Friday, May 15, 2009

Yang Style Taijiquan History 杨式太极拳历史

Yang style Taijiquan originated during the 19th Century in the Dao Guang Period of the Qing Dynasty. Up to the present day, the style has only had a history of approximately 150 years, however, Yang style Taijiquan has already spread throughout the world and is practiced by millions of people each day.

The founder of Yang style Taijiquan was Yang Fu Kui (1799-1872), also known as Yang Lu Chan. Lu Chan was born of a peasant family in the village of Nan Guan in the county of Yong Nian which is a part of the Guang Ping Prefecture of Hebei Province. The martial arts history of the Yong Nian county area was very rich and prosperous and as a young boy, Lu Chan studied Shaolin boxing skills. One day while Lu Chan was working in a local grain store, a rude man came into the Tai He pharmacy next to where Lu Chan was working. The man wanted to buy some expensive herbs, but was only willing to pay a cheap price. The man shouted and waved his fists. The only thing Lu Chan saw next was the man being thrown into the street without any effort by the pharmacy owner. Lu Chan felt this was quite odd for a person to be able to do such a feat without the use of force. The name of the pharmacy owner was Chen De Hu. After a few days had passed, Lu Chan built up enough courage and went to Chen De Hu to ask to become his student. Chen was at first fairly cautious, but after seeing that Lu Chan was a upright and honest person, he told Lu Chan that he was from the Chen village (Chen Jia Gou) in Wen Xian County of Henan Province.

He said there were many people who studied Taijiquan in the village. He also explained that his teacher was the famous Taijiquan master, Chen Chang Xing. Upon hearing this, Lu Chan was very excited and immediately wanted Chen De Hu to introduce him to Chen Chang Xing.

The Chen village Taijiquan style was created between the end of the Ming Dynasty and beginning of the Qing Dynasty. The basic standardization of Chen style Taijiquan was by the 9th generation ancestor of the Chen Village, Chen Wang Ting. Chen De Hu agreed upon the introduction to his teacher. Upon the acceptance of the introduction, Lu Chan immediately left Yong Nian to go to the Chen Village. While Lu Chan was under the tutelage of Chen Chang Xing, he trained continuously without any interruption no matter if it was winter or summer. After six years of training, Lu Chan finally returned to his hometown. While Lu Chan was gone, many people in the village practiced martial arts and wanted to test Lu Chan's newly acquired skills. Lu Chan was challenged to a duel in which he was defeated. Even though he had lost the duel, he did not lose hope. He returned to the Chen village to train for an additional six years. The second time he returned home was during the Chinese New Year. The people were excited that Lu Chan had returned and thought he would be unbeatable. In the same area there was a martial artist who had connections with the Chen village and who had studied many styles of martial arts. He also heard that Lu Chan had returned home and wanted to test his skills. The result of the match was a draw. Yang Lu Chan felt his skill level was not completely proficient even though he was able to hold his own against such a highly skilled martial artist, and therefore, he decided to return to his teacher a third time. The third trip to the Chen village moved Chen Chang Xing so much that he began to teach Lu Chan everything he knew. After two years of study, Chen Chang Xing said that when Lu Chan returned home this time, there would be no one who could defeat him. Subsequently, Lu Chan returned home and was never defeated again.

Yang Lu Chan studied at the Chen Village for a total of 18 years. Although he obtained the true teachings of Chen Chang Xing's Taijiquan style, he still was not satisfied with his own abilities. Lu Chan constantly researched every aspect of his style until he achieved an enlightened level of skill and his fame was known to all.

Not long after, Lu Chan was invited by Wu Lu Qing, a distant relative, to teach his martial arts in the capital of Beijing. Wu Lu Qing was a government official of Emperor Dao Guang. Upon arriving in the capital, Lu Chan was a guest at the home of a wealthy businessman named Mr. Zhang. Mr. Zhang's business was small at first, but later became very large and prosperous. Their organization also included instructions in various types of martial arts training. The first occasion to meet the Zhang family was during a banquet in which everyone was to perform their respective martial art. One of the heads of the Zhang family saw the thin body of Yang Lu Chan and, as an insult, placed Lu Chan behind an ordinary martial artist preparing to demonstrate. After Yang Lu Chan performed his style, Mr. Zhang asked if the "Cotton Fist" of Yang Lu Chan could actually defeat an opponent. Lu Chan replied by saying that except for bronze, iron, and rock, his fist could defeat anything with flesh and blood. Consequently, the man asked if Lu Chan would take a challenge from him. Lu Chan agreed without hesitation not only to take a challenge from this man but also from anyone else at the banquet. Following, the guests went out into the garden court to witness the contest. When the contest first began, a martial arts master came running towards Lu Chan as fierce as a tiger. As the two met, Lu Chan raised his arms and the man flew back several meters through the air. Immediately following, another master came up and challenged Lu Chan. Before he could complete a single technique, the man was thrown back several meters onto the ground. After seeing this, the others did not dare challenge the skills of Yang Lu Chan. Upon returning to the banquet hall, Lu Chan was seated at the head table and was toasted by everyone. From that day on, Lu Chan began teaching Taijiquan at the Zhang residence.

