Li Tian Ji at home in Beijing, China, Fall 1992
Last month we received the news, through Bow Sim Mark's Chinese Wushu Research Institute, that Li Tian Ji (4^ ^ one of the greatest promoters of martial arts in mainland China, had passed away.
Li Tian Ji was born in 1915 and was taught his martial arts mainly by his famous father Li Yu Lin ( 1885-1965). Li Yu Lin's first teacher was Xing Yi Quan instructor Hao En Guang (iP&ife), a Xing Yi student of Li Cun Yi While Li Yu Lin was studying with Hao En Guang, he also had the opportunity to receive some personal instruction from Li Cun Yi. In an interview I conducted with Li Tian Ji in Beijing, October of 1992, he told me that when he was a very small boy, he actually met Li Cun Yi. After Hao En Guang's death, Li Yu Lin impressed Sun Lu Tang It) with his skill and Sun accepted him as a student.
Li Tian Ji said that since his father was already an accomplished martial artist when he began studying with Sun Lu Tang, Sun just went over the fine points with Li in order to raise his skill level. Li Yu Lin was also good friends with Yang Cheng Fu and learned Yang style Tai Ji from him, although they did not have a student-teacher relationship.
When Li Tian Ji was 7 years old, he and his elder brother began studying martial arts with their father. In 1926, his father went to Tianjin to teach at the Zhong Hua Wu Shi Hui (Chinese Warrior's Association), one of the biggest martial arts schools in Tianjin. In order to improve the skills of his sons, the next year Li Yu Lin brought them to Tianjin. In Tiajin, Li Tian Ji was able to study with Li Yao Ting, Wang Jin Jun, and Sun Lu Tang. After teaching in Tianjin, Li Yu Lin went to teach in Shanghai, then Shandong, then Mancheria, then Beijing. Li Tian Ji followed his father, arriving in Beijing in 1955. Li Tian Ji lived in Beijing for the remainder of his life.
In 1930, Li's father was asked to teach at the Shandong Martial Arts Academy, which was founded by Li Jing Lin Li Jing Lin was famous for his sword skill. People called him "magic sword" Li. He had learned his Wu Dong sword from Song Wei Yi ). The earliest know book on Wu Dong sword was published by Song Wei Yi in 1920. Li Jin Lin, who was a famous and powerful Warlord General, made significant contributions to the research, promotion, and expansion of the popularity of Wu Dang sword. He routinely invited the most well known sword masters in China to gather at his house to research and study sword techniques and skills. Two prominent internal martial artist who attended Li Jin Lin's research sessions were Fu Zhen Song and Li Yu Lin. When these highly
Li Tian Ji presenting calligraphy to Bow Sim Mark in 1984
Li Tian Ji's Father, Li Yu Lin skilled practitioners visited General Li Jing Lin, they both brought along their sons, Fu Yong Hui and
Li Tian Ji, respectively. Both of these young men were able to learn directly from Li Jing Lin.
The Shandong Martial Arts Academy was filled with people of high skill. In addition to Li Jing Lin, other instructors at the school included Hao Jia Jun, Lin Zhi Yun, Yang Fa Wu, Li Jing Lan, and Yu Wa Xing. Li Tian Ji would spend all day at the school learning from these instructors - this greatly improved his skills. Li Tian Ji became especially skilled at Li Jing Lin's Wu Dong sword. After Li Jing Lin's death, Li Tian Ji and Guo Zhi Feng practiced and improved the Wu Dong sword two-person set.
In 1927, Li learned the Yang style Tai Ji Quan. Later, he also learned the Chen, Wu, and Sun styles. In 1956, Li and some others devised the simplified 24 movement Tai Ji form which is now very popular in mainland China. Around the same time Li Tian Ji was working on the development of the simplified Tai Ji form, he also developed a standardized Ba Gua form. This form was taught at all of the Wu Shu schools in mainland China. Li Tian Ji said that he never studied any Ba Gua outside of what he had learned from his father and Sun Lu Tang. The standardized form he developed was a mixture of his father's Ba Gua and Sun Lu Tang's Ba Gua. Li said that when he created this form, it had to be something simple that everyone could perform. This is the form that he taught to his students since the early 1960's.
When asked about Sun Lu Tang's Ba Gua, Li said that what Sun printed in his book was the "public version." What he taught in private was reserved for his close students. He also said that the most important part of Sun's Ba Gua was the circle walking practice.
On February 17th, 1996, Bow Sim Mark of Boston, MA, who studied with Li Tian Ji in Beijing, held a memorial service at her school. In a press realease sent from Bow Sim Mark's Chinese Wushu Research Institute, the event was described as follows:
"Bow Sim Mark and her students spoke of the role Li Tian Ji played in the development of modern Wushu. As Deputy Secretary General of the National Wushu Association for over thirty years, he led the development of standardized forms of Chang Quan, Nan Quan, Simplified and Combined Tai Ji, Xing Yi, and Ba Gua. These became the foundation of a national Wushu college curriculum and extensive book series. Li was also instrumental in spreading Wushu throughout the world. In Japan, he was known as the "Father of Tai Ji." He helped organize the First International Tai Ji and Sword Demonstration (1984, Wuhan) and the First International Wushu Competition (1985, Xian).
"Bow Sim Mark first met Li Tian Ji in 1981 after competing with Combined Tai Ji Quan at the National Wushu Competition. He was so impressed by her technique that he invited her to spend three months at the Beijing Physical Culture Institute researching Combined Tai Ji and Wu Dong Sword. In 1984, he presented her with his own calligraphy and family heirloom sword in recognition of her work in promoting Combined Tai Ji Quan outside of China.
"As practitioner, teacher, and author, Li set very high standards for himself and his students. With he death, a new challenge has been raised for all practitioners of Wushu, to strive to meet and exceed his very high standards. We all mourn the loss of this very great man."
Bow Sim Mark and her students in Boston, MA at the Li Tian Ji memorial Service
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