The Legacy of Grandmaster Gu Ruzhang (顾汝章)

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Soft as Cotton, Hard as Steel.

This is how the master Gu Ruzhang’s hands were described,yet his hands turned bricks into dusts like nothing. He was born in 1894 in Jiangsu, with his father being a master of the Chāquán (查拳) and Tán Tuǐ (彈腿) styles he began his training as a child, to become one of the greatest masters of his time.

At age 12, after the loss of his father, he traveled to continue his studies of traditional wushu with Ya Jiyun, master of the style known as ” Ten Hands of Shaolin ”, a good friend of his father and wide known for his proficiency with the spear and the caravan escort business. Gu studied with Ya Jiyun for over 10 years and learned all he could from him, including the shaolin system, as well the Small Golden Bell (小金鐘罩) and Iron Palm  (铁掌功) qiqong (氣功), and a giant arsenal of weapons.

After completing his studies, he took his master’s advice and traveled around China learning more kung fu styles from the great masters of his time. In 1928 the first national martial arts tournament was held in nanjing, one of the largest martial arts events in history, masters from all over china were invited to participate. The event unfortunately did not come to an end, as several competitors were seriously injured, however Gu Ruzhang was among the finalists and due to his performance in the tournament was invited to compose the instructor board of the The Central Guoshu Institute .

At the end of 1928 he was invited to be Chief Instructor of the Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces Academy in Guangzhou City, he went with anothers four masters and they became known as ” The 5 Tigers Who Went South ”.

He spread and popularized northern wushu styles in south China, and became famous for a number of Qiqong and martial prowess. He was nicknamed ” Iron Palm Gu ”.

Gu and his iron shirt skills

He was responsible, with his knowledge, to standardize the style that is known as Northern Shaolin北少林拳門) . A style widespread in Brazil by Master Chan Kowk Wai, and in the USA by Master Wong Jackman (Famous for his fight with Bruce Lee).

The style have everything a fighter need: kicking, twisting,locks, striking, and throwing, mostly emphasizing footwork and kicking techniques, with a very relaxed power generation and an agressive approach. Consisting of ten taolus, each more challenging than the other, and includes the qiqong techniques and weapons he had learned all around China

Gu Ruzhang Northern Shaolin Taolus:

  • Open the Door 開門 Kāimén
  • Lead the Way 領路 Lǐnglù
  • Mount the Horse 坐 馬 Zuòmǎ
  • Pierce the Heart 穿心 Chuānxīn
  • Martial Skill 武藝 Wǔyì
  • Close Combat 短打 Duǎndǎ
  • Plum Blossom 梅花 Méihuā
  • Uprooting Step 拔 歩 Bábù
  • Chain of Rings 連環 Liánhuán
  • The Method of the System 式法 Shìfǎ
Sifu Ye Xin performing Duan Da Taolu

Master Gu passed away in 1954 in Guiyang, but his legacy and his iron palm still lives today.

Warner Lopes is a Northern Shaolin teacher, south american traditional kungfu champion and member of Brazil National Team. He also studies Xinhui's Choy Lee Fut under Sifu Marcelo Alexandrino