Ma Gui The destiny of inheritor is with the destiny of Chinese dynasty declining down
There is already a lot of information on the second generation of Baguazhang masters. Ma Gui was a very special Bagua master who was named as third generation, but in fact he was a true second generation master, and the true inheritor of Dong Hai Chuan’s lineage.
Ma Gui (1851-1941), also named Ma ShiQing, was the owner of his family business, the Yongyi lumber company. His company had the honor of supplying wood for the emperor’s palace. This gave him frequent entry to the palace. Because of his family business his martial arts peers gave him the nickname ‘Wood Ma’.
When he was young the family business did well and they were prosperous, which afforded him a good education. At twelve years old he started to learn baguazhang with Dong Haichuan. Because his father was a sworn brother with Yin Fu (at this time in China it was common for men to become sworn brothers, to support each other no matter what), and to keep with proper Chinese customs and respect, as well as to maintain the proper generation order, Yin Fu was named as his teacher instead of Dong.
In Dong Haichuan’s later years baguazhang was very popular in Beijing. Many wanted to make a living teaching it. But since most of his apprentices came from the lower levels of society they were always trying to prove themselves and it was hard to avoid injury or even death in fights to prove themselves, in order to make a name and a living. This went against the wishes of Dong Haichuan. He decided to teach someone who was literate, did not get into fights, and had no problems of livelihood, so he chose Ma Gui as his lineage holder.
On how and why Dong Hai Chuan choosed Ma Gui as his true Bagua inheritor, there are many different opinions. But one of the most important facts is that Dong Hai Chuan spent most of his rest life living with Ma Gui and his family after he left the palace.
A few years before Ma Gui passed away, he adopted a daughter who was the wife of Dong Hai Chuan’s student named Shi Ji Dong and moved to live with his daughter’s family.
Ma Gui’s natural talent surpassed many, and with Dong’s personal teachings and diligent training, he became the instrument for recording baguazhang. He received the most systematic development in baguazhang. His deep skills eventually surpassed all of Dong’s apprentices and others to come.
Once Ma Gui’s skills were fully developed his arms were said to be like an apes, hanging to his knees, his abdomen and back were thick and strong, his body light as a swallow, and his eyes flashed out from a benevolent face. He participated in many challenge matches and was never bested. Countless martial arts masters all fell in defeat from Ma Gui’s outstanding abilities.
Ma Gui was the only one to gain Dong Haichuan’s internal training such as lightness skills, hard palms, wrist hitting, fire wheel palms, pressure points, joint controls, controlling, grabbing, and meridian path manipulation. He became famous for these. He was also well known for his crab posture zhuangzhang (ramming palms), which were heavy, full, hard, and fierce. His skills were truly superlative. Ma Gui alone gained all the best of baguazhang. He treasured the teaching of Dong Haichuan his whole life. He was high- minded and loved the martial arts so much so, that he was unwilling to lightly transmit his learning. He would advise other students of baguazhang, but respected his teacher’s wish of ‘do not transmit to those unworthy’, and was known for being stingy about passing on skills or taking students of his own.
Because of Ma Gui’s upbringing and education, as well as his position with the Imperial household, he developed refined tastes and interests. One example is he enjoyed painting. He would often paint crabs and because of his skill in the crab postures and crab style of walking the circle, he earned a new nickname of ‘Crab Ma’.
The above image shows Ma Gui in 1930 at the gathering in Beijing to erect Dong Haichuan’s memorial stele.
Because of his position as leader of baguazhang at the time, he gathered together as many other practitioners as he could to erect the memorial stele.
He also had these twenty words written on the front side of the stele:
“Hai Fu Shou Shan Yong, Qiang Ding Guo Ji, Ming Guang Da, Dao De Jian Wu Ji”.
While Ma Gui’s young life was full of prosperity, the latter half of his life (1910-1941) was full of hardships. He lost his family business due to the fall of the Qing dynasty. Since he supplied wood for the Imperial family when power changed hands, his business collapsed. In the end, he lost everything and became destitute.
At this time, allow me an aside to describe some major historical events in China, which had an important impact on Baguazhang and Taiji Quan. As I described above, the emperor passed away before Dong Hai Chuan was able to fulfill his mission of killing him. The emperor’s wife, Empress Dowager Ci Xi, then rose to power and controlled China for nearly half a century.
She anointed her son as the emperor, but just four years later, her son died at the age of 19. She then chose her sister’s son to be the new emperor. While there was an emperor, Ci Xi had the most power over the country at this time.
During that same time, a king named Duan Wang also possessed a lot of political power. He also loved martial arts and organized a special force that consisted of great martial artists.
Earlier in his career, one of his officials recommended martial artist to him, who was very educated and did internal martial art. The king ordered his soldiers to test this man by competing against him. But no one could win over him and that person was given the nickname ‘unbeatable.’
That man’s real name was Yang Lu Chan. He taught a style of martial arts that became widely practiced by those of the royal classes. This was the beginning of Taiji Quan.
After this meeting, King Duan Wang also started to learn and practice Tai Ji Quan with Yang.
About ten years later, Dong Hai Chuan appeared and began teaching; Baguazhang also became as well known as Tai Ji Quan.
Many years later, Taiji Quan’s Master Yang and Baguazhang’s Master Dong passed away. It was Baguazhang maser Yin Fu, who was Dong Hai Chuan’s top student, taught Baguazhang in the palace.
One day the king asked Yin Fu, who was the best in Bagua, Yin Fu told him it was Ma Gui. The king ordered Ma Gui to his palace and when he arrived, asked one of Yang Lu Chan’s best students, named Wan Chuan, to compete with Ma Gui.
When Ma Gui prevailed, the king was very surprised, but also happy. He regretted that he was too old, as he would have liked to learn from Ma Gui. But he instead ordered his son to become a student of Ma Gui.
Remember the king’s son, Ma Gui’s Baguazhang student. This Bagua student of Ma Gui, just a few years after becoming his student, became the most important person in the late history of China.
Chinese history changed completely around the year 1900. Year after year, China’s young emperor became more and more independent and Ci Xi, who was above the emperor, was unhappy with him. She decided to replace him with a new emperor, once she could better control.
The newly anointed Emperor was the one learning Baguazhang from Ma Gui.
This attempt to replace the old Emperor became the main reason for the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
After this event, Ma Gui’s life as he knew it began disappearing. The dynasty he served was vanishing, and by 1911, the Qing dynasty was gone.
The second half of Ma Gui’s life was much like the destiny of the Qing dynasty, desperate and heavy with a fear that it would soon be gone.
Ma Gui did not use his great ability as a Baguazhang’s true inheritor to make his life better. Rather he chose to shut the door on that part of his life. Many may not understand that when it is the destiny of a nation to fall and disappear from the world, there is nothing one man can do to save it.
In Ma Gui’s later life, due to his extraordinary ability, he was able to prosper once more. He was well known for being the formal anointed Emperor’s Baguazhang teacher. And many others from different backgrounds wanted to learn from him.
In the 1930s, the top commander and governor of several states of China named Tang Yu Lin, as well as his two sons, started to learn from Ma Gui. For Ma Gui, teaching one of the most powerful people in China might have greatly increased his reputation and changed his life. But Ma Gui did not take these kinds of opportunities.
For whatever reason, this was Ma Gui’s decision. And it was one that would shape the destiny of his country, his life, his family, and his community.