Preface to History of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Copyright Kurland 2001
chi ch'uan was originally taught as a martial art and longevity exercise. In the
early 20th century the health benefits were discovered and it took on
a new persona as a preventive medicine or wellness exercise.
It was later promoted by the Chinese Government to keep the citizens
healthy. The martial art aspects then took a back stage to it being a health
exercise in China.
Reports (CR, Feb 2000, p 45) calls t'ai-chi the "Ultimate low-impact
exercise", an exercise that can be done by any one who can walk, the only
caveat being people with knee problems may have problems doing it.
CR claims t'ai-chi can improve
cardiovascular endurance as well as improve posture, strength and balance.
CR sites a 1992 Australian
study that found it had the same effect as brisk walking on heart rate, blood
pressure and stress hormones. Scientific
studies have found that it can lower blood pressure, improve balance, improve
circulation and make seniors feel empowered.
to Dr Robert Whipple, a gait and balance expert, "T'ai-chi has come up with
the best possible biomechanical scenarios for keeping a person stable - to
maximize your standing base by widening your stance, and to keep your head and
torso as vertical as possible." (CR, Feb 2000) The methods showing the best results have the feet in a wide
stance position, with the back and head held straight upwards.
As the t'ai-chi classics stay the head is held, "As if suspended
from above." There should be
no leaning over, forward, back or to the side.
of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
Kurland 1998, 2000
From H Kurland, "The Web of Tai Chi Chuan" parts 1 & 2 Karate/Kung fu Illustrated, July & August 1998,
of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
ch'uan (also spelled taijiquan and taiji chuan) is an ancient Chinese martial
art that comes in so many variations that it's often confusing to the layman.
Some styles can trace their lineage back to the founding of the art, while
others date back to the early part of the 20th century. Some stress
competition, while others emphasize health or self-defense. Obviously,
without the proper information, choosing the one that is best for you can be a
daunting task. This article will present an overview of the major styles
of tai chi, and after reading it you'll be able to understand how one style
begot another. And you'll be able to more easily choose one that is right
examining the many styles and sub-styles of the art, however, it's wise to heed
the advice of t'ai chi ch'uan Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen. He insists
that all are valid and beneficial to the student as long as the basic t'ai chi
concepts are adhered to - even though many teachers proclaim that theirs is the
only correct method.
First, the Art
ch'uan is usually literally translated as "grand ultimate
boxing". I see this as meaning, instead of being an immodest
title, the "grand ultimate" portion of the name refers to the Chinese
concept of the origin of the universe. That is the principle of yin and
yang. In fact, the common yin-yang symbol is properly called the t'ai chi
diagram. I see t'ai-chi ch'uan being the art of the harmony of yin and yang, in
history of t'ai chi is foggy at best. There are many conflicting stories
from the past, and the confusion continues right up to the present. To
make matters worse, there are many revisionist versions of t'ai chi's history
which are expounded by those out to promote their own style as the best, or the
most authentic. So it is difficult
to get the full story.
foundation concepts of t'ai chi ch'uan, which come from Taoism and Confucianism,
go back to the beginning of written history in China. They come from Lao
Tzu's monumental text, Tao Te Ching, from the I Ching and from
various other health-promoting and breathing exercise treatises. The
actual art can be traced back only 300 to 700 years, however. The founder
is said to be Chang San-feng (Zhang Sanfeng), who is thought to have lived from
1279 to 1368, but no one knows if he actually existed.
Some experts claim him as just being a myth, while others argue he did
exist and there are monuments to him in China.
believed Chang San-feng was a Shaolin monk who decided to leave the monastery to
become a Taoist hermit. On Wu Tang (Wudang) mountain, he gave up the hard
fighting style he had learned and formulated a new art based on softness and
yielding. One story tells how he had a vision between a snake and a crane
(although some say it was a magpie, an eagle or a hawk). In theory, the
crane should have had an easy time killing the snake, but in Chang's vision, the
crane would try to attack the snake's head, and the snake would evade and hit
the crane with it's tail. When the crane would try for the snake's tail,
the snake would bite the crane. This resulted in the discovery of the
basic t'ai chi concepts of evading, yielding and attacking.
assembled a martial art that used softness and internal power to overcome brute
force. He is believed to have written: "In every movement, every part
of the body must be light and agile and strung together. The postures
should be without breaks. Motion should be rooted in the feet, released
through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers.
Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated."
marked the beginning of t'ai-chi ch'uan, but at that time it was called chang
chuan, or long boxing after the endless flow of the Changjiang (Yangtse)
River. Later, Chang formulated the 13 postures of t'ai chi. While no
one knows what his art looked like then, it is thought that the movements were
practiced as individual techniques and/or concepts.
next major historical figure was Wang Tsung-yueh (Wang Zongyue), who wrote the
second t'ai chi classic and first referred to the art as t'ai-chi chuan.
