1868 - 1910
Huo Yuanjia was born 1868 in Xiaonan Village in Jinghai County in Tianjin, and his family's primary source of income was from farming. The Huo family had a long tradition of being practitioners of traditional Wushu. Huo Yuanjia, however, was born weak and susceptible to illness (at an early age he contracted jaundice that would recur periodically for the rest of his life) so his father discouraged him from learning traditional Wushu.
Because of his physical deficiencies, Huo En Di wanted his son to pursue scholarly interests instead of learning traditional Wushu. In his later life, Huo Yuanjia became renowned for his humility and educated judgment. However pursuing scholarly interests was a great blow to his ego which was fueled from the constant bullying by younger children during his youth. His father hired a tutor from Japan, Chen Seng Ho (Chiang Ho), who in exchange for being taught his family style of martial arts Mizongyi, taught Yuanjia the values of humility and perseverance. Refusing to accept the vocation his father had chosen for him, Huo Yuanjia hid in bushes and even dug out a small hole in the wall of the training area and secretly observed his father teaching his family's style of martial arts. Each day he quietly sat and watched, and each night he went to a tree grove and practiced secretly with his tutor. This continued for about ten years.
In 1890, a martial artist by the name of Duo came from Henan Province to visit the Huo family. His manner provoked a trial of strength with the boxers of the family. After seeing a demonstration by Yuanjia's elder brother, he was goaded into a fight. Huo Yuanjia’s brother was beaten, but to the family's surprise Yuanjia himself got up and defeated his brother's opponent. His father then officially accepted him and taught his younger son all that he knew. His name started to spread and he soon began defeating neighboring practitioners in local contests. These bouts made Huo Yuanjia famous in his village and the neighboring areas.
Huo Yuanjia began working with his father as a guardian. While escorting a group of monks, they were confronted by a leader of bandits named Zhao who gave them a letter threatening the monks with an attack from his army. Unperturbed, Yuanjia met Zhao's challenge and defeated him, injuring both of the bandit’s arms in the process; his many troops dispersed. Word of this feat spread fast further adding to his growing fame.