Written by Grandmaster Li Baohua from his website http://maguibagua.com
I was born in 1964 and grew up in a very tough area in Henan province, China.
Since childhood, traditional Chinese martial art has fascinated me every day and everywhere. I could have willingly given up all I had, but could not stop practicing the art even one day.
Even right now, I am going to be 60 years old, and my love for the internal martial arts still is so strong that I would happily keep training for another 60 years.
I have been well educated both in science and culture, but I could not help but trust in a dream I had when I was only five or six years old. I followed a Taoist immortal up a big mountain and saw him jump from one mountain to another, accompanied by red and yellow light. Right now, that dream is more real to me than all the life I have lived in the last 56 years.
During the 1970s, I joined a local wushu group and spent several years studying wrestling and local martial arts as a child. It is almost laughable to think of now, but it is interesting to think that I developed some kind of fighting skill through fighting and wrestling with other children.
In 1982 when I qualified to go to the best university in China, I lost the chance and had to attend a local university in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Fortunately, this is where I met my first internal martial art teacher, Shi Chong Ying. He specialized in Baguazhang and Yang Taijiquan. The lineage of Baguazhang he practiced was from Ma Wei Qi, a famous student of Dong Hai Chuan and an excellent fighter at his time one hundred years ago.
From that time, I practiced the internal martial arts (Yang Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan) diligently under Shi Chong Ying for ten years until 1994.
In 1986 I was in Beijing pursuing my masters degree. One afternoon when I was practicing Baguazhang in a small yard, a person around fifty years old with a strong figure came to me and said he was also an inheritor of Baguazhang from the lineage of Cheng Ting Hua. He watched my practicing for a long time and wanted to share his skills with me because he thought I was the only person of the younger generation he had ever seen who was whole-heartedly devoted to practicing traditional martial arts. After a little bit of push hands, he told me that he would like to teach me his style if I wanted to learn. I was very excited to seize this chance!
His name was Zhang Rong Li, my second internal martial arts teacher. He was a master of both internal and external martial arts, specializing in Baguazhang from the Cheng Ting Hua lineage, and Xingyiquan. About three years from that time, until 1989, I was trained in martial arts styles different from what I Hd learned before. Zhang Laoshi not only gave his instruction but also introduced me to his martial arts friends in Beijing. That meant I would have more chances to contact those amazing martial artists who had not yet gained a widespread reputation but who were great masters. I learned a lot from them, and this knowledge helped me develop a deep and wide understanding of the martial arts. This experience also enhanced my training of and feeling toward the martial arts.
I strongly believed a good martial art master, no matter what kinds of martial art he practiced, should be stronger, healthier, wiser, and longer-lived than the average person. In the winter of 1989, I got a chance to go with Zhang Laoshi’s son to visit the man who would become my first Ma Gui Baguazhang teacher, Yu Zhi Ming. From him, I began learning a kind of martial art, which is not only just a martial art, but a way of life for health, strength, confidence, longevity, meaning, and so much more.
For almost two or three years, I was confused about the differences between Ma Gui Baguazhang and the Baguazhang I used to train. In 1993 I chose to give up practicing my previous Baguazhang systems, ones I had already become very successful at, and I submitted myself totally to the practice of Ma Gui Baguazhang. Gradually over about one year in 1994, I found out my body had become much stronger and healthier. I changed both inside and out in phenomenal ways. The internal power around my hips and waist that I had been training for more than ten years came to me so naturally. I realized this was just the beginning of achieving the highest level of internal power. This was also a philosophy, one practiced over thousands of years by Chinese people. It was named the Dao. Here we called it ‘jie dan’ (producing elixir field) in the practice of martial art and the rebuilding of the physical body.
After I passed the age of 40, I truly started to realize that the life I was living was like a dream, but each moment in each day the training and understanding Baguazhang seemed to be eternal and everlasting to me, not only a kind of life for health, power, confidence, and meaning.
From 2008, I started a journey to explore the full depth of the Baguazhang passed to us from Liu Wan Chuan through all of his teachings. I met his daughter and his daughter’s husband, Li Tao, and started to learn from Li Tao. From him, I received all the oral teachings, writings, and videos left from Liu Wan Chuan and Ma Gui. They anointed me as the true lineage holder and encouraged me to preserve and promote this great art to the whole world.
rom 2009 I started to learn from my third Ma Gui Baguazhang teacher, Li Lian Chang.
Li Laoshi is such a humble person, as you can see from my writings on him on the “4th Generation” History page. He had 25 years of learning and experience with Grandmaster Liu Wan Chuan before Liu Wan Chuan passed away, all the movements and postures are so precisely passed down to him.
