Gao Xian

Xian Gao is a multifaceted talent. Martial artist, kungfu movie star and teacher, he also has considerable cinematic experience as a choreographer and trainer. Master Gao Xian began studying kung fu at the age of 7, and has been teaching for more than 20 years in China and the United States.

He has won several national and international titles and has starred in more than 30 martial arts movies in China. Master Gao was chosen to train the stars of the acclaimed movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and also appeared in the movie. He owns Gao?s Kung Fu Academy, with three schools in New York City and surrounding suburbs.

Gao was born in Xian city, Shanxi province, China. He began to study martial arts as a youth. As the son of a party official, he had many teachers throughout his career.

Yu Tienpei was Gao?s first teacher. Master Yu specialized in Long Fist, Chaquan, Paoquan and Hongquan, as well as in animal styles. When he was younger, Gao was also drawn to Sanda (Chinese full contact fighting), and while under the tutelage of Yu, and his second teacher Zho Fuli, a graduate of the famous national Guoshu Institute, (the preeminent government school of martial arts in China in the 20?s ad 30?s), Gao began to compete as a sanda fighter.

After continuing his sanda studies with the national renowned teacher Ma Chenda, Gao placed second in the heavy weight division of the Shanxi open full-contact Championship, no easy feat in a province known for its Xingyiquan and other indigenous martial arts. Gao also studied Zuramen (?Natural Style?) and Liuhequan from Master Zho, as well as traditional weapons including broadsword, straight sword, staff, spear, 9-section whip chain and 3-section staff.

Gao excelled as a Sanda fighter, as he was over 6 feet tall with a long reach and quick reaction skills. Subsequently he was accepted at the Xian Sports Institute where he majored in martial arts. The ?Tixue? or ?Sports Institute? are provincial universities specializing in sports science and teaching. Master Gao later went on to get a Master?s degree in Physiology and sports conditioning, which would serve him later a martial arts actor, fight choreographer and director, all while continuing his traditional training outside the university.

While at Xian Tixue, Gao studied and competed in new Wushu and Sanshou under many famous masters that had been recruited by the government for the faculty. Gao won many modern Wushu competitions undoubtedly impressing the judges with his size, speed, gymnastic skills and athletic prowess. Perhaps because of his fighting experience and training in traditional martial arts, Gao continued to practice the old systems as he was impressed by their fighting applications and benefits for health and longevity. One of Gao?s main teachers at the Institute was Master Ma Chenda, a scion of a famous martial arts family and a former national fighting champion. Master Ma was famous for his skills in Bajiquan, Fanziquan, Tongbeiquan and Piguaquan.

Prior to his training with Ma, Gao had focused primarily in long fist and other hard external systems. Ma?s approach was somewhat different. He taught Gao the internal methods of each of these systems along with their techniques to evoke martial power. Gao particularly excelled at Tongbei, Pigua and Fanzi, as the continuous changing between low crouching and expansive open postures particularly suited his height and stature.

Ma?s approach was also somewhat different from what Gao has been previously taught. The suppleness of the body?s movements did not always require the spine to be erect, and Ma?s teaching methods were excellent to open the joints. The hand and weapons sets could also be practiced slowly combining softness and hardness, as well as rapidly and explosively.

After winning his national titles, Gao was appointed as a coach for the Shanxi provisional Wushu team. He was also named All-China Coach of the Year in 1984, as many of his students went on to win provincial and national championships. Part of Gao?s responsibilities as a coach and official was to judge at many of these competitions. During a masters demonstration Gao was approached by a film director who asked him if he was interested in acting in the movies. He always excelled at projecting his emotions and enthusiastically accepted the movie role.

Gao?s first acting role was in The Secret of Taijiquan in which he starred as a general, murdered by the Manchu leadership, whose sons go on to avenge their father?s death after learning Taijiquan. Gao?s movie career began to blossom and he acted and starred in over 30 movies and television productions. Subsequently, with his success, Gao left his full-time coaching job to pursue a career in films.

Despite his rising fame and recognition as an actor in China, Gao continued to teach, and produced many gifted students who went into film work as well as into the sports institutes, the police and security forces. Gao also spent time with Ma?s blessing, training the Chinese special forces and national police in Xian in hand to hand combat, between his movie roles. Due to his skills and screen presence, Gao began to get international offers to appear in overseas films, and decided to relocate to the U.S.A.

Ang Lee was impressed by Gao?s skill, artistic vision, and by his experience in the Chinese film production industry. Ang Lee realized that any real fighting, utilizing authentic, traditional kungfu was not particularly cinematic, as real fighting usually ends in a very short period of time. He still however, wished to present traditional kungfu in an artistically stylized setting and chose a Qing dynasty novel by Wang Dulin as a basis for his project. The result would be Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.