By all accounts, Sun Lu Tang was an extraordinary man. Born in 1861 in Hebei
Provience, Sun was the child of a poor farmer. Sun's father, recognizing the boy's intelligence, wanted to provide him with
a good education. Unfortunately, he could only afford two years of formal schooling for Sun before he lost everything to poor
harvests and the Qing dynasty's oppressive taxes
Here the young Sun's life begins to resemble a Kung Fu movie. After his father's
death, sun, a small and frail seeming child, went to work as a servant for a cruel master with an even crueler son. The young
boy worked hard and silently endured the beating until one day, while out herding sheep, he saw a group of men practicing
martial arts. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
He studied for about three years with a Shaolin master named Wu who was quite
impressed with the boy and taught him quickly. When Sun's mother heard that he was studying Kung Fu, She at first objected,
afraid that he would hurt himself. Then she saw how much healthier her formerly-sickly child looked and give her blessing
to him to continue his studies.
One fateful day, Sun finally beat up the bully's bigger, stronger, even meaner
cousin and lost his job. He and his mother went to live with a kindly uncle who owned a calligraphy shop, and here Sun's luck
finally took a turn for the better. He could practice the calligraphy he learned during his two years of formal schooling,
and practice the martial arts. His uncle, a prosperous businessman, introduced him to two men who were to prove very important
to the youth: a scholar named Zhang who was to become Sun's father-in-law and who helped Sun continue his academic studies,
and Li Kui Yuan, a master of the art of Xing Yi Chuan.
Sun Lu Tang's introduction to the internal arts through Xing Yi Quan might well
be considered the true beginning of his career in the martial arts. And "career" best describes it: for the rest of his life
until his death in 1933 at the age of 72, Sun Lu Tang studied, taught, lectured on, and wrote about the martial arts. He is
credited with writing the first book available to the General public that grouped Xing Yi, Bagua, and Tai Chi together as
internal arts. The same book, Xing Yi Quan Xue, or The Study of Form-Mind Boxing, is also considered the first written work
to point out the connection between martial arts the I Ching, and Daoist philosophy.
Sue Lu Tang, through the careful reasoning, depth of through, and literary merit
evident in his published works, elevated the martial arts to a field worthy of serious academic study. Nothing demonstrates
this better than his development of Sun-style Tai Chi Chuan.
Though Sun-style Tai Chi Chuan is a young style, as Kung Fu style go, it is now
considered one of the four major styles of tai Chi Chuan. One reason is for its quick acceptance is simple: Sun-style Tai
Chi works. Another reason may be respect for the man himself. Sun Lu tang lived, studied, and guided martial arts at a crucial
point in the its development.
Centuries of secrecy, of patriarchs teaching the family style only to other family
members, of the masters withholding techniques from al but a very few senior students, of a body of practitioners who were
generally illiterate farmers wanting merely to protect themselves from bandits, had resulted in a body of knowledge that was
mostly oral and anecdotal. In addition, the persecution of the fighting monks of the Shaolin Temple further reduced the number
of martial artists who were literate. Little was written down, and few were able to read what documentation did exist. The
martial arts were shrouded in secrecy and suspicion.
However, the end of the Qing Dynasty found a country sorely in need of the healing
qualities of Kung Fu. Years of grinding poverty, opium addiction, and national humiliation after national humiliation at the
hand of the Europeans and the Japanese presented the new Republican government with a dispirited, unhealthy populace, known
by the unflattering term, "the sick men of Asia."
Sun, and other top martial artists, were invited to teach martial arts in the
schools. Sun himself taught in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. In the belief that the martial arts should
be practiced first for health and personal development, not to learn to fight he was the first to offer a martial arts course
to a women.
Sun Lu Tang's research into the martial arts did more than result in the creation
of the Tai Chi style that bears his name at the same time he was revolutionizing the academic world's conception of the martial
arts, he was revolutionizing the academic world's conception of the martial artist, Sun Lu Tang, through word and deed, elevated
the martial artist from unlettered ruffian, best suited to performing on the streets for money or running a bodyguard service,
to the position of gentleman and scholar. It is a position marital artists still enjoy today-but we must remember the honesty,
hard work, compassion and intelligence of the man who first earned such high regard. It is through emulating Sun and master
like him that we will continue to prove the value-both intellectual and physical-of the discipline we called Kung Fu.