Historical Series Of Tian Tek Tai Chi
Part 1: The Origin Theories
The main forms of TCC practiced today all trace their origins back to the Chen Village in Wen County, Henan. It is only reasonable to begin our search for the origins of Taijiquan there and the early records from there and those that learnt the art from there.
The Earliest Reference To The Origin
The written works on Taijiquan were not from the Chen village or its members. The earliest being the Taijiquan Classic by Wang Tsung Yueh. The earliest verifiable manual on Taijiquan that we have is from Li I-Yu (1832-1892) who compiled the 3 manuals which are known as the `3 old manuals’ in Yung Nien today. Li learnt the art from his uncle Wu Yu Xiang who in turn learnt the major part of his art from Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the most popular Yang style of Taijiquan, and spent a month learning the `Xiao Jia’ or ‘Small Frame’ from Chen Ching Ping. In these old manuals he recorded the Taijiquan Classics, works of his uncle, those of Wang Tsung Yueh and his own writings on the art. In his `Brief Preface To Taijiquan’ he wrote that the creator of the art was Chang San Feng and that Wang Tsung Yueh was skilled in it and that it was later transmitted to the Chen village. Later, Li I Yu rewrote the first sentence of his Introduction to say that the founder was unknown. This could very well be due to a a differring origin theories in the post-Chen Ching Ping period. This is the earliest record we have on the origins of Taijiquan.
The Chang San Feng Theory
This is the theory of origins adopted by most of the major styles of Taijiquan and was first put forth by the Yang style. The Yang style traces its origins back to Chen Chang Xin who was taught by Jiang Fa who was in turn taught by Wang Tsung Yueh. Wang Tsung Yueh was supposed to be a student of Chang Sung Chi a noted practitioner of the Internal Boxing of the Wudang Temple. The Wudang Temple certainly exists and their Internal Boxing certainly existed and does share certain characteristics like controling the opponent with calmness. The creator of this Internal Boxing was Chang San Feng, a Taoist on Wudang Mountain. The Wudang martial arts bear little resemblance to the Taijiquan we have today even though they share some of the same characteristics.
The Wudang Temple is still exists and there are still Taoist sages managing the temple and they still teach Wudang martial arts there. It is interesting to note that there is a form called Wudang Taijiquan practiced there. Its postures bear little resemblance to the main styles practiced today even though it has many common characteristics, in terms of technique and principles, of the major styles. The last head of the Wudang Temple, Taoist Xu Ben Shan (1860-1932) was skilled in it and taught it to his disciples together with other Wudang arts. Xu spent most of his life in the Wudang Temple having entered the temple when young. It is unlikely that his art came from the outside since his life is quite well documented. But whether Wudang Taijiquan is the seminal form of all the others cannot be concluded since there is no firm link between the practitioners of the Wudang arts and Wang Tsung Yueh who is the earliest common personage of the the early styles of modern Taijiquan. But it should be noted that there are common theorems between the Wudang Internal Boxing and Taijiquan. and it is possible that Wudang Internal Boxing influenced Taijiquan though it should be considered a separate art.
Some have raised the question of Chang San Feng’s existence as there is much legendary material about him. He is recorded by reliable historical documents such as the ‘Ming History’ and ‘The Ningpo Chronicles’ which have no relation to martial arts literature as having existed and to have created Wudang Internal Boxing arts. This is in line with the beliefs held at the Wudang Temple itself and one can find much old material pertaining to Chang San Feng there. According to the available material, Chang lived at the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). There was a confusion of dates as the Emperor Yung Ler used searching for Chang as an excuse to send Yan Wang Chu in 1403 to scoure the country in search of his rival, the Emperor Jian Wen. Chang San Feng was widely regarded as a Taoist saint and Emperor Yung Ler knew that he had already died and so came up with the ruse. Historians who have tried to reconcile the misinformation of the Emperor Yung Le with the earlier records have either regarded Chang as a mid Ming Dynasty personage, possibly a different person from the Chang San Feng of recorded as living in the Yuan Dynasty or that Chang had lived for a very long time, beyond normal human life expectancy.
The Zhao Bao style of Taijiquan also traces their art back to Jiang Fa and Wang Tsung Yueh and ultimately to Chang San Feng. Gu Liu Xin, the noted Taijiquan historian, posits based on the writings of Chen Xin that Chen Ching Ping created the Zhao Bao style. Chen Ching Ping was a student of Chen You Pen who created the `new frame’ (xin jia) of Chen Taijiquan which was also known as the `high frame’ (gao jia) and `small frame’ (xiao jia). Chen Qing Ping was also recorded to be a student of the Zhao Bao Taijiquan master Zhang Yan. Wu Yu Xiang who learnt from Chen Ching Ping retained this high standing characteristic in the style he passed down.
The present Zhao Bao style is relatively low standing and is performed in a slow manner without fa-jing (strength emissions) except in kicks, in a manner common to the Yang and Wu Yu Xiang styles and those that developed from them.
This theory can not be reliably proven, all that we can ascertain is that the art came down from Wang Tsung Yueh and Jiang Fa to the Chen village and Zhao Bao villiage. It is unlikely that Chang developed Taijiquan as we see it today though he may have invented some of the principles that went into the art. The works attributed to him in the Taijiquan Classics are actually the works of Wang Tsung Yueh. This is evident in the handwritten manuals of Li I Yu.
The Chen Pu Theory
This was the theory put out by Chen Xin, the first to write a book on the Chen style of Taijiquan. He attributed the creation of the art to Chen Pu, this was echoed later by Chen Ji Pu in his later book on the art. Chen Xin records that Chen Pu taught his descendents a way to digest food, and Chen Xin claims this to be Taijiquan. Chen Pu’s grave has nothing to indicate that he was skilled in martial arts or to have created Taijiquan, a very significant piece of evidence since the Chen Family was famous for its boxing for genrations, gaining the name `Pao Chui Chen Family’. So this theory has been proven to be false.
The Chen Wang Ting Theory
This theory was first posited by Tang Hao. He based his theory on the side note in the Chen Family Manual (Chen Si Jia Pu) that Chen Wang Ting (1597-1664) was the creator of the Chen Fist, broadsword and spear arts, and on the assumption that the Chen family did not learn arts from outside the Chen family. According to the Annals Of Wen County, Chen Wang Ting served as an officer in Shantung Province from 1618 to 1621 and was officer in charge of the garrison at Wen County in 1641.
The theory was further elaborated upon by Gu Liu Xin, Tang Hao’s good friend. He brought in a poem attributed to Chen Wang Ting that stated that Chen Wang Ting `created boxing when bored’ and a Boxing Song Formula attributed to Chen Wang Ting as proof of the theory. Modern linguistic studies show that it should actually be translated as ‘no bored (free) time to create boxing’ instead.
We need to note that the references to boxing in the Chen Family are in the side notes and are not in the main text. Since the Chen family was famous for its boxing, it seems a gross ommission that such an important article of information as Chen Wang Ting creating the Chen family arts is not included in the main text but is in a side note. What more, the earliest published works by the Chen family on their art does not attribute the creation of the art to Chen Wang Ting. The last line of the Chen Family Manual says clearly that the side notes were the work of Chen Xin and so it is a recently added reference. Yet Chen Xin does not posit that Chen Wang Ting is the creator, but instead Chen Pu.
The Boxing Song Formula attributed to Chen Wang Ting is taken from the Liang Yi Tang Ben manual of Chen martial arts, it is also the only old manual that records a form called the 13 postures. Its content is an addition on to an old Chen martial art manual called the Wen Xiu Tang Ben which does not record any form called the 13 postures. So it is possible that the Liang Yi Tang Ben is a later manual with additions not found in the original Chen transmission. The poem attributed to Chen Wang Ting is found in the Liang Yi Tang Ben and there is no other evidence to authenticate it.
Another early Chen family writer is Chen Zhi Ming. It was he who accompanied Tang Hao and Gu Liu Xin on their trip down to Chen Jia Gou for investigations into the origins. His work is thus as important as theirs in terms of evidence for the early Chen arts. In his book on the Chen family arts he quotes from the old manuals and records old song formulas, many of which are revealing (see next chapter for more information)
Chen Xin also authored the Three Three Boxing Manual (San San Quan Pu) which uses Taiji Boxing theories to complement Hsing-I theories. It contains 3 of the 10 thesis of Hsing-I. Tang Hao also posited that Chen Wang Ting had used 29 out of the 32 boxing postures in General Qi Ji Kwang’s (1528-1587) book Ji Xiao Xin Shu. We shall examine this claim in detail in the next chapter.
From the above evidence, it is quite clear that the Chen family did probably learn and practice arts from outside the Chen village. Based on this, the theory of Chen Wang Ting creating Taijiquan cannot be supported.
The Four Old Schools Of Taijiquan In the Sung Manual: Sung's Taiji And Its Offshoots
The manual was first given to Wu Tu Nan by a friend of his in late 1908 or early 1909. Later when Sung Si Ming came to Beijing to teach Taijiquan, Wu had the opportunity to compare the manual he had with Sung Si Ming’s manual and they agreed in content. In the manual it lists four old schools of Taijiquan, namely Hsu, Yu, Cheng and Yin. The postures delinated in the manual have names similar to Yang Taiji and the form and sword form postures are almost identical to the Yang style, it is obvious that the Sung style of Taiji came from the Yang style so the historical data in the manual is suspect and cannot be regarded as factual.
That Jiang Fa Transmitted It To The Chen Village
The early sources all record the existance of this personage and that he was skilled in the art of Taijiquan. Zhao Bao style traces their lineage to him and even Chen Xin’s book ‘Chen Family Taijiquan Pictures And Sayings’ has a song formula of his which Jiang apparent got from his teacher from Shanxi (who would be Wang Tsung Yueh). So even in Chen Xin’s book, there is a reference to Jiang as being a teacher of the art.
This song formula in Chen Xin’s book comes down from Du Yu Wan, whom Wu Tu Nan had met during his investigative visit to the Chen Villiage. Du himself wrote a book which was published only once in 1935. The original handwritten manual has been traced to the Zhao Bao viliage though it has not been made public. It states that Jiang was the teacher of Du’s art and was taught by Wang. There is a chapter i Du’s book called ‘Wudang Taijiquan Beginnings’ indicates that Du considered his Taijiquan as coming from the Wu Dang school.
The Yang family tradition also records that it was Jiang who taught Chen Chang Xin the art. Wu Tu Nan’s book ‘Research On Taijiquan’ (1984) records his encounter with Chen Xin on the matter. Chen Xin admitted that Chen Chang Xin had learnt the art from Jiang Fa after Jiang had defeated Chen Chang Xin and that because of that, Chen Chang Xin was not allowed to teach Pao Chui.
The Chen Taijiquan proponents have also said that Jiang was a student of Chen Wang Ting, pointing to a painting of Chen Wang Ting and a man surnamed Jiang as proof of the matter. The painting needs to be dated to verify it as a early source but it doesn’t really need to be done because the name given the man is Jiang Pu and not Jiang Fa. This bit of information coming from Chen Xin’s book. This incorrect attribution has led to the placing of Jiang Fa as a Ming dynasty personage, affecting also the Zhao Bao dating. But the writings of Chen Xin indicate that Chen Wang Ting was a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) personage and Jiang Fa was a Ching Dynasty (1644-1911), Chien Loong Era (1716-1795) personage. So their assertion is baseless. Chen Xin emphasized the fact that Chen Wang Ting and Jiang Fa were from different eras because some in the Chen Villiage believed that Jiang Fa had taught Chen Wang Ting martial arts.
Given the evidence above of the nature of the early Chen family arts, Jiang Fa could indeed have been the person who `softened’ the existing art to the present day Taijiquan and input the 13 postures into the art. The 13 postures consists of the 8 different Jings and the Five directions of movement. It is interesting to note that the early Chen documents record different names for the 8 jings than the conventionally accepted ones which are in the Taijiquan Classics. (see next chapter)
Jiang Fa's Teacher: Wang Tsung Yueh
The song formula at the very back of Chen Xin’s book indicates that Jiang Fa’s teacher was from Shanxi, that would indicate Wang Tsung Yueh and the contents of the song formula is almost virtually identical to the Taijiquan Treatise (Taijiquan Lun) which is attributed to Wu Yu Xiang (this attribution originates from Tang Hao, who assumed because Wu Yu Xiang compiled the sayings on `Hitting Hands’ of which this was one section, that it was Wu Yu Xiang who wrote it. This is to differentiate it with Wang Tsung Yueh’s Taijiquan Classic of the same name). This would mean that Wu Yu Xiang did have access to Wang’s teachings and that the Chen family does acknowledge his existance and that he taught Jiang Fa. This would make the theory that Wu Yu Xiang inventing Wang’s personage improbable. Besides Wu did not hesitate to put his name on the other works he wrote which are a part of the Tajiquan Classics.
Zhao Bao also records him in their lineage and he is an important figure in the Yang lineage as well. The Taijiquan Classic of his is probably the most profound work on the nature and function of the art of Taijiquan.
Tang Hao and Gu Liu Xin have written that Wang had learnt his art from the Chen family but one must note that this is pure conjecture as there is no evidence to suggest that this is so. In documents pertaining to Wang’s life, there is no mention that he learnt his art from the Chen family.
Other than Wang’s manual discovered in the salt store, Tang Hao obtained in 1930 the Yin Fu Spear Manual written by Wang Tsung Yueh, the manual also contains the Taijiquan Classic. The preface of the Yin Fu Spear Manual states that in his old age, Wang was a school teacher with his own private school in Luoyang in 1791 and was also active in Kaifeng in 1795 and was still alive in 1796. The consensus of the early evidence does suggest that they all believe he existed and they do record his teachings. It is unlikely that he was was just a fictitious character invented by Wu Yu Xiang.
