Tai Chi History: Part 5

Tai Chi Yang Family Begets Other Styles:

Part 5 of A Brief History

The following is Part 5 of a 7 parts article on the Brief History of Tai Chi, exploring the Yang Family begets other styles.

Among Yang Lu Chan’s earliest Tai Chi students – in a period before Yang went to the Imperial Court – were three brothers, Wu Deng Qing, Wu Ru Qing and Wu Yu Xiang (1812-1880). All three learned well, being taught what is now known as the Old Yang Style of Tai Chi. Many years later in 1852 Wu Yu Xiang set out to visit the Chen Village, determined to track down Yang’s old teacher Chen Chang Xin – presumably to learn for himself what it was that made Yang Lu Chan invincible. He never reached his intended destination, ending up instead at the Zhao Bao village and being taught by another Chen master – Chen Qing Ping.

After a short but intense period of training Wu returned home and proceeded to modify his form, including within it the skills he had learned from Chen Qing Ping and ideas found in the then recently discovered Tai Chi Chuan Classic of Wang Tsung Yueh. Though he had few pupils Wu Yu Xiang’s style of Tai Chi was dutifully passed on and is today more widely known as the Hao Family Style of Tai Chi after it was adopted and popularised by the Hao family. Today it is still practiced within China but largely unknown outside its borders.

Amongst Yang Lu Chan’s later students (during his time at the Imperial Palace) was a bodyguard named Quan Yu (1834 – 1902). Members of the Imperial Guard were taught a slightly modified version of the Yang style which came to be known as the Small Frame. This form was devised to allow effective fighting techniques to be used while wearing the Palace uniforms which, with their long sleeves and robes, made some movements of the usual Old Yang Form very difficult.

Quan Yu became a skilled practitioner of the Small Frame system and was highly regarded for his abilities. When Yang Lu Chan finally retired from the imperial Court so too did Quan Yu (by which time he had adopted the surname of Wu). He continued to pass on his knowledge to many students, prominent among them being his son Wu Jian Quan(1870–1942). It was Wu Jian Quan who went on to further refine his Fathers style and make it so popular that it is now known as Wu Jian Quan Style Tai Chi Chuan or simply Wu Style Tai Chi – second only to Yang Style in world-wide popularity.

There is yet one more Style that owes its origins to the Yang Family and that is Sun Style. Developed by the famous, almost legendary martial artist, Sun Lu Tang (1861–1932) it was a blend of his extensive knowledge of Pa kua, Hsing-I (both of which are internal forms of martial arts but not related to Tai Chi) and Wu Yu Xiang (Hao) Style Tai Chi. It is the most recently developed of the major styles and highly popular throughout the world, though not to the same extent as Yang and Wu. It has one advantage over the others in that Sun’s daughter is still alive so there is a direct link to the creator of the Form.

Click here to read Part 6 – The boxer rebellion and afterwards

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