Also named Li MengRui (1888-1980), was from Haiyang in Shandong province. He ran a restaurant called YuChun Lou (Jade Spring Restaurant), in the Qianmen district of Beijing. During his youth he trained hard to learn martial skill, he was brave and daring, willing to do anything and everything. This would help him very much later in life when things were the hardest.
His whole life he was generous and heroic. Just when Ma Gui had descended to poverty and given up hope, Li Shao’an generously supported him. His kindness, friendship, and morality touched Ma Gui deeply. In return, for the generous and upstanding character of Li Shao’an, Ma Gui gave all he had left in the world, his baguazhang. 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). Because of this he earned the nickname ‘Iron arm Li’.
Li Shao’an was close friends with Li Wenbiao, Yin Yuzhang, Liu Bin, Liang Zhenpu, and other famous masters in baguazhang circles. Because of his wonderful character and generosity he earned another nickname ‘Surpassing eldest brother’. To give just one example of his character, when soldiers in the Tongzhou district of Beijing killed Li Wenbiao, Li Shao’an, regardless of his own safety, and by himself, claimed the body and ensured that his martial friend was properly buried.
During the Cultural Revolution, Li Shao’an suffered greatly, and was sent to his hometown of Haiyang, Shandong. Because of this he lost everything just as Ma Gui had, to the point where survival was questionable. Even in his poorest years in the countryside, when he experienced the fullest extent the lows that people could go to around him, and human feelings were at their unkindest, he wore plain cotton and ate clear gruel. Even this though could not touch his strong spirit. He faced hardship and difficulties with fearlessness and elegance.
His martial skill and his quality of character is the model that I seek for myself. I do not have one-fourth of Li Shao’an’s deep skills, but as to his heart, I perhaps know a tenth.
In the history of baguazhang, the story of Li Shao’an has moved my soul and fueled my dreams for over twenty years. I wish I could express more here but this is just an introduction. I will say more about this wonderful martial artist and man later in the members section.
At present no lineage recipient of Li Shao’an has been found. I hope that one day we may find one, and that his school can be directly transmitted.
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 from his uncle Liu Qingfu (Yin Fu’s apprentice, and one of the key figures in Yin Fu School of Baguazhang) together with his cousin Liu Xuehai (also named Liu YiShan). The two of them were well known for their skills in the village.
Because of his family’s poverty Liu Wanchuan was only able attend school for three years. He had to quit to go to work in the fields to help support his family. 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 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 home 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 Wanchuan worked as an accountant at the restaurant, YuChun, which Li Shao’an owned, they were also from the same village. As Li Shao’an took on the care of Ma Gui, Liu Wanchuan 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, and his fali (power striking) was heavy. He perfected meridian point manipulation, 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. His students once calculated that if all of his 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 his mind seemed a little unclear. His daughter was concerned for his mental healthy and attempted to speak with him, but he did not respond. She then quoted a line from the baguazhang classics, and Liu Wanchuan immediately completed the quotation – all 108 four-character lines, smoothly and fluently, without one character wrong.
Liu Wanchuan had only three years of formal schooling. Because of this he did not have the level of literacy to express his feelings and understandings of baguazhang. I do, however, have a daily journal that he kept from when he was over 80 years old. In it he notes his daily training regime and how many repetitions he would do of each movement. He loved baguazhang so much that even after he was 80 years old he treated his practice as seriously as he did when he trained with Ma Gui.
In Liu Wanchuan 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!
After Liu Wanchuan had mastered what Ma Gui had taught him he returned one time to his hometown of Shandong in 1944. His high level of deep kungfu and skills astounded the villagers. Even now many people in the area around Haiyang County sing his praises.
From 1981 on, he taught baguazhang openly in Taoran Pavilion Park, teaching over fifty people in a class. It is from Liu Wanchuan that the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang has gradually spread throughout China and now to the world.
To see more about Liu Wanchuan, please go to the article ‘In memory of Liu Wanchuan’ in the members section.