Part 2: The Martial Arts Practiced In The Chen Villiage
The Sung Tai Zhu Quan Connection
Tang Hao was the first to theorise that Chen Wang Ting invented Taijiquan by integrating 29 of the 32 postures of General Qi Ji Kwang. In chapter 3 we have already ascertained that Gu was wrong about the origins of Taijiquan, here we will see how the 32 postures of General Qi fits into the picture as a basis for the development of Chen Taijiquan.
General Qi was a general during the Ming dynasty who compiled a book on effective war techniques called the “New Book Recording Effective Techniques” (Ji Xiao Xin Shu). In it he had sections of strategy, weapons usage, unarmed combat and other aspects of war. In the section on unarmed combat he recorded the names of 16 extant empty hand martial arts and took note of what made effective boxing. He also recorded 32 boxing postures. Gu was the first to assume that these 32 postures were an amalgam of the most effective techniques of the 16 listed fistic forms. For many decades, this was the accepted truth because of his reputation as a Taijiquan historian. Unfortunately he was wrong.
Based on the above assumption, Gu had posited that Chen Wang Ting had developed his Taijiquan from General Qi’s form which supposedly consisted of the best techniques from the 16 extent fistic arts during the Ming dynasty. An impressive pedigree. With a closer examination of the postures and their listing we discover something else.
In 1918, the Shanghai Da Shen Bookshop published a book called the `Boxing Canon’ (Quan Jing) which was at that time one of the more complete books on the many aspects of boxing. Inside it was included drawings of the original 32 postures of Sung Tai Zhu Chang Quan (First Emperor Of Sung’s Long Boxing). Upon closer examination, it was discovered that these 32 postures were identical (there were some variant readings where similar sounding words were used in place of each other though without losing the meaning of the posture name) with the 32 postures in General Qi’s book. General Qi had listed the 32 postures of Sung Tai Zhu Quan as the first in the list of the many fistic forms he mentioned.
A parallel comparison of the drawings and names of the 32 postures shows that they are in fact identical. A posture listing of both sets are as follows:
The 32 Postures 1n General Qi's Book
1) Lazily Arranging Clothes
2) Golden Chicken Stands On One Leg
3) Pat Horse
4) Bending Single Whip
5) Seven Star Fist
6) Repulse Riding Dragon
7) Sweep Leg And Empty Bait
8) Hill Fairy Stance (qiu liu shi)
9) Repulse Thrusting Attack
10) Ambush Stance
11) Casting Away Stance
12) Pick Up Elbow Stance
13) Speedy Step
14) Chin Na Stance (Grappling Stance)
15) Middle Four Level Stance
16) Subduing Tiger Stance
17) High Four Level Stance
18) Repulse Insertion Stance
19) Well Blocking Four Levels
20) Ghost Kick Foot
21) Pointing At Pubic Region
22) Animal Head Stance
23) Spirit Fist
24) Single Whip
25) Sparrow Dragon On The Ground
26) Rising Sun Stance
27) Goose Wings Fold Body
28) Riding Tiger Stance
29) Bend Pheonix Elbow
30) Cannon Overhead
31) Follow Pheonix Eblow
32) Flag And Drum Stance
Sung Tai Zhu Chang Chuan's 32 Postures
1) Lazily Arranging Stance
2) Golden Chicken Stands On One Leg
3) Control Horse Stance
4) Bending Whip
5) Seven Star Fist
6) Repulse Riding Dragon Stance
7) Sweeping Foot And Lightly Empty
8) Hill Flowing Stance (qiu liu shi)
9) Repulse Thrusting Stance
10) Ambush Stance
11) Pulling Frame Stance
12) Bracing Eblow Upwards Stance
13) Escaping Step
14) Chin Na Stance (Grappling Stance)
15) Middle Four Level Stance
16) Subduing Tiger Stance
17) High Four Level Stance
18) Repulse Catching Stance
19) Well Blocking Stance
20) Ghost Kicking Stance
21) Pointing To Pubic Region
22) Animal Head Stance
23) Spirit Fist
24) Single Whip
25) Sparrow Dragon Stance
26) Rising Sun Stance
27) Wild Goose Wing Stance
28) Riding Tiger Stance
29) Bend Pheonix Stand
30) Over Head Stance
31) Follow Pheonix Stance
32) Flag And Drum Stance
What does this mean to Taijiquan? Chen Zhi Ming was the member of the Chen family who accompanied Tang Hao to the Chen village. He, like Gu and Tang also wrote about his family’s Taijiquan. Chen Zhi Ming work contains records the following about Sung Tai Zhu Quan:
`Tai Zhu stances are the strongest, tumbling and diagonal moving, even ghosts have to be busy to get out of the way’ from the Liang Yi Tang Ben manual of Chen martial arts.
`Seven star fist and hands take care of each other, Pat Horse Fist comes down from Tai Zhu’ from the Wen Xiu Tang Ben manual of Chen martial arts
From the above, which are the earliest sources of information about Chen family martial arts, it is clear that it was Sung Tai Zhu Quan that formed the basis of Taijiquan with 29 of its 32 postures adopted into the form, and did not come from General Qi’s work which has no mention in Chen literature. This inaccurate hypothesis having been originated by Tang Hao.
Sung Tai Zhu Quan or Sung Tai Zhu Chang Quan as it was also known, comes from the south of China and is a external hard boxing form. It is characterised by powerful strikes and movements, body shaking, being structurally aligned, postures flowing with coordinated footwork, being very firm and stable both in standing and stepping and is effective in grappling (chin-na). All of which are present in Chen Taijiquan today. Sung Tai Zhu Chang Quan was not the only art practiced and ultimately integrated into their unique family boxing routines, from Chen Zhi Ming’s record of the Chen arts song formulas, we know that Shaolin Red Fist was also practiced.
Shaolin Red Fist (Hong Chuan)
The Liang Yi Tang Ben records that the Chen Villiage practiced ‘four small sets of Red Fist’. The Red Fist boxing is a Shaolin form. Given the close proximity between the Chen Villiage and the Shaolin Temple, it is not surprising that this form of boxing would be practiced there. The Red Fist boxing is also widely practiced in Shanxi where it is several different and but related sets, Tai Zhu Quan being one of them. Stylistically, it stresses low postures, soft use of muscles, using the mind instead of strength, speedy emission of power, guarding the four directions, agility, using the Qi circularly, closing into the opponent and using sticking and leaning.
Shaolin Cannon Fist (Pao Chuan) And Cannon Pounding (Pao Chui)
Shaolin Cannon Boxing consists of 3 sets, 2 sets of Small Cannon Fist and one set of Big Cannon Pounding. All three stress offense, using strikes like the pounding of cannons. Firm stances and powerful, explosive blows characterise it. This set is still being practiced in the Shaolin Temple to this very day.
Postures in it that are similar to Chen Taijiquan include `Tornado Kick’ (Xuen Fung Jiao), and `Cannons In Series’ (Lien Huan Pao). The San Huang Pao Chui which is derived from the Shaolin art contains movements like `Dash Leftward’ (Zhuo Chong) and `Dash Rightward’ (Yu Chong) in it and would indicate that there is some relationship to the Pao Chui of the Chen family. The Chen family was famous for several generations for their Pao Chui (Cannon Pounding) boxing art and were known as the `Pao Chui Chen Family’ (Pao Chui Chen Jia).
Wu Dang Transmission?
Since the art was popularised there has been a widely accepted tradition among the non-Chen lineages that there was input from the Wu Dang arts into Taijiquan. So much so that Taijiquan is considered by many noted practitioners as a Wu Dang art.
The first to record Wu Dang’s Internal Boxing at length was Huang Bai Jia and later the art was transmitted to Kan Feng Chi. Fortunately, we still have a record of Kan’s art with us and it is still practiced. What has come down to us is the art which he combined both the Shaolin and the Wu Dang schools into a single art and he called it Hua Chuan (Flower Fist). If there is indeed a connection between the two arts, there should be some similar postures other than similar Taoist theories.
We do find similar postures but not similar to Chen Taijiquan but to Yang Taijiquan and its derivatives. Postures like Hitting Ears With Both Fists (Shuang Feng Kuan Er) complete with smashing the face onto the knee first, Playing The Lute (Shou Hui Pi Pa) with its characteristic elbow break on retreating, Cross Hands (Shi Zi Shou) with its cross hand block, Embrace Tiger And Carry Back To Mountain (Bao Hu Kui Shan), etc., are present in Kan’s form.
Other resemblance comes from the art of the other great Wudang Internal Boxing master Chang Sung Chi. His art consisted mainly of the `4 stable 8 methods‘, the 4 stable techniques denoting the four directions and the eight methods are which are eight different combat techniques with myrid changes. These methods have another interesting name of `Yin Yang Five Element Eight Triagram Taiji Hands’. Chang Sung Chi’s boxing theories include similar theorems and practices like sinking the qi to Huang Ting (Dan Tien), hollowing the chest and lifting the spine, listening to jing, using softness to neutralise an attack.
The postures are similar to those found in Yang Taijiquan and one can see the similarity in the two man sets in terms of technique. Indeed, even in an early Ta Lu interaction is there complete with the wrist grab (T’sai), arm lock/break (Lieh) and the attack to the face following it (Bi).
This would seem to bear out the Yang lineage’s assertion that at least part of the art taught to Yang by Chen Chang Xin had input from the Wu Dang lineage related to Kan Feng Chi, Chang Sung Chi and Huang Pai Jia.
It is indeed strange for Yang Lu Chan to have admitted learning from Chen Chang Xin and yet attribute at least part of the art as having come from outside the Chen villiage arts unless there was some element of the truth in it. What could be possibly gained from it unless he denied he studied from Chen Chang Xin, a member of the Chen family of the Chen Villiage. We know that the Chen family did study arts from outside their villiage, so input from the Wu Dang Internal Boxing lineage should not be so strange. And it would be in line with the song formula at the back of Chen Xin’s book which attributes transmission to Jiang Fa and Wang Tsung Yueh.
The Shaolin Pole Techniques
The Shaolin Temple is well known for its martial arts, in particular its fistic, broadsword and pole arts. Of the weapon arts of the Shaolin School, probably the most famous is its pole arts. It was the favoured weapon of the Shaolin Monks and they seldom left the temple without it in hand.
The song formula from Chen Zhi Ming’s book confirms that the pole techniques of the Chen family originated from the Shaolin Temple. The ‘Sitting Arhat Pole Formula’ has these lines: ‘Old Temple is the Shaolin Temple, the halls had 500 monks…if you want to know where this pole came from, Sitting Arhats transmitted it at Shaolin.’ Gu Liu Xin did a comparison between the Chen family pole techniques and the Shaolin Temple Pole techniques and concluded that they were indeed related, sharing the same theory, the same body, hand and foot methods. This is not surprising since the Chen Villiage is quite close to the Shaolin Temple.
The Yang Family 24 Flower Spear
The Yang family Flower Spear art was extent even in the Ming Dynasty and was recorded in General Qi Ji Kwang’s `Ji Xiao Xin Shu’ and consisted of 24 postures. We need to note here that this Yang family is no relation to Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan who was also famous for his spear techniques. The song formula recorded by Chen Zhi Ming in his book indicates that the original set of 24 techniques were practiced by the Chen family. The ’24 Spear Song Formula’ has this line: ‘If you ask this spear’s name and family: Yang family Flower Spear 24’. The spear used in this set is a relatively long one and its main emphasis is on thrusting techniques.
Training with the Short Stick (Pang)
One of the methods of training of Chen Taijiquan is to make use of a short stick or club held in both hands and using twisting motions to train in it. A similar exercise can be found in Kan Feng Chi’s training methods where the same thing is done.
We also have this method of training coming down from the training methods of Chang Sung Chi, the other great Wudang Internal Boxing master. This could indicate that at least part of the training methods used by the Chen family could have come from a Kan Feng Chi, Chang Sung Chi related lineage.
Hsing-I Quan Influence?
The `Three Three Boxing Manual’ written by Chen Xin contains three out of the ten thesis of Hsing-I Boxing as well as Taijiquan theories. This would indicate that some time in the history of Chen martial arts, Hsing-I Boxing was practiced. Whether the whole art was present is questionable since only three of the thesis are present.
Wu Tu Nan's Interview With Chen Xin And His Meeting With Chen Fa Ke
Wu Tu Nan visited the Chen Villiage in 1917. There were few educated people in the villiage at the time and he was directed to meet Chen Xin, this was before Chen Xin’s book was published. Chen Xin was very frank in his interview with Wu Tu Nan and gave him an account of how Taijiquan came to the Chen Villiage (see chapter 6 on Yang style historical development for details). He said that both Taijiquan and the indigenous Chen family Pao Chui was practiced in the villiage but that Taijiquan came down from Jiang Fa. He also introduced Wu to Du Yu Wan who practiced Taijiquan and who said his art came down from Jiang Fa who was of the Wudang lineage, Du’s subsequent book on Taijiquan in 1935 confirms this view and the authenticity and accuracy of Wu Tu Nan’s interview material.
Chen Xin had told Wu that he was writing a book on Taijiquan. Wu then asked Chen Xin whether he practiced Taijiquan. Chen Xin replied that his father had let his older brother learn martial arts but had made him get an education instead so he did not know any martial arts. Wu then asked how he was going to write a book on martial arts if he did not practice martial arts. Chen replied that Taijiquan is based on the Book of Changes and that he felt that as long as an art conformed to the Book of Changes it was Taijiquan. So he intended to use the boxing postures of Pao Chui and relate them to the Book of Changes and that his purpose of the book was to show how the Book of Changes was related even to martial arts, it was not his intention of writing a martial arts manual.
With this background information, Wu Tu Nan had asked Chen Fa Ke during a meeting around 1950 whether his art was Taijiquan, given that the definition of Taijiquan was that is was based on the 13 postures. Chen Fa Ke had replied that his art was not based on the 13 postures and so was not Taijiquan. The meeting was cordial and it was not confrontational.
