Kung Fu Family in Chengdu

Whenever we think of China, a few things come to mind. One of them, invariably, is kung fu (gong fu 功夫 in Chinese) and the image of lithe, powerful masters flying through the air, pulling off impossible kicks and possessing the deepest of secret knowledge governing body and mind interactions. Every young Westerner has imagined being a gong fu master at one time or another and the typical fantasy is being re-made, once again, in the Karate Kid, which opens this week. Images like these, whether seen in the movies or imagined in the backyard with your friends, are the stuff that dreams are made of and have little to do with reality.

Or do they?

Traditional gong fu, the kind that Pai Mei employed to turn Uma Thurman into wonder woman in Kill Bill and the type of gong fu old Jackie Chan classics, like Drunken Fist, display in copious amounts is hard to find anywhere these days. Pads and mirrors have replaced wooden dummies and piles of stone. Parents pick up their children after a belt ceremony instead of leaving them at the Master’s school for months at a time to be molded by an iron fist. Master’s are “coaches” now and are beholden unto the parents instead of disciples bowing down before their Master and pledging their lives to him.

But traditional gong fu still lives, after thousands of years, and we here in Chengdu are lucky enough to have our own Gong Fu Family school right outside of Chengdu in a town called San Sheng Xiang. The school was founded by Master Li Quan, the eighth student of Grandmaster Dai Kang of the Dai Shi Men Marital Arts School, which practices a traditional form of the Emei Style Southern Fist Gong Fu System (known in Chinese as 南拳).

Southern Fist Kung Fu is the Real Deal

Bruce Lee is a famous practitioner

Southern Fist Kung Fu in Sichuan is not your Shaolin Temple tourist attraction stuff. It’s getting up early and running through the dark streets of broken down Sichuan towns, backwaters rife with crime and violence and poverty, and returning to do a full workout. It means kicking a sandbag filled with sand and stone until you can’t walk and then kicking it some more and then going to the iron circle and banging until your forearms are purple. Afterward, the master will rub a traditional Chinese medicine concoction on your appendages and sit you down for a discussion on what it truly means to be a kung fu person. It might not sound like fun, but if you dream like I do about kicking an apple down from a low-lying branch and handing it to your love, or if you too are determined to feel the buzz of Qi flowing from your diaphragm, up through your chest and down into your fingers then this type of training — and only this type — is your chance to fulfill those hopes.

Master Li Quan’s school in San Sheng Xiang has all of the equipment a traditional gong fu school needs: iron circles, wooden men, stone dumbbells, heavy sandbags and above all an entire gong fu family extending from the 80 year old Grandmasters who carried on the old tradition and live active lives in the hills of western Sichuan to the their unruly great-grandchildren sent to the gong fu school to learn discipline and honor.

Gong Fu Family

But you don’t have to put yourself through the ringer just so you can say you did it. Master Li’s school is first and foremost a martial arts school dedicated to spreading the traditional art of gong fu and instilling a gong fu spirit of honor, courage, justice and respect in the youth of today. This goal does not require a hard core regimen of pain and suffering. All it requires is a Master and a supportive network of gong fu brothers and sisters and that is also what this school brings to the table.

Master Li surrounded by friends and students at his previous school. I'm on the right. Taken 2004

At the Grand Opening last weekend, a hundred kung fu brothers showed up and celebrated the fruition of years of work. Master Li is assuming the responsibility his Master before him held up for 40 years, the preservation and promotion of one of the world’s greatest cultural jewels.

Master Li’s brothers have already started arriving from the hills and are setting up shop in his school, teaching various Tai Qi forms, kicking forms, helping to train the young kids on pads, holding forth on the virtues of honor and respect and hard work. It’s a family affair and if you want to come and visit for fun, join up and work out or become a dedicated gong fu warrior, stop on by:

The school is located in the He Tang Yue Se district of San Sheng Xiang Flower Town. You can contact Sascha via the Chengdu Forum or visit the Kung Fu Family Blog (Chinese) for more information or if you don’t need to hear any more, just go ahead and contact Master Li Quan at [email protected] or via mobile at 13881739611. He speaks decent English and is eager to hear from people interested in learning more.

Have you ever practiced Kung Fu or are you interested in learning?

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About Sascha

Sascha Matuszak is a writer and commentator on domestic and international culture and politics. He's lived in Chengdu on and off for twelve years and currently makes his home in the South of Chengdu.

20 Responses to “Kung Fu Family in Chengdu”

  1. Awesome post.

    I can’t wait to check that place out. Next time I’m in San Sheng Xiang for sure.

  2. nice post. thanks.

  3. I’ve been following your writing for a while now and I never knew you were a fellow brother on the path. Please write more about your gongfu experiences!

  4. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Kung Fu rocks.

  5. Great post Sascha,check out the linked article on our blog here:

    http://blog.chinatravel.net/sports-adventure/chengdu-kung-fu-martial-arts-school.html

    Looking forward to reading more from you guys out in Chengdu!

  6. Hi,

    Could you please provide a contact number for your traing school in Chengdu I have two 10 year olds that would be intrested in training. Or call me on the following Chengdu number 137 08224706

    Thanks Matt

  7. Hi Can you please send me some training material to train myself. I am being threatened on a daily basis and I’d just like to protect myself. Please if you can help, help me with some training techniques.

    Thank you

  8. Hey Sasha,

    I’m interested in reconnecting with Charmaine at Dai Shi Language School. Your ol’ friend, Kurt, Redwood City, California

    • Kurt, holy poo, I didn’t see this until just now. I have no idea how to get a hold of Charmaine, but it’s a blast from the way way past to see your face. Howz life my man?

  9. hi SASCHA
    Li qoun is a style of Chinese martial arts?

  10. Hi Sascha,

    What a brilliant artical, I am an english man coming to live in Chengdu in the next couple of weeks. I am very interested in taking up this martial art and will be contacting the school as soon I get settled.

    I have a couple of questions though I hope you can help me with.
    I dont speak chinese yet do you tjink that will be a prob? Also I wiuld like to take up Brazilian Jujitsu do you know any good schools in Chengdu?

    Thanks.

    Scott

  11. Hi there!

    Kungfu Family has its own website in case you haven’t seen it yet: http://www.kungfu-family.com/

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