Kuo Yu Chang
(Gu Ru Zhang) & Iron Shirt

First Demonstration of Kuo Yu Chang in 1925, Kuo Yu Chang's Iron Palm and Iron Shirt abilities were witnessed by a certain Hwang Hsien Sheng. To summarize the story, a Russian circus had posted an open challenge to anyone who would dare take three kicks from one of their horses. Anyone who survived would receive $1000 in gold, a huge sum of money at that time.

Kuo Yu Chang accepted the challenge under one condition; instead of money, Kuo asked to strike the horse with one slap of his palm. The Russian owners of the circus accepted his conditions.

In front of a huge crowd, the horse raised his hind leg and kicked Kuo in the chest. The crowd was silent in disbelief. Kuo then gathered his strength and when the horse kicked Kuo a second time, the crowd roared. When the
horse kicked Kuo a third time, the crowd gave Kuo a huge ovation. Kuo then rested for more than half an hour. When he returned, he struck the horse in the rear, and the horse fell dead. Again, the crowd cheered at this incredible feat.

Internal Iron Shirt,
Cotton Belly and Golden Bell

Training in Internal Iron Shirt involves a number of methods, to an outsider; some may seem contradictory.

It is usually easier to flow Chi (Qi) through healthy muscle tissue, so weight training is used; not to build muscle bulk, but to tone the tissue. This type of training is not classical weight training in that the push is started in the Lower Dan Tien and moves to the arm or leg muscle. Normally, for most people, the only emphasis is in the contraction of only the immediate muscle between the joint that is moving.

Strenuous exercise is complimented with the stretches so as to minimize the effects of over pumping and stiff rigid muscles.

This integrates full body movement and energies so the body can respond flowingly and evenly to transmit combined power of all the parts involved.

Internal energy can be developed in many methods. For preliminary internal toning of the abdominal area and internal organ's area of the body, one may use hundreds of pushups, sit-ups and meditation. This brings the Qi flow to a high enough level to proceed to higher levels of Qi Gong, Internal Iron Shirt and Internal Iron Palm. Others methods attain a strong internal energy flow through months doing Grand or Small Circulation Qi Gong or Iron Shirt Qi Gong Massage and beating.

Using the techniques in the book
Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout , will strengthen internal energy so it is fit for combat, and use in everyday life. Qi will be used and felt like any other tool. This also lays the foundation for Iron Shirt, Cotton Belly, Golden Bell and Internal Iron Palm.

I have demonstrated Cotton Belly to many karate schools, weight lifters and boxers in California and Alaska, and no one can hurt my abdominal area with any combination of blows or kicks.

Internal Striking has been demonstrated by me likewise, by having a soft material such as a four inch thick phone book placed over a volunteer, who will feel the strike through the material. No one has asked for more force.

Before studying martial arts, as a young man, Grandmaster Joe Greenstein once was shot between the eyes with a .38 - .40 caliber revolver by a man jealous of his wife. He walked out of the hospital the same day. Joe became very interested in the powers of the mind, since he survived this shot at the ‘third eye’ used in Buddhist meditation.

Martial meditation can bring the body’s internal energy to a high level, so a basic background in meditation is presented along with specific martial consciousness concepts. …

Feeling Abdominal Qi


Place hands, with arms extended, in front of your Middle Dan Tien, palms facing inward, fingertips pointing up, then:

Move your palms 2-4 inches apart, adjusting according to feel.

This is analogous to setting the gap in a spark plug, or ignition point; and do the following exercises:
  1. move palms vertically up and down, 3-5 times: as if rubbing them,
  2. move palms in opposite circles 3-5 times, then change directions;
  3. slowly, evenly and gradually move palms:
    a) further apart, as if stretching cotton candy, then
    b) closer to each other, as if compressing air.

Pay close attention to the feeling between your hands. I suspect that then sensations might have something to do with one Qi’s properties; magnetic resonance.

Now lower your hands to the abdominal area.


Testing For Abdominal Qi

To be safe, place a four inch thick piece pliable material; such as a thick paperback phone book to a large city, over the abdominal area. Pliable material is used to avoid the kinetic transfer of energy associated with the billiard ball effect. This effect causes the momentum of the striking ball to be transferred to the struck ball, which is sent moving.

Get a trusted friend to hit you; first without stepping or moving their shoulders. Start with a small testing blow, then go to ¼ strength; then increment after that.

Do not: deflect, move, push back, jerk or react to the blow.

Have your friend watch to see that you do not tense your muscles.

Internal Iron Shirt Method

There are a number of methods for taking a blow:
1) flexing the muscles of the area to be hit
2) twisting the area targeted to deflect the martial trajectory and penetration
3) yielding to the blow and being moved back
4) using Chi in absorbing the strike (Cotton Belly) or resonating with it (Golden Bell).

The only method I have used and seen to protect oneself from multiple blows, from multiple directions, seen or not; is Internal Iron Shirt.

I have gone to Karate Schools, boxers, warehouseman, and weight lifters to let them try my internal Iron Shirt here in Juneau, Alaska. I will let them do flurries, but keep it confined to my stomach and abdominal area, kick and/or punches. Sometimes they miss and I have taken it in Solar Plexus without harm, by mistake.

