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(Note: Gao Yi Sheng (founder of Gao Style Bagua) was a student of Cheng Ting Hua but learned most of his skills from another Cheng Ting Hua student, Zhou Yuxiang.)
Mr. Zhou Xiang was also known as
Zhou Yuxiang. He was from Tianjin Wuqing Wafang Village. He was born in 1861,
the first year of the reign of Emperor Tongzhi. He was a famous Baguazhang
master. He was our grand teacher. Our teacher was called Xue Zhaoji. He was a
student of Mr. Yuxiang. Mr. Yuxiang was originally a student of Baguazhang
Grandmaster Cheng Tinghua. Around the time that the Eight Nations Allied Armies
entered Beijing, Mr. Cheng was killed by the German forces near the Hade Gate.
Then Mr. Yuxiang became a student of Liu Fengchun. Mr. Yuxiang was obsessed
with the art. He practiced diligently and was an expert. He was braver and
stronger than most men. Because his skills in Baguazhang were so deep, that Mr.
Yuxiang had a special introduction in The Register of Famous Martial
Artists. In Tianjin there was a famous Baguazhang master of the
previous generation named Mr. Zhang Zhankui. At first, Mr. Yuxiang also studied
with him. Mr. Zhang Zhankui had a job in Tianjin catching criminals. Every time
he had a tough case he would ask Mr. Yuxiang to help him out. So one can see
that Mr. Zhang Zhankui was completely confident in Mr. Yuxiang’s martial skills.
Extremely Skillful in Martial Arts
Mr. Yuxiang deeply got the true
transmission of Baguazhang from Masters Cheng and Liu. He also received
instruction in Xingyi Quan from the great master, Li Cunyi. He was also a very
good friend with the great Taijiquan master, Li Ruidong. They would often have
mutual exchanges. They learned each other’s strong points to offset their
weaknesses. In addition to his native great strength, his martial arts skills
were very high, particularly his palm skills were deep and vast. Teacher Zhaoji
often quoted Great Master Li Cunyi as saying, "Zhou Mazi’s (Mr. Yuxiang’s
nickname) palm skills are not less than Cuihua Liu’s" (That is Liu
Fengchun’s nickname.) Mr. Li Ziyang often spoke to us in regard to this
evaluation. Still more Mr. Li Ziyang often related to us that because of Mr.
Yuxiang’s great palm skills, each time Mr. Yuxiang and Mr. Zhang Zhankui had
their mutual exchanges, Mr. Zhang Zhankui did not dare to join hands. He had to
resort to using evasion to respond to him. It was that difficult to get the
upper hand. Teacher Zhaoji said, "Mr. Yuxiang talked about how meeting
others throughout his life, very few impressed him. He only admired and
respected Guo Yunshen, Cheng Tinghua, Li Cunyi, Liu Fengchun, Sun Lutang as
great masters and none others." In addition, he also had positive feelings
for the skills of Li Ruidong and Shang Yunsheng. With other people, he often
acted as if they were beneath his notice. In those days, Mr. Yuxiang would
cross hands with practitioners of all the famous styles. In The Register
of Famous Martial Artists, it says that Mr. Yuxiang in his younger
years won fights in famous palaces, one after another defeated two top teachers
of the sixth son and ninth son of the prince.
Mr Li Ziyang spoke about time when
Mr. Yuxiang and Xingyi Quan master, Mr. Ma Yaonan, got together. Mr. Ma Yaonan
was a student of the great Xingyi Quan master Mr. Guo Yunshen. His skills, for
the most part, came from Master Guo. His Xingyi Quan skills were very deep.
During the early years of the Republic he came to Tianjin and often competed
with people from other styles. He rarely had an equal. Mr. Liu Yunji (a student
of Li Cunyi) praised Mr. Ma Yaonan’s high skill in front of Mr. Yuxiang. In
fact he was thinking of urging Mr. Yuxiang and Mr. Ma Yaonan to have a
competition. At last, the two men met at the Wu Shi Hui. Both men were eager to
get to work. Therefore it was not long before they started sparring. They
fought about ten bouts, but neither could beat the other. Mr. Li Cunyi urged
them to take a break. Mr. Li Cunyi said, "You two performed like Zhang Fei
fighting Ma Chao!" This was his way of saying that both men had great
Mr. Zhang Jinhe told us how Mr.
Yuxiang’s art was equal to the great Ziran master, Du Xinwu. In 1925, Mr.
Yuxiang and his classmate Han Muxia went to Bejing to take care of some
business and get together with their old friends, Mr. Heng Shoushan and Mr.
Zhao Xinzhou. Mr. Heng Shoushan gave a banquet at "The Clay Pot
House". Mr. Zhao Xinzhou’s friend, Mr. Du Xinwu, also came. During the
feast, Mr. Zhao Xinzhou praised Mr. Du Xinwu’s Ziran skills rather highly. When
Mr. Du Xinwu introduced the Ziran skills and he talked a bit about the
wonderful skills of his teacher Mr. Xu. Mr. Yuxiang, was never lightly
convinced by what people said. Therefore he rose up and requested that he and
Mr. Du Xinwu learn from each other by comparing skills in martial arts. Mr.