After the martial contest at the Zhang residence, people from everywhere came to challenge Yang Lu Chan. All who challenged Lu Chan fell beneath his fists. From that point onward, Yang Lu Chan was given the title of "Yang the Invincible.” Wu Lu Qing introduced Lu Chan to many people within the royal Qing government to whom he taught Taijiquan. This allowed the art of Taijiquan to become very popular in the capital, moreover, the royal family invited Yang Lu Chan to their residence to live and teach. Consequently, Lu Chan brought his two sons to the capital to teach Taijiquan at the palace. Yang Lu Chan did not return to his hometown until his later year

Yang Ban Hou (1837-1892) was the second child of Yang Lu Chan. Ban Hou practiced Taijiquan since his childhood under the supervision of his father. His skill level was very high.

His character was very firm even though he had a very hot temper. There was one time when a martial arts master nicknamed "Man with 10,000 Pounds of Strength" came to Beijing to challenge Yang Lu Chan. After the Yang family heard of the news, Yang Lu Chan did not pay much attention to the matter. However, Yang Ban Hou said to his father that "if our store has something to sell and people want to buy it, why don't we sell?" What Ban Hou meant was that his family had true martial ability, so why not take the challenge. Consequently, Ban Hou went by himself to take the challenge from the man. When the contest began, the man threw his shirt off and showed his muscles to the crowd. Yang Ban Hou with his skinny body just stood waiting for the man to attack. When the fight commenced, the only image seen was the man pouncing towards Ban Hou. Ban Hou evaded the attack. The man immediately attacked with continuous strikes to Ban Hou's face. The crowd heard a yell and immediately following, the man went flying through the air several meters into the distance. When everyone was able to see clearly, they realized that Ban Hou used "Separate Heel Kick" to the man's groin area. While the crowd was still cheering and admiring Ban Hou's skill, he returned silently back to the palace.

Yang Lu Chan's third child was Yang Jian Hou (1839-1917). His Taijiquan skills were a harmonious blend of hard and soft. He was especially talented at issuing internal energy and at the practice of broadsword, straightsword, and spear. His character was very warm-hearted. Whenever Jian Hou competed and trained with others, he never looked light-hearted upon anyone, therefore, he too was never defeated.

The third generation of Yang style martial artists consisted of Yang Ling Xiao (1872-1930), also known as Yang Zhao Peng, who was Yang Ban Hou's son. He studied with Chen Xiu Feng who was one of Ban Hou's disciples. The first son of Yang Jian Hou was Yang Zhao Xiong (1862-1930), also known as Yang Shao Hou. Shao Hou studied Taijiquan since his youth and was very good at sparring. His movements were fast and his posture was rooted. The Yang style small frame was transmitted by Shao Hou. There are very few people who know the small frame style. Some people see the style as strictly for fighting and do not wish to teach others. Therefore, this may be the reason why practitioners of this style are becoming fewer and fewer. Yang style small frame leans more toward the fighting aspect rather than health. Because it is performed with quick motions, the style is sometimes called Taijii Fast Frame or the Fast Small Frame. The small frame style was researched extensively by Yang Lu Chan for many years whereby he took the essence of Taijiquan and the various fighting methods and combined it to form a routine which incorporates Qigong, massage, and the theory of the meridian systems. The small frame style allows the entire body to receive maximum benefits from small lively movements. The main points of the style are as follows: There are over 200 postures in the routine which are performed in less than two minutes. The practitioner must maintain a low stance whereby the head does not raise higher than four feet above the ground. The fighting applications must be regularly practiced and combined with internal energy. The small frame style is practiced mainly by younger people and is quite different from what most people would consider Taijiquan. Small frame Taijiquan not only incorporates speed, vitality, and lightness but also maintains the essence of relaxation, quiescence, roundness, and softness.