He also coined the statement, "a force of 4 ounces deflects 1,000
pounds." He is thought to have expanded the original 13 postures into
a linked choreographed form. Some historians believe Wang actually founded
the art, while others dispute his existence as well.
candidate for the role of t'ai chi founder is Chen Wang-ting. Some believe
he created the art based on his military experiences, his study of local boxing
methods and his gleaning of classical texts like Ch'uan Ching (Boxing
Classics), which was written by Chi Che-kwong (Qi Jiguang) (1528 - 1587) as a
compellation of known methods.
developed several forms, and his family passed them along only to its
members. At the 14th generation, around the late 1700s and early 1800s,
Chen's style spilt into the "old-frame" and the "new-frame"
versions. The New frame was taught by Chen Yu-pen, and the Old frame by
was at this time that an outsider learned the art and started opening it up to
the rest of the world. These days, students can learn several versions of
the Chen style - including the old frame, new frame and modern forms- as well as
offshoots which developed in towns located near the Chen family village.
There are many variations of Chen style.
Chen form requires the body to be straight and upright. Variations of the
horse stance are emphasized. In the most popular version, which was taught
by Feng Zhiqiang, the basic stance has the toes pointing outward slightly.
Other forms use a parallel-foot horse stance. In all reputable versions,
the knees are positioned directly above the toes. Most movements are
executed with a sideways orientation - as if one's opponents are standing to the
side. The two of the most famous
and highest level teachers today are Chen Xiaowang and Feng Zhiqiang who teach
different versions of Chen style.
novel part of the Chen style is the multitude of explosive movements: jumps,
strikes and kicks. There is an emphasis on "silk-reeling energy", or
the spiraling energy that flows from the feet to the hands. Even thought
the art is performed quickly, the practitioner should remain loose and relaxed.
Any tension or disjointed movements mean it is being done incorrectly. It
is difficult to practice the Chen style correctly because of the ease with which
excessive force and muscle tension can creep into its movements. Perhaps
this is why some hard stylists can do impressive imitations of this style - but
without using the correct concepts. It may also be the reason the Chen
style appeals to martial arts students who need a tangible sense of speed and
Lu-chan (1799 - 1872) learned the old-frame style from Chen Chang-hsing.
Many stories tell how this took place. A popular one holds that
Yang wanted to learn the art, but the Chen family would not teach outsiders.
So Yang took a job as a servant for the Chen's and learned t'ai-chi by watching
through a crack in the wall. Afterward, he would practice what he
learned when he alone in his room. One day he was discovered and asked to
spar with the other students. He easily defeated all of them and was taken
under the wing of Chen Chang-hsing, who then taught him the whole old-frame
style. Yang is said to have spent the next six years studying under Chen.
(Some historians say he studied for 13 years and others 18 years)
eventually returned to his hometown of Kuang Ping (also spelled Guang Ping) and
taught the old-frame Chen style. He later traveled to Beijing and became a
military martial arts teacher for the Manchu government. After he altered
the sequence of the movements in his form, it later became known as the Yang
modern practitioners claim that Yang watered down the art he taught to the
Manchus and reserved a different version of it for his townspeople and family.
But this may be just a selling point for those who insist they teach the only
is important to remember that Yang played a pivotal role in opening the
once-closed art to the outside world. Two facts are significant: He
learned the old-frame Chen style, and he was never beaten in combat. Even
as a beginner, he defeated all of Chen's students. For those who claim he
didn't learn all the secrets of the Chen family, this action speaks louder than
any speculation. Because of his
victories in challenge matches, he acquired the nickname "Yang the
Invincible". Nevertheless, he always avoided hurting his opponent in
a match. Two of his sons carried on his art and family tradition:
Yang Pan-hou (a.k.a. Yang Yu) and Yang Chien-hou (a.k.a. Yang Jian).
The senior Yang also taught Wu Yu-hsiang and was friends with Tung Hai-chuan,
who was the founder of pa kua
chang (bagua zhang) another major
"Internal Style" of kung-fu. It would be easy to speculate there was some influence of
pa-kua over the Yang's t'ai-chi ch'uan and Yang's t'ai-chi ch'uan over Tung's
Old Wu Style
Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang) (1812-1880) studied under Yang Lu-chan for an extended
time. He then traveled to the Chen family village, and for three months he
studied the new-frame style, with Chen Ching-ping. After that, Wu founded
his own version of t'ai chi, which is now called the Wu style, the old Wu style
or the "Orthodox Wu style". This is a different family name and style
than the Wu who studied with Yang Pan-hou and formed the "New Wu" form
(described later). Some people call
this form Hao Style after Hao Wei-chen.
is responsible for the classic text titled Expositions
of Insights Into the Practice of the 13 Postures.
