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Taiji Quan

Taiji Quan Styles

Introduction Yang Style


An introduction on Yang Style Taiji Quan

Yang Fukui (also called Yang Luchan, 1799-1872) was born in the countryside of Yongnian in Hebei province. He was a poor boy, who on its tenth year came to the Chen village in search of work. From the Chen master Chen Zhangxing (1771-1853) he learned the solid laojia Chen style Taiji Quan. When he became an adult, he returned to his birth region to transfer his knowledge; with his qualities he could avoid and overcome hardness and strength. In this period one called his art Zhan Mian Quan (cotton fighting), Ruan Quan (gentle fighting) or Hua Quan ('transformation' fighting). Hua Quan ('transformatie' vechten).

Three brothers in a renowned Yangnian family, Wu Chenqing, Wu Heqing (also called Yuxiang) and Wu Ruqing learned the art of Yang Luchan and became dedicated Taiji Quan practitioners. Since Ruqing was in service of the Ministry of Justice of Siquan, he stimulated Yang Luchan to go to the capital and teach this martial art to the princes at the imperial court (Qing-dynasty). Luchan made name and got an appointment as martial art teacher at the imperial garde.

As a result of all kinds of remarks Luchan slowly removed the fajin (energy explosions), jumps, stomping and other heavier movements from the form. Following this his third son Jianghou (also called Jinghu, 1839-1917) developed the form that know is known as 'middle posture'. Jianghou's third son Chengfu (1883-1936) continued this and adjusted the form once again. He standardized it to the 'wide posture', distinctive of the 'tight posture' of his uncle Yang Banhou (1837-1892). Yang Cheng fu's form became the most widespread contemporary Taiji Quan style.

The yang style has a regular and peaceful, fluent tempo; it has no longer the alternation between speed and calm of the Chen style nor its variation between hitting up and bursting out. The movements in the Yang style are simple and direct; the energy moves as the quiet round movements of spinning silk. This style deviates from winding, wringing and turning (chanrao chuan zhe) of the Chen style, where the energy turns in a spiral or propeller movement. To ensure that the movements and breathing are coordinated and naturally, Yang style puts the emphasis on qi chen dantian (sinking the qi in the dantian), whereas the Chen style dantian nei zhang (turning the dantian inside) connects with the qi chen dantian. Because of the calm and simple training the Yang style Taiji Quan can easily be learned by large groups. This is one of the reasons why the Yang style is spread more widely than the Chen style.

The three generations Yang style teachers had great success and fame with their martial style in North China and could because of this choose young and talented students and train them with devotion. Because of this they had many pupils and students. 1928 was an important year, since Yang Chengfu then went from North China to South China to teach in Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Hangkou etc. His form spread itself increasingly further and was practiced in all parts of the country.

Yang Chengfu's style Taiji quan has a couple of clear characteristics:

  • The postures are calm and large, simple and clear, with a precise composition;
  • the body is in the middle and in one line, without leaning for or backwards;
  • the movements are balanced and supple, both hard and soft, with a lightness of mind and a solidness of the application.

In the training you let the softness come forth from relaxedness (song). If softness increases, you develop hardness; hardness and softness stimulate each other. the postures can be high, middle or low, so that everyone can choose the correct posture, according to his age, gender, strength or physical defects. Because of this it can be used to counter sickness and reinforce your health or become stronger and fitter and further someone with a basic strength can develop an artistic style. Yang style postures are large and open, light but still heavy, naturally, in the middle and straight, round and regular, simple, powerful and firm. For this reason everyone can create in a natural manner a grand and beautiful style. Yang Chengfu kept himself closely to the guidelines during the practice of his art. He penetrated the standard and kept himself to that: light, playful, firm and calm, centered and straight, round and full, soft full hardness, lively and full fire in posture and behavior. On photo's of him we can see he complied in all his aspects to the high standard of the Taiji quan.

Yang Chengfu once said: "Taiji quan is the art of soft full hardness, of a needle hidden in cotton. The postures must be centered and straight, round and full, calm and firm, relax and quietly; the movements are light, full life and round - a magnificent act." In fact this is a report of his own qualities.

When Yang Chengfu had gone south, he emphasized the usefulness of Taiji quan for the treatment of sicknesses and reinforcing health. When Chengfu showed his art in Shanghai, the movements fen jiao (spreaded toe kick) and deng jiao (heel kick) were still based on the training of fast kicking (so that you can hear the wind whistle). Later he changed them to quiet, controlled kicks with the faijin (energy explosions) hidden in the kick. So changing other fighting techniques and methods in a balanced, fluent tempo, without losing rhythm, from the fast to the quiet tempo.

Yang Chengfu had a very sturdy body. He was exceptionally skilled in tui shou (pushing hands); nobody could beat him in his way of neutralizing strengths or in his fajin. If he stuck out his hand it had the softness of cotton, but seemed to contain a steel plate. He hardly moved, but had a terribly far reach with that and let the energy come out with an exceptional speed; If he pointed his energy on someone, he flew spinning through the air, before he even could feel him move. Because of this his students were very fond of his arts and persisted with much pleasure in their study.

Chengfu's older brother, Shaohou (1862-1930) learned the largest part of the martial art from his uncle Banhou. His character fitted his terse and stubborn nature. In the beginning his fighting style was the same as that of Chengfu. Later on Shaohou started to change his form: a wide posture with quick steps, contracted movements, sometimes fast sometimes slow, hard and crunching fajin, sudden shouts, fierce sparkling eyes, brilliant as the lightning, a could laugh and cunning charisma. It contained sounds of 'heng and ha' and an intimidating approach.

The special properties of Shaohou's arts were:

  • He used soft to overcome hard;
  • He used sticking and following, overwhelming fajin;
  • He used trembling punches;
  • He used hand techniques as: knocking, pecking, grabbing and pushing back, splitting tendons, bone breaking, attacking vital points, choking and closing the veins, interrupting the heart beat;
  • To move energy he used: sticking/following, shaking and hooking.

His attackers were immediately laid down. When Shaohou taught his students something, he hit them as soon as they were started, no matter who it was. Moreover his use of words and approach went from joy to anger. Not so gifted students could hardly imitate him. His students admired his technique, but seldom someone could complete the whole training. This is the reason that Chengfu's name became more popular, even though they were equally known. Chengfu's style was in the midst of his life tough and firm, powerful and strong, with impressive jumps. His student Chen Wiming then wrote the book Taijiquan Shu (the art of taiji quan), in which he explained the principles. Later someone asked to compose Taijiquan ti yong quan shu (the book about the essence and applications of Taiji quan). At that moment Chengfu already weighed 150 kilos. Still the photo's show a firm, relaxed and calm posture, hardness in softness. He had mastered his own technique completely.

Three generations of the Yang family have trained quan continuously. Each time they have changed curricula and training methods to keep connection with the wishes of a large group. Their fighting technique has now spread very widely.

Gu Liu Xin