The Dog Master
In the summer of 2007, the Dog Master ZaiPei Lin received a calligraphy artwork from a local calligrapher named as QingSong Lin. QingSong Lin was also a Natural Boxing Master, a lifetime friend to Master ZaiPei Lin. In the eyes of QingSong Lin, Master ZaiPei Lin was an ascetic kung fu monk, who had been seeking pleasure in hardship through out his life. On the calligraphy artwork, a gift for Master ZaiPei Lin’ study, QingSong Lin wrote three big Chinese characters: Mai Ku Zai, which literally means Selling Hardship Study. Below these three main characters, there was a phrase in small words, which said “Self-restraint nourishes deep knowledge, painstaking efforts promises great Kung fu skills”. When presenting the gift to Master ZaiPei Lin, QingSong Lin joked, “To learn the Dog Boxing, you suffered hardships. Now you are teaching the Dog Boxing, you are passing your hardships to the next generation.” QingSong Lin’s remark was sound and fair. From the moment Master ZaiPei Lin set his feet on the realm of Dog Boxing, he was doomed to take a rough path.
In the year of 1964, the young ZaiPei Lin became a student of the Dog Boxing Grandmaster YiJiu Chen after Chen ZhengLu, the son of YiJiu Chen, introduced ZaiPei Lin to his father. The initial training took place in a small indoor plot, roughly about 20 square meters, next to Grandmaster YiJiu Chen’s bedroom. There ZaiPei Lin learned the first movements for his first pattern in his life– the Three Wars of Dog Boxing. When Grandmaster YiJiu Chen explained and showed the movements, he seated himself on a cane chair. He then got his smoke pipe, and lit it and began to smoke. ZaiPei Lin performed before him and Grandmaster YiJiu Chen watched in a veil of mist. During the training, Grandmaster YiJiu Chen didn’t move his body an inch from the cane chair. “Hold the hands in fists, Keep the eyes looking forward, Keep the head level…..” He constantly uttered to guide ZaiPei Lin’s movements. “Good, have a rest. Then do it for 20 more times.” Grandmaster remarked when he demanded a break. 20 more times, and another 20 more times, and more… This happened again and again. Within one and a half month, ZaiPei Lin learnt only three basic movements, i.e., White Monkey Presenting the Peach, Monk Pulling the Bow and General KuanGong Stroking His Beard. These three movements were just for the Ready Posture of the Three Wars of Dog Boxing!!! The lessons went so slow that ZaiPei Lin grew impatient. So, a week later, ZaiPei Lin approached his Sifu and asked for a quicker training as he was able to do the movements. ZaiPei Lin was rebuffed. He never thought that his request had irritated his Sifu. “Do you think you can do the movements perfectly? How long can you hold the movements when you position yourself? Grandmaster YiJiu Chen asked. Just before turning around to leave, Grandmaster YiJiu Chen cried unhappily to ZaiPei Lin, “You don’t need to come again if you think that you are good enough”. His words panicked his student. ZaiPei Lin made an immediate apology. Since then, ZaiPei Lin dared not to mention a word about it. He just did what he was told.
Besides the awesome attitude shown by his Sifu, the everyday tour challenged ZaiPei Lin’s will. The young ZaiPei Lin was then a chef working for the West Lake Restaurant in the city of Fuzhou. At around 6 PM, when the night fell, ZaiPei Lin came off duty. He hurried through the meal. The he rode his bicycle, heading towards Grandmaster YiJiu Chen’s house. Grandmaster YiJiu Chen then lived in XiYuan Village near the Train Station of Fuzhou. ZaiPei Lin sped down the narrow paths winding through the fields. When he saw the light shedding from his Sifu’s house on the hillside, it grew completely dark. The whole journey took about 40 minutes. The return journey later took more time. In the old days, no public street lights could be found in that rural area in Fuzhou. ZaiPei Lin had to struggle to find his way by means of the dim light from the torch attached to the handlebar of the bicycle. When it rained, the muddy and slippery paths made the trip ever harder. Under such circumstances, ZaiPei Lin rode very carefully, trying to avoided falling into the fields around him. For ZaiPei Lin, the awful weather was not the biggest barrier. The worst thing came from the fierce dogs that showed up unexpectedly in the darkness, tracing and barking crazily towards him. Every time, ZaiPei Lin was thrown into a panic. The hard trip did not daunt ZaiPei Lin and the villagers soon learnt the persistent new Dog beginner and began to make favorable comments on him. Such comments brought good luck to ZaiPei Lin as sometime later the training turned out to be much intensive than before.
