The transcript below is from the video “The Last Living Masters of Kung Fu” by Karate Shotokan.

Karate Shotokan:

Author & China Expert Chris Crudelli set out on an epic journey across the Middle Kingdom to document the last living masters of Kung Fu.


Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

I’m in Gansu, in northwest China, on the edge of the Gobi desert and the reason why I want to spend some time here alone is because this is a really fascinating place, historically. As a martial artist I am interested in this particular stylistic fight that came from these parts. The guys didn’t have many weapons, they didn’t have guns, they didn’t have swords, they just had a stick. And their job was to protect the wealthy traders as they bought their silk and their spices into Central China. You know, I’m hoping to be able to find a bit of inspiration for myself really, by spending some time here.


Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

Martial arts are not only taught in villages. In China, some of the most stunning performances can be found in universities. I’m here to meet Master Lee. He started his Wushu career in 1972 and by 1983, he was a coach. He’s led his teams to over 70 national victories and students travel the length and breadth of China to come here, Lanzhou University, just to train with him.

“How do you do Master Lee?”


Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

The martial art is not just about performance and flying spears. Here in the mountains of North China, and at 9000 ft. altitude, this military breeding ground has been turning wild horses into war horses for over 2000 years.

These horses are wild, they are being broken in. So, I expect it to give me a bit of a…a bit of a hard time. Let’s see what he’s got.

“Ok, are we ready? Let’s try him out. ”

The military horses, they’re designed to be strong and a little bit aggressive. You know, they’re designed to go straight into battle, so they have to be a little fast and brave. But I think as you could see, breaking them in is a very, very dangerous process because they’re not happy about it. They’re wild animals and they want to be wild.

Weather can change dramatically, quite quickly. That’s exactly what is done. I don’t know if you could see but it’s snowing now so we had to stop out on the plains there. And the boys said to me, there’s one thing they do, a bit of a tradition here, when the weather changes like this cause they can’t do anything out there and that is have a drink. They’ve invited me to join them. And I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do.


“Ah… thank you.”

“Qingke Spirit”

Qingke alcohol, and as you could see from the colour, it’s spicy, clear, pure spirit.

“Are we drinking it together?”

Other Men:

“You drink two first.”

Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

“I drink two first? Really?”

Other Men:

“Yeah, drink.”

Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

I’m gonna drink two of these first, as I’m the guest of honour today. So, cheers.

“Oh, very nice…”


Old master:

From around the time of liberation, most of the traditional martial schools closed down…

Yeah that’s right, 70 years old, you want to try me? Do you dare?

I’ll beat you. I’ll beat you to death. And I’m 70 years old. I studied traditional Kung Fu at the number 3 National Academy, but it was a difficult period. So you see, of the third Beijing Academy, I’m the last surviving inheritor of the school.

Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

This is Pakua, this style is very popular in Beijing. And this guy is 70 years old, these are his two students. He has been teaching for most of his life and he loves to fight.

Old master:

This is single handed grabbing and locking. I had so many martial arts seniors at my Academy, but because they struggled during that period, they couldn’t become the inheritor of the Kung Fu style. Anyway, it was a long time ago, they’d be over 100 by now. They all have passed away, so there is just me left…

Sometimes, I really worry that I won’t be able to pass on the skills of real traditional kung fu, because to be honest, nowadays it’s very difficult to find a dedicated disciple.


Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

Back in the capital, Beijing, in the car park under the Bank of China, is a group of extraordinary men, masters of Iron Fists.

I went for a sandwich earlier, I went for the 6-inch one and it’s about the same size as his hand.


Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

Protecting the artifacts of Kung Fu is a common thing amongst masters but the stories of the personal sacrifices required to do that, usually go untold.

I know this little park in Beijing really well I went to university 20 years ago just around the corner. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was researching my book, I came across a really interesting fellow. His name is GrandMaster Li and the art he practises is Suogugong.

Grandmaster Li:

“I got to know a friend, his family were martial bodyguards but there was nobody in his family to carry on the tradition. The weapons were in his house, and he wouldn’t sell them, they were just there no being used. He wanted to make me an inheritor of the weapons, I had no means to do that. But I really love the weapons. There was a jade bracelet. A jade bracelet that my master had given my wife as a gift. So, I used this bracelet to get the weapons, they are more important than my own life. I cherish them and they will accompany me until I die. I train with them everyday. According to martial tradition, one hope in life is I’ll be able to pass these important martial weapons to the right person, a good person.”

Chris Crudelli (Martial Artist, Television Presenter & Author):

There is a huge nobility to sacrificing material goods for your art, despite their abject poverty, despite the hardships that they’ve suffered and the.. you know.. Just the difficult times, and the difficult conditions they’re living. There is a certain contentment. The skills that they have, the viewpoint that they’ve developed has allowed them to rise above, to a degree, above their own circumstances. And I think that is valuable.

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