Even when I was not able to live in Beijing, I tried my best to return from Japan to learn from him. All of what I had learned before was totally refreshed through Li Laoshi’s teaching. He had learned so much more than any other of Liu Wan Chuan’s students. His teachings strongly changed the way I used to train, think, and believe.
I could never write down how many movements and postures I learned from Li Laoshi.
Li Laoshi completed my instruction in 2015 after I had already passed 51 years old. From that year, I changed my way of training and learning.
I stopped listening and learning from any of my teachers, surely except Li Laoshi, as he has always been so close to me. I started spiritual learning and training, only asking questions directly to Dong Hai Chuan and Li Shao An!
Below are all my questions:
Dear Master Dong Hai Chuan, you passed down Baguazhang to the world through your teaching to your students, I have followed that kind of teaching from you, and ever since I was 18 years old, I have devoted my young life for more than 30 years. I know I will devote myself until I pass through old age. I have tried as hard as I could, and with this human body, I can do no more than what I have done. I believe I had learned and trained as hard as when you learned and trained! But why were you so powerful and so strong? Why were you so great? Why I am not and cannot be like you?
Did you not pass down the true teachings? Or did your students not pass down the true teachings? I have met very selfish or even evil teachers before. Were all the masters I respected and trusted like that?
Or were the things and the masters I trusted all fake? Was it not true?
I have no other way to live my life other than a life devoted to Baguazhang. I will still use the rest of my life to train as hard as I can. If all I trusted in was fake, I will just keep training until I die!
Ever since I totally devoted myself to Ma Gui Bagua, I have had more dreams in which Li Shao An appeared before me. More and more, I started to realize the dreams I had were more real than the life I lived.
Li Shao An has been in my heart as a model and hero for 30 years, ever since I started my Ma Gui Baguazhang journey in 1989.
In my dreams, He showed me how to do Shuan Yao, which is a way of training the back and Dan Tian. He showed me Daishou, which is a technique to pull a person so they fly through the air. He showed me how to walk the circle quickly like I was flying.
This kind of communication lasted for years until a day at the end of 2019 when I had another dream with Li Shao An.
He appeared in my dream with one of his students. We were in an old room in which the walls were decorated with old newspapers. One of the newspapers had two Baguazhang photos. His student said the Bagua posture in one photo was correct; the other was wrong. I responded that there was no difference at all; both were correct! Li Shao An slowly turned his face to me and nodded his head with eye contact to show me I was right.
Then he suddenly turned over to the wall, reach out his hand from the roof and grab a bag, in which all Baguazhang writing was held inside.
Li Shao An put this bag on the ground, and even some gold was peeking out of the bag. He told me these things he had kept for me!
I was so surprised and shocked! His student said that he also wanted to have some, so I told him to please choose whatever he wanted.
Then I started to feel a deep regret that I forgot to bring my camera to make copies of these writings.
Li Shao An said to me: I am old, there is nothing I can do. I will leave now, and this is left for you! My heart was touched so deeply. I could not find ways to express my gratitude to him, so I cried and cried……, then I woke up!
What was the thing that was left for me? Baguazhang!
This splendid art with such deep and precious wisdom inside it was brought to the world by Dong Hai Chuan and thus preserved by so many of his followers. All of those people were great, but they could do nothing, as they lived in a time of the decline of the country. So they sacrificed themselves to preserve Dong Hai Chuan’s teachings in their own ways. They lived their lives and survived so they could preserve it. They did not give up, no matter what happened to their quality of life. They knew they were the links that connected the world a thousand generations of people.
They knew that Baguazhang was an art that had to be transferred from generation to generation. If not, thousands of generations of people’s lives would be meaningless. If not, future generations would have to go through a thousand generations so they might be able to find it again.
This is what I truly understood from that dream! Gold, wealth, reputation, all these things added together could not compare with this value of this art.
More than one hundred years after the great master Dong Hai Chuan, Baguazhang has not been shown in its true state. This is because China, with its five thousand years of history, was in its worst period. No matter how precious, how priceless it was, it was kicked into the trach! Only those like Dong Hai Chuan, Ma Gui, Li Shao An, Liu Wan Chuan, and others sacrificed their lives to preserve and value it.
Almost 40 years longing for it with my whole heart, my whole body, I truly understand it this great art would not disappear, as it is the way to carry the Dao, to manifest the Dao, to work with the Dao, to be with the Dao. The Dao will never disappear, how would the Dao allow this to disappear?
This is why I was born. This is what I have given my life for. I have nothing left except the rest of my life to pass on this art to the world!