Master Dwarf Xu
Master Dwarf XuAccording to legend the original creator of Zi Ran Men Kung Fu came from Sichuan province. As there are no records of his real name, he was commonly referred to as “Dwarf Xu” (or “Master Dwarf Xu” within the martial art society) as “Xu” was the name he went by and he was of very short stature.
Many stories, some true and some fictitious, have been told about his life and remarkable skills. One particular legend has it that Dwarf Xu was abandoned as a child and spent an early part of his childhood living amongst monkeys on Mt Emei. Fighting for survival in the mountains and forests he became one with nature. The Qi of the forests and earth nourished him and having to live amongst the monkeys established a great physical foundation for his later life in martial arts. After a few years of this lifestyle he was saved by a legendary martial art master and scholar who lived near the Mt Emei temple. It was at this stage he started his tuition in martial arts. As teaching progressed, the teacher soon found that growing up amongst the mountains had given the youngster a unique natural ability. The teacher only had to show the student movements once, and the student would understand straight away and would quickly master elements of an entire style. This applied to empty hand and weapon based forms from both the northern and southern styles of Chinese martial arts. Skills that ordinarily needed many years of hard training for most practitioners were assimilated almost straight away.
One day, the master at the Emei temple decided to test the young student’s fighting skills. No matter how the master attacked the student, whether it was with punches or kicks or combinations of the two, the young student just drifted and dodged the attacks easily and with little effort. Occasionally the student would strike the unsuspecting master back with such a level of skill and force that even the great master, with many years martial arts experience, would not be able to avoid it. When the master tried to hit the student with a stick, the student would not only dodge away but immediately hook the stick with his hand. If the master tried to pull the stick loose, the student would just follow the force. If the master tried to change the force to create a new attack, the student would take stick away from the master’s hand straight away, and hit the master back with it.
It was at this stage that the master became suspicious. Where had this ability come from? The young student could fight with a skill level that ordinarily took many years to attain, but the student had only trained for a short time. Yet the student was literally too young to have spent that much time training beforehand (to ascertain such a skill with the normal method, the student would have had to been training from a time before he was born). Was it possible, that the student had picked up something new during his time living in the mountains? Was it possible that such ability already lies dormant within all people, and just needed the right environment and training to cultivate? The student could readily unleash power in ways that had not been taught. It was not necessary to show the student many movements, once the core technique was demonstrated the student already knew how to explore the power on his own. Defense and attack came naturally to him.
It was decided that the student’s time in living in the mountains had given him an innate understanding of ‘Zi Ran Wu Wei Er Wu Bu Wei’ (自然无为而无不为).
This is a deep concept of Taoist philosophy, and roughly translates to ‘natural spontaneous reaction, where action is both effortless and action-less. This concept lies at the core of the Taoist understanding of nature and became the basis of what would come to be known as Zi Ran Men Kung Fu.
From this time on, Dwarf Xu became a disciple of the master from Mt. Emei and became wholly absorbed in his teachings in martial practice and of Taoist philosophy. In turn the master sought to decompose and reconstruct elements of student’s early lifestyle into a system of education; so that the student’s seemingly innate understanding of nature could then be passed on to others. This was the establishment of the Zi Ran Men style. After the master passed away, Dwarf Xu vowed to follow his master’s teachings and started on a pilgrimage to visit the schools of other famous Masters in order to compare notes and integrate the core essence of each school into the new system. It was via this pilgrimage that Zi Ran Men became a unique martial art, yet one that was also tested against the best China had to offer.
Eventually Dwarf Xu would find a disciple of his own in Du Xin Wu, a young martial art prodigy from Hunan province. However the two weren’t always on amicable terms especially during the initial period when Du Xin Wu had just met his future master. Although he was just thirteen years of age, Du Xin Wu had already established himself as somebody with strong martial ability when he first met Dwarf Xu. Master Dwarf Xu was well known for his mysterious excellence in Wu Gong武功( martial art skill) but was viewed with skepticism by a young Du Xin Wu due to his strange appearance and short statue. As such, Du Xin Wu was forever testing the skill of Dwarf Xu by launching surprise attacks on the master. However the young Du Xin Wu never got the better of the master and was, more often than not, on the receiving end of fast retribution.
One particular day, a frustrated Du Xin Wu noticed that the mysterious master was in a deep sleep and decided that now would be a good time to launch another surprise attack, as he had always failed during waking hours. Du Xin Wu immediately went and fetched his sword, went to dwarf’s room and attempted to chop him. Seeing that the sword would cut into his head, Dwarf Xu turned over and continued to snore as before as the sword cut harmlessly into the pillow. It was at this point that Du Xin Wu acknowledged that he might have met his match and from then on paid the great respect to his new master. Du Xin Wu studied martial arts with Dwarf Xu diligently for eight years. It was said that, Du Xin Wu was believed to be Dwarf Xu’s only disciple, and after a great eight year long relationship, Dwarf Xu retuned back to Mt Emei and disappeared. There is no known written record of Master Xu post his time with Du Xin Wu.