Zhang Huasen was born in 1935 in Shandong province. He was a disciple of Li Ziming. His first martial art was the study of Mian Quan which he began at the age of ten or eleven. His teacher was Xu Lian Ji.
Zhang was born to a very poor family that had moved to Beijing seeking work. Unable to find any, they were reduced to living on the streets. Desperate for food they gave his younger brother to a wealthy family in exchange for two bags of corn powder. Zhang's father eventually found work in Japan and his mother went to work in the house of a wealthy Chinese family. Zhang was left to himself and was often on the street trying to find food. Fortunately some people took pity on him and arranged an audition for him with an opera school. He was taken in by the school around the age of seven, but the life was very hard, even brutal. He told me once that it was just like in "Farewell My Concubine". He was often beaten and cried all the time, but by the time he was about eleven he was performing with the opera company.
Because of the bullying he encountred on the street, he always wanted to study real martial art. When he met Xu Lian Ji he had no money so he would only watch Xu teach in the early morning in one of the many parks in Beijing. One day Xu asked why he watched every day. When Xu heard his story he agreed to teach Zhang for nothing. After about four years Xu moved away and Zhang just practiced with his friends in the park. During this time a famous wrestler, Xie Chun Fang saw them in the park and offered to teach them Shuai Jiao. Later, around 1964, Zhang was introduced to the famous Tai Ji instructor Wu Tu Nan. Wu was a big Beijing Opera fan and offered to exchange Tai Ji lessons for talks about the opera. Zhang learned Yang and Wu style, as well as Tai Ji push hands from Wu.
In 1967 Zhang was introduced to Li Ziming, who was the last living third generation disciple of Dong Haichuan, the founder of Ba Gua Zhang. Li had seen Zhang practicing in the park and had been impressed by his skill. Li Ziming had one of his disciples, who knew Zhang, introduce him and after a little while he offered to teach Zhang. Zhang studied primarily at Li Ziming's home. Because of his opera training and previous martial arts, Zhang had very good basic skills, so Li Ziming often taught him in private.
I first met Zhang Huasen in 1996. I liked him immediately. His teaching was open and generous and he held nothing back. His ability as an actor helped him communicate Ba Gua principles and although he spoke no English, there were many times I understood what he was saying before it was even translated. Since we were both actors, we had things in common. He once said to another instructor "of course Martin learns it quickly, he is an actor". He invited us to his home and cooked for us and took us to the opera, and taught from his heart. His Ba Gua skills were very high and I am lucky to have known him.
He passed away in 2007.