The last part of the Three Wars of Dog Boxing was conducted on the hard limestone floor in the yard of Grandmaster YiJiu Chen’s house. The day before, ZaiPei Lin was told to bring in a pair of thick uniform that he wore for his duty at the kitchen of the restaurant. That day, a series of ground-fighting movements was revealed. ZaiPei Lin kept rolling, coiling, dodging, and charging on the ground. So excitedly, he forgot all the pains all over the body. When the training came to the end, ZaiPei Lin found himself stained with dust. An open wound was later detected on his left elbow. The skin was rubbed open and the flesh bled. ZaiPei Lin told his Sifu that he would get a pad to comfort the wounded elbow when he came the following evening. However, unexpectedly, he was told to have a break before he was fully recovered from the wound. Upon receiving the unexpected response from his Sifu, ZaiPei Lin turned worried. He instinctively harbored an impure thought in his mind. “Does the Sifu procrastinate the training on purpose?” He said to himself. From the first day of his training, ZaiPei Lin nourished a plan. He promised himself to learn half of the bare-hand patterns and some practical ground fighting techniques within a year. Yet, the training didn’t turn up to live up to his expectation. It moved so slowly!!! ZaiPei Lin could do nothing but wait. The awesome expression on the face of his Sifu headed off all his attempts. Ten days had passed before ZaiPei Lin resumed his training at the hard and dusty yard. So impatiently, ZaiPei Lin rushed into practice. “The butterfly leg”, “Passing the thread through the eyes of the needle”, “Rolling backward and single bat”, he did the movements on the ground again and again. All of a sudden, ZaiPei Lin felt painful on the right hip. With the lesson he learnt from last scenario, he kept silent, pretending that nothing was happening. A wound was later found on the right hip when ZaiPei Lin returned to his dwelling. The skin split and the bloody skin stuck to the trousers. Several drops of the cool boiled water were applied to wet the wound before ZaiPei Lin was able to part the skin with the trousers without feeling great pains. He then soaked a small cotton bar with medicine liquid and rubbed the wound cautiously to keep off the infection. That evening, ZaiPei Lin slept in pains. The following evening, ZaiPei Lin appeared at the yard as usual. More practice and more pains. This happened again and again for the next several weeks. It remained a sheer privacy until two years later ZaiPei Lin revealed it to his Sifu. Upon hearing the words, his Sifu, Grandmaster YiJIu Chen, remarked, “I have got time. I really wanted to train you. But you grew impatient….” ZaiPei Lin’s spirit seemed to have touched his Sifu as Grandmaster YiJiu Chen later often modeled him before the other disciples.
To Grandmaster YiJiu Chen, ZaiPei Lin was a good disciple who made him happy. But for those leaders and workmates at the working unit, ZaiPei Lin had got a totally different image. At that time, ZaiPei Lin lived at a dormitory at the third floor of the AnTai Restaurant, the governing body for the West Lake Restaurant. At around 3 Am each morning, ZaiPei Lin got up. He then walked quietly down to a big banquet hall on the second floor. Tables and chairs were well deployed and the cement floor was dry and clean. Such a wonderful training plot!!! Quiet hall, fresh air, clean floor and the sparring partners—the banquet tables. The night before, when the waiters and waitresses were off duty and no one could be spotted in the hall, ZaiPei Lin watered and cleaned the floor. So the next morning, he could have a plot of floor that was neither wet nor slippery. In such a quiet banquet hall, ZaiPei Lin began his double-person fighting exercises. The imaginary sparring partners were the big square tables that had four round and thin legs. Rolling back and forth under the square tables, ZaiPei Lin applied the techniques on the table legs. The sparring exercise normally lasted for about one and half an hour each morning. After the training, ZaiPei Lin had a quick shower and went to sleep again. Very soon, the table legs turned loose and the square tables became unstable. Consequently, ZaiPei Lin’s behavior called for public criticism. At a meeting, the general secretary of the restaurant remarked in a sharp tone, “You damned ZaiPei. When we were in fast asleep, you were running on the floor like a crazy dog.” ZaiPei Lin’s enthusiasm didn’t allow him to put aside his daily sparring. To keep off the trouble, he decided to adopt the gentle movements. Every time he applied the techniques on the table legs, he contained the energy and the movements went light. It worked!!! Since then, however, ZaiPei Lin was stereotyped as the Table Killer. Whenever the tables became less supportive, the waiters and the waiters would say, “It must be the masterpiece of that crazy dog”.
