Gu Ruzhang was born to a poor family in Guiling. His father, Gu Lizhi, was a master in Tam T'ui style and he owned an escort business. Gu Ruzhang started to learn martial arts when he was very young from his father and from Yan Jiwen in Shangdong Province, for more than ten years, Gu Ruzhang studied Northern Shaolin and Iron Palm.
After 18 years, everyone was famiar with the name Gu Ruzhang, and it was well known in three provinces. For twenty years, Gu Ruzhang went around China, and taught Northern Shaolin. He was an instructor for the Central Martial Arts School in Nanjing. In the National Examination in 1928, he placed in the top level. He went to Guangdong and Guangxi provinces to be one of the main instructors for the National Martial Arts Schools. When the schools closed, he went to Guangzhou and opened his own school. He named himself as the Chief Instructor. He taught Northern Shaolin to the Southern people. He was well known and was known to have the knowleged of all eighteen weapons (which is another way of saying that he is a master of the style.) People remember him for three famous feats. The first feat was that Gu Ruzhang would lie on the ground and have an automobile roll over his stomach. The second feat was having a sleg hammer break a brick over his head. And the last feat was the power of his Iron Palm. His nickname was "Iron Palm, Gu Ruzhang". His palms were very strong but yet appeared normal. There were no signs of callouses. The hands appeared to be soft, but they were very deadly. With a slow drop of his arm from shoulder height to waist level, striking a stack of ten bricks, all the bricks shattered excepted the top and bottom ones.
In 1931, a Russian man came to China to challenge the Chinese to a strength test. Gu Ruzhang and one of his students went to see the Russian. The Russian had a large wild horse and claimed to pay $200 dollars to anyone who can withstand the horse's kick. However, if anyone recieved any injuries, the Russian would not be responsible for any deaths caused by the horse. The student did not like what he heard and went to the Russian to discuss a challenge. When Gu Ruzhang name was mention, the Russian immediately refused to fight. The Russian had heard of Gu Ruzhangs' reputation and the people were saying Gu Ruzhang can kill the horse with one palm. The Russian did not feel comfortable about Gu Ruzhang.
Every movement that Gu Ruzhang did was very strong. Every technique that he performed can be used as an attack and protect at the same time. He was taught the ten Shaolin sets, Ten rows of Tam T'ui, Plum Blossom Double Sabres, Raise Blocking Spear, Twenty - four Spear, Dragon Shape Sword, Five Tigers Captures the Sheep Staff, Small Golden Bell, Fist and Weapon Sparring Sets which contains (methods of) attack and defend.
The people in southern China loved the Ten Shaolin sets and they practice hard with the sets. Gu Ruzhang never tired when he taught and he stressed that the basic skills of martial arts was the most important aspect of the art. He modified the training so that it was easier for everyone to learn the style. The method he used to teach made it easily adptable for the southerners bodies. As a result, the style was greatly loved by the people in southern China and many of them learn quickly. Some of the students became better than Gu Ruzhang himself. Gu Ruzhang had a likeable personality and he never demonstrated any favoritism. He treated everyone equally and he also never had any conflict with any of the other Sifus in the area. Gu Ruzhang had demonstrated his good intentions by sending his students to Tam Sam, who was a famous local Choy Li Fut instructor. In return, if any of Tam Sam's students wanted to learn from Gu Ruzhang, he would accept and treat them as if they were his own. He also had many martial arts books and would loan them to any of his students who would make copies.
In 1932, Gu Ruzhang went to Hebei province to become the head instructor of their school. After two years he returned to Guangzhou. In 1952, in Guangzhou, he died at the age of 58 years old. He died poor but left many students in southern China. Many students are in Guangdong province. Several generations after Gu Ruzhang, many of his disciples are still winning tournments. Today many people go to Guangzhou and Hong Kong, seeking disciples of Gu Ruzhang so that they can learn his Shaolin style.