Wu Tu-nan, a master who lived
to 107 years old, studied under Wu Yu-hsing and Yang Lu-chan, then developed his
own form which influenced others teachers such as Tchoung Ta-tchen.
Three major offshoots stemmed from Wu Yu-hsiang: the Li, the Hao
and the Sun styles.
I-yu was Wu Yu-hsiang's main disciple. He wrote several t'ai chi classics,
including The Five
Character Secret and Essentials of the Practice of Form and Push Hands.
That text was based upon a secret manuscript, allegedly written by Wang
Tsung-yueh, which the Wu family claimed to find. Li style is considered a small
I-yu taught Hao Wei-chen (Hao Weizhen) (1849-1920), who then founded the Hao
style of t'ai chi. This is another small-frame form, which means it uses tight
small-circle movements and shorter stances.
This is called small frame (Xiao Jia) and the Hao style name is often
used for Old Wu form.
1914 Hao embarked on a trip to visit a friend named Yang Chien-hou, who was Yang
Lu-chan's son and a major figure in Yang style. Hao ended up contracting
an illness before he could find Yang. A well-known hsing-i master
named Sun Lu-tang came to his aid, and Hao repaid him by teaching him his
fighting style. Sun was already renowned for his hsing-i ch'uan and pa kua
chang skills, but he decided to combine the Hao style of t'ai chi with the other
two arts to form a new system called the Sun style, after Sun Lu-tang.
the Hao style, the Sun style is considered small frame. It employs many
"step-ups" into its techniques, and this fact makes it somewhat
similar to hsing-i. The Sun style also used short stances and straight leg
kicks, but jumps have been taken out of its repertoire. It is said that
the art melded pa kua chang's steps, hsing-I ch'uan's leg and waist methods, and
t'ai chi's softness. This is often
called the "lively paced" form (Huobu Jia). The Sun style was carried
on by Sun's daughter, Sun Jian-yun who teaches in China.
Lu-tang (1861-1932) is also well-known because he was highly literate and a
prolific writer. This made him a rarity among martial artists of that time.
He authored several books and in the late 1800's popularized the term nei
chia chuan, which translates as "Internal Family Arts" or
"Internal Martial Arts." The
term Internal Martial Arts caught on and had a conceptual influence on other
arts, which actually is different than the meaning of the term. The concept of Internal
Arts referred to Arts developed within China such as T'ai chi ch'uan ,
Hsing-I Ch'uan, and pa-kua chang. External arts are those based on Shaolin
ch'uan which came from India. This idea often confuses people as they think it
means having to do with "Internal power".
New Wu Style
Lu-chan's two sons carried on his brand of t'ai chi ch'uan. One of them,
Yang Pan-hou, taught a modified small-frame style. He is also reported to have
taught a watered-down form to the Imperial family and still another form to his
versions of t'ai chi are now attributed to Yang Pan-hou. The most famous
is the other Wu style or "Medium Frame" form of Wu Jian-chuan (Wu
Jianquan) (1870 - 1942) and another is Kuang Ping style (described later). Yang
taught Wu Chuan-yu, who taught his son, Wu Jian-chuan. This style is
called the "New Wu style" by some, and is distinct from the Wu style
of Wu Yu-hsiang.
Wu stylists advocate using a pronounced lean in many of the techniques to help
the student gain leverage and power. Other Wu practitioners remain upright
as in the Chen style. The original form had 108 to 121 movements, but
several short and modified versions of Wu style now exist.
Kuang Ping Style
t'ai chi ch'uan offshoot from Yang Pan-hou is the Kuang Ping (also spelled Guang
Ping) style, which Yang allegedly taught at one point in his life. It's
interesting to note that there are very few similarities between the Kuang Ping
style and the Wu style. The Kung Ping from is more open and linear, and it uses
a more sideways-oriented stance. It also has very extended arm movements and
sometimes appears to be a bridge between the Chen style and the Yang style. As
in the older Yang forms, the upright stance is used.
Kuang Ping forms use an upright stance and straight-leg heel kicks and jumping
kicks. It is usually done at a faster pace, at least faster than the later Yang
forms. The form also includes some fast step-up movements which are similar to
those found in hsing-i ch'uan. Most of the techniques in the Kuang Ping form are
different from those of the Chen, Yang, or Wu forms.
Some people, such as Andrew Dale, a t'ai chi & pa-kua master in
Seattle, say there is a large pa-kua chang emphasis in the form.