Another factor contributed to the cool welcome to the ZaiPei Lin’s involvement with Kung fu. In those days, kung fu was not held in high esteem as it is today. Kung fu masters stood in the same group together with those living in the lowest stratum of society, such as, whoremasters, gamblers, drunkards, wandering actors and actresses. A kung fu stylist was deemed as a person with sophisticated social background, easily causing troubles to the society. Then, a popular ballad went around. “Loose flared trousers and red brims, shoulders by shoulders, the loyalhearted brothers lined up by the roads”. (Kung fu stylists often wore the flared trousers with the big and loose legs, which covered a pair of red sports pants underneath). Kung fu masters were those loyalhearted type of persons who gathered and fought for the loyalty and friendship. In the eyes of leaders at the working unit, ZaiPei Lin made no exception. ZaiPei Lin was then an honorable communist who was widely modeled to play a vanguard role in various aspects of social lives. Kung fu was such a thing that a communist should have frowned on. Occasionally, some leaders warned ZaiPei Lin of misbehavior and urged him to quit kungfu as soon as possible if he intended to run for a higher position. ZaiPin Lin insisted that he didn’t do anything wrong. Confronted with the warnings, he replied calmly, “I love Kungfu. I will not quit it as it is my favorite hobby now. It is your business whether you would like to promote me to a higher position.” ZaiPin Lin’s persistence in his arts didn’t give him any chance of promotion. He had to farewell to the post of General Secretary that he had been longed for. For the next ten years, he remained as the Director, taking charge of the catering services.
Shifting the eyes from the social promotion, ZaiPei Lin steeped himself in the Dog Boxing. To Grandmaster YiJiu Chen, ZaiPei Lin was not only diligent but obedient as well. ZaiPei Lin never did anything that would anger his Sifu as he realized that it was the proper way to pay his respect. To bring him and his Sifu closer, ZaiPei Lin brought his Sifu regular gifts. In the old days, food supply was insufficient. People bought the daily necessities with coupons. The main food supply for a person a month was like this: half a kilo meat or one kilo eggs as a substitute, 12 kilo rice and one tenth of edible oil. Obviously, the life was hard. ZaiPei Lin felt hungry all days through during that period. To buy the presents, he saved the coupons. On such occasions as the Spring Festival, Moon Festival, ZaiPei Lin bought his Sifu a “luxurious” present. It was a big fish, a large lump of pork that weighted about one Kilo and a big piece of fried pork skin that he cooked carefully himself. The “luxurious” gift was then presented with a piece of red paper on the top. Every time, when ZaiPei Lin carried the gift to his Sifu, it drew the attention of the villagers who watched and put on an envious expression. The response was positive. ZaiPei Lin was shaped into a disciple who treated his Sifu with filial respect. Some neighbors even joked to Grandmaster YiJiu Chen, “You should teach that disciple more”. The loyalty and the respect shown by ZaiPei Lin touched his Sifu. A decade later, ZaiPei Lin was already one of the favorite and top in-door disciples of Grandmaster YiJiu Chen.
In retrospect, ZaiPei Lin was touched with all sorts of strong feelings. When asked to sum up his life in some words, ZaiPei Lin cited a phrase, “The bitterness ends, the sweetness begins”. In fact, it is very true not just for ZaiPei Lin, but also for every individual from various walks of life.