After Sun had been with his teacher for three years, his mother heard that he was practicing martial arts. This made her very nervous because she thought he was too frail and might get hurt. She went to see him with the intention of telling him not to practice anymore. However, when she arrived she saw that he was much stronger and healthier than he had been before and so she did not try to stop him from practicing. Sun had always been thin and weak and upon seeing her son's physical improvement she realized that the martial arts were good for him.
When Sun was approximately 12 years old, his boss let all of the servants have half a day off to celebrate the new year. Sun had planned to go home and visit with his mother. As he was about to leave, the boss' son came in and started pushing Sun around. He said, "You have been practicing martial arts! If you think you are good, let us see you fight with my cousin." The cousin, who was 8 years older than Sun, came into the room. He was a very big, strong looking practitioner of Shuai Chiao (Chinese Wrestling). The cousin grabbed Sun by the shirt and dragged him into the courtyard. Once in the courtyard, the aggressor grabbed Sun by the pants and shirt, picked him up over his head and threw him. When he was thrown, Sun flipped over in the air and landed on his feet. This made the cousin mad, however, Sun was also angry because his shirt had been ripped. As Sun's opponent ran over to pick him up and throw him again, Sun punched him in the solar plexus and knocked him on his back. When he hit the ground, the cousin vomited all of the new year's food he has just consumed. Sun's boss' son ran and got his father. Sun's boss came out in the courtyard with a big stick and said he was going to beat Sun to death. The other servants held the boss back and tried to convince him not to beat Sun. The boss yelled at Sun to leave and never come back or else he would beat him to death. Sun left and went home to his mother.
The only thing that interested the young Sun Fu-Ch'uan was the martial arts. He did not want to work, he only wanted to study. To feed himself, and ease the burden on his mother, he would eat wild vegetables that he found. Because many martial artists of the day had bad reputations, the local villagers thought that he would surely grow up to be a bandit. This made him even more determined. He told them that not only was he going to be a great martial artist, but one day he would help this village and make all of the villagers proud.
Shortly after being fired from his job, Sun became very ashamed and depressed because he could not take care of his mother and he could not keep a job. One day he told his mother that he was going to go beg for some rice. Sun felt so depressed that instead of begging for rice, he went out and hung himself. Immediately after he had drawn the noose tight around his neck, two traveler's came by and cut him down. Sun was not yet dead so they took him back home to his mother. The two kind-hearted travelers talked with Sun and convinced him that no matter how bad the circumstances, he should not try to kill himself. One of the travelers gave Sun and his mother some money and they used it to go to Pao Ting to visit Sun's uncle.
Sun's uncle owned a shop where he sold calligraphy brushes. He gave Sun a job working as a clerk in the shop. While working in his Uncle's shop, Sun practiced his calligraphy everyday. He was too poor to buy paper or ink and so he would use scrap paper and write on it with
Sun Lu-T'ang in Tianjin, 1926
water. Sun's Uncle was a kind man and his shop was very successful. In addition to room and board for Sun and his mother, his Uncle would periodically give Sun money for working in the shop. It was through his Uncle's connections that Sun was able to continue his martial arts practice in Pao Ting. Sun's Uncle had two very close friends. One friend, surnamed Chang, was a scholar and the other, surnamed Li, was a martial artist who owned the Tai An bodyguard service.
Li had been a Hsing-I Ch'uan student of the famous Kuo Yun-Shen. He had met Kuo one day when he was on a job escorting a convoy. On this occasion, he challenged Kuo to a friendly match so that he could test his own skill. Li was famous for his legwork and kicking techniques. During the match, Li tried to kick Kuo. Kuo blocked the kick with what appeared to be a light tap, however, Li flew back several yards and fell on the ground. When Li got up he was not hurt. Because Kuo had met the challenge and defeated him soundly without hurting him, Li knew he had run into a very high level martial artist. He ran over to Kuo, knelt down and asked to become a student. Kuo agreed to teach him and Li began studying Hsing-I Ch'uan with Kuo. Li, whose personal name was K'uei-
Yuan, studied Hsing-I with Kuo for several years. Since Li was already skilled in martial arts, Kuo taught him quickly and thus he greatly improved his martial arts abilities. After studying with Kuo, Li earned the nickname "divine skill" Li.
