Master Du Xin Wu
Du Xin Wu杜心武 (born in 1869, Zhangjiajie, Cili, Hunan province, died in 1953), was also commonly known as Ru Xia儒侠 (scholar martial artist), and Dou Mi Guan Ju Si斗米观居士in Taoist circles (roughly translating to ‘Daoist lay practitioner, small rice Temple). Du Xin Wu is a well known historical martial artist in China, famous for his mastery of Zi Ran Men Kung Fu. Due to his thin appearance he gained the nickname ‘chivalrous bone master’, and whilst studying in Japan, he defeated a Japanese fighter with his ‘flight leg kick’, earning him the nickname ‘ingenious legs’. Due to his fame many stories, some of them true and some of them fictitious, have been told about his superhuman abilities and chivalrous exploits. Although the stories are tainted with exaggeration and mysticism (as with most legends about popular historical figures in China), the stories do bring out the image of a noble-minded martial art master living in old age (pre-revolution) China.
Master Du Xin Wu started his martial art training at the age of 6 whilst he was studying at a private school. Three years later he was fortunate enough to be apprenticed to Yang Ke, a literature scholar and master of martial arts. Showing an unusual level of ability Du Xin Wu made extremely rapid progress in martial arts and by the age of ten could find no peer in his native town.
Three years later Yang Ke had to abandon the town in order to escape from Qing dynasty government, as his involvement in the anti-Qing revolutionary movement was uncovered by the authorities. Still at a young age of 13 Du Xin Wu hungered for further study of the martial arts and set upon looking for a new teacher. To this end he put a notice on the local street corner challenging any martial art master willing to fight. If Du Xin Wu was to be defeated, he would respect the challenger as his future master. Not willing to be insulted by one so young many visiting masters challenged Du Xin Wu, but none met with success. Then one day one of his servants reported to him that a little dwarf who looked like a beggar tore up his notice and used it to light up his pipe. Amused, Master Du asked the servant to invite the dwarf beggar to come and stay at his house.
Upon meeting Dwarf Xu, Du Xin Wu was openly surprised at the dwarf’s short stature and strange appearance. However, one of the important lessons Master Yang Ke gave to him before leaving was to not make judgments based upon a person’s appearance as, particularly in martial art world, unusual people often hid unusual skills.
Master Du gave Dwarf Xu a warm welcome and treated him as a highly respected martial arts master as he had for the previous martial masters who had come to visit, however he did not immediately challenge the dwarf’s martial art skill as he felt that it would be wrong to challenge someone of such short stature and quiet nature. After a few weeks of hospitality, Du Xin Wu started to ask master Dwarf Xu to teach him some martial skill as he did not believe at this stage that the Dwarf had any martial skills. In response Dwarf Xu demonstrated how to walk in a circle and told Du Xin Wu to practice. Every now and then, Dwarf Xu added in a couple of hand strikes or kicks into the circle walking technique, but showed nothing more.
After a month of circle walking, Du Xin Wu finally got fed up of practice and asked Dwarf Xu to teach him some skills for fighting. To which Dwarf Xu replied that his walking technique could be used for many things, including improving one’s health, their strength, and their fighting technique. Du Xin Wu agreed that the technique could be good for wellbeing but had serious doubts in regards to fighting ability and said as much. The dwarf said that if he didn’t believe what he said, he should come and test his skill.
Du Xin Wu had been waiting to teach the dwarf a lesson for quite a long time, so he was grateful that the dwarf had offered him the opportunity. He told the dwarf that he hoped his circle walking would serve him well and before the final word had left his mouth he was already throwing punches at the insolent dwarf. The fight started gently, but as Du Xin Wu realised that he couldn’t even touch the dwarf, the intensity of the attacks started to escalate until he was using all his skill and effort. Yet none of his effort was of any effect. Every time he thought he had the dwarf cornered, the little man would just disappear without a trace, and, to add insult to injury, sometimes the dwarf would reappear behind him and knock him on his head with his pipe. Eventually Du Xin Wu got exhausted, so with no further argument to offer, the boy had to return to his circle walking program, and this time had to stick with it until he mastered the technique.
It wouldn’t be the last time the boy would attempt to test his master. Du Xin Wu would often throw surprise attacks at his teacher for some time to come. However, it was obvious to the Dwarf that Du Xin Wu was to become a prodigy, and thus the Dwarf Xu taught him everything he could in regards to the Zi Ran Men Kung Fu (Natural School) style that he had founded, including the skill of “light footwork,” which enabled a person to jump over three tables placed atop of one another.
In 1885, when he was 16 years of age, Du Xin Wu accompanied his new master to Guizhou and Sichuan to broaden his vision through contact with famous martial artists of different schools. Seeing that he had reached maturity, Dwarf Xu then left him to train on his own.
Two years later, Du attempted to find a job at security escort agency in Sichuan. At the sight of his small size and young age the hefty director of the security agency made little of the young man and challenged him to a fight. Du gave him three “sweeping kicks” and threw him to the ground. As the director was unable to get up for a counter attack, Du was then accepted as a security escort. He carried out all missions successfully and gained a reputation amongst security industry professionals and highwaymen bandits alike. But eventually he grew tired of the job and decided to return to his hometown some two years later. His work in the security escort business earned him the name “Noble master of both North and South”.
In 1900 Du Xin Wu went to study in Japan. It was here that he would meet Song Jiao Ren, with who he built up a great friendship. In 1905, Sun Yat-Sen would visit Japan to form a revolutionary organization in order to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. Song Jiao Ren was one of the major members of this organisation, which was then known as the Alliance. Introduced by Sun Jiao Ren, Du Xin Wu also participated in the Alliance and became Sun Yat-Sen's personal bodyguard. As personal bodyguard, Du not only had to protect Sun Yat-Sen personally, but was also responsible for security during revolutionary meetings. On such occasions Du Xin Wu often organized the people responsible for protecting the venue and the safety of the members.
As a member of the Alliance, Du Xi Wu often traveled in order to raise support for the revolution. Du Xin Wu used his high reputation within the Qin Hong organization (mafia group concerned with protecting the poor) to help the Alliance establish the National Party. From here Sun Yat-Sen lead the revolution and overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911. This was the start of the Republican era of China.
After the 1913 assassination of Song Jiao Ren, Du Xin Wu left the political arena to live behind closed doors and to concentrate on his Taoist and Buddhist practice. After Japan invaded, they tried to convince Du Xin Wu to work with them to help maintain authority in North China, but he refused to cooperate with the invaders and was jailed. After escaping from jail he left the area of Japanese occupation and returned to Hunan and then to Chong Qing, where he became the Chairperson of the Chinese National Anti-Japanese invasion organization in 1937.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Du Xin Wu served as the Hunan Provincial People's Political Committee consultant.
In his lifetime, Du Xin Wu said that it was Master Dwarf Xu that had greatest impact on him, not only in regards to his martial arts practice, but also on his personality and outlook on life. In normal conversation Master Du was known to be taciturn, but if the topic of discussion moved onto Taoism, Chan Buddhism or martial arts, he often become energetic, and would discuss such topics tirelessly. Following the principle of the Taoist lifestyle, Du Xin Wu lived with the greatest virtue of spirit and tranquility. He would rather disappear into the mountains, to live at the 斗米观Dou Mi Guan Taoist temple he built, and practice his Qi Gong, meditation and Zi Ran Men kung fu, than to try to ascertain fame, monetary gain, or appeal to the rich and powerful.
Master Du was genuine, courageous person who lived his life with integrity. He was a true Taoist martial art master.