Grand Master Yan Shang Wu

1882 - 1971

嚴尚武 Yan Shang Wu, or Yim Sheung Mo in Cantonese, was a Grandmaster of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu.

Yan was born in 林溪乡 Linxi Township of 三江侗 Sanjiang Dong, Guangxi province, China.

Master Yan began his martial arts career studying the Hongjia style. After meeting Grandmaster Gù Rǔzhāng of Northern Shaolin and seeing his superior skills, he pleaded to become his disciple. Although Yan had worked hard in Hongjia, Master Yan never practiced that Kung Fu style again. He instead devoted his life to learning everything Grandmaster Gù Rǔzhāng knew and would teach him.

Yan Shang Wu | Yim Shang Mo of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu
Yan Shang Wu of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu

Grandmaster Gù Rǔzhāng was not Yan’s only teacher of this style of Chinese Martial Arts.

He also studied with Bai Zhixiang, a classmate and travel companion of Grandmaster Gù Rǔzhāng.

Yan Shang Wu practiced and mastered his techniques, tactics, and forms, eventually becoming the prime inheritor of the style. He maintained the tradition, keeping all material and training methods traditional and pristine. 

Sepia-Toned Yan Shang Wu | Yim Shang Mo of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu
Old Photo of Master Yan or Yim Sheung Mo of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu

Additionally, Grandmaster Yan also learned Liuhe Men (Six Harmonies style of Kung Fu) from Wan Laisheng and Beisheng / Buk Sing Cailifo, more popularly known as Choy Li Fut, from Tam Sam (譚三), in addition to all of the knowledge acquired from Grandmaster Gù Rǔzhāng.

Nicknamed Iron Head, Yan would often train by hitting a kicking bag with his head, uniquely sending the bag flying high into the air. To clarify, “Iron Head” is one of the skills he learned from the Gù Rǔzhāng Small Golden Bell series. 

Yan Shang Wu | Yim Shang Mo | Teaching Tai Chi
Rooftop Tai Chi practice

Master Yan Shang Wu goes South to Hong Kong

Gù Rǔzhāng sensed that political problems were afoot in 1950 and told his student Yan that it would be a good idea for him to move to Hong Kong. Political enemies soon raided Gu’s home, forcing him to follow suit and head south.

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, Grand Master Yan Shang Wu looked for his classmate, Master Ma Jianfeng, already a Martial Arts teacher in the area. Master Yan taught at Ma Jianfeng’s Kung Fu school and, as many other Kung Fu teachers of the time, on his apartment building’s rooftop.

Masters Yan Shang Wu & Ma Jian Feng of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu
Two Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Masters: Yan Shang Wu & Ma Jian Feng

Grandmaster Yan Shang Wu taught many disciples in Hong Kong. Among his many disciples were Chan Kwok Wai, Kwong Wing Lam, and Wong Jackman, giants in the Northern Shaolin system, who have helped preserve his teachings for future generations.

Now Master Baptista,Kung Fu Connection’s head instructor, is a direct disciple of Grand Master Chan Kwok Wai, a student of Master Yan, and represents his lineage in the USA. He continues this great tradition of martial art and martial virtue with passion. 

Yan Shang Wu | Yim Sheung Mo | Northern Shaolin Kung Fu | Coral Springs, Florida
Yan Shang Wu | Yim Sheung Mo | Northern Shaolin Kung Fu
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