Part 3: The Development Of Chen Taijiquan
The Chen Family Cannon Pounding Art (Pao Chui)
The Chen family assimilated all the arts they practiced and created their own version of the predominant art which they practiced, Cannnon Pounding (Pao Chui), derived from the original Shaolin Cannon Pounding art. Sung Tai Zhu Chang Chuan formed a major part of this new art and there were elements from Shaolin Red Fist in it.
What resulted is five routines of Chen family Pao Chui and one routine of `Short Hitting’ (duan da) and the song formula stated a total of a 108 postures consisting the art. There is much confusion over this particular song formula but on closer examination the correct name should be ‘Boxing Canon Complete Formula’ and is only found in the later Liang Yi Tang Ben manual. By the time the Wen Xiu Tang Ben Chen family martial arts manual was written it was noted that the `second and third routines are lost’. The Wen Xiu Tang Ben makes no reference to an art called Taijiquan or ’13 postures’ or 13 anything for that matter. So it is an early reference to the state of the Chen family arts before the advent of the Taijiquan of the Chen family that we know today.
The Chen family was famous for the Cannon Pounding art for several generations and gained the beautiful name of `Cannon Pounding Chen Family’ (Pao Chui Chen Jia) in the region around the Chen village.
The Simplification Of Chen Routines
Somewhere along the line the Chen Pao Chui art was simplified to just two routines. We have no evidence to indicated who was the one responsible for this simplification. The furthest that we can trace it back is to Chen Chang Xin, Yang Lu Chan’s teacher. But even the Chen family geneology book does not indicate that he was responsible for this momentous change, only indicating that he was a boxing teacher with a nickname `Ancestral Tablet’.
We know for certain that two of the routines were already lost by that time and so only the 3 remaining could account for the final two routines. Whether there was an integration or that another routine was lost through time resulting in the final two is not certain at all.
The Advent Of Internal Boxing In The Chen Arts
When did the Chen arts become a form of internal boxing as opposed to to their parental arts which were external boxing?
Most of the Taijiquan lineages regard Jiang Fa as the one providing the input that transformed the art from the external Cannon Pounding to the softer internal art. Some have also credited his input as the reason why the transformed art was called Taijiquan, a name reflecting a Taoist origin and also the classification of the art as an internal one. The name, however, was not widely used for the art until Yang Lu Chan popularised it in the capital city of Beijing. From the early writings, we know that the form was originally called the ’13 postures’ and by that time the name Taijiquan was already in use as evidenced by the Taijiquan Classic of Wang Tsung Yueh and the Ten Important Discourses Of Chen Chang Xin1.
The classification of martial arts into external and internal came about because of the new method of combat devised by Chang San Feng, a Taoist which resided in the Wu Dang Mountains. It stressed overcoming external techniques using calmness and appropriate action and from external form this martial art often looked weak in comparison with external styles but could defeat them easily.
Internal Boxing was passed down through the generations with noted practitioners like Chang Sung Chi, Huang Zhen Nan, Huang Pai Jia, Gan Feng Chi and Wang Tsung. Wu Dang Internal Boxing still exists at the place of its birth though it has been diversified into many different styles in the course of the centuries. But still present in its syllabus is a form called Wu Dang Taijiquan. This bears only a little resemblance to the popular Taijiquan of today but has common theories.
We know that the Chen family was famous for generations for their Pao Chui art which was a Shaolin form. It was only after Chen Chang Xin that the art was considered an internal one and specifically from the lineages stemming from Yang Lu Chan the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan.
According to Chen Xin, Chen Chang Xin learned part of his art from Jiang Fa. Chen Chang Xin had been practicing his boxing when Jiang Fa who was passing by saw him practicing and burst out laughing. Realising that he was observed Jiang Fa hurried away but Chen Chang Xin caught up with him and angrily challenged him as Jiang had slighted his Chen family art. Chen grabbed Jiang’s shoulder from behind, Jiang simply turne around and Chen was thrown out and lay on the floor. Realising the superiority of Jiang’s art Chen asked Jiang to be his master. Jiang who ran a Toufu shop in Xian was passing through villiage after visiting his mother in Honan. Jiang said that he would return after three years to teach Chen and he indeed returned at the appointed time after which Chen Chang Xin brought him home and learnt Taijiquan from him.
Chen Xin also said that because Chen Chang Xin had studied with Jiang Fa, the Chen family did not permit him to teach the family art of Pao Chui. This could very well explain why Chen Chang Xin held his classes in secret in the dead of night in the back courtyard of his home where Yang Lu Chan spied upon him.
Chen Xin also introduced to Wu Tu Nan another Taiji master from the Chen village called Du Yu Wan (the source for a song formula attributed to Jiang Fa’s teacher from Shanxi which is probably Wang Tsung Yueh. This is found at the back of Chen Xin’s book). According to Du, his art came down from Jiang Fa who was from Kaifeng in Honan and that his form and Yang Lu Chan’s form was the same, even bearing the same postural names like `Grasp Sparrow’s Tail’ and the same sequence. Du told him that his Taijiquan was not a family transmitted art but a teacher transmitted art. The previous generations of the art, that is the founder of his lineage, were present when Jiang Fa was teaching Chen Chang Xin and had also learnt the art from Jiang Fa. He then demonstrated his form to Wu Tu Nan and the form was the same as the Yang style of Taijiquan.
According to Chen Xin, Chen Chang Xin was very stiff in the upper body and was therefore nick named `Mr Ancestral Tablet’. When he was learning under Jiang Fa, Jiang made Chen practice some loosening exercises to rid him of his stiffness before teaching him Taijiquan. The rest of the Chen family continued in their practice of Pao Chui for which they were famous for.
The input from Jiang Fa, who traced his lineage back to Chang San Feng, which indicates that his art was Wu Dang Internal Boxing or at the very least derived from it, would mark the change of Chen family art from an external one to an internal one.
The earliest available literature on Taijiquan indicates that the art consisted of only 13 postures, the 8 Gates and Five Steps. We know that the 8 gates were 8 postures which represented 8 different types of Jing (refined strength). The Five Steps were the five different directions of their application. These were probably incorporated into the existing Pao Chui postures and the slow, relaxed, continuous and smooth manner of performing the form, the very element which made Internal Boxing look weak, was also incorporated. The result was a long form which had all the elements of Internal Boxing, a modified Pao Chui form which was a vehicle for Internal Boxing’s theories and practices. This would have been the art that was transmitted by Chen Chang Xin.
The Question Of The 13 Postures
The form was also known as the 13 postures since all the techniques within derived from the basic 13. This has always been standard in the Taijiquan Classics that have come down from the Wu Yu Xiang and Yang Lu Chan.
The Wen Xiu Tang Ben does not state the existance of the new form. The Liang Yi Tang Ben, a later manual does record it but calls it the 13 sections instead. Chen Xin’s book recorded the Xin Jia of the Chen Style of Taijiquan. The material he records is quite different from that which was gleaned from him from Wu Tu Nan.
We need to first recognise that Chen Xin’s book was published posthumously. He had 3 other collaborators who published the book after his death. How much of the book is attributable to him is a matter of uncertainty. The fact that the book was only published four years after his death would indicate that considerable editing could have taken place by his 3 collaborators.
The Yang related styles of Taijiquan all agree on the classication of the basis of the art which is the 13 postures. The postures of Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Tsai, Lieh, Chou, Kao, Gu, Pan, Jin, Tui and Ding. These are the postures delinated and referred to in the accepted Classic writings. In Liang Yi Tang Ben, the form is called not only the 13 postures but also 13 sections, a rather different classication which is carried on into Chen Xin’s book where the entire form is taught as consisting of 13 sections, each section having sub-postures. This other classication is ignored by Tang Hao and Gu Liu Xin in their writings.
The 13 postures actually consists of 8 basic postures and 5 movements. The 8 basic postures differ slightly in the early Chen style publications. The Liang Yi Tang Ben records the first four as Peng, Ji, Lou, Na and Chen Xin’s book records them as Peng, Lu, Ji, Na. Chen Tze Ming’s book has the same song formula as in Chen Xin’s book but here the first four are recorded as Peng, Shu, Ji, Na. The full 8 postures are named in Chen Tze Ming’s book as Peng, Shu, Ji, Na, Tsai, Lieh, Chou, Kao. It must be noted that the earlier manual, the Wen Xiu Tang Ben did not contain any boxing theory. It was only in the later Liang Yi Tang Ben that Taijiquan was first mentioned in the Chen family documents and that boxing theory was recorded.
Chen Taijiquan Today
The Lao Jia or Old Frame of Chen style Taijiquan was first promoted by Chen Fa Ke in the early half of this century. The Xin Jia or New Frame, Zhao Bao style and the Hu Lei style all retain close resemblance to each other in terms of how the postures are done. The Yang style, however, varies quite greatly from the other Chen related Taijiquan styles. Given that this was the style first taught by Yang Lu Chan when he returned from the Chen villiage, it would indicated that what he was taught may have differed from the standard Chen syllabus.
However, due to the ecumenical efforts of the current generation of masters, six major styles of Taijiquan are now officially recognised. They are the Chen, Yang, Wu Yu Xiang, Wu Chien Chuan, Sun and Zhao Bao styles. The Hu Lei style is also growing in popularity and may in time be considered a major style.
The 5 greatest promoters of the art today are Feng Zhi Chiang, Wang Xi An, Chen Zhen Lei and Chen Xiao Wang. Their efforts have spread the practice of Chen Taijiquan throughout the world and continue to serve as inspirations for those who practice it.
Part 4: The Development Of Yang Style Taijiquan
Taijiquan first became a noted martial art through the prowess and teachings of the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan. It was largely through the efforts of the first 3 generations of the Yang family that Taijiquan has such a large following in the world today. The Yang lineage also resulted in three of the five most important schools of Taijiquan today. To them the Taiji communities of today owes a great debt.
Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan learnt his art from Chen Chang Xin, a martial arts master from the Chen Village in Wen County, Henan. Chen Chang Xin was versed in his family martial art Pao Chui (Cannon Pounding) and was also a student of Jiang Fa whose master was Wang Tsung Yueh. From this lineage, the art was traced back to the Internal Boxing founded by Chang San Feng, a Taoist residing on Wu Dang Mountain, the founder of Wu Dang martial arts, second in popularity only to the Shaolin school.2
Yang Lu Chan's Teacher Chen Chang Xin
From noted Taiji master and historian Wu Tu Nan’s interview with Chen Xin, a noted Chen family martial artist and historian3. We learn that Chen Chang Xin was teaching his students when Jiang Fa was passing through the village, returning from a visit from his mother in Henan and on his way back to his Tofu store in Shanxi. He happened upon Chen Chang Xin and when he saw how he practiced, he could not help but laugh. Having revealed his presence, he hurried away. Chen Chang Xin took offence at the laughter and persued him, grabbing Jiang’s shoulder from behind. Jiang simply turned around and Chen was thrown to the ground. Realising that he had met a superior martial artist, Chen asked Jiang to accept him as a student. Jiang specified that he would return after three years to teach Chen and he did so.
Because Chen Chang Xin had studied under Jiang Fa, the seniors of the Chen villiage forebade Chen Chang Xin to teach the family art of Pao Chui which they had been famous for several generations, gaining the title `Pao Chui Chen Family’. This may very well be the reason why Chen Chang Xin held his classes at night in his back court yard.
So it would seem that Chen Chang Xin’s martial art would have been part Pao Chui and part Wu Dang Internal Boxing which would lend credence to the common belief first voiced by noted Taiji historian Hsu Chen that the Taijiquan we know today was Chen family Pao Chui softened by input from Jiang Fa4. From early Chen martial arts manuals we can see such a influence. The earlier Wen Xiu Tang Ben martial arts manual does not mention any form called ’13 postures’ or `Taijiquan’. The later Liang Yi Tang Ben is the first to mention the art but calls it in addition to ’13 postures’ also ’13 sections’.
How Yang Lu Chan Learnt The Art
There have been many variations of the storey of how Yang Lu Chan learnt his art from Chen Chang Xin. All are variations of the simple fact that Yang Lu Chan journeyed from Yung Nien southwards to the Chen villiage to eventually study with Chen Chang Xin. The most commonly accepted version is also one that is probably the most credible5.
We know that Yang Lu Chan was born poor, a son of a farmer. He loved martial arts and had studied Shaolin Hung Quan6 with a local boxer, building up a good martial arts foundation. One day as he was passing by the Tai He Tang owned by Chen De Hu, a member of the Chen family of the Chen family in Henan, he witnessed an encounter between a shop assistant (who was a member of the Chen family also) and an unruly customer. The customer attacked the shop assistant who dispatched him with ease, causing him to be knocked out the door of the shop. Yang Lu Chan had never seen such an effortless repost before and enquired after Chen De Hu, seeking instruction in this superior martial art.
Chen De Hu disavowed any great knowledge but offered to recommend him to Chen Chang Xin, a great martial arts master in the Chen village. As the Chen family were rather protective about their martial arts, only family members were taught at that time. Chen De Hu wrote a letter recommending Yang Lu Chan as a servant to work for the family so that Yang could learn their martial arts.
Yang travelled there and worked as a servant, earning his room and board and studied martial arts with Chen Chang Xin. As he was an outsider, Yang was not allowed to learn the Chen martial arts. As a servant he was instructed not to go into the back court yard for whatever reason. Yang felt that this was strange but thought nothing of it. One hot and humid night, Yang could not sleep. He got up and went for a walk to relieve the heat. As he walked about the house, he heard strange noises coming from the back court yard. Not able to go into the court yard, he went round the wall surrounding it and found a small hole in the wall, large enough for him to peer through and see what was happening.
He saw Chen Chang Xin instructing a group of students on martial arts and breathing techniques. Excited, Yang watched attentively and then proceeded to practice what he saw alone when he had the spare time. This went on for some time. As a servant Yang often mingled with the members of the Chen family and was treated as a part of the household. One day, some of Chen Chang Xin’s students were practicing and they made some mistakes, Yang corrected them without knowing that Chen was nearby watching. Chen was surprised that Yang knew his art and asked him to explain how he learnt it. Being honest, Yang told Chen how he had come to learn the art. Chen then asked Yang to demonstrate all that he had learnt. After Yang’s demonstration, he sighed that Yang, who did not receive formal instruction but learnt by watching, had learnt more than his students and agreed to accept Yang as a student.
