You was the top disciple of Shang Xue Li. Later in life, around the 1970s, Master Li also looked after and discussed Xin Yi with Yang Dian Qing’s nephew and disciple, Master Yang Xiang Lin.
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 Shanghai. 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, including a student called Yu Quan Jin, who this year has turned 74. Master Tie Guo Cheng died just over 80 years of age at the beginning Communist Cultural Revolution.
In Shanghai in 1961, Master Li performed Cha Chuan's broad sword and 9 segment chain, one held in each hand. China's Deputy Prime minister at that time Chen Yi praised Master Li for his outstanding performance and spoke to him after the demonstration. Soon after Master Li was invited to be coach for Shaolin martial art's team, but declined because of difficulty with the communist revolution.
By the end of the 1960's, there was a famous BaGua Master called Wang ZhuangFei 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.
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 write 2 volumes of Xin Yi Liu He Chuan sutras. Later in life these sutras and some of Hua To’s medical formulae were presented to Dr. Stephen Yan by Master Li, for preservation and study.
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.
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 Wu, Zhenjiang province, he has a big reputation with his Xin Yi Liu He Chuan.
In 1991, 74 year old Master Li Zen Si was invited to visit New Zealand where he lived with his disciple Dr. Stephen Yan for 6 months. During this time a very strong bond was formed between the two. While Master Li was in New Zealand a television report was done about him by TVNZ. The time that Master Li spent instructing Dr. Yan in Xin Yin Liu He Chuan has caused Dr. Yan to seek out Sutras and instruction from all three well known lineages of the style. With the blessing of Master Li, Dr. Yan has been able to preserve and study the history, philosphy and martial aspects of Xin Yi Liu He in depth.
In 2005, Dr. Yan took his student, Jon Dyer and his son Jonathan Yan to Shanghai to meet Master Li Zen Si, who was at the time 89 years old. Master Li was still bright eyed, full of vitality, and strong like an ox. When he explained the applications to Jon, he moved fast, powerfully and his changes were very much unexpected by those present.
By the end of this year Master Li Zen Si's students are planning on holding a celebration for his 90th birthday. This article is written with the hope that all who read will take the time to 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 Yan)
President of the International Wu Tao Federation
President of the Wellington branch, New Zealand Chinese Wu Shu and Kung Fu association.
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