The third son of Yang Jian Hou was Yang Zhao Qing (1883-1936), also known as Yang Cheng Fu. Cheng Fu was a very warm-hearted, intelligent person . He trained under the tutelage of his father in the deepest way. His Taijiquan skills were like an "iron needle hidden in cotton.” The characteristics of his postures were large, relaxed, and full of vitality. The postures of Yang Cheng Fu's large frame style can be divided into high, medium, and low. The postures can be selected based upon the practitioner’s age, sex, strength of body, and other various demands. Because of this, Yang style Taijiquan is not only used to cure illness and to maintain health, but also is used to strengthen the body and to develop a high level of martial combat skills. Consequently, many people have found his Taijiquan most suitable.

Yang Cheng Fu was born on July 7, 1883, and passed away on March 3, 1936. He studied the art continuously in Beijing under the instructions of his father. Only until after the passing of his father did Cheng Fu travel to southern China to teach. He taught in various cities throughout China in such places as Wuhan, Hankou, Nanjing, Hangzhou etc. In 1925, Yang Cheng Fu and Chen Wei Ming published The Art of Taijiquan, using actual photographs of Yang Cheng Fu. Later in 1931, the two published "The Applications of Taijiquan" using new photographs. In 1928, he was invited to be the head of the Wudang section of the Nanjing Central Guo Shu Academy. Later he was also invited to be the head of the Zhejiang Provincial Guo Shu Academy in Hangzhou. In 1930, Cheng Fu settled in Shanghai where he published The Complete Principle and Theory of Taijiquan. In 1932, he was invited by Chen Ji Tang and Li Zong Ren to teach in the city of Guangzhou. Two years later he returned to Shanghai. After Yang Cheng Fu traveled to southern China, he gradually moved away from the martial aspect of Taijiquan to more of the health aspects. When Yang Cheng Fu first arrived in Shanghai, he was invited to demonstrate at the "Soft Fist" Society. When Yang performed "Separate Heel Kick" he issued much power causing a loud sound to be heard. Later, he changed the kick to a slow and even movement. "Fist to Groin" originally issued much power at the last moment of execution, but this was also changed to a slow and even motion. His method of practice gradually changed to slow and continuous movements without any breaks.

Yang Cheng Fu was a very large person whose push hand skills were tremendous. His sensitivity was very keen and agile. When he issued power, he was precisely on target, his speed was lightning fast, and his striking distance was short to where he could throw a person several meters through the air without harming him. In fact, according to some of his students, the feeling of being pushed by him was actually comfortable and invigorating.

While Cheng Fu was head instructor at the Zhejiang Provincial Guo Shu Academy in Hangzhou, a teacher by the name of Guo Shou Wu who trained in Tai Yi Boxing looked down upon Yang style Taijiquan. He was often rude to Cheng Fu. One day Cheng Fu could not tolerate the mouth of Gao any longer. Gao was holding a long spear and wanted to challenge Cheng Fu. Cheng Fu took hold of a staff and lightly hooked Gao's spear causing it to leave Guo's hands and fly to the ground. After experiencing this, Gao never again looked down upon Yang style Taijiquan.

Yang Lu Chan was able to build upon the basics of Chen style old frame Taijiquan and make it more compatible for the common person to learn no matter the age. At that moment, people termed his style "Yang family Taijiquan.” The Yang style passed through reform and constant improvement during the first two generations of father and son. The formal standardization of the style finally occurred when it came into Yang Cheng Fu's hands. The postures became wide and comfortable, the structure was strict and demanding, the body was upright and erect, and the movements were harmoniously flowing, light, agile, and rooted.

It was the hard work of the third generation inheritor that allowed Taijiquan to become popular and to develop into what it is today. Moreover, this allowed the onset of many other styles to flourish. An example of this was Wu Yu Xiang, a disciple of Wu Lu Qing, who created Wu style Taijiquan. Wu Yu Xiang transmitted his style to Hao Wei Zhen who later developed Hao style Taijiquan. Hao Wei Zhen passed his style to Sun Lu Tang who created Sun style Taijiquan. Yang Ban Hou taught Quan You who then transmitted the art to his son, Wu Jian Quan, thereby, creating the other Wu style Taijiquan. In summation, it can be said that Yang style Taijiquan is the root of Wu, Hao, Sun, and Wu style Taijiquan. In 1956 the National Chinese Sports Association extracted postures from Yang style Taijiquan to create a simplified version of Taijiquan. Afterwards, the 88 posture and the 48 posture Taijiquan routines were created.

