Interviewing Master Zhou

On Sunday night, I met up with Master Zhou to interview him. One of his Singaporean students helped out as an interpreter, and I’m grateful to her for giving up her time. We talked for about three hours; I think I got it all recorded, although I haven’t had time to review the file yet (crosses fingers).

To his credit, Master Zhou was very open about his himself, his past, and what motivates him. I learned a lot about him, I must say. I don’t want to say too much until I’ve reviewed the ‘tape’ (why is it that I still feel obliged to say that, even though I used a digital recorder?); I’ll probably write something up after that if I get time, but for the details you’ll have to wait until I write my book 😀

So, in brief: Master Zhou grew up in a very poor part of Shanghai. He was born shortly before the Cultural Revolution started. He got into martial arts because that was all there was; in the absence of any other entertainment, everybody in his neighbourhood studied martial arts. At that time, they had to study late at night and early in the morning, to avoid being seen. With his background, and in that time and place, it was natural for him to become a Red Guard. He got involved in the fighting between different factions, and had to fight for his life, heavily outnumbered, on occasion. (At this time, he was in his early teens). After the Cultural Revolution ended, he was still obliged to fight on a regular basis.

Speaking as someone who has fought for his life against armed opponents, he says that his favourite moves are xingyi’s pi quan, and some bagua techniques.

He gave me a lot of information about the styles he knows, and the masters he’s studied with. He confirmed what Edward mentioned in a comment on the last incarnation of this blog.
What else can I say at this point..? There’s so much! OK, that will have to do for now.

5 Comments

  1. Wow! Sounds like a great interview – looking forward to more 😉

    Also, he definitely seems to be someone worth studying with – with that kind of combat experience, he is definitely no “dancer” 😀

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  2. Wow, Emlyn, your interview must be the reason why he was quite garrulous during my last lesson with him. He was talking quite a fair bit about himself, mainly because we started talking about China and he was telling me the horror stories about the thugs and trickesters there. Lol, I must have quite looked shocked, which triggered him to talk about our different backgrounds, and yeah, he did divluge quite a fair bit about himself. Although he did also confess that he’s been a bit moody lately, so maybe he just wanted to talk a bit.

    Ed, yeah, Master Zhou is quite a friendly guy, even though his background may seem quite rough. He’s always smiling and pretty encourgaing too! Needless to say, he knows how to use the stuff he teaches. I’m learning xing yi from him, and even though it’s more traditional than the new form that are being more normally taught nowadays (according to Master Zhou. I have no idea since I haven’t been exposed to other styles), the viciousness and effectiveness still shocks me sometimes. Oh yeah, he likes to demo on you hands-on, so yeah, sometimes I do get worried. Lol.

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  3. Sounds good to me! 😀 But yeah, a lot of xingyiquan taught these days is quite different from what they used to teach in the old days – the official emphasis is not on “health,” and thus the fighting part has been neutralized somewhat!

    But Master Zhou does sound friendly. 🙂

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  4. I think it’s great that your getting those stories out of Master Zhou, it is rare to find someone that will really talk honestly about the 20th century in China, especially prior to 1977.

    What is his full name and do you know his age exactly? I guess he didn’t get re-educated?

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  5. Zhou Yue Wen; he’s in his mid-forties now. I think there are limits to what he will tell me – what’s in the post above is as much as he would say, I think.

    He certainly wasn’t re-educated. In fact, this is one thing that I want to research further if I get time – both Madam Ge and Master Zhou have suggested that martial artists were not particularly targeted during the Cultural Revolution. Madam Ge, in particular, is quite emphatic about this, because I specifically asked her about it. I should mention this in another post…

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