After several years, Yang returned home where upon several local boxers wanted to test his skill since he had spent so much time studying at the Chen villiage. To Yang’s disappointment, he was defeated. Not disheartened, he returned for a second time to the Chen villiage to seek instruction. Chen Chang Xin, seeing Yang’s dedication, taught him more of the art. After several more years, Yang again returned to Yung Nien, again the local boxers wanted to test his skill. This time, though he was not defeated, he did not win easily either. Feeling that there was still room for improvement and that his skills still lacked perfection, Yang journeyed for the third time to the Chen villiage.
Chen Chang Xin was much impressed with Yang’s perserverance and resolved to hold nothing back and teach Yang the whole art. But before doing so, he wanted to test Yang one more time. When Yang came to seek instruction, Chen appeared to be asleep, Yang sat waiting patiently till late in the day when Chen appeared to awake, Chen asked him to return on the morrow, saying that he was too tired to teach him. When Yang arrived the next day, Chen again appeared to be sleeping and again the same thing happened. This went on for several days, on the last day, Chen still appeared to be sleeping but this time his head lolled uncomfortably to one side. Yang used both hands to support his teacher’s head so that he could sleep comfortably, and since Chen apparently slept the whole day, Yang held that tiring position until Chen awoke, Chen again asked Yang to return on the morrow. The next day when Yang arrived at the specified time, a wide awake Chen Chang Xin greeted him and begain teaching him the whole art. After 3 years, Chen told Yang that he had taught him all there was to learn and that he could return to his home town and that he no longer had any opponents who could defeat him.
Yang returned to Yung Nien where he taught martial arts for a living. So great was his skill that he was never defeated. His art was so soft and yielding that people called it `mien quan’ (cotton boxing) or `hua quan’ (neutralising boxing). In all his matches, he never hurt anyone. He also travelled widely, testing his skills and making friends with fellow boxers.
Years later, when Yang was in his middle age, he was recommended to teach in the Imperial Court by one of his students, Wu Yu Xiang (who later founded the Wu Yu Xiang form of Taiji Quan). In the Imperial Court he was tested many times but never defeated, earning the prestigeous title `Yang the Invincible’. He was the martial arts instructor for the Shen Ji Battalion and also taught in Royal Households. So sought after was he that he was also called `Ba Yeh’ (Eight Lords) because eight princes studied under him.
Yang Lu Chan had three sons, the oldest died early. Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jian Hou both studied under their illustrous father who was a harsh taskmaster. So severe was the training that Yang Ban Hou attempted suicide and Yang Jian Hou ran away several times and attempted to become a monk. Yang Ban Hou was an exceptional martial artist, second in skill only to his father. He also earned the title `Yang the Invincible’ for his great skill. Yang Jian Hou was not as gifted as his brother and did not attain as great a level of skill initially but later, through hard work, attained the highest levels of Taiji skill, blending hard and soft to a very high degree. Yang Lu Chan and his two sons all taught in the Imperial Court, their form was identical. Later on, there would be some changes in the form and these will be discussed later.
Taijiquan Gets Its Name
When Yang Lu Chan first taught the art in Yung Nien, his art was referred to as ‘Mien Quan’ or (Cotton Fist) or ‘Hua Quan’ (Neutralising Fist), it was not yet called Taijiquan. Whilst teaching at the Imperial Court, Yang met many challenges, some friendly some not. But he invariably won and in so convincingly using his soft techniques that he gained a great reputation.
Many who frequented the imperial households would come to view his matches. At one such gatherings at which Yang had won against several reputable opponents. The scholar Ong Tong He was present and was so impressed by the way Yang moved and executed his techniques and felt that his movements and techniques expressed the physical manifestation of the principles of Taiji (the philosophy) wrote for him a matching verse:
a chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heros.’
Thereafter, his art was referred to as Taijiquan and the styles that sprang from his teaching and by association with him was called Taijiquan.
Combat Or Health
Many have said that Yang Lu Chan softened the form to suit the unfit members of the imperial court, making the art easier and less effective, focusing on health aspects because guns were making martial arts obsolete. There is no proof beyond hearsay for this conjecture. Before Yang Lu Chan entered the imperial court, his boxing was already so soft and neutralising that it attained the name `mien quan’ and we have record of a bout where Yang’s skill was questioned because his form was so soft, a bout which he won7.
Being in the Imperial Court as a martial arts instructor, it was imperative to turn out students of high attainment. It was literally a matter of life and death since with withholding anything from the Royal family was considered treason. Rather than causing the Yang art to be diluted, it probably added alot more in terms of content due to the opportunity to meet and compare skills with other highly skilled martial artist in the imperial court at that time8.
The Old Yang Form
This is the form that was taught by Yang Lu Chan when he began teaching in Yung Nien. It is also the form taught by Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jian Hou initially. This form still exists today, as do several other older sets which were subsequently dropped because they added nothing to the content of the art, their essences having been incorporated into the large frame. These other sets are the Yang 13 Pao Chui set and the Lift Legs form. Though the latter could have come down to us as the Taiji Long Boxing Form.
Yang Lu Chan and his sons taught the small frame in the Imperial Court and taught the large frame outside it. The Small Frame is not an inferior set but a variation of the large frame to allow combat and practice to be performed in the long sleeved, long skirted imperial robes worn by members of the imperial court. This small frame comes down to us today primarily from Yang Ban Hou’s student Quan Yu9 and his son Wu Jian Quan.
The Old Yang Form was also called the `Six Routines’ and the ’13 Postures’. Six Routines because the long form was broken into six seperate routines and practiced as such until the skill attainment and endurance of the students reached a point that they could link all six together into one long routine and practice it as a whole. The Old Yang Form differs only on details with the standardised Yang Form of Yang Cheng Fu. One needs to note that Yang Cheng Fu himself did not standardise the form. Its just that he spread the form so widely that his method of doing the form became the accepted standard.
The Old Yang Form retains the ‘strength explosions’ (Fa-Jing) and jumping kicks (one only). We know that the sequence of the Old Yang Form and the standardised Yang Form is almost the same. From the old manual of Wu Yu Xiang also records a very similar sequence.
It is interesting to note that in this old manual the name `Grasp Sparrow’s Tail’ is used. This points to the fact that the name `Grasp Sparrow’s Tail’ was in use during the early days when Yang Lu Chan first started teaching in Yung Nien. In a later compilation by Li I Yu, the name of the posture is changed to `Lazily Arranging Clothes’ which would indicate a post-Chen Qing Ping date (Wu Yu Xiang travelled to seek out Chen Chang Xin but stayed instead in Zhao Bao Villiage to learn from Chen Ching Ping).
We also note that in the initial handwritten manual (1867) by Li I Yu, in his `Brief Introduction To Taijiquan’ he writes that the founder of Taijiquan was Chang San Feng. But in a later handwritten manual (1881), he amends his Introduction to say that the founder is unknown. This could also reflect a confusion of sources in after the death of Wu Yu Xiang and Yang Lu Chan.
The Later Yang Form
At a later period of time, both Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jian Hou changed their forms slightly and in the same way. We don’t know if the initiator of this slight modification is Yang Lu Chan, though its certainly possible. Some of the changes was the way the `Grasp Sparrow’s Tail’ postures were done and the removal of `Turn Body Double Lift Legs’ and replacing it with `Deflect Downwards, Parry And Punch’ and `Right Kick With Heel’10.
Versions of this form come down to us from Wu Meng Xia who is of the Yang Pan Hou lineage and Wang Yung Quan who is of the Yang Jian Hou lineage. Yang Cheng Fu himself taught this form which retains the strength explosions (Fa-Chin) before he went to Shanghai to teach in public classes.
Yang Cheng Fu's Later Form
Yang Cheng Fu was invited in 1925 by his student Chen Wei Ming to teach in Shanghai. It was there that Yang Cheng Fu began to teach public classes, prior to that it he had always taught in private classes only.
When Yang Cheng Fu began to teach in public classes he taught them from the basics. He removed the strength explosions (Fa-Chin) and replaced them with using qi to extend the limb instead. This is a basic practice which teaches one to bring qi to power the limb, only after this has been achieved can strength explosions (Fa-Chin) be done properly. He also smoothed out the form to emphasize flow, rootedness and relaxation which is primary to the art. Only after the flow, rootedness and relaxation are mastered can changes in speed take place without losing these qualities. These speed changes are evident in Yang Chen Fu’s Taiji Long Boxing as well as Yang Shao Hou’s small frame.
Other than a few minor variations, his form remained much the same as the Later Yang Form. Yang Cheng Fu travelled extensively throughout China promoting his art. Taijiquan was already well known at that time as a combat art with great curative powers11. Its mode of practice enabled both old and infirmed to take up the art to better their health. Yang Cheng Fu himself was undefeated and was a great boxer, his reputation and ability caused the art to spread far and wide and made it what it is today: the most popular form of Taijiquan in the world.
The great popularity of his form and the huge numbers of people who took it up caused it to become the standard form for Yang Taijiquan. There are those who still practiced the older forms but Yang Cheng Fu’s form became the hallmark of the style. Yang Cheng Fu taught and promoted his art as a combat art. There is little evidence other than conjecture that he promoted his art solely as a health art. Both his books12 focus on the art as a combat art and his writings all dealt with the practice towards achieving a combative goal. In practicing the art as a combat art, one gained the health benefits as well, both aspects of the art being inseparable.
Yang Cheng Fu's Advanced Set: Taiji Long Boxing
In addition to the large frame, Yang Cheng Fu also taught an advanced set to be practiced after a high enough level of attainment was reached practicing the large frame. When Yang Cheng Fu began to teach public classes, he dropped this from his public syllabus because this advanced set should only be practiced after learning the large frame. This advanced set was called Taiji Long Boxing. It consisted of 59 postures and is considerably more mobile than the large frame and includes strength explosions (Fa-Chin) as well.
Many advanced combat concepts and practices are incorporated and emphasized in this form. Because its relatively short compared to the large frame, some masters have added additional postures, sometimes resulting in as many as 150 postures. This set is relatively rare today, only a relatively small number of exponents know the form and practice it. Yang Shou Chung, Yang Cheng Fu’s oldest son taught this form in Hong Kong where he resided, his daughters and advanced students continue to carry on the tradition of teaching this advanced set to worthy students.
Yang Shao Hou's Small Frame Advanced Combat Set
Yang Shao Hou was also invited by Chen Wei Ming to Shanghai to teach at his Zhi Rou Association. Yang Shao Hou taught the large frame during public classes and his large frame was the same as that of his younger brother Yang Cheng Fu.
Later, he began to teach privately in the homes of students who have already learnt the large frame or Wu Chien Chuan’s small frame. In these private advanced classes he would teach an advanced combat set which was later to be referred to as Yang Shao Hou’s Small Frame. He began to teach and practice this set exclusively.
Yang Shao Hou was known to be very combat capable. He had been given to his uncle Yang Pan Hou as a foster son and had gained his uncle’s skill and his temprament. He had also studied with his father and most probably had instruction from his grandfather Yang Lu Chan as well. His advanced Taiji skills included vital striking, bone locking, bone hitting, sinew splitting, control and blocking blood vessels and psychological attack. Those who watched him were in awe of his abilities and aspired to gain them but few could take his harsh training. It is because of this that he only had a handful of students.
His small frame form was also called the `usage frame’ and according to Wu Tu Nan who studied with Yang Shao Hou, this set was created by Yang Lu Chan as a distillation of the essence of Taijiquan. It has elements of both the Old Yang Form and the Small Frame taught by Yang Lu Chan and Yang Pan Hou. Consisting of 73 postures which totals over 200 movements, the form is done very quickly, striving to do the entire set within 2-3 minutes. Even at this great speed the fundamental principles of proper alignment, rootedness, relaxation, continuity of movement, calmness and coordination are not lost. This set can only be properly learnt after mastery of the large frame and its principles.
In order to increase the endurance, strengthen the musculature further and foster proper alignment and root, Yang Shao Hou often made his students practice their postures under a kind of high table which was commonly used in the kitchen for the preparation of food.
Yang Taijiquan Today
It is from Yang Taijiquan that the majority of styles of Taijiquan have developed. Yang Taijiquan continues to be the major style of Taijiquan to be practiced in the world. Sadly, however, many have come to regard it as diluted and devoid of its original martial content. Wang Zhen Nan, a great Internal Boxing expert, once lamented that Internal Boxing was dying out because it did not look strong and some of its practitioners were infusing external techniques into it to make it appear more credible. Fortunately, Taijiquan has had great masters to show that is credible both as a martial art and as a health art.
Yang Taijiquan has not changed all that much since its foundation by Yang Lu Chan, only minor changes have been made to the way its been practiced and its main practice set. Its syllabus is still practiced and still bringing benefits to all who practice it. The Yang family still continues to promote their art vigourously and new generations of teachers are being trained to carry on this glorious tradition.
Part 5: The Development Of Wu Yu Xiang Style Taijiquan
The founder of this form of Taijiquan was Wu Yu Xiang (1812-1880) who was a native of Yung Nien, the home County of Yang-style founder, Yang Lu Chan. Wu Yu Xiang had two brothers, Wu Deng Qing (1800-1884) and Wu Ru Qing. Both brothers were officials in the Qing government. Wu Deng Qing was the magistrate of Wu Yang, a County in Henan Province, and Wu Ru Qing was a secretary in the Penalties Department under his older brother.
All three of the brothers were very interested in martial arts, having initially learned martial arts from their father. The main art learned was Shaolin Hung Boxing thus they had a good foundation in martial arts. When Yang Lu Chan started teaching Taijiquan at Yung Nien, the Wu brothers went to watch him. All three brothers were enthralled by Yang Lu Chan’s skills and began studying under him. Wu Yu Xiang also became a tutor to Yang Lu Chan’s sons, teaching them reading and writing13.
