Mobile is fast becoming an international city attracting people from around the world for many different reasons. Years ago a student left Communist China to seek an American college education. Grand Master Shawn Liu is not an average immigrant. He recently sat down with FOX10 to share his story of surviving poverty and a tough life in China, and how following a Shaolin Kung Fu lifestyle has led to an amazing life.
“I studied, and I trained a lot of people. I begin to teach people when I was 12 years old because of my skills in the martial arts. We trained seriously, basically trained sometimes 8 hours a day, 12 hours a day, 6 hours a day minimum and for almost 30 years,” stated Master Lui.
Martial Arts has been a part of Master Shawnn Liu life for more than 50-years. He started teaching so young because he received his first serious lessons at age five. Liu’s amazing life story is one of overcoming challenges in China. He lost both parents at birth.
“When the Communist took over the country, and they wanted him to repent, so he repented, he said well I didn’t shoot any Communist. That put him as a counter revolutionary that gave him a mark, so he was labeled as a person against the Communist Party. They pronounced him as enemy of the country, so he was put in prison just for that. The whole family became the enemy of the country. He died in prison and then I was born right after his death. My mother gave me birth and the second day she had to leave because she didn’t want anybody to know this boy was born, because they wanted her to get rid of it, but she didn’t,” Liu shared.
Liu was born in an Episcopal Church where his grandparents lived and worked. They raised him for only three years, as the communists started persecuting church members, an uncle took Liu in.
“My uncle later died of starvation during the famine in China in the 60s. So my Shifu took me over and basically help me and of course villagers helped me. I was just like an orphan at that time. My teacher, that’s my Shifu, and my uncle were really, really good friends. I just stayed in the village and with my Shifu. People called me orphan; and my Shifu said you’re no orphan, you’re my son. He was Buddhist Monk and he’s been a Monk for 70 years at the Shaolin Temple. At that time the Shaolin Temple was not a Temple anymore. Why, because the Communist Party didn’t want any religion or any church, any Temple to exist. The Temple was subdivided into villages, lots of villages,” said Liu.
Life was tough under Mao Tse Tung’s government and communism.
“When I was 5 years old and I really had to work. I got up at normally at 4 o’clock in the morning. I didn’t have hardly any food; and on just 50 cents, we can live with my teacher for 3 months. People say, ‘Well, I’m poor.’ They don’t know what poor is. [If] you put a sprinkle of salt in your water, that was a luxury. The whole year, one pound of salt can last for one year for two people. It was tough,” Liu remembered.
Despite the circumstances, Liu’s martial arts talents put him before thousands.
“In front of 20,000 people, the audience were all saying, ‘Chairman Mao! Chairman Mao.’During the Cultural Revolution, that was my first demonstration, a big crowd under Chairman Mao. I did demonstrate Shaolin Kungfu, but you are not allowed to demonstrate Shaolin Kungfu, because that’s old. Anything old is enemy of the country. Communist the only thing you should believe,” Liu shared.
Denied a formal education, Liu became a student of the English lanuage.
“I was denied school when I was child, and then I didn’t finish my middle school. I did not go to high school. I say, ‘I want to go to college.’ People said no way. I never believed that because of my training, my hard work, I believed I can do it. I can study myself. I got borrowed books, because I didn’t have any money to buy. I studied English, and then I knew 16 letters at the time. I studied very hard from radio. Actually, I sneaked Voice of America to study because at that time Voice of America was the enemy. It took me 3 years, I passed the college examination. I made second in the nation a 98, because the highest is 99, the national average is 30. Because of my high score in English, even though I made a zero in math, one college took me in,” Liu said.
In college, he made the connection that led to his journey to America and Mobile.
“I met an American teacher who belonged to the Baptist Convention. She wanted to help me go to the United States. She got me hooked up with at that time Mobile College. University of Mobile gave me a full scholarship. I’m always thankful to University of Mobile. I became a photographer for the campus. They treated me wonderfully,” Liu said.
Mobile is where Master Lui started teaching Shaolin Kungfu again.
“I started in 1987. One lady heard I knew martial arts and wanted to study with me. At that time, I was very, very tough because I used the Chinese way to train these people. I taught at University of South Alabama for many years. And then on the side, I taught martial arts, extra curriculum and then I also taught outsiders. I realized I need to do my own business, but I was scared I said, ‘God, I don’t have money. How do I do that? He said, ‘Just do it.’ ‘Ok,’ I said. ‘I will do it.’ In 1999, I opened my own school,” shared Master Liu.
Over the last 17 years Master Lui has traveled the world teaching a lifestyle in seminars and tournaments.
“We help people with the mind, body and spirit and the well being. Here in the United States, Martial Arts was thought of as a kind of fighting arts only. But, that is not true. In me, it’s about infinite energy, your belief in yourself, your contribution to the universe, your contribution to the community.” said Master Liu.
Master Liu has three schools now, his Mobile location and one in New Orleans and Atlanta. The Atlanta school is a more than 11,000 square feet facility, and it’s the largest Chinese Martial Arts school in the nation. He plans to open 200 schools in the United States in the next 10 years. Grand Master Shawn Liu said he builds students, from them he chooses instructors. He then builds them into directors in the Shaolin Kung Fu tradition.