Compared with his fellow-students under the same tutor, Zhu Tianxi had taken a much longer way learning Kung-fu from Shi Degen as his fellow-students were all in Dengfeng and he had been growing up and residing in Zhengzhou rather far from Master Shi's living County, Dengfeng and lacking the needed introduction to the Master at the very beginning, though his endowments in Kung-fu were partly inherited from his forefathers, one of them was ever a great general in Ming Dynasty. We should always keep in mind that traditional Kung-fu inheritance is not an antique or article but that of traditional culture indeed. Cultural inheritance bears its own characteristics. As I said in many articles and various occasions, Kung-fu is not only handed down completely by inheritance but learned, studied and developed up by practice and comprehension. Even though ones' forefathers could transmit some inherent factors, they could never pass down all Kung-fu and traditional culture from generation to generation just like an antique accepted completely by ones later on.
Zhu Tianxi ardently loves Kung-fu from his childhood on for his whole life. In fact, before formally being Shi Degen's disciple, he had been already the favorite student of Mr. He Ru, the master of Shao Lin Tai Zu Men in Henan Provice. He Futong being the senior master of Tai Zu Men, also favored Zhu Tianxi because of Zhu's determination, diligence and good personalities in traditional Kung-fu practice. Even when Mr. He Futong laid in bed at his illness, he still summoned Zhu Tianxi to his bedside and explained Qin Na handing capture Kung-fu to him. Zhu Tianxi learned a lot this way.
When he was fifteen, Zhu Tianxi desired to be one of the disciples of Shi Degen. He visited Defeng County and asked Master Shi to teach him Shao Lin Kung-fu for several times. At first, Shi Degen denied his application, as he did not know enough about Zhu. One day in 1965, in order to show his sincerity, Zhu Tianxi again came to Dengfeng County on foot and kneeled on the ground in front of Shi Degen's house until Shi was moved by his sincere de-sire and decided to accept the young boy from far away as his disciple. Before not so long, there started the Cultural Revolution and unfortunately Shi Degen encountered difficulty. Zhu Tianxi took him to his own house. During those three years from then on, Shi Degen imparted the essential parts of ShaoLin Kung-fu such as 24-routine Tan Tui Yin Yang Gun and Luo Han Quan to Zhu Tianxi one by one so that he became the last (close-door) disciple directly learning Kung-fu from Shi Degen ass well as the last Shao Lin Bonze in modem history.
Zhu Tianxi studied Kungfu so hard that our general practitioners today could never reach that extend. At that time, the common situation was sfilf quite tough as there was only a little to eat due to the bad living conditions but having lots exercises for Zhu to do. When he practiced snapping kicks, he often performed it for several hours until he finished all of the 24 routines at one time. Each time, he even could squeeze some water from his clothes after he finished the practice. Zhu Tianxi often said to me, now young practitioners are required to snap kicks for ten times successively, but most of them could not do it.
Shi Degen acknowledged Zhu practicing so hard and actually having a talent for Kung-fu. He felt that Zhu Tianxi had great potential so he taught him wholeheartedly. He imparted to Zhu Tianxi all the essentials of Kung-fu. Zhu has been studying Shao Lin Kung-fu in his whole life including boxing, weapons, internal energy acquired by Zen practice as well as the medical secrets and techniques in Shao Lin Temple. All of these makes Zhu Tianxi a veritable successor of Shao Lin Zen, Kung-fu and medicine now.
That Zhu Tianxi has remarkable skills in Kung-fu thanks to his long time practice and obtaining the true mastery of Kung-fu. When I filmed Zhu Tianxi demonstrating Shao Lin Luo Han Quan, Pao Quan, broad falchion and spear in 1980s, Zhu Tianxi ever showed me a lot on how to use Shao Lin Kung-fu. I felt that he had remarkable skills with fierce, nimble movements and strong force. Though he was almost 40 years old then, he was just like a teenager when he performed the movements of squatting and jumping in Luo Han Quan. Today, not withstanding Zhu Tianxi cannot perform some movements as some years ago, his skills are still improved greatly, reflecting the fact that Chinese traditional Kung-fu need practicing for one's whole life.
Today, I cannot find original Shao Lin culture and Kungfu in other places any longer after the word Shao Lin has been materialized and becomes the byword of economic interests. I think one could hardly find pure culture and Kungfu if there is no great human spirit.
(Translated by Wu Liancan)