Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang (1928-2012)
一 代 宗 师 冯 志 强
China's National Treasure of Taijiquan
Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang 冯志强 was born in 1928 in Shulu county, Hebei province. His great-grandfather was a famous martial artist who passed military examinations and was a successful candidate in the imperial examinations during the Qing Dynasty. Feng’s uncle, Wang Yun Kai, was also an accomplished martial artist in Shaolin Quan 少林拳, and when Feng was 8 years old, Wang began teaching him Tong Zi Gong 童子功, Zhan Zhuang 站桩, and Yijinjing 易筋经. Feng was not only a quick learner, but he also inherited his great-grandfather's strength; at the age of 12, he was able to perform “Strength Kills Four Gates” (力杀四门), which involved carrying a 200kg heavy stone around the courtyard. Feng, with his great strength and big eyes, was often called the "Tiger with Big Eyes" (大眼虎).
At the age of 12, Feng was sent to Beijing to learn how to repair electric appliances. One of his neighbors was a Tongbei expert, Han Xiao Feng. Feng studied under Han's tutelage for four years, learning Tongbeiquan 通背拳, Red Sand Palm (palm conditioning method), kicking wooden posts, and striking sand bags. Through this rigorous training, Feng was able to easily break five bricks with one hand strike.
By the end of 1940s, there were two prominent martial artists in Beijing. One was Hu Yao Zhen 胡耀貞, often referred to as "One Finger Shakes Heaven and Earth" (单指震乾坤); Hu was an expert in Xingyiquan, Taoist Qigong, and traditional Chinese medicine. The second was Chen Fa Ke 陈发科, the 17th generation inheritor of Chen Style Taijiquan.
At the age of 20, Feng Zhiqiang began his lifelong study of the internal martial arts with Hu Yao Zhen, who taught him Liu He Xin Yi Quan and a variety of Taoist Neigong 内功 methods.
After two years of diligent studies under Hu Yao Zhen's guidance, Feng's internal skills had already reached a high level; his Large Heavenly Circle and Three Dantians were opened, and his body was that of a bow, full of elastic power. Realizing the great potential of his disciple, Hu recommended Feng to his good friend, Chen Style Taijiquan expert, Chen Fa Ke, and Feng became Chen’s indoor disciple. Since that moment, Feng trained seven hours daily, from 4 in the morning until 11. He practiced both Xinyiquan and Taijiquan, Qigong, body conditioning, standing and moving techniques, forms, weapons, as well as push hands.
In 1953, the Capital Martial Arts Research Society was established in Beijing, with Chen Fa Ke as President and Hu Yao Zhen as Vice-President. Feng assisted his teachers every day and soon became the training partner and god-brother of Chen Fa Ke’s son, Chen Zhaokui. Chen Zhao Kui is often quoted as having said that Grandmaster Feng was “extremely intelligent, and his skill is the best among all our gong fu brothers.”
Most of Chen Fa Ke's disciples were afraid to practice push hands with Chen Fa Ke because of the excruciating pain of being thrown and tossed around, but Feng treated this as the best way to learn true skill and quickly improved. In Chen Fa Ke’s later years, it was Feng who dealt with those who would come to cross hands and challenge Chen Fa Ke’s school.
After Chen Fake passed away in 1957, Feng Zhiqiang, although busy with his work in the electric appliance factory, continued to train with his gong fu brothers and established the three simple guidelines: "first, do not make trouble; second, do not fight; third, if somebody comes to challenge you, I, Feng Zhi Qiang, will deal with him.”
By age thirty, Feng was already very proficient in Xinyi, Taiji, and Qigong, and became very famous in Beijing martial arts circles. He was invited to Chenjiagou (the home village of Chen Taijiquan) on three occasions to teach the Chen clan, including the 19th generation “Four Diamonds of Chen Taiji” Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zheng Lei, Wang Xi An, and Zhu Tian Cai.
In 1979, Feng took part in the 1st National Traditional Wushu Exhibition where he won the First Level Award. In 1983, he was one of two traditional masters representing Beijing at the 5th China National Games in Shanghai.
In 1983, Feng was elected the founding president of the Beijing Chen Style Taijiquan Research Institute. In 1984, Feng was sent abroad for the first time, to Japan, to teach Chen Taiji; this was the first time that Chen Style Taijiquan had been spread outside of China.
A scholar warrior and Ninth Duan Wushu Master, Grandmaster Feng synthesized the knowledge he had gained from all of his teachers to create his Xin Yi Hun Yuan Taijiquan 心意混元太极拳 system. He authored and compiled numerous publications including Taijiquan Fighting Techniques, The Essence of Chen Style Taijiquan, Hun Yuan Tai Ji Gong, Xin Yi Hun Yuan Taijiquan, Chen Style Taiji Silk Reeling, Chen Style Taiji Grappling (Qin Na) Techniques, Chen Style Taiji 24 Elbows, among others.
On May 5, 2012, Grandmaster Feng passed away in Beijing at the age of 84. He will forever be remembered for his warm and giving heart, and his lifelong devotion to promoting Taiji culture for the betterment of mankind.