One day Sun Lu-T'ang's Uncle was preparing to send a gift to his scholar friend Chang and asked Sun to write the name and address on the package. When Chang received the gift he was more impressed with the calligraphy on the package than he was with the gift which was inside. Chang went to visit Sun's Uncle to ask who had written the calligraphy. When he found out that it was his friend's nephew who had written the calligraphy, Chang said, "You never told me you had a young man in your family with such talent." Chang told Sun, who was about 15 at the time, that he could come to his home as often as he would like and learn more about calligraphy. During his spare time Sun began to go to Chang's house to practice. It was there that he first met the martial artist Li K'uei-Yuan. Upon meeting Sun, Li found him to be an upright and intelligent boy. Learning that Sun had a background in martial arts, Li offered to teach him Hsing-I Ch'uan. Sun's love for martial arts had not faded and he was thrilled to have found a new instructor.
Sun Studies Hsing-I Ch'uan
For the first year Sun studied Hsing-I with Li he was only taught the San Ts'ai standing posture. He was not allowed to practice anything else. Sun wondered why he was taught only standing, however, since his teacher had told him to only practice standing, he did not complain. After about six months, Sun started to feel as though his chest and stomach were full and his feet had roots. He was starting to develop internal power from his standing practice and he figured that this is what real kung fu was all about. After these experiences he started to stand more diligently. After Sun had practiced standing for approximately one year, his teacher saw him practicing one day and snuck up on him to test his level. Li hit Sun on his back with a palm strike and Sun's standing posture was not affected by the blow. He realized that Sun had attained a good level of development and had great potential so he invited Sun to come live with him and started to teach him Hsing-I's five elements and twelve animals. Sun practiced his Hsing-I so hard that after only two years of training he had developed a much higher level of Hsing-I Ch'uan skill than was expected of someone of his age and experience.
On the scholar Chang's fiftieth birthday Li and Sun went to his home to wish him well. On this occasion, Chang suggested that Li accept Sun as his formal disciple. Li agreed that Sun had studied hard enough to earn a place in his Hsing-I lineage and accepted Sun as a seventh generation disciple of his branch of Hsing-I. This branch of Hsing-I Ch'uan originated with Chi Chi-Ke (also known as Chi Lung-Feng) and was passed to Ts'ao Chi-Wu, then to Tai Lung-Feng, to Li Neng-Jan, to Kuo Yun-Shen, to Li K'uei-Yuan, and then to Sun Lu-T'ang.
After Chang had made the suggestion that Li accept Sun as a disciple, Li made a suggestion to Chang. He said, "Now that I have accepted a formal disciple at your encouragement, I will encourage you to accept a son-in-
law and allow Sun to marry your daughter." Chang's daughter, Chang Chao-Hsien, was 16 years old at the time and Sun was about 18. Chang and Li thought that the two would make a good match and so they became engaged. However, Sun did not want to marry right away. He wanted to spend more time practicing martial arts before he had to worry about supporting his wife. Li K'uei-Yuan told Sun that he had taught him just about everything that he knew. He suggested that if Sun wanted to learn more about Hsing-I he would introduce him to his teacher, Kuo Yun-Shen. Sun was very excited about the possibility of studying with Kuo, but he was a little worried about someone taking care of his mother. Chang the scholar told Sun not to worry about it. He said that he would take Sun's mother into his house and look after her while Sun was studying with Kuo. With his mother taken care of, Sun was ready to go continue pursuing his martial arts study. Li took Sun to Hsien Chou in Hebei Province to introduce him to his teacher Kuo Yun-Shen.
Kuo Yun-Shen had studied Hsing-I Ch'uan with Li Neng-Jan. Kuo loved to fight when he was young. When he first approached Li Neng-Jan wanting to learn Hsing-I, Li would not teach him because he was of such a violent nature. Li told Kuo that unless he could change his character, he would never teach him martial arts. Kuo got a job as a servant near Li's home and would secretly watch Li and his students practice Hsing-I. Kuo practiced peng ch'uan (smashing fist) on his own for three years. One day Li Neng-Jan saw Kuo practicing peng ch'uan and noticed that Kuo was very good at it already. Li saw that Kuo was sincere about learning Hsing-I so he then agreed to teach him.
