Lin Chao Zhen (Part Two)

Fu Zhen Song’s Direct Disciple, Lin Chao Zhen, Teaching in San Francisco (continued)
by Robert Chen, January 1995
fu_4squaresFu Zhen Song poses in 4 postures from his Yin Ba Gua form, in 1947. These photographs were taken from a book Fu was preparing to publish on Yin Ba Gua. Fu died before the book was published.

Ba Gua Zheng Zong was the last set of Ba Gua Zhang that Lin learned from Fu Zhen Song. Lin learned this form after the war had ended. It is much simpler than the Dragon Ba Gua form, but contains several important martial techniques not found in the other forms. Since this was the last set that Lin learned from Fu, he remembers his instructor fondly whenever he practices it. Lin recalls that when Fu was older, the war and his hard life after the war had begun to take a toll on him. Whenever Fu performed his Dragon Ba Gua, however, he was able to draw from his internal strength and he was transformed into a man who was the embodiment of a dragon.

There was quite a contrast between the life that Fu Zhen Song had before the war and the life he was forced to live after the war. When Fu first came from Beijing to Canton, he was famous and had scores of students. Fu even had a car, a British-made Austin that held four people, which his son would often drive. It was rare for anyone in China to own a car during this time period. The car symbolized the prestige that Fu enjoyed as a martial arts instructor. Fu practiced his art until his passing at the age of 81.

When Lin trained with his instructor, he usually would arrive at the class before sunrise. Fu’s close students would all train for a few hours before they had to be at their regular jobs. Some books have said that Fu was a pleasant man with a good temper. Lin’s recollection was that deep down inside, Fu had a good heart, but that he had a terrible temper and was extremely proud.

For example, in Canton, there were often martial arts demonstrations. Fu had a rule that he always had to be the first performer. If the organizer of an event ever made the mistake of scheduling Fu in-between other performers, Fu would simple leave. Lin recalls times when Fu would suddenly say that he was leaving, and ordered all his students to leave with him. Lin later discovered that Fu was offended because he was not listed first on the program. Vvhen Fu left, he did not bother to explain anything to the organizer of the event.

Fu was also very stern towards his students. Students could never sit while their instructor was performing or demonstrating a move. He would stare down any student who was not standing. Also, whenever Fu Zhen Song and his school were asked to perform, the students were expected to carry all the weapons and equipment. Fu Zhen Song never carried anything. Ironically, as an instructor, Fu was usually easier on his public students. Many times, he would offer some encouragement or positive reinforcement with the public class students while they were struggling with their forms. With his formal disciples, however, he was very stern and demanding. If a disciple was asked to demonstrate a move in front of the class, the slightest mistake might prompt Fu to chide the disciple, “Do you call that gongfu?”

In the tradition of the old instructors, Fu was constantly pushing his formal disciples to correct their movements, to strive for perfection. Fu would not settle for anything less from those he expected to carry on his style. For example, when Lin Chao Zhen practiced the Yang Ba Gua form, which contains eight different palm changes, Fu would have the students practice together. They would do a full twenty circles before changing directions on any of the palm changes. This meant that to complete this first form, the students would have to complete 320 circles. No one was forced, however, to hold basic stances for hours. Fu Zhcn Song believed that the practical applications in Ba Gua are based on movement. Fu felt that stationary practice simply made students tight. The core of the basic training was in the forms. Fu Zhen Song relied on the linear Ba Gua form, Pao Quan, and Tou Tang Quan to develop the stances, the stance shifting, basic striking and kicking skills.

In another revealing incident, Fu Zhen Song was introduced to a well-knovn praying mantis instructor at a public event. There had been a rivalry developing between the two instructors before their meeting, and it was clear that Fu Zhen Song was not happy about meeting a rival instructor. When the two of them met, they each held out their hands. Instead of shaking each other’s hands, they engaged in a contest of strength. Fu Zhen Song broke the praying mantis instructor’s hand before releasing him. They never spoke with each other after that event. Lin Chao Zhen met the praying mantis instructor’s son many years ago, and in an effort to reconcile the differences between the two schools, Lin and the praying mantis instructor’s son exchanged sets from their respective styles.

fu_ballIn some old pictures of Fu Zhen Song, he is shown holding a stone ball of approximately 12 inches in diameter. Fu said this ball was for Tai Ji training. In some of his performances, however, Fu would throw the stone ball into the air and let it strike his body. None of Fu’s students attempted this feat. Whenever any students dared to ask if they could learn the art of training with the stone ball, Fu’s response was an abrupt, “What for?” As far as Lin is aware, no one ever learned how Fu trained with the stone ball or exactly how he developed the ability to withstand the blow from the ball striking his body. Fu never showed any of the training techniques to his disciples.