Within the 150 years of Yang style Taijiquan development, Yang Lu Chan taught his art to Yang Ban Hou, Yang Jian Hou, Wang Lan Ting, Wu Yu Xiang, and many others. Yang Ban Hou transmitted the Yang style to Wan Chun, Quan You, Hou De Shan, Chen Xia Feng, Zhang Xin Yi, Li Lian Fang, Zhang Ying Tang etc. Yang Jian Hou taught Yang Shao Hou, Yang Cheng Fu, Xu Yu Sheng, Liu Sheng Kui, Zhang Yi etc. Yang Shao Hou taught Liu Xi Zhan, Zhao Ling, You Zhi Xue, Wu Tu Nan etc. Wu Tu Nan studied first with Wu Jian Quan of the Wu style and later with Yang Ban Hou for four year. Wu Tu Nan became the Vice Chairman of the Beijing Martial Arts Association. He passed away in January 1989 at the age of 105. The majority of Yang style disciples cropped up through the direction of Yang Cheng Fu. Outside of Yang Cheng Fu's children, some of Yang Cheng Fu's disciples were Li Chun Nian, Zhao Bin, Dong Ying Jie, Fu Zhong Wen, Tian Zhao Ling, Chen Wei Ming, Zhang Qing Lin, Wang Ting Xing, Zheng Man Qing etc. Li Chun Nian (Ya Xuan) passed his art on to his daughter, Li Min Di, and to Chen Lung Xiang, Yang Zhao Xin etc. Dong Ying Jie taught Liu Tong Lu, Lian Chong Shu, Zhang Xin, Chen Ning and others. Tian Zhao Ling taught Ye Da Mi, Zheng Zuo Ping, Zhang Jing Qi, Chen Yi Hu etc.

Yang Zhen Ming (1911-1985) was Yang Cheng Fu's oldest son. Zhen Ming resided in Hong Kong for many years where he published the book entitled Practical Use of Taijiquan. He passed his art on to his daughters, Ma Li and Jun Li, and also to Ye Da De, Zhu Zhen Wu,and Zhu Jing Xiang. Yang Zhen Ji (1922- ), the second son of Yang Cheng Fu, began to study Taijiquan when he was five years old. At the age of nine, he began strict training with his father. He would practice Taijiquan at least three times in the evening otherwise he could not fall asleep. He once went with his father and older brother to Guangzhou to teach Taijiquan. Yang Zhen Duo (1926- ), third son of Yang Cheng Fu, learned Taijiquan from his father while he was a child in Hangzhou. Later he learned from his older brothers. Yang Zhen Duo presently teaches in Shanxi Province. He is a board member of the National Chinese Martial Arts Association and the director of the Shanxi Provincial Yang Style Taijiquan Association. The fourth son of Yang Cheng Fu, Yang Zhen Guo (1928- ), trained with his older brothers since his father had passed away while he was still too young to train. He and Yang Zhen Ji taught Taijiquan in the city of Tianjin.

Fu Zhong Wen (1908-1994) was with Yang Cheng Fu for many years where he received the transmission of the Yang style. Fu Zhong Wen traveled with Yang Cheng Fu to Guangzhou where he assisted his teacher with instructions and taking on challenges from various martial artists. Fu Zhong Wen not only has students from China, but also from the USA, Japan, France, Canada, Singapore, Australia, etc. Some of Fu Zhong Wen's disciples include Wang Tian Lai, Wang Yong Da, Fu Sheng Yuan (son), Mei Ying Sheng, Yu Wen Mei, He Wei Qi etc.

For the better development of Taijiquan and the promotion of health and longevity, Fu Zhong Wen and associates developed the Yong Nian Taijiquan Association on October 1, 1944. The association had its 50th anniversary festival during the months of April and May 1994 in Shanghai. The Yong Nian Taiji Association has taught thousands of people and has set up branches throughout the world.

In 1972, through the assistance of Fu Zhong Wen and his son, Fu Sheng Yuan, various medical research institutes conducted scientific tests on the healing and health promoting properties of Yang style Taijiquan. The findings from the research showed that Taijiquan is a very beneficial method of preventing and curing diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, stomach ailments, nervous disorders, and other chronic illnesses. Moreover, the research discovered that Taijiquan will improve the physiological functions of the heart and lungs and increase the strength of the body.

Yang style Taijiquan has developed and advanced tremendously over a very short historical time frame. Therefore, this testifies to the importance Taijiquan has in the prevention and healing of illnesses and the promotion of health and longevity. It is possible that after the mutual exchange of ideas and knowledge among all Taijiquan practitioners, Yang style Taijiquan can become internationally ranked and can make great contributions to the health and well-being of the world.

Note: The material for this history has been translated and compiled through conversations, letters, and books written by Fu Zhong Wen and Mei Ying Sheng.

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