After Kuo had studied with Li he got a job as a bounty hunter. The law of the day said that a bounty hunter was allowed to catch criminals and bring them in, however, the criminals had to be brought in alive. On one occasion, Kuo was hunting a bandit who was terrorizing travelers along a frequently traveled road. Kuo found the bandit he was pursuing while the bandit was engaged in a fight with a local escort service. Kuo joined the battle and captured the bandit, however, after he had captured him, the bandit pulled out a concealed weapon and tried to kill Kuo. Kuo hit the man and killed him. Recognizing that he had done wrong, Kuo turned himself in to the authorities. The penalty for such a crime was death, however, the local magistrate's advisors begged him to consider not executing Kuo because he was a rare talent in the martial arts. Instead of execution, the magistrate sentenced Kuo to three years in prison. While in prison Kuo was manacled, however, he continued to practice his Hsing-I Ch'uan. When he came out of prison his skill was higher than when he had entered.
While in prison, Kuo had developed what became known as pan pu peng
Sun Lu-T'ang demonstrates his T'ai Chi Ch'uan in his book The Study of T'ai Chi Ch'uan ch'uan (half step smashing fist) and became so famous for the power he developed with this special punch that people said that his "half step smashing fist could beat all under heaven" (pan pu peng ch'uan ta t'ien hsta). After being released from prison Kuo went to visit the escort service that worked in the area where the bandit he had killed had operated. He told them that ever since he had killed the bandit, the road was clear and their job had become easy. He told the escort service that they owed him money because of the work he had done for them. Because of his martial arts skill, they did not want to quarrel with him so they gave him some money. However, Kuo would periodically come back for more money and the escort service got tired of it. Instead of confronting Kuo directly they sent a letter to Kuo's teacher Li Neng-Jan.
Li Neng-Jan called Kuo back home and told him that he shouldn't bother the escort service any more. Li also said, "Plus, your kung fu is not nearly as good as you think it is. Your skill does not come close to that of your older brother Ch'e I-Chai." Upon hearing this Kuo became angry and went to Shanxi Province to find Ch'e I-Chai and challenge him. When Kuo arrived at Ch'e's home, Ch'e was happy to see him and said "Little tf . brother, I am glad you have come to visit! Let's have something to eat." Kuo said, "No, I came here to fight." Ch'e tried to talk Kuo out of fighting, but Kuo persisted and thus Ch'e was left without a choice. Kuo tried to use his famous peng «v ch'uan over and over. Ch'e kept backing away from Kuo's strikes and then quickly turned to the side as Kuo struck again and executed p'i ch'uan (splitting fist). Ch'e held the strike, stopping inches from Kuo's head. Realizing the Ch'e had got the best of him, Kuo stopped and said, "It is just as our teacher has said, you are better then I." Following this incident Kuo never bothered the escort company again.
Li K'uei-Yuan had already been middle aged by the time he had begun studying with Kuo Yun-Shen and although his skill level was very high, he had never reached the level of his teacher. When Li took Sun Lu-T'ang to meet Kuo, Kuo accepted Sun as a student and Li also stayed to continue his practice with Kuo. Sun moved in with his new teacher and studied Hsing-I full time. When Kuo saw Sun's Hsing-I Ch'uan he was very impressed. He said that Sun was especially skilled in Hsing-I's monkey form and so he nicknamed Sun "living monkey." It is said that Sun had so much natural talent he eventually surpassed the level of his original teacher, Li Kuei-Yuan.
The first year of practice, Kuo did not teach Sun much new material but watched him practice what he already knew and made corrections. One night, after Sun had been there for about a year, he was outside practicing when Kuo leapt out of the shadows and tried to attack him with peng ch'uan (smashing fist). Sun instinctively used a leaping move from the monkey form and leapt back about ten feet. Kuo was very happy that Sun could react so well and from that time forward began to teach him deeply.
