Grandmaster Zhang Tong
Grand Master Zhang Tong was born in 1917 inKaifeng in Henan province.He was a renowned martial artist, a senior coach and a national level competition judge. He had held positions of Committee Member of the National Wushu Association, Vice President of the Shaanxi Provincial Wushu Association, Vice President come Secretary General of the Xian Wushu Association, Founding Member of theShaanxi Provincial Physical Education Organisation. Grand Master Zhang Tong has devoted his entire life to the promotion of martial arts. He is held in high regards by the martial arts community. At the early age of seven, he began learning the traditional Hong Chuan under his uncles (Henan Shaolin HongChuan exponents Lu Bing and Lu Sen), thus establishing his foundation in martial arts. When he was sixteen, he single handed struck down three armed bandits with his bare hands, causing tremendous uproar in his hometown. In the following year, he passed with flying colours the entrance examination for theHenan Wushu Institute, where he studied Tai Chi, Xingyi, Bagua Zhang, Tan Tui(Spring Kicks), Wrestling, Boxing and Qian Kun sword under many famous martial artists such as Chen Pan Lin and Cheng Lu Pin. As a result, he acquired profound understanding of these arts. In 1934, he represented Henan WushuAssociation in the North China Wushu competition. Among more than a thousand competitors, some of whom very well known, he emerged third in the long weaponry combat, the short weaponry combat and the free hand combat combination. Consequently he was awarded the honourable title of 'Warrior'. In 1938, on the invitation of Yang Rui Xuan, the Director of the Shanxi ProvincialWushu Institute, he arrived at Xian to take up the position of Coach cum Technical Director. He was also made the leader of the Tai Chi Push Hand Study Group of the Institute. In the same year, he became a student of the famous Huang Bo-Nian, whose nickname was 'Fast Hands Huang'.
In the eleven years under Huang's tutelage, he mastered martial arts and weaponry such as:
- 5 Element Sabre
- 16 keys of Xingyi Combat
- 5 Element Continuous Link
- 4 keys of Hawk Form
- 12 Form Combination - Za Shi Chui
- Complete Application - An Shen Pao of Xing Yi
- Dragon Bagua Zhang
- Wu-Dang Sword
- Dragon Sword
- Swimming Dragon Sword
- Crouching Dragon Sword
- 6 Harmony Sabre
- 6 Harmony Boxing
- 6 Harmony Spear, Hawk Spear
- 8 keys of Spear Combat
Since 1949, as the Wushu Coach of Xian People Physical Education Centre, he made valuable contribution in the fields of coaching, training, competition and study of martial arts.
In 1953, he participated in the National Ethnic Sports Competition as the North Western Region coach come competitor. He was awarded the gold medal for all-round performer of three events. At the same time, he was selected as one of the members of the elite group of sports demonstrators. This group performed for Chairman Mao and Premier Chou and many other national leaders at Zhong Nan Hai (Chairman's residence) and received personal audience from these leaders.In 1958 he founded the Shanxi Provincial Group Training Team and was appointed its coach. In the following year, he led the group to compete in the National Sports competition in Beijing, coming sixth in group performance, and he himself winning the first place in Xingyi Chuan. Under his influence, many young members of the Xian Wushu group had learnt to respect their elders and teachers, and practise good ethics. Their grasp of the mental and physical aspects of martial arts was so firm that it endured other influences. In an eleven-year period, this group won more than 100 first places at city and provincial levels, and was recognized as the most progressive group in the whole country. He trained group after group of young martial artists who then formed the backbone of the Wushu circle. Many of these young martial artists received the 'Wuying' (Martial Hero) class award (Master Shao was one of them - translator). Some of these people have become Senior Coaches and Competition Judges at National level. Some even went for further studies overseas, in countries such as Germany, Japan and USA, and attained doctorate degrees. Often, he worked at the Shanxi Provincial and the National competitions, holding responsible positions such as Head Judge of the competitions.
Apart from his roles in martial arts, he spent a lot of his time on social work. In the 1960s and 1970s, he taught martial arts classes in colleges and to the military police, and acted as their martial arts consultant. He visited many districts within the region to set up coach training centres. In Xian he started twenty-seven Wushu guidance centres, and six retired martial artist activity centres. He held the post of the coordinator and chief coach of the governing Wushu guidance centre. He was also the leader of the Xian Wushu Study Group. On invitation, he became the senior Wushu consultant of the Henan Tokyo Shaolin Wushu Centre and the Japan Chinese Wushu Centre. In 1985 in response to Japanese Chinese Friendship Society's invitation, he led the Xian Tai Chi Lecturer Group to Shizu, Osaka, Kyoto and other Japanese cities to teach Tai Chi and eight other martial art styles. The group taught more than six thousand participants in three months, thus contributing to the improvement of the friendship between the two countries.
Owing to his natural talent, dedication and hard work during his studies under the various famous masters, he was well rounded and acquired great depth in the understanding and practice of the styles he learnt. He was innovative enough to extend on the traditional styles he inherited from the masters to create new techniques and methods of training, thereby producing his own unique styles. During the 1940s, his fame spread far and wide in the North Western regions. Many famous martial artists in Xian and its surroundings, such as Yang Tian Chen, Yang Jie, Tie Yian Piao and Mu Zi Jie, came to exchange ideas and practise with him.
The former Director of Shandong Wushu Institute, Zhang Xian Wu, the first director of National Wushu Administration, Tian Chen Feng, and the famous Wu (Hao) style Tai Chi Push Hand exponent Hao Jia Jun came to practise push hands and to discuss its theories and techniques with him. He put great emphasis in the combination of theory and practice of the martial arts, and advocated that "the fighting techniques of martial arts should be the means to achieve the objectives of excellent self-defence and health".
He also stressed that "practising martial arts without understanding their fighting techniques is martial arts without martial spirit".
Basing on the foundation he built on the experiences he derived from his teachers, he created the 'Xingyi Chuan 12 Animal Linking Form' and the 'Tai Chi 17 Push Hands Techniques'. In the 1956 National Wushu Exhibition Tournament, he received accolades and praises from Vice Premier Chen Yi on the 17 Push Hand Techniques.
His major publications are 'Tips on of Tai Chi Training', 'Wall Chart for Tai Chi Sword', 'Wall Chart for Elementary Sword', '16 keys for Xingyi Combat', '6 Harmony Sabre', 'Xingyi 5 Element Boxing' and 'Complete Application - An Shen Pao of Xingyi', (The last two were published in Japan).
In appreciation of his significant contributions to Wushu, the National Sports Committee awarded him the title of 'The New China Sports Pioneer' and 'The Sports Major Contributor' medal. Often he has been named as the Coach par Excellence and Innovator at National, Province and City levels. His life history has been recorded in publications such as 'The Functional Encyclopedia of China', 'Dictionary of China's Famous Coaches & Judges in Modern Times' and 'Encyclopedia of China's Experts in Various Fields'.