Later, Wu Yu Xiang went to seek out Yang Lu Chan’s teacher Chen Chang Xin to further his skills, but instead ended up learning from Chen Qing Ping at the Zhao Bao village. (see later section on why he did so) Wu Yu Xiang had few pupils and his art was made famous mostly through the efforts of the Hao family who learned Wu Yu Xiang’s Style of Taijiquan from his nephew, Li I Yu. Indeed, occasionally this style of Taijiquan is referred to as Hao style. Li I Yu is a important early recorder of Taiji material and his works are important references in any study on the origins and historical development of Taijiquan. Today, Wu Yu Xiang’s Taijiquan is one of the major styles practiced though it is still relatively unknown in the West.
Wu Yu Xiang's Teacher Yang Lu Chan
Wu Yu Xiang’s family owned the building which housed the Tai He Tang drug store run by the Chen family of Chen Jia Gou. It was there, many years before, that Yang Lu Chan had witnessed a scene, which led him to the Chen village to study under Chen Chang Xin. Yang Lu Chan also taught martial arts at the Tai He Tang after he returned from the Chen village following many years of study.
The Wu brothers on seeing Yang’s consummate skill, went to study under him and learned what is now called the old Yang style of Taijiquan (see the later section on Wu Yu Xiang’s early form). The Wu brothers also studied the Broadsword and the Long Staff/Spear under Yang Lu Chan.14
In an effort to better his skills, Wu Yu Xiang decided to travel to the Chen Village in 1852 to seek out Yang Lu Chan’s teacher Chen Chang Xin. On the way there, he stayed at an inn in the Zhao Bao Village. There he spoke to the inn-keeper about his desire to go to the Chen Village to further his skills. The inn-keeper, desiring to earn more of Wu’s money, sought to keep him in Zhao Bao Village telling him that Chen Chang Xin was old and sick (he eventually died the following year) and did not teach anymore, but that a highly skilled member of the Chen family was teaching martial arts in the Zhao Bao Village. That teacher was none other than Chen Qing Ping.
Wu Yu Xiang's Other Teacher Chen Qing Ping
Chen Qing Ping is recorded in Chen Xin’s Chen Family Manual as being a student of Chen Yu Ben, who created the New Style of Chen Taijiquan. The style taught by Chen Qing Ping was also known as the Gao Jia or High Frame. The Zhao Bao Village records show that Chen Qing Ping also received instruction from Zhang Yan whose art had come down from Jiang Fa. So whether or not Chen Qing Ping founded Zhao Bao Taijiquan is in dispute with the Chen family claiming that he did and the Zhao Bao lineages claiming that he didn’t. The postures of the Zhao Bao Village form does show resemblance to the Chen Taiji form, but the way the postures are executed has more of the flavor of other Taiji lineages.
Based on the inn keeper’s information about Chen Chang Xin’s health and Chen Qing Ping’s skill, Wu Yu Xiang approached Chen Qing Ping and studied under him for forty days, gaining a new understanding of the art. When he returned he modified his form to include skills he learned from his second teacher, as well as with the ideas found in Wang Tsung Yueh’s Taijiquan Classic, which his brother had discovered in a salt store. (See later section about Wu Yu Xiang’s later form)
Wu Yu Xiang And The Taijiquan Classics
Wu Yu Xiang’s brother, Deng Qing, discovered Wang Tsung Yueh’s Taijiquan Classic in a salt store in the province he was governing. We can speculate that his subordinates knew of his love for Taijiquan and brought the manuscript to him when it was discovered.
Wu Deng Qing forwarded a copy of the Classic to Wu Yu Xiang, who found it inspiring and wrote several thesis based on the principles in Wang Tsung Yueh’s work for his students. In total, there are three works attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh, the Taijiquan Classic, the 13 Postures and the Taijiquan Discourse.
It should be noted that some people suggest that Wu Yu Xiang authored the works that are attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh. The author notes, however, that the Taijiquan Discourse has text that is almost identical to the song formula handed down by Du Yu Wan which is recorded at the back of Chen Xin’s book. That song formula is also attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh in Chen Xin’s book. The author also notes that Wu Yu Xiang did not hesitate to put his name on the works he wrote, notably, the Song Formula of Methods of Use for the Thirteen Postures (Shi San Shih Xing Gong Ke Jue) and Important Words On Hitting Hands (Da Shou Yao Yan). These works and other writings by Wang Tsung Yueh, as well as notes on his early and later forms, were recorded in several handwritten manuals written by Wu Yu Xiang’s nephew Li I Yu. On balance, the author considers this as convincing evidence that Wu Yu Xiang did indeed get access to Wang Tsung Yueh’s authentic work.
Li I Yu's Scholarly Contributions
Li I Yu (1832-1892) learned the art of Taijiquan from his uncle Wu Yu Xiang, and was one of the great recorders of the writings and content of the art. He left behind several handwritten manuals on the art including the three old manuals of Yung Nien County.
In addition to recording the classic writings of Wang Tsung Yueh and his uncle Wu Yu Xiang, Li also wrote some important works on the art. These were also included in his manuals. Li I Yu’s compilation of song formulas and classic writings form the basis of what are now known as the Taijiquan Classics. These Classics catalog the Taijiquan’s principles and their application.
Li I Yu passed down the art to Hao Wei Chen (1849-1920) and the Hao family continues to this day to popularize it. Descendants of both Li and Wu Yu Xiang are still around today and continue to practice this form of Taijiquan.
Wu Yu Xiang's Early Form
From the manuals of Li I Yu, we have on record the early form that Wu Yu Xiang practiced. It is almost exactly the same as the old Yang form and retains the characteristic names of the postures like Grasp Sparrows Tail. This indicates that what Yang Lu Chan taught was not the Old Chen style, but his style which he attributed to Chen Chang Xin.
By deduction, we calculate that Wu Yu Xiang would have started studying with Yang Lu Chan in 1849, since Yang left for the Chen village at 10 years of age and spent 30 years studying with Chen Chang Xin. We also know that Wu Yu Xiang trained with Chen Qing Ping for 40 days while in 1852, the same year in which he obtained a copy of Wang Tsung Yueh’s writings. Since Li I Yu began studying with Wu Yu Xiang in 1853, we can conclude that the initial form Li I Yu recorded was essentially the old Yang form with which Wu was most familiar. Only later did Wu Yu Xiang modify his form to a small frame sequence that is recorded in a later manual by Li I Yu.
Yang Ban Hou lived from 1837 to 1892, which would indicate that he was already a teenager and was already skilled at Taijiquan when Wu Yu Xiang went to study with Chen Qing Ping. We know that Wu Yu Xiang tutored Pan Hou when he was studying with Yang Lu Chan from various sources like Zhao Bin and Gu Liu Xin. We don’t know, however, if he continued to tutor Ban Hou after he trained with Chen Qing Ping.
While some assert that the Yang Small Frame was due to influence from the Wu Yu Xiang, at this point we must consider this as conjecture. The Yang Small Frame which comes down to us from Wu Chien Quan has little resemblance to Wu Yu Xiang’s small frame and the primary reason for the origin of that form was the Imperial Court Dress which hampered movement. We note that Yang Pan Hou’s training regime, which is still taught in Yung Nien, included training in three heights and in four frames, one of which is a small frame, the form did not change but the way it was done changed. Consequently we refer to Yang Ban Hou’s form and that of his brother and father (they taught together and so their forms should have been relatively alike) as the old Yang form. It is unlikely that Wu Yu Xiang’s small frame had influenced Yang Ban Hou’s form whilst Pan Hou was studying with his father.
Wu Yu Xiang's Final Form
Wu Yu Xiang modified his form to incorporate the information from both his teachers and the Taijiquan classic writings. His modified later form differed from that of both his teachers and is characterized by compact, rounded, precise, and high standing postures. The basic structure of the form was based on the Yang sequence with a change of name for the posture Grasp Sparrow’s Tail to Lazily Arranging Clothes was done later after Wu’s death. The postures themselves were modified.
The Thirteen Torso Methods are the keys to power development in Wu Yu Xiang’s Taijiquan and there is emphasis on rising, falling, opening and closing. The form’s movements are simple and circular with each movement expressing aspects of the 8 basic postures of Taijiquan (peng, lu, chi, an, tsai, lieh, chou, kao), .
Wu Yu Xiang taught few students and we know of only one significant one, his nephew Li I Yu. Li I Yu did not teach widely and only taught a few students, notably Hao Wei Chen who was also a native of Yung Nien County.
Hao Wei Chen and his descendents did the most to promote Wu Yu Xiang’s Taijiquan, making it one of the major styles today. Hao taught his son Hao Yue Ru who in turn taught his son Hao Shao Ru who was the recent master of the form. The form itself was not pictorially recorded until Hao Shao Ru’s book which remains today the standard text for this style of Taijiquan.
Hao Yue Ru's Modification
Wu Yu Xiang’s form originally retained the energetic slapping of toes and jump kick, as well as quick movements interspersed with slower ones, which were characteristics that the old Yang form has as well.
Hao Yue Ru inherited his art from his father Hao Wei Zhen who in turn learned it from Li I Yu. Hao Yue Ru was a professional martial arts teacher and in order to cater for mass instruction covering a wide age range, he taught the form devoid of these jumps and strength explosions to enable the basics to be better grasped when the form was taught to a large class. The slow even movements was a basic method of practice and the Hao Style then used a fast form which retained the elements of the original.
This is the form that is practiced extensively today. Some have termed this form “Hao style Taijiquan” to differentiate it from the other Wu Yu Xiang lineages which retain the old characteristics both in the normal sequence and the fast form.
Wu Yu Xiang Taijiquan Spawns Sun Taijiquan
When Hao Wei Chen was visiting Beijing, he fell sick. Sun Lu Tang happened to hear of it and went to see him. Sun Lu Tang, already an accomplished Hsing I and Pa Kua master, had heard of Hao’s boxing prowess, but did not know which type of boxing he practiced. Sun attended to Hao and took care of him until he recovered from his illness. In gratitude, Hao taught Sun Lu Tang his Taijiquan. Later Sun Lu Tang incorporated elements from Hsing-I and Pa Kua into his Taijiquan and developed a new version which was later termed Sun style Taijiquan. Apparently he felt that Taijiquan was the style that best suited him and he taught little else in his later years. (more information in a later document on Sun style Taijiquan)
Wu Yu Xiang's Taijiquan Today
Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan is one of the five major styles but is still relatively unknown and seldom practiced outside China. The most popular form of this style is the one promoted by the Hao family. Its popularity is increasing as China opens up and more and more people learn this style of Taijiquan.
With its high standing postures, it appeals to those who regard the lower standing styles as being hard on the knees. Like the other styles of Taijiquan, it continues to bring health and self defense skills to those who practice it.
Part 6: The Development Of Wu Jian Quan Style
Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan is second in popularity only after the Yang style of Taijiquan. It is in fact representative of the Yang style Small Frame which was developed and taught by Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang style, for the students in the Imperial Court.
The founder of Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan is Wu Jian Quan’s father Quan Yu (1834-1902). Quan Yu was one of Yang Lu Chan’s top students and was said to have gained his master’s skill in evasive techniques. He worked as a bodyguard in the Imperial Court and was Manchurian by race. Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942) did the most to popularise this style of Taijiquan and the style is named after him. Because of his efforts, many people came to learn this style of Taijiquan and his form soon became the accepted standard for this style.
The Yang Style Small Frame Of Quan Yu
When Yang Lu Chan began teaching in the Imperial Court through the recommendation of Wu Yu Xiang’s brother. He encountered conditions which merited a modification to the form he normally taught. The Imperial Court Dress had long sleeves and long robes which made certain movements awkward, these factors had to be taken into account in order for the art to be used effectively for combat in such clothes.
What resulted was the Yang style Small Frame. This is primarily a modification of the Old Yang Form to take into account these factors. It was smaller in terms of movements and its postures allowed combat in the restrictive clothes of the Imperial Court. The Yang Small Frame comes down to us also from Gong Tian Ren who was also a student of Yang Lu Chan in the Imperial Court. It agrees substantially with the early Wu Jian Quan style set.
Because the Yang Small Frame was different from the Old Yang Form that Yang Lu Chan taught before he was in the Imperial Court and at his private classes. There arose a misunderstanding that he taught a watered down `Manchurian’ directed form in the Imperial Court and a secret `Han’ form to his family and close students.15 This was not the case, his family knew the Small Frame and taught it as well and some of the Imperial Court members like Wang Lan Ting who practiced outside with him also practiced the Old Yang Form. Other than the postural modifications to take into account the dressing differences, the art remained essentially the same.
The Three Major Lineages From Quan Yu
Quan Yu taught many disciples his art and three main streams come down to us from him. Wang Mao Zhai (1862-1940) who taught the famous Wu Jian Quan style master Yang Yu Ting (1887-1982), Chang Yun Ting (1860-1918) and his own son Wu Jian Quan.
From these three lineages come the modern masters of Wu Jian Quan Style Taijiquan, like Mah Yueh Liang, Wu Ying Hwa, Wu Kong Yi, Wu Kong Zhao, Eddie Wu, Wang Pei Sheng, Ma You Qing, Chang Yun Jia and many others who carry on the task of promoting the art.
Quan Yu is recorded as a disciple of Yang Ban Hou and indeed he had trained under Yang Ban Hou as Yang Ban Hou would assist his father in teaching the classes. But he was primarily a student of Yang Lu Chan. One must understand the importance of status in the Imperial Court. Yang Lu Chan instructed not only soldiers and bodyguards but also taught the Imperial household, the princes of the realm themselves. It would be unseemly that the princes would have boxing brothers with commoners, an in terms of boxing seniority, these commoners were sometimes boxing seniors to the princes. So these non-royalty students were made to bow to Yang Ban Hou as master. This would ensure that they were at least one generation below, in terms of boxing rank, from the royal princes.
