Portsmouth Square 1965 - 1985
A site honoring the teachings of

Kuo Lien Ying

and the magical time that we were able to learn from Si Fu

"Release the chi,
and let it penetrate like a sword
into the bones."









                    Early Pioneers of Gung Fu


Since this time period was truly the “Early Days” of Gung Fu in America, there were few authentic teachers openly teaching real Chinese martial arts to the public and genuine Internal martial arts masters were very rare and hard to find. When a master of Kuo Lien Ying’s ability and reputation arrived in San Francisco, all the local Sifu’s and Gung Fu experts in the area flocked to his studio in Chinatown to study with this famous master whose lineage was a direct line from some of the greatest internal boxers of our time. Sifus such as David Chin, Y.C. Wong and Gene Chen, and experts like Gene Wong, Chris Young and many other visiting Gung Fu luminaries, came to visit, all hoping to get a taste of the “real thing,” Master Kuo’s internal power.

“Volatile” was the word I always heard used to describe Sifu Kuo’s ability to go from “empty” to “full” in the blink of an eye.

 At that time I was still just a young aspiring Gung Fu student with minimal experience, and the energy surrounding Sifu’s studio was truly awesome. Inspiring is an understatement to describe the environment in Chinatown at that time. Some of my senior Gung Fu brothers told me of the most intense and high energy “push hands” sessions ever at Sifu Kuo’s studio.


I was now a regularly practicing student at the studio, and I observed a core of serious “hardcore” practitioners who were Master Kuo’s dedicated students and disciples. Everyday, just before 5 am, Master Kuo would be out on the bridge linking the Chinatown Holiday Inn and Portsmouth Square practicing his “Standing” meditation. It seemed as though he was swaying in the wind with his fingers vibrating (like electrodes connected to Heaven), charging his internal batteries. On quiet mornings, I swear that I could hear his Spirit Shouts all the way to Market & Kearny streets, just as I was getting off the bus, six long blocks away from his studio in Chinatown.


To give you an idea of the energy emanating from his Chinatown studio and the impact this man’s presence had on his surroundings, I’ll attempt to describe the amazing people and events that took place on a daily basis at Master Kuo’s early morning classes in Chinatown at that time.

 When you first arrived (or should I say, IF you arrived on time) you would see the first student who arrived, usually Bing, bring out the weapons from the studio and place them on the benches in the center of the park. The class had now officially begun. Master Kuo would then appear out of nowhere (probably just finishing his own early morning internal practice, coming out from the shadows of the bridge) and greet the arriving students with the traditional Chinese “morning greeting.” The students would respond with a hearty “Sifu Dzau” (“good morning” in Mandarin.) Then, each student would go to their respective training areas and individually practice lengthy warm-ups and stretching exercises. These exercises were the core of our practice and were emphasized as the foundation of all our Gung Fu training. Everyone took their stretching exercises very seriously in this group because Sifu Kuo demanded it! He believed that it was one of the basic and most important elements of our training and it was one of the methods used as criteria for progress in our practice. The famous “Chin to Toe”