Heng Shoushan immediately suggested that they use chopsticks to compare skills,
to stop being touched by the point. Mr. Yuxiang and Mr. Du Xinwu faced each
other across a table. Almost simultaneously they started to move. Both men’s
body methods were extremely fast. After about ten exchanges each returned to
their original places. Mr. Du Xinwu saluted to show his respect. Everyone could
see that Mr. Du Xinwu’s chopstick was in Mr. Yuxiang’s hand. Many people
invariably highly praised Mr. Yuxiang’s body method as being extremely fast and
his hand method as being ingenious. But Mr Zhang Jinhe said, "In fact, Mr.
Du Xinwu’s martial skills were extremely good. And when he compared styles with
people, he rarely lost."
One time Mr. Yuxiang was in his
hometown. And Taiji master Mr. Li Ruidong was hanging out with him. Mr. Hao
Ming told us about how at this time Mr. Yuxiang did his best to destroy the
Tongbei master, Mr. Zhang Ce. Mr. Zhang Ce was called the "Arm
Saint". He was skilled in both Taiji and Tongbei, and well as with the
saber. During the Republic era, there was one year that Mr. Zhang Ce returned
to the village. He heard that Mr. Yuxiang was with his family and asked if he
could come visit. At that time it happened that Mr. Hao Ming’s teacher Mr. Li
Zilian was also staying at Mr. Yuxiang’s place. Because Mr. Li Zilian mentioned
that Mr. Zhang Ce, in his early years, once crossed hands with Mr. Xiang
Runtian and was defeated. This was done to provoke Mr. Zhang Ce, and he was not
happy about it. He suggested that he cross hands with Mr. Li Zilian. Because
Mr. Li and Mr. Zhang are both guests, Mr. Yuxiang at once encouraged them
together. Mr. Yuxiang was not good with words, and his urging didn’t have the
result he wanted. Instead it causes Mr. Zhang Ce vent his anger on Mr. Yuxiang.
Mr. Yuxiang had no alternative; thereupon he crossed hands with Mr. Zhang Ce.
In the first bout, Mr. Yuxiang issued into Mr. Zhang Ce. Mr. Zhang Ce ended up
with his head buried in the courtyard’s haystack.
Mr. Zhang Ce got up and immediately
The Hero Battles Bandits
At the beginning of the Republic
there was tangled warfare among the Warlords. Tianjin and Northern China were places
of strategic importance. Many changes were happening. Stragglers and disbanded
soldiers became bandits. The bodyguards in Tianjin were concerned about the
One time in Tianjin, they were
guarding a nobleman’s family home at night to protect it against thieves. The
nobleman’s family home was not far from the inside of the north gate. A mixture
of people would come and go through the gate. The road was clear and it was
convenient for bandits to flee this way. After a case was reported to the authorities,
Mr. Yuxiang took over this case. Mr. Yuxiang and other comrades seeking
business analyzed the details of the case. They firmly believed that the
bandits would return in the near future and that they could take advantage of
that. Thereupon they planned to capture the bandits.
took advantage of the fact the there would soon be a celebration of the 55th birthday
of nobleman’s uncle. Therefore the idea was to make a big deal of the event. He
would be disguised as a family member bringing gifts. Mr. Yuxiang then dressed
up as accomplished servant went to nobleman’s family home.
Not far from the nobleman’s family
home was the Liu Family Inn. Because Liu Jitai (Mr. Old Two) was also there
seeking to do business, they decided that the others would then in turn hide at
the Liu Family Inn. They agreed that when they heard Mr. Yuxiang blow a
whistle, then everybody would quickly come to assist him.
Three days later, before dawn, some
men called outside the gate of the nobleman’s family home. Mr. Yuxiang was
hidden and not moving. Not far away, a man leaped up onto the wall and jumped
down to open the gate. Four men came inside. They all had rifles. They ran
straight to the front of the main hall. Mr. Yuxiang suddenly appeared from
behind them and gave a great shout. He struck at them suddenly with a python
whip. In the blink of an eye the lash fell on two men. At this time there was a
man on top of the roof with a mauser pistol who started to shoot down at him.
Mr. Yuxiang narrowly escaped the bullets. He immediately flipped and rolled.
Following this he lifted the whip again and lashed and flipped one of the men.
Simultaneously, he quickly advanced and struck the man down with his palm. He
then leaped to the space below the edge of the roof.
He suddenly leaped up onto the roof
and applied his whip. The men were frightened and they got up and fled. He
turned around, stretched out his hands and continuously struck at the rifles.
Among them one rifle rubbed through the skin and flesh of Mr. Yuxiang’s left
shoulder. Blood flowed straight away. When the men jumped down from the roof,
they saw that Mr. Yuxiang was already standing in front of them. He struck one
man straight on the head and he fell down unconscious. At this time, outside
the gate there was a carriage pulled by two bandits ready to come to their aid.
They heard the commotion inside and decided to flee instead.
Eventually his colleagues hidden at
the Liu Family Inn arrived. They saw five men lying in the courtyard, four
rifles and the Mauser pistol all gathered by Mr. Yuxiang’s side. Thereupon they
put the bandits under guard and closed the case. When everyone asked why Mr.
Yuxiang didn’t blow the whistle during the fierce fight with the bandits, Mr.
Yuxiang said, "The situation was urgent. I completely forgot to blow the
During the interrogation afterwards,
they realized that this group of bandits all were disbanded soldiers from the
Northeastern Army. Since these bandits really had come from the military, to
avoid military retaliation in the days to come, they decided to lock up the
people and the affair was never made public.
So you can see Mr. Yuxiang had quite a bit of martial bravery.