Liang Kequan was a native of Zhuo Zhuo city in Hebei province and he began his training in martial arts in the 1920's when he was only six years old. His family was wealthy and so they could afford to hire teachers for him. His first teacher was Zhou Luquan. Zhou learned Xingyi and Bagua from Liu Fengchun a disciple of Dong Haichuan who had also studied Xingyi with Liu Qilan. Zhou taught Liang Kequan Xingyi's Santi Shi first and made him stand in the posture for hours. He studied with Zhou from the age of six until he was thirteen when Zhou died. In that time he learned the five elements and the tiger and snake forms. He also learned Bagua's single and double change palms. Liang Kequan said that Zhou's teaching was not always clear. Zhou would just show him him something and then go sit and drink tea not paying much attention while Liang Kequan just practiced on his own. When Liang Kequan was thirteen his family sent him to Beijing to study and he continued to practice on his own but because his teacher did not go into much detail Liang Kequan made some mistakes and so did not progress much. He had much better luck with his second teacher. When he finished his studies in Beijing he returned home and began studying with Cheng Youxin, Cheng Tinghua's youngest son (Cheng Tinghua was one of the most famous disciples of Dong Haichuan). Cheng Youxin had been working as a bodyguard for an official in Zhuo Zhuo for three years during the Japanese occupation. When the official he was working for left the city Cheng fell on hard times. Liang Kequan, because his family was wealthy, was able to help Cheng financially and take care of him, so Cheng stayed for three more years in Zhuo Zhuo teaching Liang Kequan and a small group of other students. Cheng Youzhen was a very good teacher with highly developed skills and a deep understand of theory. Cheng had studied Xingyi with Li Cunyi and because he was young when his father died in the boxer rebellion he learned most of his Bagua from his uncle Cheng Dianhua. Cheng corrected the Xingyi forms Liang Kequan knew and taught him the others he did not know. He also taught Liang Kequan the basic eight palms and the sixtyfour changes of Bagua Zhang. When Cheng was offered a teaching job in Beijing he left Zhuo Zhuo but Liang Kequan continue to study with him until the Japanese surrender in 1946. The travel was not difficult because Zhuo Zhuo was only about forty miles from Beijing.
After the Japanese surrender Liang Kequan joined the Guo Min Dang army (the army of the Republic of China) where he met his third teacher Zhang Yinwu. Zhang was a general in the Guo Min Dang and had been a Bagua and Xingyi student of Li Cunyi. A friend of Liang's was aide-de-camp to Zhang and introduced Liang to him. When Liang Kequan demonstrated his Xingyi to Zhang he could see that Liang's skills were already very good so he offered to teach him. Zhang was also a very good teacher and really helped Liang Kequan to refine his skills. On a side note I recall Laoshi Liang Kequan saying how much he used to like bayonet practice because it was based on Xingyi spear!
The Guo Min Dang obviously failed and Chiang Kaishek leader of the Republic of China and many others fled to Taiwan. Many others like Liang Kequan were not so fortunate. He once stopped a class and suddenly began singing a beautiful and sad song. When we asked about its meaning he said it was a song the soldiers sang when they were facing capture. He was arrested by the Communist government in 1952 and sentenced to jail for fifteen years. During that time he was able to remain healthy when many others were in very poor health because of his daily practice of Xingyi and Bagua. He practiced from early morning until noon.. He also would practice calligraphy but because he had no ink or paper he would just use water on the floor of his cell. When he was released he was unable to get work because of his background so he returned to the prison to work as a laborer for another fifteen years. He also taught martial arts to the children of the people who ran the prison. He retired in 1982 and moved to Beijing.
Liang Kequan had refined his skills for the thirty years he was at the prison and afterwards he traveled around Shanxi, Hebei and Hunan and spent time with many of the older generation of instructors discussing Xingyi, Bagua and the various methods of practice and theory. Consequently he was able to demonstrate a remarkable number of variations of the five elements and other forms. He could also explain why the various branches of Xingyi practiced the way they did and what each method trained. He also collected a very large library of hand copied boxing manuals, many of which have never been published.
Although I did not spend much time with Liang Kequan (I do however have a great deal of film of him demonstrating Xingyi) I feel his history is important to pass on. He is an example of eating bitter and struggling and coming out the other side. I also liked that he was so eccentric. For example he might just stop a class and start singing a patriotic song about Yue Fei. Or he might disappear and start making calligraphy for everyone. He was a highly skilled calligrapher and very observant and he would individualize the calligraphy for each person depending on what he observed of their character. I have two beautiful pieces he gave to me. (The second was because he felt there was more to my character than first met his eye). Liang Kequan was also known as the "iron man" of Beijing because one of his favorite things to do was hit a large tree with his body and shoulder and shake its roots and branches. He also could withstand any blow to his body yet his Xingyi was very soft and subtle. He was well known in Beijing for several encounters including one with Japanese Judo practitioners at a spring festival in 1940. They were giving a judo demonstration on a platform and when Liang kequan saw one of his countrymen thrown off the stage he jumped up on the platform to confront the Judo coach. When the Japanese attacked Liang immediately threw him down using Xingyi snake style. This was written about in the newspapers of the time and Liang always kept a copy. Nothing like a good review! Once after a long days seminar Liang Kequan spotted me doing some Tui Shou off the the side and came over. The translator explained that Laoshing Liang was very impressed (this was a long time ago and my Tui Shou was not high level then so i suspect he was just being polite) and wanted to show me the technique he used on the Japanese. Thinking fast I thanked him and asked that he show me on my partner. It was a very good use of Snake! Liang Kequan passed away in 2003. He was one of the last of his generation of martial artists.