Kuo ran a farm and supported Sun while Sun studied with him. Sun traveled with Kuo everywhere he went. Kuo often traveled long distances on horseback. In order to develop Sun's stamina and strength, Kuo required him to walk along beside the horse with his arm held straight out behind the horse with the horse's tail draped over his arm. Sun was required to keep the arm held out and always travel at the same pace as the horse by keeping the tail draped over the arm. One version of this story says that Sun was able to keep up with the horse even when the horse was running. When Sun's daughter, Sun Jian-Yun, was asked about this story, she said, "That is ridiculous, no man could run as fast as a horse!" The distances Sun traveled while following the horse and the speed at which he could run have been greatly exaggerated in books and articles written about Sun.
Later, Kuo gave Sun the book of Hsing-I that he had received from his teacher Li Neng-Jan. Sun knelt down and accepted the book and said that he would always strive to represent the system with honor. Sun then became the formal inheritor of Kuo's Hsing-I Ch'uan. Altogether Sun stayed with Kuo for eight years at which time Kuo told Sun that if he wanted to take his martial arts to an even higher level he should practice Pa Kua Chang to become skilled at evasiveness. Kuo told Sun he would like to take him to Beijing to study Pa Kua Chang with his friend Ch'eng T'ing-Hua.
Sun was very interested in going to Beijing to study with Ch'eng, but first he went back to Pao Ting to visit his mother and tell the scholar Chang and his daughter that he would like to put the wedding off for a little while longer. He received their permission and set off for Beijing to study with Ch'eng. Ch'eng accepted Sun as a student and began teaching him Pa Kua Chang. Sun Lu-T'ang was about 30 years
old at the time. Ch'eng began teaching Sun Pa Kua Chang by introducing him to the circle walk practice.
After Sun had been practicing for a while, Ch'eng said that he was going to show Sun something about Pa Kua Chang's fighting method. He asked Sun to attack him and not hold back. Sun attacked with peng ch'uan. Ch'eng used Pa Kua's evasive footwork to quickly move out of the way of the attack and instantaneously positioned himself behind Sun. Sun continued attacking, however, every time he moved toward Ch'eng, Ch'eng would end up behind him. Finally, Sun turned one time and met Ch'eng's "double crashing palm" and was thrown back several yards. Sun was very impressed with Ch'eng and was disappointed with his own level of skill. Ch'eng told Sun that what he had used was only basic Pa Kua Chang skills; the art of Pa Kua was much deeper than he had shown. Liang K'e-Ch'uan, a Hsing-I and Pa Kua instructor in Beijing who studied Pa Kua Chang with Ch'eng T'ing-Hua's son Ch'eng Yu-Hsin, tells a story about Sun's early days with Ch'eng. Liang states that for the first year of study with Ch'eng the only thing Sun was allowed to practice was a few standing postures and walking the circle. However, he would practice other things on his own behind his teacher's back. There was an area behind the Forbidden City where some old cannons lay. Sun would practice hitting these cannons everyday and after several months of practice he could hit the cannons and make them move slightly even though they weighed several hundred pounds apiece.
After Sun had been with Ch'eng for almost a year, a famous martial artist came to Beijing from southern China to challenge Ch'eng T'ing-Hua. Ch'eng sent his best students out to fight the Southerner and all of Ch'eng's students were defeated. Ch'eng became nervous that he would lose his reputation so he went to fight the guy himself. As he was leaving, Sun grabbed him and said, "I'll go fight him." Ch'eng said, "But all you have practiced is walking the circle, how can you expect to beat this man who
Some of the most famous martial artists in China meet in Shanghai, 1929. In the front row from left to right: Yang Cheng-Fu (T'ai Chi Ch'uan), Sun Lu-T'ang (T'ai Chi, Hsing-I, Pa Kua), Liu Pai-Ch'uan (Lohan Shaolin), Li Ching-Lin (Wu Tang Sword), Tu Hsin-Wu (Natural School Boxing),
Cheng Tso-Ping (T'ai Chi Ch'uan), and Tien Shao-Hsien has defeated my senior students?" Sun said, "He has beaten everyone else, so if he beats me, it is not much different, however, if he beats you, your reputation will be lost."