Fu Zhen Song was married to Han Kun Ru. Fu’s father-in-law was also a famous gong fu master in Northern China. Lin never saw Mrs. Fu perform her gongfu, but he remembers occasions when he practiced the spear with her for fun. Lin noticed immediately that her spear technique was very powerful. From those encounters, Lin is certain that she was also highly skilled in martial arts.

Fu had four children. The oldest was a daughter, Fu Jun Mu. Fu Yong Hui was the second oldest child. He was the only one to professionally teach martial arts. The third child was a son, Fu Yong Xiang. Lin remembers that Fu Yong Xiang had perfect Ba Gua form when he was young. Unfortunately, he stopped practicing completely when he grew older. Fu’s youngest child was Fu Wen Xiu another daughter. She is the only surviving child from Fu’s family. She is still living in Canton. Fu’s two daughters had also learned Ba Gua from their father and their sword technique was excellent. They never opened their own schools, however. Fu Jun Xiu used to help her brother, Fu Yong Hui, teach at his school. Fu Jun Xiu’s husband was a famous Xing Yi instructor. Lin had asked Fu Jun Xiu’s husband years ago whether she could teach him some of her husband’s Xing Yi, but she said she never learned Xing Yi from her husband.

Lin Chao Zhen studied engineering in China and as an engineer, had opportunities to travel throughout the country. During his travels, he met many martial arts teachers. He exchanged information with fellow martial arts instructors of Southern Fist, Cha Quan, Shaolin, and Praying Mantis. His exchanges with these instructors and his own research and training helped him develop a deeper understanding of his own Ba Gua. Throughout his life, Lin did not allow the political turmoil in China or life’s hardships to deter him from the practice of martial arts. Lin’s objective was to capture the spirit of his teacher within the movements. Lin made this his goal because he felt that it was the only way that he could do justice to his instructor’s art and to honor his instructor.

The Hong Kong Ba Gua Academy invited Lin Chao Zhen to perform the Dragon Ba Gua form in 1980. The performance was rendered at the inaugural meeting of the Hong Kong Wu Shu Association. Some old instructors who had seen Fu Zhen Song give one of his dazzling performances of Dragon Ba Gua were able to immediately recognize the spirit of Fu Zhen Song when decades later, they had an opportunity to see Lin perform the set. For Lin, this was the highest compliment that he could receive – to have fellow instructors say that he reminded them of Fu Zhen Song.

lin04When Lin retired from engineering, he lived in the city of Chao Ching, approximately 100 kilometers from Canton. During his martial career, Lin has taught hundreds of students. He was the founder of the Chao Ching Martial Arts Association and served as its chairman. In 1983, Lin participated in the government-sponsored, Sixth State Athletic Games in Canton. His performance of Dragon Ba Gua earned him the gold medal in the long form category. He received a bronze medal for performing Fu style Tai Ji. That same year, he was voted one of China’s Most Outstanding Martial Arts Coaches. In May 1991, Lin authored and published a book entitled, Ba Gua Zhang, Dragon Form. In 1991, Lin immigrated to the United States and has taught over a hundred students in America.

Lin Chao Zhen believes that Gong Fu is an international language. He teaches students of many different backgrounds and nationalities. Even though he may not speak the language of all of his students, he finds that they can communicate through movement. Lin’s desire has been to perpetuate his art, and he is committed to passing on his knowledge to as many people as possible. He continues to practice his art daily, including the whirlwind style Dragon Ba Gua form, which practitioners a fraction of Lin’s age struggle just to complete.

Although Lin trained many of his disciples in China in the traditional fashion, he has modified some of his teaching methods to facilitate learning in America. Since his desire is to promote the art of Fu Zhen Song in America, and hopefully, to pass on his complete knowledge of the art to students in America, he teaches at an accelerated pace, giving the student as much as they can handle. At this stage of Lin’s life, he feels that time is precious and he wants to transmit as much information as he can to his students. Accordingly, he has allowed his students to have access to the Dragon Ba Gua form and has worked diligently to develop their technique. In many ways, Lin is much more open than his instructor, but he feels that the changes in teaching methodology are necessary to ensure the art’s survival in our modern culture.