Grandmaster Gu Ru Zhang
was born in Kiangsu, a province of China, into a martial family.
His father, Gu Li Zhi, was an expert in the Tan Tui (Spring Leg)
style as well as leaping and throwing projectile weapons. With
these skills Gu's father worked as a security guard to protect
people's money and valuables. The young Gu loved martial arts
and learned them from his father.
At 12 Gu
learned the 10 Road Tan Tui, a very famous form. But two years
later, Gu's father died. Li Zhi told Gu, before his death, to
continue with school then to delve into martial training. He then
gave Gu the name Yan Yun Qi in Shandong. Gu found it impossible
to wait and with two years was on the road to Shantung. He was
accompanied by his cousin Ba Jing Xiang. They reached the Yan
family village located in Feicheng, Shantung province and tried
to locate "Great Spear Yin."
Master Gu supporting
"1000 pound" press
introduced himself, and Gu announced who he was, Yan was touched.
Gu's father had saved his life in their mutual protection profession
and he felt a strong attachment to Gu. Yin determined to teach
the young man without holding anything back.
For six months
he made Gu relearn the ten roads of Tan Tui. After seeing the
determination in Gu he forged ahead with eleven more years of
instuction with particular emphasis on Iron Palm and Iron Body. In that time the skills passed on to him included:
The Ten Core Sets of Shaolin
24 Skill Spear
Plum Blossom Double Sabers
The Small Golden Bell Chi Kung
The Iron Palm of Shaolin
At one point,
on receiving word of his mother's death, Gu had to leave Yin village.
Back in Nanking Gu lived with cousin Ba. They would practice together
and Gu slowly gained a reputation and became known as "Spear
Gu employed in Guangzhou as a clerk by the Finance Minister. It
was during this time that Gu became famous. The telling incident,
witnessed by many including one Wang Xian Sheng, was this:
circus was in town and had posed an open challenge that if anyone
could take its "fighting horse" kicking three times
there would be a $1000 purse - an enormous amount for the time.
Many tied and were humiliated and injured. This was just another
spirit busting example that the Chinese people were being subjected
to at the time. Guo came forward and took the challenge with one
stricture. He didn't want the money, he said, he wanted to take
the three kicks then be allowed to slap the horse. The circus
agreed to the terms. Guo went to the arena and allowed the horse
to kick him once. Unbeliveably he took the strike. Then again.
Then again, his Golden Bell training preserving him. Next he took
a short break, gathered his energy and re entered the area. It
was his turn and he struck the horse on the flank so hard it staggered
and crumpled. The crowd went wild. A postmortem was performed
one the horse attended, with others, by the famous Eagle Claw
master Lao Fa Meng (father of Lily and Jeannie Lau). No external
wound was found on the horse but the internal organs were badly
public demonstration Gu earned two more nick names: "The
Hero of San Shiang" and "Iron Palm Gu."
Next he was
hired as head drill instructor for the Central Guo Shu government
military institute. This was a very prestigious organization trying
to bring the spirit of marital arts into the twentieth century
and strengthen China's self image. Here Gu met General Li Jing
Lin, the greatest sword expert in China, and learned his famous
Wu Dang sword along with the Yang Tai Chi Sword through Yang Bian
Hou. Guo also met Sun Lu Tang who taught him Xing Yi and Sun style
efforts to strengthen and modernize Kung Fu the government held
a tournament at Nanking in October of 1928. This ended up being
one of the most important events in Kung Fu history for its time.
Gu entered the tournament and placed in the top fifteen, important
in itself since this was not a "safe" tornament but
a dangerous competition. From this tournament the government decided
to pick five representatives for deceminating Northern Kung Fu
into Southern China. These five special teachers were: Gu Ru Zhang,
Wan Lai Sheng, Fu Zhen Song, Wang Shao Chou and Li Xian Wu. These
were the "Five Northern Tigers traveling South."
academies were set up known as the Liang Guang Province Academies.
Wan Lai Sheng was chosen as the chairman of both and Gu was make
head instructor. Wan and Gu became friends and this allowed Gu
to learn some of the Six Harmony and Zi Ran (Natural) styles.
He also met Chen Chan Sheng and learned the essence of the Cha
(Muslim) Kung Fu. However the turns of politics closed the school.
After much consideration a new direction was chosen and a public
school called the Guangzhou Martial Arts School was formed. Gu
was chosen as head instructor.
school was another teaching Choy Lai Fut ( a famous and powerful
Southern style). The teacher there was Tan San. Both men became
friends, a amazing turn of events considering the issues of pride
between Southern and Northern stylists. They even exchanged advanced
students and to this day there is a branch of Choy Lai Fut which
teaches some Northern Shaolin forms.
Japanese invaded in the early '30's, Gu went north to fight. The
school was maintained by Long Zi Xiang.
your cursor over picture to see the most famous Iron Palm
photo of the 20th Century.
In 1931 Gu
repeated his now famous Iron Palm skill. An award of $200.00 was
posted for anyone who could get near a horse owned by Russians.
Gu approached the horse, slapped it "lightly". The horse
halted, dazed. The next day it was dead. Once again an autopsy
revealed ruptured organs. This proved Gu's fame as one of the
greatest Iron Palm experts.
In 1932 Ho
Qian, the Chairman of Hopei, hired Gu as head instructor of the
Hopei Province Academy. He also learned Tai Chi and Dragon Shape
sword directly from Guo. While there Liu Sen Yim, a famous swordsman,
challenged Gu but Ho Qian disallowed the duel saying martial arts
was better served by other uses. This was also the year in which Gu opened a clinic for trauma treatment.
Gu returned to Guandong hired by Chen Chi Tang as the principle
Wu Shu instructor for the Eight Army. Teaching Ho Qian's son and
giving private lessons took so much time that Guo had Yan Xiang
Wu take over his teaching duties.
In the 1940's
Guo decided he was tired of teaching martial arts and retired.
He was never publically seen again. He died in 1952.
He had lived
a life of passionate love of the martial arts. Unusual for his
time, he had established friendships where normally there was
enmity. He left many students behind but most of the present generations
derived through Yan Xiang Wu, as do those associated with this