Grandmaster Wan Lai Sheng was born in Wuchang city, Hubei in 1903. He started his martial arts studies as a teenager, and went on to become a legend of Chinese Wushu. He is renowned and revered for not just his skills as a fighter, but also for his study of Taoist philosophy and Chinese medicine, his writings and his important influence on Chinese martial arts throughout China.

Wan Lai Sheng was introduced to martial arts by Master Zhou Xin Zou, with whom he studied Shaolin Liu He (Six Harmony) Boxing. After graduating from Beijing Agricultural University, Wan sought out Du Xin Wu, holder of the Zi Ran Men (Natural Style) lineage, and was accepted as his disciple. Wan Lai Sheng was ever seeking to increase his knowledge of martial arts. He incorporated Shaolin Luo Han Boxing, Tai Chi Chuan as well as other internal martial arts, and specific weapon forms into his education, learning from Liu Bai Chuan, Liu Sheng Xian and others.

In 1928 the National Wushu Academy held the first National Wushu Competition. It was a fabled tournament which was eventually halted due to excessive injuries. However, Wan Lai Sheng was recognized by the participants as the preeminent martial artist in attendance, even before the contest began.

In that same year Wan Lai Sheng published his first book, Wu Shu Hui Zong, a seminal text on the common principles of Wushu styles - the first of its kind. He would ultimately publish more than twenty books and articles including One Zero Philosophy, Traditional Chinese Orthopedics, Zi Ran Men, International Fighting System, Illustrated Shaolin Louhan Boxing, Zhang Sun Fen, Essence of Wushu, Discussion of Wushu and 24 Form Spearplay.

Shortly thereafter, Wan Lai Sheng travelled with his cousin Wan Lai Ping and friends Gu Ru Zhang, Li Xian Wu and Fu Zhen Song to Guangzhou where he was invited to open a new National Wushu Academy. This legendary event became known as the "five tigers heading south." Grandmaster Wan held several other influential positions throughout his career, including Chief of Hunan Martial Arts Institute, Chief of Guangxi Martial Arts Academy, Faculty Chief of Sports at Guangxi University and Head of Martial Arts Trainers for the National Training Team of Guomintang. He eventually settled in Fuzhou, first to found the Fujian Sports Teachers University in Yongan, but his stringent moral character caused him to clash with the Head of the Education Department. Later he went on to become the sports professor at the Fujian Agricultural University.

After the liberation of China, Wushu experienced a period of great resurgence. In 1986 Wan Lai Sheng established the Zi Ran Men Wushu Academy. This is significant because previously Zi Ran Men had only been passed down to one disciple per generation. Grandmaster Wan was now able to openly teach this style of boxing, and it quickly gained distinction throughout the country. While still relatively obscure in Western nations, in part due to the fact that little of Grandmaster Wan's teachings have been translated from Chinese, thousands of outstanding students have trained at the Zi Ran Men Wushu Academy from around the world.

Grandmaster Wan Lai Sheng passed away on August 8, 1992 in Fuzhou at the age of 91, but his legacy and contribution to martial arts continues on. His ethics, chivalry, and unwavering character can be seen in his successors and their students the world over. Before his passing, Grandmaster Wan handed the Liu He Zi Ran Men lineage to his friend and disciple Master Hong Zheng Fu.

Wan Lai Sheng

Wan Lai Sheng

Wan Lai Sheng