When Yang Lu Chan left the Imperial Court to retire in his old age.16 Quan Yu also left the Imperial Court and lived in Beijing and taught his art to many students. He attained a great reputation as a boxer and produced many fine students.
The Family Takes On The Wu Name
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, in order to integrate into the predominant Han population, Quan Yu adopted a Han surname Wu for his family. Thus in some references he is referred to simply as Quan Yu and some refer to him as Wu Quan Yu. The Manchus were not well regarded by the Han people because they were the foreign ruling race which had conquered the Han ruled Ming Dynasty. The move to integrate into the Han race was important during that period of time when hatred against the ruling non-Han races was a very real thing.
The style was not taught publicly until Xu Yu Sheng, Yang Jian Hou’s disciple established his association in Beijing and invited Wu Jian Quan to teach there. Quan Yu taught his son martial arts from a young age and Wu Jian Quan grew up an accomplished martial artist skilled in more than just Taijiquan.
The Great Master Of The Style Wu Jian Quan
Wu Jian Quan was born into a martial arts family. His father had earned his living as a bodyguard in the Imperial Court. This meant that his father was a professional martial artist whose skills were his means of livelyhood. So martial arts was very much the `family trade’. His father had trained under the great Yang Lu Chan, founder of the Yang style, and also under Yang Ban Hou, Yang Lu Chan’s son. The form practiced by Quan Yu was the Yang style Small Frame but way back then, the division into the major styles had not yet taken place and the art was simply known as the small frame of Yang Lu Chan.
Wu Jian Quan achieved a very high level of skill in the art of Taijiquan and was also an accomplished archer and equestrian. He also practiced with members of the Yang family and maintained a close relationship with them. He and Yang Cheng Fu would practice Push Hands together and Wu Jian Quan used to call him `Third Uncle’ because in terms of lineage generations, Yang Cheng Fu was his senior by one generation. In fact, before the Wu Jian Quan style became considered as an independent style, there was no differentiation between the two families. This close association and non-distinction between these two great Taiji styles can be seen by Wu Jian Quan’s sending his son, Wu Kong Yi, to study under Yang Shao Hou.
The Wu Jian Quan Transmission Becomes An Independent Style
There is an interesting story on how the Yang Small Frame practiced by the Wu family became an independent style. The relationship between both families was a close one and it was never the intention for the two families to form independent styles of Taijiquan. This division occured when both Wu Jian Quan, Yang Cheng Fu and Yang Shao Hou were teaching in Chen Wei Ming’s Zhi Rou Association in Shanghai.
The Secretary General of the association at the time, who was also a government official, was Chu Ming Yi. Chu initially studied under Yang Cheng Fu. During some Push Hands demonstrations which he did with Yang Cheng Fu, he had expected Yang to give him `face’ because of his position as Secretary General and to allow him to appear skillful during the demonstration. Yang, however, regarded people by skill and not status and unceremoniously bounced him out repeatedly a great distance.
Feeling insulted by this incident, he changed from studying from Yang Cheng Fu to studying under Wu Jian Quan. Because of this he promoted Wu Jian Quan and his Taijiquan vigourously whilst not promoting Yang Cheng Fu so much. This resulted in the public regarding Wu Jian Quan’s form and Yang Cheng Fu’s form as independent styles of Taijiquan. Despite this, the relationship between both families remained close.
Wu Jian Quan's Early Form
When Wu Jian Quan first began to teach in Beijing, he taught the Yang Small Frame as handed down by his father, Quan Yu. This form is almost identical to the form handed down by Wang Mao Zhai and can be regarded as the old Wu Jian Quan form.
Not many people, however, learnt this form and there are few records of it. The form itself is still quite similar to Wu Jian Quan’s later form and besides minor variations, it remains essentially the same. There are still those who practice this form so it is not extinct and provides a valuable insight into the early teachings of Wu Jian Quan.
Wu Jian Quan's Later Style
Wu Jian Quan continued to refine his skills and to modify his form. He removed some of the more vigorous movements and made it slow and even in tempo. This also facilitated the easy learning and transmission of the art. He taught this form exclusively in his travels and finally based himself in Shanghai where his family still resides.
Wu Jian Quan’s influence, popularity and the large following he amassed established his form as the standard one for the Wu family. Today it is still the most practiced version of Wu Jian Quan Taijiquan and it is the one that all variations are measured against. We are fortunate that photographs were taken of Wu Jian Quan’s form and we can see his high attainment in the art. A film was shot of him performing Taijiquan in Shanghai but the film has since been lost through the turmoil of the ensuing years in China.
The Wu Jian Quan Style Fast Form
This form was first made public by the Jian Quan Taijiquan Association headed by Mah Yueh Liang and Wu Ying Hwa in 1982. It proports to be the original style taught by Wu Jian Quan before his modification of the form.
We do not have any early information on a Wu Jian Quan fast form before this and are unable to verify its authenticity. But Mah Yueh Liang is Wu Jian Quan’s recognised successor and such a form is still a legitimate form of the Wu Jian Quan lineage.
The form is done relatively faster than the normal form and there are modifications to the postures to accomodate a more martial aspect. The advanced fast training is not unique to Wu Jian Quan’s Taijiquan and can be found in other Yang related lineages.
Modern Wu Jian Quan Style Taijiquan Sets
Variations to the Wu Jian Quan style began with Wu Kong Yi who taught a form that was slightly different from that of his father. This is attributed by some to be because of his training with Yang Shao Hou but we have no verification for that.
In an effort to promote Wu Jian Quan Taijiquan, shorter sets were created as many people did not have the patience or the time to learn the long sequences of the traditional sets. One of these sets is the 37 posture Wu Jian Quan form developed by master Wang Pei Sheng, a student of master Yang Yu Ting. Mah Yueh Liang and Wu Ying Hwa have also created a shortened version of the traditional long set of only 30 postures.
These variations have certainly made Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan easier to learn and savour. Whether they will retain their popularity remains to be seen. The original form of Wu Jian Quan will always hold a mystique that will beckon to a serious student of his lineage.
The Wu Jian Quan Style Spreads Across The World
Through the efforts of Wu Jian Quan’s sons, grandsons, great grandsons and students, his style of Taijiquan has spread across the world and ranks second only to the Yang style of Taijiquan in terms of popularity.
Wu Kong Yi was involved in a much publicised fight with Chen Hak Fu, a White Crane stylist half his age. That he could hold his own against a younger fighter established for many the credability of the his style as a fighting art. For others, the fight was seen more like a brawl than a match between two highly skilled exponents but as Robert W. Smith, a respected authority on Asian martial arts, noted in his book when he showed a friend a film of a full contact Taiwanese-Hong Kong Tournament, the missing elements are contact and pain. It makes a vast difference and real fights seldom look as good as text book examples of applications. This is especially true when faced with exponents from two completely different styles of fighting.
Wu Kong Yi went on to establish schools across South East Asia and his sons continued this tradition and not too long ago, representatives of the Wu family have made North America their home, bringing their family art to the region.
Wu Jian Quan Style Taijiquan Today
Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan continues to grow in popularity and is spreading throughout the world through the efforts of its enthusiastic practitioners. And more and more material is becoming available in different languages on this style of Taijiquan.
This style of Taijiquan has remained relatively unsplintered due to the acknowledged leadership of the Jian Quan Taijiquan Association in Shanghai. Through the efforts of Mah Yueh Liang and Wu Ying Hwa, the family of Wu Jian Quan Taijiquan remains committed to promoting the art in the original spirit of its founder Wu Jian Quan.
Part 7: The Development Of Sun Style Taijiquan
Sun style Taijiquan was developed by the famous martial artist Sun Lu Tang (1861-1932) also known as Sun Fu Quan. It contained the essence of his martial arts experience and techniques. Sun was famous also for his Pa Kua and Hsing-I which he learned from famous masters. He was already highly skilled when he came to learn Taijiquan and in the later part of his life, taught it as his preferred art.
Sun style Taijiquan is the most recently developed of the five major styles which were taught when Taijiquan was first made public. His great reputation as a martial artist made Sun a sought after master but Sun never taught his art to promote violence, he taught it to promote peace and good health. His form of Taijiquan incorporated what he felt were the key elements of Pa Kua and Hsing-I into the framework and theories of Taijiquan.
Having learnt from the great Hao Wei Chen (1849-1920). Sun’s own form of Taijiquan retains many of its characteristics like the high standing and emphasis on opening and closing. With more emphasis on mobile stepping, Sun’s Taijiquan is often referred to as the active step small form of Taijiquan.
In order to more fully understand Sun Taijiquan, we must first examine the arts which Sun Lu Tang studied and for which he was famous for. Even though Sun Lu Tang is a recent historical figure, there is much legendary material about him. Fortunately, his daughter Sun Jian Yun is still around to provide us authentic details into the life of her father. A diary of his which recorded his experiences in martial arts was stolen, a great loss to the martial arts community, perhaps one day it will be recovered and the precious wisdom of a great martial artist be shared with the martial artists of the world.
Through the efforts of Sun Lu Tang’s family and students, and his great reputation as a martial artist, Sun style Taijiquan is quite well known and is practiced in many countries. Since the liberalisation of China, Sun Jian Yun, his daughter, has been able to meet with foreign enthusiasts adding new impetus to the promotion of the style. Sun Taijiquan stylists from China are also beginning to make their presence felt throughtout the world. Both bringing the precious treasure of the life work of Sun Lu Tang and the spirit which he taught and lived to all.
Sun Lu Tang The Man
Sun Lu Tang was born poor and physically weak, the son of a poor farmer. Though he was very poor, Sun’s father bartered the produce he grew for Sun’s education. Sun was a very intelligent child and progressed quickly in his studies. Unfortunately, he only managed to study for a few years. Due to a bad season, his father could not afford let him continue his studies and due to the Imperial Tax, his father was forced to sell all that he had. And to make the situation even worse, he died shortly after that.
So poor was Sun and his mother that in the end, his mother had to beg a rich man to take Sun in as a servant so that he would at least not go hungry. The man saw that Sun was frail and weak, so he said he would provide him with food but would not pay him any money. The man’s son was a bully and would beat Sun any chance he got. For the sake of his mother, Sun endured the suffering and worked hard for his keep.
Later he studied martial arts with a local teacher, who was skilled in the external school of martial arts. Sun wanted to learn martial arts in the beginning because he didn’t want to be bullied by the rich man’s son. But he soon developed a genuine love for the martial arts. He was a quick study and his teacher taught him quickly. Later, because he injured a member of the rich man’s family when he tried to beat him, he was fired from his job and returned home to his mother.
There, he was only interested in martial arts and would not work but spent his time practicing. In order to relieve his mother’s burden, he often ate wild vegetables which he found in the country side. Things got so bad that he decided that he wouldn’t be a burden on his mother any more and commited suicide by hanging himself. Fortunately for posterity, two men saw him hang himself and quickly cut him down, bringing him back to his mother. They told him that no matter how bad things got, it was not worth dying. They gave him some money and left.
Sun and his mother used the money to send Sun to live with his uncle. His uncle owned a calligraphy shop and Sun would help in his uncle’s shop. His uncle was a kindly man and would not only feed and house him but also pay him for his work in the shop. Through his uncle’s contacts, he met his first internal martial arts teacher and learned Hsing-I Quan.
Later, he would go and live with his teacher and train full time. To progress further, he would later learn Pa Kua under the famous Pa Kua master Cheng T’ing Hua. All this time, Sun was very respectful of his mother and made sure that she was well taken care of. So great was his love and respect of his mother that when he visited her grave, he would take a bow every five steps.
Sun taught at many places and because of his skill became a famous martial arts teacher. Always heeding his teachers’ words, he always taught martial arts in terms of morality and never advocated violence and even turned away students who wanted to take up martial arts to learn how to fight. He once said that if somebody wanted to fight, he should use a gun.
Later Sun would meet up with Hao Wei Chen, the famous Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan master and learn Taijiquan from him. Sun later integrated Pa Kua and Hsing-I principles into his Taijiquan and developed his own style of Taijiquan. He also wrote books on the internal martial arts he practiced and these have become important works for the martial arts community.
There are many legends about the man but as Sun Jian Yun, his daughter, cautions, her father was an exceptional martial artist but he was not superhuman. Sun always stressed that the keys to success in martial arts was to persevere in correct practice.
Sun Lu Tang's First Martial Art
Sun Lu Tang’s first martial art was an external martial art. He learned Shaolin Hung Boxing from his teacher, surnamed Wu, who had studied for two years at the Shaolin Temple. He also learned the light work skill (qing gong) from his teacher.
His teacher was highly skilled and Sun was very talented. Sun gained a very good martial arts foundation from him and received a firm grounding for the internal martial arts.
Sun Lu Tang And Hsing-I Quan
Sun Lu Tang got to meet his first Hsing-I Quan teacher through friends of his uncle. His uncle’s scholar friend, surnamed Chang, was impressed with his calligraphy and allowed him to visit him at any time to learn more about calligraphy. During his spare time, Sun would also go over there to practice his martial arts. It was during one of these sessions that one of the scholar’s friends, Li Kuei Yuan. Li found Sun to be intelligent and upright and having a good martial arts background. He offered to teach Sun Hsing-I Quan which he had learned from the famous Kuo Yun Shen.
Sun studied hard and soon learnt all that Li had to teach him. In order to help Sun progress further, Li recommended Sun to study under his teacher Kuo Yun Shen and went with Sun to study under Kuo together. Kuo was very impressed with the progress Sun had made in Hsing-I Quan and taught him diligently. So agile was Sun at his Hsing-I that Kuo nicknamed him the `lively monkey’.
Kuo worked Sun hard and taught him all he knew. After eight years, he graduated Sun and presented to him the Hsing-I manual he had received from his (Kuo) teacher Li Neng Jan. Kuo told Sun that in order to improve his martial arts further, he should take up Pa Kua Chang from his friend Cheng T’ing Hua.