Ch'eng went to see the Southerner and told him that he had one more student to fight and Sun stepped forward. When the fight began Sun moved around the challenger and then hit him like he had been hitting the cannons behind the Forbidden City. Sun hit him so hard that he knocked the man out of the window of the building. Ch'eng T'ing-Hua was so happy that he slapped the bench he was sitting on and broke it in half. The Southern martial artist knelt before Ch'eng and said, "The South has lost to the great Ch'eng T'ing-Hua."
Sun took notes on all that Ch'eng told him and this formed the basis of his later writing on Pa Kua Chang. Ch'eng told him he had learned quickly because of his background and natural ability. After Sun had practiced with Ch'eng for three years, Ch'eng told him that staying there longer was not going to help him much. Ch'eng told him that he needed to go test himself in the world. Sun was reluctant to leave, but Ch'eng told him he should go. Ch'eng told Sun that his kung fu skill was such that if he got into a fight, his teacher would not loose face. Before he left, Ch'eng said to remember this, "Pride will cause you harm while you will always benefit from humility." Ch'eng then gave him the name "Lu-T'ang." From then on in martial circles he was known as Sun Lu-T'ang.
Sun Jian-Yun speaks of at least one instance
where Sun's change of name caused some confusion later in his life. One of Ch'eng T'ing-Hua's other Pa Kua Chang students, Chou Yu-Hsiang was teaching in Tianjin. Sun was in town and went by to visit Chou. Although they were from the same Pa Kua Chang school, they had not studied with Ch'eng at the same time and thus they had never met. When Sun entered Chou's school, Chou asked his name and Sun replied, "I am Sun Lu-T'ang." Chou had never heard of Sun Lu-T'ang, he had only ever heard of Sun Fu-Ch'uan and so he did not know who this visitor was. Chou asked Sun if " ^^ he practiced martial arts. Sun, realizing that Chou did not know who he was, said, "Yes, I practice Shaolin."
When Chou heard that this visitor was a Shaolin practitioner his attitude conveyed that he thought his style superior to what the visitor practiced. He said, "Why don't you show me some of your Shaolin. " Chou attacked Sun in a friendly manner so Sun could apply his art. Sun performed an application. In response Chou said, "That does not look like Shaolin to me. Let's try again." This time Chou attacked with more force, trying to really hit him. Sun avoided the strike and struck Chou in such a manner that Chou's head went through the low paper ceiling. Chou said, "That is not Shaolin. I recognize this as Hsing-I Ch'uan. Who are you?" Sun replied, "As I have told you, I am Sun Lu-T'ang, also known as Sun Fu-Ch'uan." Chou said, "Now I know who you are. We are boxing brothers! Why didn't you tell me." Chou then apologized for his rudeness.
Sun Lu-T'ang Goes Out On His Own
After Sun Lu-T'ang left Ch'eng T'ing-Hua he took his teacher's advice and traveled to Sichuan Province, visiting with other martial artists along the way. If he heard that someone was good at martial arts, Sun went to meet them. After making this trip to Sichuan to compare his martial arts skill with others, Sun went back to his hometown and began teaching martial arts. When he first started teaching he was in his thirties. He stayed in his hometown teaching for five years. Many of the farmers in the area and other townspeople studied with him. His very first, and some of his best students were from his hometown.
One of Sun's best students in Pao Ting was surnamed Tung. When Tung started studying Hsing-I with Sun, he did nothing for three years but stand in the San Ts'ai posture. If one travels to Pao Ting today they can see Sun's martial arts still being practiced by many of the martial artists there. While teaching martial arts in his hometown, Sun also started a literary study society because most of the townspeople were illiterate.
