The second generation of the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang:
His whole life he was generous and heroic. Just when Ma Gui had descended to poverty and become cold to the vagarities of the world, Li Shao’an generously supported him. His kindness, friendship, and morality touched Ma Gui, and he gave all he could teach to him. Li Shao’an was the most important person in the continuance of the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang.
Li Shao’an had exceptional skills, and was particularly skilled at daishou (dragging hand). He was called ‘Iron arm Li’. He was also called ‘Surpassing eldest brother’ because of his generosity in aiding the needy and his chivalrous upholding of order in the martial world. Li Shao’an was close friends with Li Wenbiao, Yin Yuzhang, Liu Bin, Liang Zhenpu, and other famous masters in the baguazhang circles. When soldiers in the Tongzhou district of Beijing killed Li Wenbiao, Li shao’an, regardless of his own safety, went to claim his body and ensure that he was properly buried. This act moved the entire martial arts community.
During the Cultural Revolution, Li Shao’an suffered greatly, and was sent down to his hometown of Haiyang, Shandong. This is a valuable photo from 1972. I present it here as a mark of great respect. His whole life Li Shao’an was big-hearted and upright. During his youth he trained hard to learn martial skill, he rushed alone in the world, daring to do anything and everything. During his prosperous mature years he helped his fellow man, showing great benevolence, his chivalry went out to the whole world.
During his poor years in the countryside, when he experienced to the fullest extent the inconstancy of human relations, when human feelings were at their unkindest, he wore plain cotton and ate clear gruel with casual elegance amongst the people. In the five thousand years of China’s history, there are so many stories of great people that move us. In our bagua stories, that of Mr. Li has moved my soul and fueled my dreams for twenty years.
His martial skill and his quality of character is the model that I seek for myself. I do not have three parts of Li Shao’an’s deep skills, I have three parts of his martial skills, but as to his heart, I perhaps know a tenth.
At present no lineage recipient of Li Shao’an has been found. I hope that one day we may find one, and hope that one day his school can be directly transmitted.
Next I will introduce someone who carried forward the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang – the second-generation teacher Liu Wanchuan.
The second generation of Ma Gui School of Baguazhang:
Liu Wanchuan, also named Liu YiHai (November 1, 1906 to November 6, 1991), was from Haiyang in Shandong province. In his youth he studied baguazhang with his uncle Liu Qingfu (Yin Fu’s apprentice, one of the key figures in Yin Fu School of Baguazhang) together with his cousin Liu Xuehai (also named Liu YiShan), Liu Qingfu’s son. The two of them were well known for their skills in the village.
When Liu Wanchuan was young he went to school for three years, but because of family poverty, he quit school and went to work in the fields. From then on he worked to support his family, but never neglected his martial arts training. He became a true inheritor of the style of Liu Qingfu. When he was seventeen (about 1923) he moved to Beijing to make a living, and settled into #23 Daqijia alley in the Qianmen district. This was very close to his uncle Liu Qingfu’s (‘Old rice Liu’) rice business on the grain store road.
Between 1923 and 1931 he learned baguazhang with Yin Fu’s son Yin Yuzhang. Every day he would get up at dawn and walk from his alley to Qihua gate (present day Chaoyang gate) to train with Yin Yuzhang. This meant a walk of over 10 km every day, in all weather, no matter how hot or cold, without a break. He gained the true transmission of Yin Yuzhang’s baguazhang.
From the early 1930s Liu worked as an accountant at the YuChun Restaurant of his fellow hometowner Li Shao’an. As Li took on the care of Ma Gui, Liu also helped, and also gained the full teaching of Ma Gui’s School of Baguazhang. He became the most important person in the continuation and spreading of Ma Gui’s baguazhang.
Liu Wanchuan was naturally a good-hearted person, always tolerant, generous, and trustworthy. Without thought to gaining a reputation, he diligently sought out and trained the martial arts without cease. He developed his baguazhang to the highest level. That Ma Gui’s School of Baguazhang survives is due entirely to the efforts and skills of Liu Wanchuan.
Liu Wanchuan received the full flavour of Ma Gui’s transmission, he became excellent at the crab palm continuous zhuangzhang (ramming palms), his stepping was skilled and refined, his fali (power striking) was heavy. He perfected accupoint pressing, tendon grabbing, meridian blocking and other high skills. He systematically continued Ma Gui’s special skills of wrist striking, daishou (dragging hand), qiezhang (cutting palm), fire wheel palm, fanbeichui (backfist), and other hard striking skills.
Liu Wanchuan’s entire life was about baguazhang, and his whole being was concentrated on baguazhang. If we can understand his life and being, we can come to know how high his achievements were in baguazhang. My students calculated for me that if all the circles walked in baguazhang were added together over a lifetime, he could have walked three times around the world! Circle-walking is not running, nor is it walking along the road, and certainly is not strolling along lightheartedly. It is fully concentrated, intensely powerful, completely united whole body power deep into the bones and tendons.
In Liu Wanchuan’s later years, once he was sick and seemed a little unclear. His daughter was concerned and talked to him, but he did not respond. His daughter then quoted a line from the baguazhang classics, and Liu immediately completed the quotation – all 108 four-character lines, smoothly and fluently, without one character wrong.
Mr. Liu had only three years of schooling; he did not have the level of literacy to express his feelings and understandings of baguazhang. We do, however, have a daily notebook that he kept when he was over eighty years old. In it he detailed his daily training – what he did and number of repetitions – as detailed as any notebook of current accounts.
In Mr. Liu’s later years he still walked to the park twice a day, morning and evening, to train. The day that he passed away, he came home from his morning training session, ate breakfast, and told his daughter he was going to take a rest. He lay down, and, about two hours later, passed peacefully. He never missed a meal or a session of training!
Mr. Liu visited Shandong from Beijing in 1944. This was after he had mastered Ma Gui’s skills. His high level of deep kungfu and skills astounded the villagers. Even now many people in the area around Haiyang County sing his praises.
In 1946 Mr. Liu returned to Beijing and lived at #23 Daqijia alley in Qianmen until 1968. Then, to make training more convenient, his family moved to the Taoran pavilion park neighbourhood, where they stayed until 1991.
From 1981 on, Mr. Liu taught baguazhang openly in Taoran Pavilion Park, teaching over fifty people in a class. He had over ten people who attained some skill. It is from Mr. Liu that the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang has gradually spread throughout China and to the world.
To see more about Liu Wanchuan, please go to the article ‘In memory of Liu Wanchuan’.
Please go to read more about: The third generation of Ma Gui school of Baguazhang.