I do not deflect, block or move, but might get forced backward as I absorbed the blow. In California I would get knocked across the room with Tae Kwon Do abdominal kicks without injury, and with current conditioning, no bruises.

Only the internal methods Iron Shirt (Cotton Belly and Golden Bell) are effective passively, with multiple strikes from different angles to different areas of the body!

© 2010 Greg Hayes,from Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout.



A student of the famed Chang Chao-tung on the mainland, Wang's Hsing-i and Pa-kua were orthodox, and machined to perfection. With his bulk, hands the size of small rosebushes, and his surprising speed, the goal of Hsing-i-to occupy the enemies territory-was adroitly done. The internal system stresses the cultivation of chi, deep breathing, and a drastically different approach to the mechanical aspects of fighting ... . like Shao-lin it has many advocates who can withstand with impunity a foot or fist to the midriff. Wang not only has this skill, but can actually use his vast stomach against one's fist on impact so as to produce a broken wrist. Throughout Asia he has been tested , and no one comes close to hurting him. Leading Japanese karate masters have bowed to him after failing on his punch.

But this alone cannot make a fighter. Frank "Cannonball" Richards, the carnival performer, and various other "marshmallow gut" types in the United States have the capability to take a stomach attack. Indeed, Harry Houdini died as a result of his inability with this feat. After ineffectually Wang's belly once, I asked if he could take a solar plexus strike. "Try it," he said. I did-several times, with no effect. But beyond this special skill Wang could do something beyond the ability of all the fighters I saw. He could take any kick to the lower extremities(excluding, of course the groin). I kicked him repeatedly on his knee, calf, and ankle until my feet ached, all with no effect.

" How do you do it?" I asked.

His answer: "Chi."

Such skills do not connote anything more than defensive ability. Coupled in Wang, these skills left an attacker only two targets, the head and groin, both very mobile and difficult to hit. But one still might properly ask, could he fight?

He could and did. He has spent much of his time in recent years in Japan and has fought several high-ranking karate men. No one has come close to defeating this seventy-year-old warrior. In the process he has come to a supreme depreciation of karate. He feels that the original forms borrowed from China have been distorted and that the nonsensical high kicks and vigorous body hardening avail nothing when confronted with real technique.

And technique he has. He uses Hsing-i fist with a corkscrew twist from one inch out with more effect than most men get form a full-stance strike. John Bluming, Dutch amateur judo champion and Mas Oyama's prize foreign karateka, even though he had hurt his wrist on Wang's stomach, disparaged him to me once when I was visiting Tokyo. "What else can he do?" asked John. I took John to Wang and asked that he be shown the corkscrew, but to keep it gentle. Wang put his relaxed fingers on Bluming's stomach, curled them into a fist and screwed. Bluming bent over in agony and has since been a believer.

Chinese Boxing, Masters and Methods, by Robert W. Smith, pages 72-74, published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1974, 1990

“Kuo Yun-Shen

Ta Mo developed a teaching to change the sinews and to wash the bone marrow. He believed that this would permit the body to return to its pre-natal state. In the Sung Dynasty [960-1279], Yue Fei added to Ta Mo’s doctrine that of changing the bones. The Five Fowl exercise and Eight Part exercise reflected these teachings. After concerted practice, the dispersed ch’i is concentrated at the navel, and all parts of the body are coordinated. This is called Little Heaven.

The next stage is concealed energy. It is free, relaxed, soft, and natural. However, do not be misled by the word soft. It is not soft like grass; rather, it is elastic. This stage deals with changing ch’i into spirit and concomitantly changing the sinews. It is called Big Heaven.”

Chinese Boxing, Masters and Methods, by Robert W. Smith, page 93, published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1974, 1990

At nineteen, Sun Lu Tang started to study with Kuo Yun-Shen.


An external medical description of a limb that has firmness, without muscular tension is called ‘muscle tone’. This allows for some ‘definition’ of the body’s non-skeletal areas.

Internal Iron Shirt allows the body to take physical blows without muscular contraction or movement. ‘Cotton Over Steel’ allows the arms and legs to move, and not be damaged or significantly move by an attackers force or blow.

This concept of ‘Cotton Over Steel’ at the highest level, is something that can be felt. I experienced this feeling of ‘Cotton Over Steel’ when I pushed with Grandmaster Wong Jack Man and the late Grandmaster Joseph Greenstein.

This feeling is similar to the feeling of rubbing Jadeite Jade which slides like silk, yet is as strong as steel. Jadeite Jade has internal properties, such as its feel of cotton over steel, and warms up with bodily contact; it is very Yang. Quartz feels cold, like glass; and Nephrite Jade feels greasy.


Footage of Cannonball Richards showed the enormous man take a cannonball right in his mighty abdominals, only staggering back a foot or two, followed by a piece called “Edge” in which STREB performers whammed themselves frontally against a wall of Plexiglas placed between them and the audience

From: Seattle Union Record
Foundations for building Internal Iron Shirt in the book
Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout
(click for more info)


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