After Sun left his hometown he traveled to Hsing Tang, a town about 80 miles from Beijing in Hebei Province. Sun taught martial arts there for eight years. On one occasion a wealthy land owner held a party. Sun was in attendance and the wealthy man was showing off his horse riding skill. Knowing Sun was a famous martial artist, upon finishing a ride around the stable yard, the man asked Sun if he could ride a horse. Sun said, "You take one more ride and then I'll give it a try." The man rode the horse around the stable yard once more, demonstrating his best maneuvers so as to show up Sun. He finished his round to thunderous applause from the guests. Bowing proudly to the crowd, convinced that Sun could not perform near as well, the man looked to where Sun had been standing, but no one was there. He then realized that Sun was sitting on the horse behind him. Sun had been sitting there the during the entire demonstration and the applause from the crowd had been for Sun, not the land owner.
While Sun was living in Ting Hsing there was a famous bandit nicknamed the "flying thief' because of his ch'ing kung (lightness skill). The mayor of Ting Hsing approached Sun and asked if he could help catch the bandit. Sun disguised himself as a fortune teller in the center of town and waited. When the thief appeared, Sun ran after him and the thief fled. One the edge of town there was a field full of a tall plants which are known for their very thick stalk. When the plant tops were removed during harvest, only the thick stalk remained. The "flying thief" ran to the field and leapt up on top of the densely planted crop and ran across the plant stalk tops. The thief was sure that no one could follow him, however when he turned around, he saw Sun still in pursuit, also running across the plant stalk tops. Sun caught the thief and turned him in.
One of the common practice methods in ch'ing kung training is to learn how to maneuver quickly while stepping in patterns on top of thin wooden posts which are driven into the ground. Evidently this training served Sun well in apprehension of the bandit. Sun Jian-Yun states that not only did her father have ch'ing kung training when he was young and practicing Shaolin, but both the Pa Kua and Hsing-I her father had practiced included ching kung training as well. She ^ said that one of the developmental skills was to run ■ as fast as one could up a slightly inclined ramp. Gradually one would increase the steepness of the incline until it was vertical. She said her father could run up a 10 foot wall in three steps, quickly turn around when he reached the ceiling and jump back down. She says that although there have been reports that he could stick to the ceiling when he ran up there, this was not true.
After eight years in Ting Hsing, Sun returned to Beijing and stayed there for the majority of his remaining years. He made a number of short trips to teach at the request of different martial arts schools around the country, however, he kept his home in Beijing until the month before he died when he returned to his hometown. When he returned to Beijing from Ting Hsing he was 45 years old (1906). Sun Lu-T'ang's daughter, Sun Jian-Yun was born when Sun was 53. Sun also had three sons.
While in Beijing, Sun heard that the famous T'ai Chi teacher Hao Wei-Chen was there to visit friends. Evidently Hao could not locate his friends and had checked into an Inn and subsequently taken ill. Sun went and got Hao Wei-Chen out of the Inn and brought Hao to his home. Sun brought a doctor to the house to look at Hao, went to get medicine for him and took care of him while he was sick. Up to this point Sun did not know that Hao practiced T'ai Chi, he only knew that Hao was a famous martial artist. After Hao recovered from his illness, he told Sun that he would repay his kindness by teaching Sun his martial art. This is how Sun learned the Hao Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan from Hao Wei-Chen.
Between 1922 and 1924 Sun was working for the government in Beijing teaching martial arts. There had been a three year drought in his home village and the poor people of the village had to beg for food. Sun went back to his home and said that he would lend them Sun Lu-T'ang in 1920 with his 6 all money at a high interest. The rich year old daughter Sun Jian-Yun people of the village refused because 10
the interest was too high, the very poor had no choice and took the money. Sun had them all sign contracts binding them to the interest rate.
That year it rained in the village and everyone had a good crop. Sun returned and burned all of the contracts. He said that he set the interest rate high so that the poor people would work very hard and the rich people would not borrow. As he had predicted when he was a boy, he had become a famous martial artist, and he had made the village people proud.
Sun Jian-Yun states that her father did not think there was any secret way to practice the martial arts. He emphasized that there were two words which describe correct practice, Chung He, which translates to mean "balance." He recommend that students follow the principles of the style, but never practice one thing too much. The practice must be balanced. Sun Jian-Yun said, "Just as when you are hot, you take off some clothing or when you are cold, you put on more clothing, when you practice you seek a balance."
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