Guo Cheng Yao
郭成尧 (1895 – 1941)
Teacher Guo Cheng Yao, otherwise called Shu Tang, was born in the region of Baiquan, in the province of Hei Longjiang and was one of the best students of teacher Chen Zi Zheng. Cheng Yao began his studies and his apprenticeship in the “eagle claw” in 1915, at the 1st secondary school of Hei Longjiang province, when Cheng Zi Zheng was head of the wushu department.
From a young age, Guo Cheng Yao had a defect in his right leg, which made walking a difficult task. To overcome his problem and to gain balance and comfort in combat steps, he trained on the surface of a frozen lake. He showed no hesitation in strenuous training. His persistence and great desire to learn persuaded teacher Chen to take on Chen Yao as a personal student and to teach him the essence of his art.
Chen Zi Zheng, who had a fondness for combat and techniques, began to teach Guo Cheng Yao in the same manner that he had been taught: with emphasis on the combat techniques of the system. The teacher would strike and press Cheng Yao, particularly his right side and right leg, where he had the defect, forcing him to defend it and use it more, until he was equally comfortable on both legs.
Guo Cheng Yao was taught both unarmed forms of the Ying Zhao Fan Zi system, including the well-known Ying Zhao Luo Han Quan, as well as armed forms, especially the sword. However, the most important forms he was taught by teacher Chen were the “Ten Roads of Xing Quan” and the “Fifty Roads of Lian Quan”. As previously mentioned, the “Fifty Roads of Lian Quan” constitute the highest level of technique in the eagle system and was created by teacher Chen Zi Zheng, who combined the Yue Shi San Shou and Fan Zi Quan techniques. In fact, Guo Cheng Yao was one of the few students of teacher Chen who were taught the “Fifty Roads of Lian Quan”, as well as many of the original techniques of Yue Shi San Shou and Fan Zi Quan.
Immediately after graduating, Guo started teaching wushu at the secondary school in the area, while three years later, he returned to his home town with teacher You Shu Kong (who was also Chen student), in order to perfect their technique.
In 1925, he travelled to the capital, where he taught the “eagle claw” for many years at the famous martial arts school “Bei Ping Guo Shu Guan”. Later, he became head of the 2nd Wushu Team of Beijing.
He also taught martial arts at the Education Department, the Athletics Academy and the Law School of the University of Beijing, while he himself studied at the Law School.
In 1928, the Panchinese Wushu Championship was held. It was an amazing event, in which the elite of the wushu teachers of the time participated. There were no categories as far as weight was concerned and the winner was the one that did not abandon the fight. The fights were so rough that they were cut short before the final round, out of fear that one of the participants would die. In the preliminary rounds, in which the competitors that would represent Beijing were chosen, teachers Guo Cheng Yao and Wan Lai Sheng (a teacher of the Ζi Ran Men style) were announced the winners. In the rest of the championship, Guo did not lose any of his fights, while the most exciting of all was the fight against the champion of the province of Jiangsu, which lasted half an hour. Teacher Guo defeated his opponent; the fighter from Jiangsu could not stand up at the end of the fight. This victory helped to spread his name throughout northern China.
He loyally followed teacher Chen’s instructions and meticulously trained in the internal part of martial arts. Grabbing became one of his strongest skills and as a result, he could withstand a fully-loaded cart passing over his forearm, without sustaining injury to himself whatsoever, just like the great teacher Liu Cheng You.
Apart from his ability in bare-handed combat, teacher Guo Cheng Yao was also excellent at swords fighting (jian). In fact, in a fight against the “King of the Sword”, a famous swordsman from Shanghai who was said to be faster than lightning, Guo won by abstracting his opponent’s sword three times.
Teacher Guo Cheng Yao published the book Tong Bei Quan Yao Zhi (Important Points of Tong Bei) and with teachers You Shu Kong, Wang Bing Zhen, Qu Ji Xing and Guo Rui Ji, he wrote and published the book Ying Shou Quan Pu (Instruction in the Eagle System). In these books, teacher Guo outlines his personal interpretation of Nei Gong (internal exercise) and Wai Gong (external exercise), as well as his view on the importance of internal peace (Chen Jing) and naturalness (Zi Ran) in martial arts.
He trained in the tai ji, ba gua and tong bei because he wanted to broaden his knowledge in the martial arts and his spirit. Later, in collaboration with teacher You Shu Kong, he created Yue Shi Ba Fan Zhang, a combat system that includes the most powerful elements of the eagle style, combined with the principles and techniques of the three aforementioned systems. He also created the long quan form (fist of the dragon) and the roads of the sword: duan hong jian (cutting the rainbow) and jin ri jian (the sword against the Japanese).
His sword forms contain powerful movements and are characterized by their formidable styles. He created them in order to teach his countrymen a quick and efficient sword technique so that they could fight the Japanese, who had invaded China. He refused to participate in the Nationalist Party (Guo Μingdang), while he turned down the offer –and the sum of 3,000 silver coins– to become an instructor for the National Army, as he considered the government to be corrupt.
Teacher Guo Cheng Yao had the great fortune to be a personal student of the “King of the Eagle” This worthy continuer of the eagle tradition died fairly young in July 1941. He had taught many students and passed on his knowledge to his eldest son, Guo Xian Ya.