Tang Hao was born 1887 in Jiangsu province in a poor family. Due to poverty o he had to quit school early and join his parents in everyday hard labor. When he had free time he liked to practice martial arts and more importantly he use every opportunity to educate himself . In his early 20’s he went to Shanghai to make better living.
His martial studies started with “Six Harmonies Boxing “. Later in life he practiced Chen Tai Chi , Jukendo, Judo and several other kung fu styles. By the time he completed the“Six Harmonies Boxing “ he was already a principal of Shang Gong elementary school and a lawyer . It is unknown how he went from being poor kid who worked in the fields to university diploma and principal’s position.
In 1927 he was arrested for the first time under accusation that he is a communist . Soon he was released due to the intervention of his influential friend . After that he went to Japan and there he learned Japanese bayonet fighting as well as other martial arts. After he returned to China he worked as an editor in publication section of Central Goushu Academy . During his life he visited may kung fu masters and gathered enormous amount of knowledge and experience .
In 1931 , after Japanese occupation of Manchuria Tang Hao organized resistence movement and put all his effort in organizing and training the army . In 1936 with his close friend he developed a new approach for bayonet training and short military saber training .
In 1937, Hao was involved in “Seven Gentleman’s incident” as an attorney for the accused . ( http://wiki.china.org.cn/wiki/index.php/Seven_Gentlemen)
In 1941 , Japanese wanted to arrest Hao , but he escaped and hid in basement of the rice store owned by his martial arts friend. There in a less than two months he wrote a book “Study of a Shaolin Quan Secret Lessons”
After finishing the book he returned home . Shortly after that his wife killed herself and several days later Japanese arrested him. Although he was tortured he didn’t gave Japanese any reason to hold him and he was released after one of his reach friend’s intervention.
After this he left Shanghai and remarried. He kept low profile until the end of WWII when he returned in Shanghai .In 1955 he started to work in “Commission of Sports , where he continued his martial arts research . He died in 1959 .
During his life he wrote several books. Here are some of his titles :
- Taiji Boxing and Neijia Boxing
- A study of Shaolin and Wudang
- Neijia Boxing
- Wong Wugogng Taiji Linking Saber
- The lost Old Chinese Sword Method
- TheQi Fist Classic
- Esseays of Hsinjen Residnce
- Series on Qing Dynasty Archery
- A study of Chinese Sports Illustration
- A study of Chinese Martial Arts Illustration
- A study of “Secrets of Shaolin Boxing”
- A study of Emei School of Boxing
Practicality in training
While he was working as principal of elementary school in Shanghai , Tang Hao taught the students martial arts. He emphasized realistic approach in training . He put accent on basics conditioning and developing necessary physical attributes for fighting .Second part of his training approach was non cooperative sparring. Many people at that time ,.as well as today , searched for some exotic or even esoteric techniques , some tricks and shortcuts. Tang Hao was strongly against that and he spent a lot of time and energy to change the general view and approach to martial arts training. Many things said by Bruce Lee regarding traditional martial arts training were said by Tang Hao half of the century earlier. Hao loved to try every technique in a non controlled fight situation . Everything that does not pass a test of real fight would be excluded from training system. Like Bruce Lee half of the century later Tang Hao was not only supporter of the realty in training he also strongly supported renouncing all unnecessary rituals , fake lineages , esoteric theories , different titles , pseudo religion… Tang Hao saw kung fu exclusively as fighting art , nothing more and nothing less . Everything he said back in his time is still valid today .
After fall of the Qing dynasty and establishing of the Republic of China , martial arts started to flourish. Kung fu was viewed as a way to keep nation strong . After centuries of oppression Chinese people finally had a chance to celebrate their own culture. During this period martial artist started to emphasize importance of the linage too much. It was a matter of prestige , a “face” to trace style lineage to some famous ancestor . There is no style today which does not trace its origin deep in the past all the way to some mythical figure. All the “histories” we know today are written during Republican period . Linage wars , very well known in the Wing Chun community even today, caused a lot of problems at the time. Fights between different factions and schools were usual and sometimes with fatal outcome. Major dispute was between “Shaolin” and “Wudang” schools . There was another problem with this fake histories , people took fantasies , Taoist fairytales and Buddhist legends for truth , making a good foundation for all negative things in martial arts mentioned earlier. Tang Hao spent a lot time in exposure of this kind of nonsense. In his book , published in early 20’s “A study of Shaolin and Wudang” Hao proved that Bodhidharma and Zang Sang Feng has nothing to do with martial arts . He debunked Shaolin mith as well as Tai Chi creation story . In 1932 Hao traveled to Chen village along with one of the Chen family members and there he conducted a research , starting with official and unofficial documents and records , examination of tombstones , interviewing the village elders and examining all possible source of information . His research clearly showed that Tai Chi was invention of the Chen family from middle 19th century. He proved that Shaolin was not some special place for martial arts training and development , simply a monastery where monks practiced whatever art they brought in order to defend them self and the their property . Similar story goes with Wudang and other famous martial arts places in China . Tang Hao was the first serous historian who based his research on scientific method .
This was a short story about , today largely unknown, man who shaped kung fu history in general and put a foundation for ‘modern” approach in practicing martial arts