April 8, 2011

Liu Donghan - Yang Taiji Practitioner

4-28-11 * As my research continues into Liu Dong Han I will update info and share my findings.  Thanks to Jon Nicklin for the following corrections.

(1) Liu's teacher was definitely Yang Zhaolin, not Tian Zhaolin. Yang Zhaolin was the only son of Yang Luchan's eldest son, Yang Fenghou. Yang Fenghou died young, so most of Yang Zhaolin's taiji was learnt from his uncles Yang Banhou and Yang Jianhou. 
(2) The region in Hebei that Liu came from is called Xingtai (邢台) rather than Xiantai.

Many have asked me why I do not post more Chinese related topics on this blog since my background and training is primarily based in the Chinese martial arts.  The overall general answer is simply because there is not much of anything positive going on in the CMA right now!  I do not feel the need to be negative and focus on the negative, so I just don't post anything. But every now and then I come across a nugget of important info in my continued research and training.  

In my lineage of Xing Yi Quan goes as follows:
Dong Xiu Sheng --- Li Gui Chang --- Song Zi Yong / Mao Ming Chun --- Martin LaPlatney / Tim Cartmell --- Jake Burroughs.  What is interesting is that Li Gui Chang  studied Taiji in depth with Liu Dong Han.  Of all the Taiji teachers I have had the hardest time finding information on Liu, and I have been looking for years.  Limited by my complete inability to grasp the Chinese language mostly, but in general there is little information out there on Liu!  

Li's push hands was renowned throughout northern China, and his Xing Yi is seriously influenced by his Taiji.  Li's forms and foundation lie within Hebei Xing Yi Quan, but his body method and approach are unique in the Xing Yi world.  Focusing on being very slow, soft, with a heavy emphasis on feeling and sensitivity, Li's Xing Yi is quite different then what many associate Xing Yi with being.  With both of my teachers Martin and Tim the focus has always been on relaxed force occurring naturally via proper structure and mechanics that are natural to the body.  

Much thanks to my friend Scott Meredith for not only finding this little blurb, but also his translation and notation is much appreciated!  Though this is a general overview, it is a start in regards to finding and disseminating information on Liu Dong Han.  

As always if anyone out there reading this knows more than I have posted, I would welcome a chat to learn more about Liu Donghan: [email protected] 


Liu Donghan (? - 1950)

Personal style name  Jingxi, son of Liu Yingzhou, from the village of Dabeidong in Ren county (Hebei province), born in the early years of Guangxu reign, Qing Dynasty [note: reigned 1874/75–1908].Born into a well-known martial arts family,as a child he learned the Three Stars Pao Chui style from his father. Later he learned Yang style Taiji from Yang Zhaolin [Note: sic. Here the author might actually mean TIAN Zhaolin, who was a great and famous Taiji master and Yang family indoor student around that time] and was also taught Wu style Taiji by famous grandmaster Hao Weizhen, thus receiving the full transmission of these various arts.

He was one of the four famous spear masters of the Xiantai area (south/central Hebei province)  who were: Liu Donghan, Cao Ke, Zhang Bingheng, and Dong Yingjie. With his long spear in hand, he seemed to soar like a dragon and coiled like a snake, opening like a phoenix spreading its tail, and swooping like a golden rooster pecking. 

It is said that whenever the disciples got together for practice, Liu Donghan would rush into the practice room, yelling “Xiangyuan, do you dare come out to spar with me?” [note: The reference here is to Li Baoyu (Li Xiangyuan), another famous student of Hao Weizhen at the time] And at that, Baoyu would insist on sparring with Liu. It’s clear that even while they had both learned from the same teacher, each of these disciples had his own particular strong points and unique skills.

Liu Donghan had worked with his father as a security escort, gaining  a wealth of real-world hand-to-hand combat experience. His fighting skills were absolutely first-rate. In the latter part of his life, he taught for a long time at Daoqi, Jianzhou, Taiyuan and other villages n the mountainous area west of Xiantai, eventually establishing a school in the region. He also fought competitively, prevailing in dozens of competitions. He came to be called the “Warrior of the Western Mountains” and “Warrior of the North” [note: referring to Hebei province] He continued teaching Yang style Taiji and older styles, particularly emphasizing offensive fighting tactics. His most accomplished students included Cao Ke, Zhao Shou and others.

Liu Donghan was a 3rd generation Yang Taiji disciple, and was the first to establish that style in the Xiantai area. Before Liberation [note: 1949], he opened a widely renowned martial arts school on Tieza Street in Taiyuan city where he taught both his original family style of Three Stars Pao Chui as well as Yang style Taiji.

Throughout his teaching career in the regions west of Taiyuan, he created a distinctive synthesis of the various style of martial arts he had mastered. His famous disciples also included Liu Dianku (1912-1985) and others. His name is also sometimes written as 刘东寒 [note: different third character, meaning ‘cold’].

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