was created from founder Chan San feng who was a Taoist Monk. He watched
the crane and snake fight each other to get the idea of the hard and soft
principles to combine this and make Tai Ji Chuan. Tai Ji Chuan is famous
for it's graceful movements and its stress relieving effects on the mind
and body. This Chinese Martial Art combines relaxation and exercise in
a series of continuous, flowing body movements. The slow motions of this
form help to cultivate effortless movement, and create a feeling of calmness.
Practitioners begin with the Yang Family style routine to acquire fundamentals,
and then gradually to more advanced movements. This will help practitioners
develop a solid foundation and understanding of Tai Ji Chuan. The styles
taught are Yang, Chen, Wu and Wang families. Tai ji practice is not only
a martial art training for self-defense but also serve as a balance training
that helps you in your older age. The principle of searching balance and
elegance the way of living benefit you in a very big range. Tai ji starts
as a guide, and then the art finally leads you into the world of harmony,
which is "Tao". The circular, spiral type of movements prevents
joint impact. The joints moving in circular patterns help to prevent arthritis
and numerous ailments in the body. Tai ji starts in searching body re-patterning
through slow motion. Then with push hand practice one experience how to
cooperate and coordinate with others as well as himself. When one can
sync himself with the opponent, the power of both become one. There will
be no opponent, neither one's own Tai ji training is begin and ended with
faith. Everyone appreciate the cooperation from others as well as from
themselves in this day and time. It is not to beat someone up. Or fear
to be beaten by someone. It is a matter of purifying ourselves, with better
skill, with much sensibility to the surrounding as well as within. Tai
ji contains the Chan Si (silk reeling), it is one continuous line drawn
with the body, like a silk worm that uses one single thread of silk to
create an entire cocoon. Tai ji is thus the use of intention to circulate
the original Hun Yuan Qi, as to strengthen it, the body and create the
Chan Si force with it. Tai ji contains Xin Yi (consciousness intentions)
as a guiding principle, the intention moves the Qi (energy), and the Qi
moves the body. It also contains Hun Yuan, which is the original energy
stored in Dan Tian. While practicing Tai ji the practitioner uses intention
to move the original Qi from Dan Tian to circulate throughout the body,
and than to return to Dan Tian. Practice Tai ji must begin with Wu Ji,
and earnestly seek Yin and Yang, opening and closing. Wu Ji is a state
of emptiness, before a formation of any movement, as soon as the slightest
movement occurs it is already Tai ji and it contains Yin and Yang, opening
and closing. Spring, summer, fall and winter, in Chinese medicine is a
cycle of birth (sheng), growth (zhang), decline (shou) and storage (cang)
respectively. In an auspicious year the weather is harmonious with this
cycle, and illnesses among the people are few. Thus while practicing Qigong
Yin and Yang, opening and closing should take and even part. To summarize
all that, while practicing Tai ji the intention moves the Qi, the Qi moves
the body. Beyond that the essence transforms into Qi, the Qi transforms
into the spirit, and the spirit returns to emptiness, a search into that
will bear a big progress. This is the beginning and end result for life
and the Tao for our beings.
What is Taijiquan?
Taijiquan is an ancient healing and martial art developed in China. The
purpose of Taijiquan is to develop a more specific personal relationship
between the practitioner's body, mind and spirit. Effective Taijiquan
practice can reduce the likelihood of sickness and stress and aid in the
prevention of disease. Effective practice means a strong understanding
of basic hand and foot movements coupled with an understanding of internal
principles. These internal principles are defined as: Stillness, Patience,
Diligence, Continuous and Exactness. Taijiquan is a safe, effective, natural
way to improve one's life.
Taijiquan is an elaborate method of Qigong and what makes it more useful
is that it can be applied as a method of self defense. Instruction combines
not only learning a series of forms, but the principles of internal energy
development as well as the weapons and push hand exercises associated
with those styles, providing the opportunity to engage in basic as well
as in-depth learning. The
Yang Style's big movements and upright stance is best known in the United
A History of Tai Chi Chuan
More than 300 different known martial arts styles are practiced in China.
There are two Chinese Martial Art systems, the internal and the external
systems. The internal system includes Tai Chi, Sheng-I and Pa-Qua styles.
The emphasize stability and have limited jumps and kicks. The external
system includes Shao Lin, Long Fist, Southern Fist, and other styles.
They emphasize linear movements, breathing combined with sound, strength,
speed and hard power impact contact, jumps, and kicks.
There are many different styles or families of Tai Chi Chuan. The six
which are practiced most commonly today are the Yang, Chen, Wu , Sun,
Wang and Wu Hao styles. All Tai Chi styles, however, are derived from
the original Chen family style.
Some people believe that Tai Chi was developed by a Taoist Priest from
a temple in China's Wu Dong Mountains. It is said that he once observed
a white crane preying on a snake, and mimiced their movements to create
the unique Tai Chi martial art style.
Initially, Tai Chi was practiced as a fighting form, emphasizing strength,
balance, flexibility, and speed. Through time it has evolved into a soft,
slow, and gentle form of exercise which can be practiced by people of
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, Cannon 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
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
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 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
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 Qiang, Wang Xian,
Chen Zhen Lei and Chen Xiao Wang and Zhu Tain Cai. Their efforts have
spread the practice of Chen Taijiquan throughout the world and continue
to serve as inspirations for those who practice it.
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.
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 credible.
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
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
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
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
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:
'Hands Holding Taiji shakes the whole world,
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 won.
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 time.
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
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 books 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)
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.