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Yu was born in Jinjiang, Fujian to a military family and served as regional commander in five border areas of China. In addition to being a strategist, Yú was also a martial artist who specialized in a style of weapon fighting called Jingchu Changjian. General Yu studied martial arts in Shaolin Temple, and later wrote and compiled 正氣堂集 (Zheng Qi Tang Ji), "Compilation of Vital Energy". In his book, is a section called Jianjing ("Sword Classic" or "Sword Treatise") which later became its own martial arts manual.
Around 1560, Yú Dàyóu travelled to Shaolin Monastery to observe the monks' fighting techniques. As a result Yú returned to the south along with two monks, Zongqing and Pucong, whom he taught the use of the staff over the next three years. Zongqing and Pucong later returned to Shaolin Monastery and taught other monks what they had learned. Nineteenth-century martial arts expert Tang Hao traced the Shaolin staff style Wǔ Hǔ Lán (五虎攔; “Five Tigers Interception”) to Yú's teachings.
Yú Dàyóu was also the father of Yú Zīgou (俞咨臯), who became an admiral himself. Yú Zīgou defeated the Dutch in 1624 and forced them to retreated from the Pescadores to Formosa (Taiwan). In 1628 Yú was defeated by coastal pirate Zheng Zhilong, father of Koxinga.
- Shahar, Meir (December 2001). "Ming-Period Evidence of Shaolin Martial Practice". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2) 61 (2): 359–413. doi:10.2307/3558572. ISSN 0073-0548. JSTOR 3558572.
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