Sun Lu Tang And Pa Kua Chang
Sun Lu Tang went and studied under the great Pa Kua Chang master Cheng T’ing Hua (?-1900). Cheng himself was one of the best students of the great modern founder of Pa Kua Chang, Dong Hai Chuan.
When Sun first met Cheng, he was soundly defeated and was greatly impressed with Pa Kua Chang. He practiced diligently and eventually learnt all that Cheng had to teach him. It was here that Sun gained his speed in foot work, a skill which gained him fame.
Sun began Pa Kua Chang relatively late in life, at around 30 years of age but his perseverance and constant regular hard practice gained him great proficiency. He stayed with Cheng for 3 years. After 3 years, Cheng graduated him and told him that if he wanted to improve he needed to go out into the world and test himself. It was Cheng that changed Sun’s given name from Fu Quan to Lu Tang.
For the rest of his life he was known more by the name of Sun Lu Tang than by his old name Sun Fu Quan. Sun’s Pa Kua Chang came from the Cheng lineage and retained much the same syllabus but Sun’s exceptional speed on his feet made his Pa Kua Chang truly magnificient.
Sun Lu Tang Learns Taijiquan
Sun Lu Tang was already a highly skilled and relatively famous martial artist by the time he learnt Taijiquan. Hao Wei Chen was visiting Beijing and being unfamiliar with the territory was not able to meet up with his friends who lived there. Having no other alternative, Hao had checked into an inn and subsequently fell ill. Not something very unusual for those of us who have travelled to unfamiliar regions.
In any case, Sun Lu Tang came to hear about it and went to visit him. Hao Wei Chen already had a reputation of being a highly accomplished martial artist and Sun was in the habit of visiting highly accomplished martial artists to make their acquantance and to exchange knowledge. Sun went to visit him to make his acquantance, having heard that he was a great master but did not know at the time that the art practiced by Hao was Taijiquan. When he found Hao sick in bed, he took care of him and even got a doctor to treat him. Hao eventually recovered from his illness and was very grateful to Sun for looking after him. It must have been hard being ill and alone in a very big city full of strangers.
In gratitude, Hao taught Sun Taijiquan, Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan to be exact. Hao himself had studied personally under Wu Yu Xiang’s nephew Li I Yu and was a native of Yung Nien where Yang Lu Chan, Wu Yu Xiang and Li I Yu lived. Sun, being already highly skilled, learnt the art from Hao and became accomplished in it. He was now a master of the three internal martial arts.
Sun Lu Tang Develops His Own Style
Sun Lu Tang had studied and mastered the three internal styles. He continued to study them and to research into their theories, refining them and constantly improving his art.
Later, Sun would crystalise his teaching, experience and methods into his own style of Taijiquan. It was primarily based on Hao’s Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan. That he chose Taijiquan as his final art expressing the essence of his art is indicative. He is supposed to have incorporated the rapid foot work of Pa Kua with the leg and waist methods of Hsing-I with the soft body of Wu Yu Xiang’s Taijiquan. In actual terms of the form, it retains many characteristics of the form Hao taught him as well as the sequence of postures.
The postures themselves have not changed all that much, retaining the original applications and still resemble very much the Wu Yu Xiang style as taught by the Hao family. What is evident is that the stepping is more active and smaller, the hand techniques differ only marginally and some Hsing-I characteristics are evident.
In his later years, he preferred to teach Taijiquan rather than Pa Kua or Hsing-I. He was very capable in his application of his Taijiquan and Sun Lu Tang, the great Pa Kua and Hsing-I master, was also now acknowledged as a great Taijiquan master.
Sun was not selfish with his art and wrote several books on them to share them with martial artist everywhere. These books remain important references for the serious martial artist and some contain valuable photographs of Sun’s form in the three internal martial arts.
Sun Taijiquan Today
With Sun Jian Yun’s presence made available, the Sun style Taijiquan practitioners around the world have access to the direct transmission of Sun Lu Tang via his daughter who was privy to many of the private aspects of his life and art. The popularity of Sun Taijiquan has grown because of that and through continuing efforts of the teachers of this style of Taijiquan is being spread to every corner of the world.
The Taijiquan community throughout the world continues to regard Sun Taijiquan as an authentic expression of the internal arts and one of the major styles of the art. Sun Lu Tang’s martial art and spirit continues to bring health, morals and martial skills to all those who practice the system.
Part 8: The Development Of Zhao Bao Style Taijiquan
Of the popular styles of Taijiquan that have come into prominance in recent years, the Zhao Bao style Of Taijiquan is probably the most well known. Not to mention also one of the most controversial. There are two differring views on the origins of Zhao Bao Taijiquan and both have some logic to their claims.
We shall try to clarify what actually happened in the light of these two claims and present a plausible explanation to the confusion that exists today. Documentation on the Zhao Bao style is scarce and there are few published works to refer to. The Zhao Bao style is becoming increasingly popular and has spread to different countries. Perhaps in the future more primary and secondary sources will become available.
From Zhao Bao style comes a lesser known style of Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia Taijiquan. This style is just becoming known in the West and is arousing considerable interest. Works pertaining to this style are even harder to come by and investigation has been difficult because of this. But as the style is ultimately related to Zhao Bao style and its origins, more time has been devoted to the Zhao Bao style.
The Origin Theories Of Zhao Bao Taijiquan
There are two primary theories concerning Zhao Bao style Taijiquan. One comes from the Chen Villiage and the other from the Zhao Bao Villiage itself. Both, however, have the nexus on one key personage: Chen Qing Ping.
Of this noted personage we can only be certain of a few things. Chen Qing Ping had married and moved to the Zhao Bao Villiage which was his wife’s home villiage. There he taught Taijiquan and had considerable influence. How he got the art is at the centre of the differences in opinion.
We shall examine the individual claims by themselves and then view them in the context of each other in an effort to determine the truth.
Claim 1: That The Chen Villiage Originated The Art
This claim was first put forth by Gu Liu Xin based on Chen Xin’s seminal work on Chen style Taijiquan. In it, Chen Xin had written a family manual and that manual stated that Chen Xin had learnt his art from Chen You Ben and transmitted the art to the Zhao Bao Villiage.
Chen You Ben is widely acknowledged as the founder of the `new’ style of Chen Taijiquan. We do not know for sure if he did know Taijiquan since it is disputed that the Chen Villiage did not invent Taijiquan since their claims have been proven untenable. In any case, Chen Qing Ping was supposed to have studied the Chen family arts from him and that is not what is in dispute. There is not very much material available on the `new’ style and on the basis of postures there is not much variance with the `old’ style.
This claim is the most widely believed due to the popularity of the works of Gu Liu Xin and Tang Hao. It was only in recent years with the liberation of China permitting more freedom that the Zhao Bao claims have been published and given air to. Beyond the recent work of Chen Xin, there is no other primary collaboration on it.
Claim 2: Zhiang Fa Transmitted The Art To Zhao Bao
In the recently published works of the Zhao Bao Taijiquan masters, there is a common belief that the art did not come from the Chen Villiage but instead was transmitted down by Jiang Fa, whose teacher was Wang Tsung Yueh, and that the art ultimately came from the Wudang mountain. This is in keeping with the early Chen references like that of Du Yu Wan.
The Zhao Bao masters hold that the art was first transmitted to the villiage by Jiang Fa who had once lived in the Zhao Bao villiage. Their placing of the date for Zhiang Fa puts him as a Ming Dynasty personage and could reflect an influence coming from the Chen Villiage on the placing of the dates. In any case, the old manuals in the Zhao Bao villiage record that the art came down from Jiang Fa.
This art passed down several generations to Zhang Yan who was supposed to have taught it to Chen Qing Ping and does not preclude the possibility that Chen Qing Ping was already skilled in the Chen family arts. The characteristics of Zhao Bao Taijiquan seem to bear this out.
Not all the Zhao Bao masters come down from Chen Qing Ping’s lineage, some have come down from Chen Qing Ping’s contemporaries and so it seems that the contention that Chen Qing Ping founded Zhao Bao Taijiquan may not be tenable.
The Zhao Bao Form
There are two forms of Taijiquan practiced in the Zhao Bao Villiage, one set consisting of 74 postures and another consisting of 108 postures. The postures within these routines are, however, identical so it is really just a matter of arrangement.
The postures resembles the Chen style of Taijiquan but way it is practiced, it resembles more the other major styles of Taijiquan. This makes it quite distinct from Chen style Taijiquan. There are postures in the form that are not found in Chen style Taijiquan but is evident in the other major styles and Zhao Bao style.
We need to note that the Zhao Bao Villiage and the Chen Villiage is in close proximity and so many common arts were practiced. It is entirely possible that Chen style Pao Chui was also practiced in the villiage and later softened by Jiang Fa which parallels what may have occurred in the Chen Villiage.
The form can be done in three heights and in two speeds. Each to achieve a different goal in training. There is only one type of push hands done at the Zhao Bao Villiage and that is moving step push hands. Zhao Bao Taijiquan does not have fixed step or fixed stance push hands. It also has its own weapons sets, two man sets and even its own neigong practice.
The Zhao Bao Classics
The Zhao Bao style Taijiquan lineage has the full complement of Taijiquan Classics in common with the rest of the major styles including the works of Wang Tsung Yueh. But unique to the Zhao Bao style is the 9 important treatises. No one knows who wrote them but for the Zhao Bao practitioners, these 9 treatises are very important and hold pride of place in the Classic writings as they are unique to their style.
Zhao Bao Taijiquan Today
Zhao Bao Taijiquan has now spread to many countries and is making an impact in the West. More and more publications are also becoming available for this unique style of Taijiquan and there is a growing interest in it. The style has since become acknowledged as one of the major styles of Taijiquan by the current masters of the art.
Zhao Bao Taijiquan also spawned an increasing popular style called Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia. Created by a student of Chen Qing Ping with input from another art, it is making its presence felt in the West.
Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia Taijiquan
This style of Taijiquan is becoming popular in the West in recent years. It was developed from the Zhao Bao style of Tajiquan and still retains many of its characteristics. The creator of this style was Li Jing Ting.
Li was a student of Chen Qing Ping and resided in the Zhao Bao Villiage. Hu Lei Jia Taijiquan is often classified under Chen style Taijiquan, much like Zhao Bao style is until recently when the Zhao Bao masters made it very clear that this was a misunderstanding promoted by Tang Hao and Gu Liu Xin. Hu Lei Jia Taijiquan is actually Zhao Bao Taijiquan as taught by Li Jing Ting.
Li spent most of his life around the Fu Ai area in China and there he taught his art. He also interacted with local martial artists and came into contact with styles like the Wang Bao Spear and Yun Qi Chui. All these could have had an influence on his final style.
The form itself consists of 74 postures and is almost identical to the Zhao Bao form. Due to the fact that the early practitioners of Li’s lineage were illiterate, much of the information passed down was via oral transmission. This has led to some changes in the wordings handed down. For example, the style is also know as Hu Long Taijiquan. The name Hu Long comes from a name given to the jing usage in the form called `Hu Long Jing’ or Sudden Dragon Jing. Hu Lei translates as Sudden Lightning.
The art has been popularised both in China and Taiwan and in recent years by Adam Hsu in North America. There has yet to be a book to be released about this style of Taijiquan and articles in the East and in the West are few and far between.
Part 9: The Popular Modern Styles Of Taijiquan
Other than the major forms described so far, there are other popular forms of more modern origin. These have become notable in recent years and there is a good number of exponents who practice nothing else.
Some of these forms come from noted masters of the art and are their personal expression of the system which they learnt or those who have created new sequences unique to themselves and their students. Others are forms created for competition and for general health care.
Regardless of origin, these new forms have a definite influence and place in the martial art and health care communities and should be covered in the interest of furthering our knowledge into the expressions of the art.
The China National Forms
Some of the most popular forms practiced today are forms developed by the Chinese government to promote the art both as a form of health exercise and as a sport. The first of these forms was the 24 posture simplified Taijiquan form developed in 1956. This form is by far the most popular of the national forms since the public has been exposed to this form for much longer.
Later a long 88 posture form was standardised. Both these early forms were based on the Yang style of Taijiquan and the postures within are essentially the same. These forms were taught to the masses in China as a form of healthy exercise and do not really stress the martial aspects of the form.
With the adoption of Wushu as an Olympic demonstration sport, the Chinese government has also increased the promotion of competition Taijiquan routines. There is one such shortened routine for each of the major styles of Taijiquan as well as forms that combine aspects of all the different styles of Taijiquan. These amalgamated forms do not contain all the techniques of the individual styles but only some selected techniques representative of the different parent styles.
The competition forms are now taught all over the world to competitors and to people who simply want to take it up for health. Because of the official recognition by the Chinese government and the Olympic Council for these forms, they have become the forms of choice for many people.
The Shorter Yang Form Of Zheng Man Qing
Without doubt, the most influential of these new forms in the West is the 37 posture shortened Yang form of Zheng Man Qing. Zheng was a disciple of the great master Yang Cheng Fu. Zheng developed the short form to enable the art to be learnt more quickly and to be less time consuming so that it can be practiced easily with modern day hectic schedules.
Zheng’s great skill in Taijiquan made his form very popular. Today it is one of the predominant forms practiced in the West. Many of Zheng’s students are today noted masters of the art and continue to promote his short form for both health and self-defence.
The shortened form is still Yang style Taijiquan but with the repetitions and some postures removed. The theories and techniques remain unchanged. Almost all of Zheng’s works on Taijiquan have been translated into English and their influence is substantial.
The form is mostly extent in East Asia and in America, the two places where Zheng lived. The impact that Zheng and his form has on the Taijiquan community at large is great. His contribution to the art was substantial.
The Tung Family Taijiquan
The Tung family Taijiquan began with Tung Ying Chieh who was a student of Yang Cheng Fu. Before studying with Yang Cheng Fu, however, Tung had already studied the Wu Yu Xiang style of Taijiquan from Li Xiang Yun.
