Kuo Lien Ying

Kuo Lien Ying

Kuo Lien Ying, born in Inner Mongolia, China, in 1895, was one of the most distinguished and revered martial artists of the twentieth century. He is credited with bringing the rare and powerful Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan to the United States.

Early Years

Kuo Lien Ying’s father was a silk merchant, and the family was independently wealthy. As a youngster, Kuo reportedly had no interest in an academic education, wanting only to learn the fighting arts.

In 1907, at the age of 12, Kuo started training in Northern Style Shaolin Kung-Fu, studying for five years with Master Li Lin, who was especially skilled in Chang Chuan (Long Fist). Kuo became very proficient and skillful at this powerful and rigorous martial arts system, which was originally developed by Buddhist monks in China.

At 23, Kuo became one of only four inner-door disciples of Wang Jiao-Yu, himself one of only two inner-door students of Yang Pan-hou. Yang Pan-hou was the son of the originator of what has become known as Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan: Yang Lu-ch'an born Kuang-p'ing (Guangping) and known as the founder of Yang style tai chi chuan. After completing “Chin to Toe” in 100 days Kuo was taught the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan from the 100-year old master Wang Jiao-Yu.

Kuo, at age 28, studied Xingyiquan for two years with Master Huang Gin Yin, a highly skilled student of Guo Yunshen, himself the teacher of Wang Xiangzhai, who was reputed to be the best Xingyiquan fighter of his time.

Kuo also studied Baguazhang with Chang Hsin Zhai and Chung Ting Hua.

Early History

Kuo Lien Ying reportedly was a bodyguard for awhile on the gold caravans through China, protecting the caravans on horseback with his unrivaled rope-dart techniques.

He allegedly became a governor of a province in China, and later a general in the army of Chiang Kai Shek. In 1947, after the Communist takeover, he fled to Taiwan, became a congressman and opened up a martial arts school. Although he left his four wives and eight children in China when he fled Mao Tse Tung, Kuo wooed and married the 21 year old sister of one of his students, Ein Simmone Kuo.

Kuo was so confident of his fighting skills that in 1951 he issued a challenge to world boxing champion Joe Louis, to meet him for a fight. In 1972 Kuo claimed to the San Francisco Chronicle, “I could have thrown him.”

Kuo Lien Ying in America

In 1965, he immigrated to the United States and settled in San Francisco’s Chinatown, leaving his young wife behind in Taiwan. At the request of his first U.S. student, David Chin, Kuo began teaching a few students on the roof of a local hotel.

After less than a year, Kuo returned to Taiwan to bring Simmone Kuo to San Francisco. While he was in Taiwan, his students in San Francisco located an empty storefront at 11 Brenham Place, an alley which faced Portsmouth Square Park, which was unfortunately adjacent to a funeral parlor. The empty storefront was available due to the superstitions of the local residents who did not want to inhabit a place next to a mortuary. But according to one of his later students, Henry Look, Kuo often told him, “Don’t worry about dead people, worry about live ones.” The students converted the storefront into a martial arts studio, with living quarters in the rear. Kuo named his new school, “Lien-Ying Tai-Chi Chuan Martial Arts Academy.”

In 1967 Kuo and Simmone had a son, Chung Mei Kuo. Chung Mei was trained in the Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chuan styles at an early age, achieving Chin-to-Toe at 18 months.

Kuo was one of the major theorists of the Chin school, which offers the closest blend of the hard and soft styles. Chin stylists claim there is a 50-50 blend of the two because while you are yielding, you are most conscious of unyielding and that is the only way you can take advantage of all things.

Portsmouth Square, Chinatown

Reportedly, one of the stories that Kuo told his students was about the time he was walking in a Chinatown alley late one evening and was set upon by a group of robbers. Kuo reached down and picked up a piece of metal laying on the ground and with his bare hands pounded the spike into the brick wall of the nearest building, and then hung his jacket on the spike. The would-be robbers fled.

Kuo Lien Ying was very flirtatious, with an eye for pretty young women, and developed a reputation for trying to seduce his female students. He was well knows for eating several cloves of raw garlic every morning, and he was also very fond of Gao Liang, a strong Chinese liquor.

With an uncanny sixth sense, Kuo knew when his students would sleep in, missing the five a.m. practice session, and he would call them up, shouting in Chinese into the telephone, “Lela, lela, tai chi, tai chi!” (“Practice, practice, tai chi, tai chi!”)

Kuo Lien Ying was among the first Chinese martial arts masters in America to teach Asian fighting arts to American students, and was often admonished by other Chinese teachers to not teach to Westerners.

In 1983, Kuo returned to Mongolia, and passed away in 1984.

Carrying on the Tradition

Simmone Kuo, Kuo's widow, continues to teach and to carry on her husband's tradition of not changing the unique and age-old form at the Lien-Ying Tai-Chi Chuan Martial Arts Academy in Chinatown as well as at San Francisco State University.

There are many of Kuo’s direct students teaching the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan form today, among them Y.C. Chiang, David Chin, Bing Gong, Marilyn Cooper, Donald Rubbo and Cheryl Lynne Rubbo, Randall Fung, Henry Look, Jarl Forsman, Ellen Serber and Barbara Cellers.

Robert Bergman (Indian), one of very few students who was taught monkey form (in secret) from Kuo Lien Ying, teaches Kuo's Shaolin Kung-Fu.

Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, carries on the form under the name Kuang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan, as passed down from Kuo Lien Ying to Russell Schofield through Gil Messenger to Jennifer Booth, Bill’s teacher.

Sifu David Chin and his disciple Chris Heintzman have started the International Sin Tien Wu Chi Qi Gong and Original Yang Tai Chi Chuan Association. Each year the association has a fall intensive in Fayetteville NC where students from all over the country have an opportunity to exchange ideas and insights of the Original Yang System. Working with the Yi Lu (first form) and the little known Er Lu (second form) (application form) that was taught to Sifu Chin in late night sessions at the Sam Wong Hotel.

Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association

The Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association was formed in 1997 to honor the memory of Sifu Kuo Lien Ying and in commemoration of his unselfish sharing of his many skills. The mission of the Association is to promote, perpetuate, develop interest in, and preserve the quality of Guang Ping Yang style Tai Chi Chuan throughout the world, and to provide support for research and education in Guang Ping Yang T'ai Chi Ch'uan.

Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association Honorary Chairmen: Y.C. Chiang, Henry Look

Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association Past Presidents: Henry Look, Donald Rubbo, Nina Hopkins Sugawara, Nick D’Antoni, Dominick Ruggieri

Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association Current President: Randy Elia

In Kuo's Honor

Every June, Kuo’s direct students hold a memorial in Portsmouth Square, Chinatown, to pay respects to their late teacher, for the invaluable teachings he passed down to them, and for bringing the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan style to the United States of America.


The T'ai Chi Boxing Chronicle, translated into English by Gordon Guttman
Tai-Chi Chuan in Theory and Practice, ISBN 1-55643-298-4 [http://www.amazon.com/Tai-Chi-Chuan-Theory-Practice/dp/1556432984/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219540834&sr=8-1]

External links

* [http://www.guangpingyang.org Guang Ping Yang Association]
* [http://kuo-lien-ying-taichi.org/index.html Virtual Portsmouth Square]
* [http://www.realhopgar.com David Chin's Website]

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