Master Li Quan - Cultivating Kung Fu Traditions in Sichuan’s Chengdu

Posted by Daniel Ratheiser • Monday, September 30. 2013 • Category: People and Places

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When he was a little boy, he was already fascinated by kung fu. His grandfather was a man of the military and, despite his old age, was very fit and agile, continuously exercising his body. His grandfather’s kung fu movements appeared to little Li Quan as the most perfect dancing in the world. Li Quan imitated his kicks and punches and, under his grandfather’s instruction and guidance, he learned the basic skills by age 10. He then joined the local kung fu community and was taught by more professional kung fu masters.

At that time, the only game little Li Quan really took an interest in was fighting. While others were playing basketball or football, he was always scuffling and wrestling with someone. One evening, when he was fighting with another kid, he accidentally used his kung fu skill to attack him so that the kid got hurt. Li Quan's parents were very angry and banned him from continuing his training.

Children Training in Chinese Martial Arts

So, secretly, Li Quan began to train all by himself. He made a punching bag so heavy that he was barely able to lift it up the tree. After school, the first thing he did was to take it out from its hiding place, hit it 200 times, and bury it under the hay afterwards. His fist soon got so hard that nobody in his school dared to challenge it.

When he was 14, a supposedly stronger boy in school emerged who nobody dared to fight. Li Quan took up the challenge and beat him. But when he turned his back and left him lying on the ground, the other boy grabbed his legs from behind. Li Quan fell over and broke his arm. He had to stay for weeks in hospital and tragically missed the exam that would have allowed him to pursue higher education.

When he came out of hospital he became even more secretive in his exercise regime. He practiced when other people were sleeping, sneaking into the horse stable and spreading a piece of cloth on the ground to train.

Since he failed to join university, his parents wanted him to learn something practical in order to make a living. In fact, he already had made up his mind to join kung fu school, but he did not dare to tell them. He picked up work at a construction site and from morning to evening he moved bricks and cement. Even though it was very strenuous work, it was a very happy period in his life. Tired at the end of the day he got 11 Chinese yuan in his hand, this meant he was getting closer and closer to fulfilling his dream to enter kung fu school.

He was saving virtually all his income, rather going hungry than spending anything, and after 10 months he already had accumulated 2,000 Chinese yuan. He packed his stuff, left a letter for his family, and then went to kung fu school in Hebei Province. It was the first time he ventured beyond his native place - that year he was 17.

Grandmaster Dai Kang

In Hebei he joined the Chinese Wu Shu Academy and by 1991 he already had become Team Captain of the Northeast China Amateur Wu Shu Team. Two years later he moved to Sichuan Province, where he has been residing ever since. First he studied and taught at the Chinese Gong Fu Research Academy in Deyang and then he became a family member of the Dai Shi Men Wu Shu Institute in Hanyuan. Dai Shi Men is lead by Grandmaster Dai Kang, one of the most respected individuals in the world of kung fu in Sichuan.

Studying under Grandmaster Dai Kang, Li Quan soon attained the Master level and started to teach more and more students, including an increasing number of foreigners. He even continued to participate in competitions from time to time, and in 2005 Master Li Quan became Champion in the 78kg weight class of the prestigious San Da Wu Shu Tournament.

Master Li Quan

In between, Master Li Quan was asked to teach self-defence and martial arts techniques to airport and in-flight security, work as an unarmed bodyguard for highly endangered individuals in hostile environments (having successfully fought off assailants on several spectacular occasions), train Chinese police in self-defence and apprehension tactics as well as People's Liberation Army troops in hand-to-hand combat - all the while teaching students at his kung fu school. He even managed to graduate with a degree in English language from the distinguished University of Sichuan in his sparse leisure time.

For the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 he was asked to become Head of Security for Olympic Torch Relay across the People’s Republic of China. He was made responsible for planning and logistics for the three-month tour across 37 cities. During the Olympics itself, he acted as Security Liaison between Holland House and the Beijing Public Security Bureau, helping to coordinate security for Dutch dignitaries, including the Prince and the Prime Minister.

A Girl Training in Mountainous Sichuan

Beside his great responsibilities in Chinese society, Master Li Quan's real passion has always been to instil traditional kung fu in his students, whether locals or individuals from other countries. He aptly named his school Kung Fu Family (武道之家), highlighting the family aspect of kung fu practitioners as well as the close bond between master and student (highly influenced by the guru-chela tradition of Indian culture). Chinese kung fu in its true form is grooming students towards the ideal of the “gentleman-scholar-warrior”. This wholesome concept demands a unique combination of fighting skills, virtues, and scholarship.

Among other media, Ya'an Ribao, Sichuan Jingji Ribao, and the South China Morning Post have already been reporting on Master Li Quan's famed school. It is unique in that Master Li Quan focuses on employing traditional training techniques to bring students closer to the roots of kung fu. The school, located in the San Sheng Xiang area of Chengdu, features all the traditional equipments used in kung fu schools, such as obscure historical weapons, iron circles, stone dumbbells, heavy sandbags, ba gua poles – you name it.

Master Li Quan with a Traditional Weapon

His Kung Fu Family provides a real home for all interested people regardless of their nationality, gender, or creed. However, he makes it a point to instil more than brute force in his students. His is a wholesome approach to Chinese kung fu, which incorporates not only physical exercises, but also meditation techniques, combat strategies, nurturing Qi levels, mental exercises, studying how the body operates, medical knowledge, and learning about herbs and their healing effects.

Master Li Quan with Some of His Younger Students

Master Li Quan invites people from all over the world to learn about traditional Chinese kung fu. If you are determined to get the Qi flowing through your veins, then make sure to join him!


If you want to learn more about Chinese kung fu or are interested in going to China to study, then check out the Kungfu Family's website: Kungfu Family

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