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Master Wang Shitong, disciple of Guo Gemin
Master Wang demonstrating an aplication from the 64 palms

Wang Shitong

Wang Shitong was a disciple of Guo Gumin one of the most famous practitioners of Ba Gua Zhang in the twentieth century. Guo was a disciple of Liang Zhenpu (the last disciple of Dong Haichuan, the founder of Ba Gua) as well as a student of Liu Dekuan  (also a disciple of Dong Haicuan). Liu Dekuan was the creator of the 64 linear palms that are taught in Liang style. Guo was the senior school brother of Li Ziming (also a disciple of Liang Zhenpu). Liang was very old when Li Ziming became his student so when Liang became infirm Li studied with Guo.

After Guo Gumin died and during the cultural revolution it was very difficult to practice traditional martial arts. The cultural revolution tried to do away with all things from the past so that Chinese society could move quickly into the twentieth century. The government supported Wu Shu and suppressed the traditional family arts and their emphasis on self defense. Many traditional masters and their disciples suffered greatly because of that policy. Li Ziming held an important office with the communist party and was asked to coach Wu Shu so he was allowed to practice openly. In order to practice without being persecuted, Wong Shitong became a disciple of Li Ziming. He always preserved the teachings as he received them from Guo Gumin. Because some of his students taught without giving credit to him but only to Li Ziming, Wong Shitong withdrew from the martial circle. He had suffered an industrial accident at the factory where he worked and used that as an excuse. Whenever anyone came to his small apartment to ask about Ba Gua he would claim that he had forgotten everything. Due to the efforts of Vince Black and his honest inquiry Wong Shitong decided that he would teach again. It turned out that he had forgotten nothing.

I first met Wong Shitong in 1995, after I had been studying Liang style Ba Gua for about six years, and I was deeply impressed with his knowledge. Although he was old and had difficulty walking he was still very strong and connected. He answered every question that was put to him and freely and honestly passed on his art. It is rare to find a teacher at the point in his life when he sees no value in keeping any "secrets". When teaching us he would sometimes ask us to do a form as we had previously learned it. Sometimes he would think it was good, at others he would pause before saying, "it's very pretty". Then he would show us the form as he learned it from Guo Gumin. The first time I saw him do his broadsword form I was amazed. It looked more like Escrima than anything I was accustomed to seeing in Chinese arts. It was clear to me that this was an older form, one that had not been fancied up for Wu Shu performance.

Many martial artists in China today get praise, attention and money by performing beautiful and acrobatic forms, witness the Shaolin Temple Tour and the Wu Shu contests. I don't blame them but it is unfortunate to see so much old knowledge disappearing. Wong Shitong was one of the last generation of martial artists that looked at the arts as real and practical instead of entertainment. He had no interest in changing to fit the times. I have many, many filmed hours of him teaching. He taught straight-line exercise forms, Ding Shyr (the mother palms), Lao Ba Zhang (old eight style palms), 64 linear palms, Ba Mien Zhang (a circular form consisting of 64 palm changes), the Chicken Claw Knives and the Wind and Fire Wheels.

Wong Shitong passed away in 2005.

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