Wang Shi Tong was born in Xiao Tong Village in Hebei Province. There were many types of martial art taught in his village. He studied Chang Quan (long fist) when he was 7 years old and later studied Xing Yi Quan. As an adult he moved to Beijing where he worked in a factory. After suffering an illness, a friend convinced him to study Tai Ji Quan in order to improve his health. From 1950 to 1960 he studied Tai Ji Quan and practiced every day in the Temple of Heaven Park. He was noticed by Guo Ge Ming, one of the most famous teachers of Ba Gua in Beijing.
Guo was a disciple of Liang Zhen Pu (the last disciple of Dong Hai Chuan the founder of Ba Gua) as well as a student of Liu De Kuan (also a disciple of Dong). Liu De Kuan was the creator of the 64 linear palms that are taught in Liang style. Guo was also the senior school brother of Li Zi Ming.
Guo Ge Min was impressed with Wang Shi Yong’s dedication and strength. Wong was the arm wrestling champion of his factory. Wang ultimately became a disciple of Guo Ge Min and studied with him for the next six years. Wang practiced everyday at 5 am and walked to work in the Heaven Uplifting Posture, hanging his coat on one hand and his bag on the other.
In the 1960s, conditions in China were extremely difficult at this time. Millions of people were near starvation, including Guo Ge Min, who was not married and only practiced martial arts. Guo was supported only by his disciples during these years. Through Guo Ge Min ,Wang met Cheng Ting Hua. Wang was able to study Lian Huan Ba Gua Zhang (the Eight Diagram Palm Chain Linking form) with Cheng Yu Xin (the son of Cheng Ting Hua). Cheng Yu Xin was also very poor and taught martial arts from a street stand in order to make money. Wong was grateful to Cheng for his teaching.
During the cultural revolution, after Guo Ge Min died, it was very difficult to practice martial arts. Li Zi Ming held an important office with the communist party. In order to be able to practice freely, Wang Shi Tong became a disciple of Li Zi Ming, but he always preserved the teachings as he received them from Guo Gu Min.
In later years, Wang Shi Tong devoted himself to practicing Liang Zhen Pu Ba Gua, particularly the eight linear single movements, Lao Ba Zhang (Old Eight Palms) and Ba Mien Zhang (Eight Direction Palms). Wang felt that these forms contained only practical movements, every movement having specific applications. Wang told me that Liang Zhen Pu’s Ba Gua was extremely practical without the flowery movements that characterized other styles. He felt that even the Lian Huan Ba Gua Zhang of Cheng Yu Xin was overly flowery. Gu Ge Min’s teachings focused on practicality and application. Wang then proceeded to demonstrate simple direct applications for each of the 64 movements in Ba Mien Zhang.
Even Wang’s weapons forms were practical rather than flashy. He had me demonstrate a Ba Gua broadsword form I had learned previously. His comment: “not bad, but too flowery.” Then he unveiled his sword work as he had learned it from Guo. His 64 Broadsword form contained only movements that were direct and to the point. In many ways it resembled the Filipino arts I had learned earlier.
From Wang I learned Ding Shi Ba Gua Zhang, the Eight Linear Single Movements, Lao Ba Zhang (Old Eight Palms), Ba Mien Zhang (Eight Direction Palms), the 64 Broadsword Form, Pan Zi Feng Lun Jian (Wind Wheel Swords) and the Ji Zhao Yin Yang Rui (Rooster Claw Yin Yang Knife)
Wang Shi Tong taught only a few disciples during his lifetime. When people would ask him to teach he would sometimes pretend he had forgotten everything. When I met him in 1994, he had difficulty walking due to a head injury, but his enthusiasm for Ba Gua remained undiminished. Wang could still demonstrate the practical applications of each movement and his power and body connection were evident as he threw me around our small hotel room. Demonstrating fine points of attack and defense, the efficiency of the movements and their deceptive angles, appearing to attack one place while striking another, never ceased to bring a big smile to his face. Wang passed away in 2005 after a long and incapacitating illness. I owe him much.