A site honoring the teachings of Kuo Lien Ying and the magical time that we were able to learn from Si Fu

Portsmouth Square 1965-1985

Donald Rubbo's Biography

I am a Fire Rooster, born 1957, in New York City, N.Y., the third of eight children. My father, Admondo (Don) Rubbo, was a gifted artist, and an influential teacher to Peter Max, Tom Daly, and many others. My father taught me to appreciate beauty in all its forms, taking us for walks in Central Park and showing us among the many flowers there, the delicate beauty of the blossoms on the double flowering cherry trees.
 I discovered martial arts when I was 12, I needed a way to protect myself from New York City street bullies. I first studied karate and then switched to Shao Lin with Nelson at Five Tigers Martial Arts school on Canal Street in New York. Cheryl Lynne and I later named one of our programs for kids Five Tigers Martial Arts Summer Day Camp in honor of Nelson.

By the time I was fourteen I had taken over the responsibility of raising my two younger brothers, Thomas and George. When I relocated to San Francisco in 1976, I brought my brothers with me, and we settled into a large flat on the corner of Clayton and Waller streets, in the Haight Ashbury. Robert Bergman, “Indian,” my good friend from New York, introduced me to Grandmaster Kuo Lien Ying, and I devoted myself to Kuo and to the practice of Shao Lin

I went to the park in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown every morning at 5, working out for 3 hours and then heading to the Golden Gate Park Panhandle to practice with Kuo’s senior student, Bing Gong, for another 2 hours.  I learned the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan form, deepened my practice of Shao Lin Chuan, learned Spear, Tai Chi Broad Sword, Tai Chi Double-Edge Sword, Tai Chi Staff, Hsing Yi, I Chuan, Nei Gung and Qigong from Bing.

As part of the price of living with me, my brothers George and Thomas went to the Panhandle with me and learned Shao Lin from Bing.  Martial arts provided a foundation of stability for myself and my brothers, and it’s a foundation that I’ve built upon my entire life. Some of the friendships I made back then, my gungfu brothers and sisters, are still in my life, and I treasure the bond we have of our practice and community.
My very first morning at Sifu’s, I arrived at Portsmouth Square with Elaine, my girlfriend at the time; I was eager to observe this form of Chinese martial arts that Indian was so enthusiastic about. It was one of those fog-shrouded mornings, with a heavy mist in the air. I had two sleepy, grumbling boys with me, Thomas and George, I had dragged them out of bed for this special event.
We watched as the students started arriving, and then the door of the studio opened and Sifu stepped out onto the sidewalk. All of a sudden I heard a very loud sound, “Sifu, Dzao!!!!!!!!!” All the students in the park had stopped whatever they were doing and, with their one fist covering the other, aimed their covered fists at Kuo and saluted him with this greeting.  
The students were involved in a series of exercises, stretching and movements that although they resembled what I had studied previously, everyone had a sinuousness and flexibility that I had not witnessed in any martial art I had ever seen. I was amazed at flexible the students were, whether bench stretches, chin to toe, falling stances or bow and arrow. I knew right then that practicing in the early morning with this teacher was my path, it resonated right through the core of my being. I was taken by the commanding presence of this old Chinese martial art master. When Indian introduced me to him, he shined a beautiful bright smile, with teeth of gold and a sparkle in his eyes. Sifu looked at me and said, “Tai Chi, Tai Chi, …….,” and gestured to the other students to teach me right then and there.  I felt that I had found all that I could wish for, in this amazing community of inspiring personalities. 

I eagerly awoke early every morning to take the bus down to Market Street, and walked through Chinatown before anyone else was awake besides the alcoholics and the petty criminals. The odd smells of sleeping Chinatown wafting through the air; the muted colors of the early morning; the exquisite sound of silence, of stillness, broken by the occasional garbage truck or barking dog. These were the magic hours, these were the magic mornings, the magic days, the magic years.

Sometimes Sifu Kuo would emerge from the studio with his sparkling smile and then let loose with a loud, reverberating wouuhhhh!!!, clearing his throat, the sound moving forcefully through the park. Then you would hear his famous chuckle, and he’d walk down into the park to observe his students doing their practices. Occasionally he would come over and give a student a correction. We were always eager to get a correction from him, the rareness of it occurring made us become incredibly attentive, for we wanted to execute the correction as perfectly as we were able.

Our websites are: www.CultivateChi.com, www.BreatheStrong.org, and www.ExtraodinaryBreath.com

Youtube video: Rubbo Art of Engergy Blast

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