Later he would make the Yang style his main form. In addition to the traditional Yang style forms, Tung also created a fast form of Taijiquan unique to his lineage. This fast form was based on the fast form of Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan and Yang style Taiji Long Boxing. This new form was taught as an advanced form to worthy students.
Tung’s ability at Taijiquan made him a sought after master and he later moved to Hong Kong and popularised the art there. Today, the Tung family Taijiquan has spread across the world to countries like America, England, Europe, Australia and in regions like South East Asia. The Tung family continues to teach their art to a growing number of enthusiasts.
The Shorter Chen Forms of Chen Xiao Wang and Feng Zhi Qiang
Chen Style Taijiquan masters like Chen Xiao Wang and Feng Zhi Qiang have also developed shorter sets to help popularise their form of Taijiquan. Chen Xiao Wang created a shorter set comprising of postures from both the Xin Jia and the Lao Jia of Chen Taijiquan. He currently resides in Australia where he continues to promote Chen Taijiquan.
Feng Zhi Qiang is a noted disciple of Chen Fa Ke. He has been a major moving force behind the popularisation of Chen Taijiquan. With his many years of experience he created a shorter Chen set based on the Lao Jia which he learnt from his master. The set is somewhat longer than the one developed by Chen Xiao Wang but is gaining popularity through Feng’s books and promotional efforts.
The Kwang Ping Taijiquan Of Kuo Lien Ying
Kuo Lien Ying was one of the few mainland Chinese Taijiquan masters to make his home in America. Skilled in both external and internal boxing, he was a respected boxer in China. He later moved to Taiwan and then to America. Kuo had learnt his Taijiquan from Wang Chiao Yu in Beijing from a young age. Wang himself was a student under Yang Pan Hou.
An examination of Kuo’s Taijiquan shows characteristics of Yang Pan Hou’s Taijiquan but it differs somewhat from the old Yang form. Kuo called his form Kwang Ping Taijiquan after the city of Kwang Ping where the Yangs had taught for a while. He did it to differentiate it from the more extent forms of Taijiquan which he felt did not contain all the theories of Taijiquan and that the form he had learnt represent the whole transmission as taught by the Yangs in the city of Kwang Ping before going into the Imperial Court. It should be noted that Kuo’s form is not practiced in Kwang Ping city.
Today, Kuo’s Taijiquan tradition is being carried on by his wife Simmone Kuo and his son. Based in San Francisco, the style continues its growth primarily in the United States where the number of its practitioners continues to increase.
Fu Zhen Song's Taijiquan
Fu Zhen Song was primarily noted as a Pa Kua master and is famous for his creation of the Dragon Form Pa Kua Chang art. He was also skilled in the art of Chen Taijiquan whom he learnt from Chen Ting Xi. Inspired by the principles of Taijiquan, he incorporated the key elements of Pa Kua Chang into several new Taijiquan forms he created. Fu created unique Taijiquan forms like Fu Style Taijiquan, Taiji Lightning Palm and Taiji Lightning Fist. He was one of the Canton Five Tigers and became head instructor of the Central Guo Shu Institute in 1928.
Fu’s Dragon Form Pa Kua Chang contains two man push hand sets like Taijiquan and Fu’s Taijiquan has the Dragon like characteristics of his Pa Kua Chang. Today, the Fu family continues to teach these forms of Taijiquan which is unique and differ from the more traditional styles.
Chen Pan Ling's Taijiquan
Chen Pan Ling was one of the greatest modern masters of Chinese martial arts. Both a scholar and a great master, Chen had studied under noted masters in his youth and continued to research Chinese martial arts theory and history until his death in 1967.
Chen Pan Ling had the good opportunity to go to the Chen Villiage to study their arts and also to study under Yang Shao Hou, Wu Jian Quan, Xu Yu Sheng, etc. He also associated with great masters of Taijiquan and learnt much from them. The result of his studies was his own form of Taijiquan that is mainly based on the Yang style and Wu styles he learnt from Xu Yu Sheng, Yang Shao Hou and Wu Jian Quan. It is unusual but there is no evidence of Chen Taijiquan input in the form. The information about Du Yu Wan’s Taijiquan in the Chen Villiage does provide the possibility that the Taijiquan Chen Pan Ling learnt at the Chen Villiage was a set similar to that of the Yang school rather than the current Chen Taijiquan.
Chen was also an expert at Hsing-I and Pa Kua and he created some basic practice sets that reflect such influences in his art. The old sequence of learning is preserved with single posture training and fast form training.
The Chang Style Of Taijiquan
The Chang Style Taijiquan is the name given to the Taijiquan set created by Fan Su Fen. She had studied since she was seven years old. Learning Shaolin, Tung Bei, Hsing-I, Pa Kua, Old Yang Taijiquan, qigong, Xin Yi Liu He, Mien Quan, Liu He Pa Fa, Chen Taijiquan from noted teachers like Gu Liu Xin, Wang Qing Jian, Wan Lai Sheng, Wang Ju Rong, etc.
She later studied and made her main style the old Wu Jian Quan style of Chang Yun Jia, whose father Chang Yun Ting had studied with Quan Yu, the founder of the Wu Jian Quan style. Fan integrated the best parts of all the arts she had learnt into the form taught to her by Chang and developed a unique style of Taijiquan. The form itself is low and has postures from both the Old Yang Form, the Old Wu Jian Quan Form. Out of respect for her teacher, she named the new form Chang style Taijiquan.
The Chang style of Taijiquan was first taught in 1981 and through books, classes and a television series teaching it, has become quite popular. Today the form continues to spread in popularity primarily in China and Taiwan.
The Li Style Of Taijiquan
The Li style of Taijiquan was created by Li Wan Dong who was a student of Wang Lan Ting, a treasured student of Yang Lu Chan, and Gan Yan Ran, the grandson of the great internal boxing master Gan Feng Chi. From his two teachers, Li learnt the Wudang internal Taijiquan arts.
Li’s Taijiquan form has elements of the Yang Small Frame, the Yang Old Frame and has all three heights of training in the same form. Li was fortunate to receive Wang Lan Ting’s boxing manual which Wang had gotten from Yang Lu Chan. Inside it we find several interesting works including a much extended Five Word Formula with unique theories. The Five Word Formula coming down from Yang Pan Hou through Wu Meng Xia is contained within it.
Also contained is the Chen Chang Xin Preface which is proportedly an original document from Chen Chang Xin delinating the details of his teacher Jiang Fa. The information within agrees with some of the earlier testimonies of old masters who had trained under Yang Lu Chan. The letter was given to Wang Lan Ting by Yang Lu Chan, possibly because Yang was illiterate, who in turned gave it to Li Wan Dong.
Historical Series Notes
1. The Ten Important Points of Chen Chang Xin were first published by Chen Ji Pu also known as Chen Zhao Pi in his book in 1935. Chen Xin’s book which was published earlier has no record of these ten discourses. These Ten Discourses are not present in the Yang writings or the commonly accepted classic writings. We are unable to ascertain the authenticity of these writings.
2. Chang San Feng was supposed to have studied at the Shaolin Temple and was proficient in Shaolin martial arts. Later, he became interested in Taoism and incorporated its principles and Dao Yin practices into his art, utilising very different principles from the Shaolin school. His art was very different and was not as demonstrative as the Shaolin school but could be effective against it. To differentiate this new art from the existing Shaolin school and other schools of martial arts that utilised similar principles, people started calling Chang San Feng’s art Internal Boxing since it was based on non-aggressive, non-vigorous principles as opposed to the aggressive and vigorous forms of martial arts which were termed External Boxing.
3. Chen Xin did write a book on the art of Tai Ch’i Chuan called `Chen Shi Tai Ch’i Chuan’ which does not mention this story but attributes the creation of the art to Chen Pu, the patriarch of the Chen family. We need to note, however, that the book was published four years after his death and that he had three collaborators. It was they that published the book and in the four years after Chen Xin’s death, it is very possible that substantial editing took place. How much of the book is Chen Xin’s work and how much of it was edited after his death is uncertain. So there may not be an actual contradiction in Wu Tu Nan’s material and Chen Xin’s book.
4. An examination of Old Yang Form reveals similar postures to Gan Feng Chi’s boxing. Gan was a noted Internal Boxing expert. Postures like `Playing the Lute’, `Cross Hands’, `Double Fist To Ears’ (including the characteristic head to knee smash) and `Carry Tiger Back To Mountain’ are present in both forms. These postures are absent from the current Chen style of Tai Ch’i Chuan but some are present in the Zhao Bao form. Zhao Bao style Tai Ch’i Chuan also traces their art back to Jiang Fa.
5. This theory was first published by Fu Zhong Wen who did extensive research into it. It has since been accepted by the majority of Yang style exponents.
6. This is not to be confused with the Southern Shaolin Hung Gar Boxing which was created by Hung Xi Guan. Shaolin Hung Quan is an old form consisting of two routines, the small Hung Quan and the large Hung Quan. Shaolin Hung Quan is still taught and practiced at the Shaolin Temple to this day. Because of the similar phonetics, this should also not be confused with the Shaolin Red Fist which was one of the types of boxing practiced in the Chen Villiage and probably had some influence on the Chen style of Tai Ch’i Chuan.
7. The story goes that Yang was invited to the abode of a rich man in Beijing called Chang who had heard of Yang’s great skills to demonstrate his art. Yang Lu Chan was small of build and did not look like a boxer, when Chang saw him, he thought little of his ability and so served him a very simple dinner. Yang Lu Chan was fully aware of his host’s thoughts but continued to behave like an honoured guest. Chang later questioned if Yang’s Tai Ch’i, being so soft, could defeat people. Given that he invited Yang on the basis of his reputation as a great fighter, this question was clearly a veiled insult. Yang replied that there were only three kinds of people he could not defeat: men of brass, men of iron and men of wood. Chang invited out his best bodyguard by the name of Liu to test Yang’s skill. Liu entered aggressively and attacked Yang. Yang used only a simple yielding and threw Liu across the yard. Chang was very impressed and immediately ordered a sumptuous dinner to be prepared for Yang. He later asked Yang to work for him, offerring him a large sum of money. Yang, knowing the character of Chang, courteously refused the offer.
8. An interesting story comes down to us concerning the quality of Yang’s teaching in the Imperial Court. The princes of the Manchu court were very often skilled in martial arts. Emperors like Chien Long were skilled martial artists. Among Yang’s students at the Imperial Court were several princes. One day one of them went to visit his brother to practice with him, as his brother prince was not at home, he practiced instead with his brother prince’s three bodyguards who were also students of Yang Lu Chan. This prince easily defeated them and when his brother prince returned, he berated him saying:”Who is protecting who brother? Your bodyguards you or you your bodyguards?” Yang Lu Chan and the three bodyguards were summoned and they were questioned on why the skills of the the three bodyguards (they were highly skilled martial artists already having studied other arts) were below that of the princes. The reason was revealed that the bodyguards had many duties in the imperial household and they could not spare the time to train diligently as the princes had. Discovering this reason, the prince lightened the workload of the three bodyguards and asked Yang Lu Chan to train them harder. These three bodyguards eventually became Yang Lu Chan’s top three disciples, one of them Quan Yu went on to found the Wu form of Tai Ch’i Chuan.
9. Quan Yu was actually a disciple of Yang Lu Chan but because it was unseeming that non-royalty were boxing brothers of the royal princes, in some cases, senior boxing brothers. Under Yang Lu Chan’s order, all the non-royal disciples bowed down to Yang Lu Chan’s son Yang Ban Hou as master. This way the princes were a generation above their staff.
10. Yang Shao Hou’s Small Frame, however, retains this old sequence of techniques. This supports the attribution that his Small Frame was the work of Yang Lu Chan.
11. Apparently Tang Yan Kai, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of China was cured of his serious illness after taking up the art. Hence forth Tai Ch’i Chuan has always been viewed as an art that had great curative powers.
12. There are actually three books that are directly related to Yang Cheng Fu. Chen Wei Ming’s book “Tai Ch’i Chuan Shu” was written on request of Yang Cheng Fu to record down his oral teachings, it was published in 1925. The second book “Tai Ch’i Chuan Shi Yung Fa” was authored by himself but its language was not so refined so it was quickly taken out of circulation, it was published in 1931. The third “Tai Ch’i Chuan Ti Yung Quan Shu” was written for him by Cheng Man Ching (confirmed by Yang Cheng Fu’s son Yang Zheng Ji) based on his teachings, it was published in 1934. He was to have written a second companion volume to document the sword, broadsword, spear, halberd and other weapons. He died before this second volume was completed. We do not know if he began writing it at all and if he did, what happened to the manuscripts if any existed.
13. There is an interesting anecdote attached to this activity. It seems that Yang Lu Chan once inquired about how Yang Ban Hou, his second son, was doing at his studies. Wu Yu Xiang told him that Ban Hou was not good at his studies but very good at studying martial arts. Where upon Yang asked Wu Yu Xiang to let Ban Hou concentrate more on his martial arts.
14. There is an interesting story on how this weapon came about. Yang Lu Chan was famous for his skill with the spear as was his oldest son, Fung Hou. Yang Feng Hou was good natured but his younger brother Yang Ban Hou was bellicos and prone to fights. Because Yang Pan Hou’s mother feared that her son might harm somebody seriously in practice and teaching, she removed the spear head from the weapon. The Long Staff is therefore the spear techniques of Yang Taijiquan.
15. According to Mah Yueh Liang, Quan Yu synthesized the Old Yang Form and the Yang Small Frame, forming a new set. The Yang Small Frame set that comes down from Gong Tian Ren who was a student of Yang Lu Chan/Yang Ban Hou is almost identical so this probably didn’t occur. But it is entirely possible that Quan Yu knew both sets.
16. Another reason given for Yang Lu Chan’s retirement was the early death of one of his most favoured students from small pox. Yang was heart broken and retired from service from the Imperial Court and returned to Yung Nien.
The document is from Internet sources