Several versions of the style are taught today, mostly in California.
Some other instructors teach the art but call it the Ch'en style.
Pan-hou taught the Kuang Ping form to Wong Jiao-yu. His followers claimed it was
a secret of the Yang family's that was never taught to the hated Manchus. Wong
supposedly taught Kuo
Lien-ying, who was already a master of northern Shaolin kung fu. Kuo
was also a famous master of pa-kua chang. Kuo
later shortened the form and taught his condensed version to thousands of
students. When Mao Tse-tung seized power in China, Kuo fled to Taiwan and later
to San Francisco's Chinatown, where he taught the art.
has many students who also teach versions of the Kuang Ping style; some of these
are very different from what he taught. They include his wife Simone Kuo, Henry
Look, Y.C. Chiang, Tom Brayne, and T.R. Chung. Kuo wrote two books, one of which
was translated into English as Tai Chi Chuan in Theory and Practice,
translated by T.R. Chung and has pictures of Kuo doing his form.
Old Yang Style
Chien-hou (1842-1917) taught large-, medium-, and small-frame styles of tai chi.
He was easier to get along with than his brother and had more students. One
story told how he once held a sparrow in his hand and used his sensitivity to
prevent the bird from taking off by neutralizing its push. In another story,
armed only with a brush Yang is said to have defeated a martial artist who was
wielding a sword. His sons, Yang Shao-hou and Yang Cheng-fu, carried on his art.
Some of Yang Cheng-fu's students originally trained under his brother,
Yang Shao-hou. Consequently, they inherited the energy of that form.
of Yang Shao-hou described him as being brutal and often injuring or killing his
students. Consequently, he did not have many followers, but the ones he did have
were good martial artists. The well-known ones include his son Yang Chen-seng,
Tian Shao-lin, Hsiung Young-hou, and Chang Ching-ling, all of whom carried on
his unique small-frame method.
Yang Shao-hou died, his students became followers of his brother, Yang Cheng-fu.
Some tai chi historians claim that many of the senior students of Yang Shao-hou,
believing their skill was higher than Yang Cheng-fu's, went off on their own
after Shao-hou died. Thus, they were written out of the official lineage, and
some practitioners do not consider their versions of the art authentic.
experts claim that Tian Shao-lin and Hsiung Young-hou were also students of Yang
Pan-hou. Tian taught Shi Tiao-mei, who taught Tchoung Ta-tchen. Hsiung Young-ho
also taught Tchoung Ta-tchen - as
well as Liang Tung-tsai and several others - the san shou form.
Researcher Andy Dale refers to this San Shou form as another "secret"
Yang style, which Yang Shau-chung claimed was derived from the Chen Ar Lu style
(pao chui, or cannon fist), as taught by Yang Lu-chan.
Cheng-fu (1883-1936) was one of the most important historical figures in modern
t'ai chi ch'uan. He taught a
"Large Frame" t'ai chi form that used slow, smooth, expansive
movements. It was often said that he felt like a steel bar wrapped in cotton.
Legend has it he was never defeated in combat. Chang Ching-ling an advanced
student of Yang Shao-hou also practiced with him and may have helped develop
Yang Cheng-fu's skill.
taught at the Central Kuo Shu Institute in 1926. When he moved south to
Shanghai, he modified the Yang form, taking out the fast kicks and the more
strenuous movements. He is also credited with emphasizing the health benefits of
the art and popularizing it among the educated class. Yang deserved much of the
credit for the current popularity t'ai-chi ch'uan and especially of the Yang
style. Some claim he taught one art to the public and another to his closest
disciples. Though many experts deny
this idea. His form is referred to
as "Yang Family Style", as the "Family" designation is only
appropriate for familial relations.
Tchoung Version Old Yang Style
Ta-tchen taught the "Dual form" of the Old form of the Yang
style form. His is a symmetrical
form in that all movements are done on the right and left sides, which is
different than most standard forms which are one sided.
This symmetrical movement is thought to promote greater benefits for the
nervous system and for coordination, though is more difficult to learn at first.
There is also an emphasis on the "Silk Reeling Energy" which is
omitted from many other Yang versions. It
also emphasizes pull-down, shoulder and elbow techniques as well as some fast
kicks, which the more modern Yang Forms have removed. At 274 movements, this
form is much longer than the standard versions; it actually takes an hour to
complete. Tchoung's "annotated form" is composed of 120 movements.
method can be traced back to Yang Pan-hou and Yang Shao-hou, depending on which
historian is believed. His students
also teach his short form, pushing hands, applications, san shou, walking stick
form, t'ai-chi chien, t'ai-chi tao and several other sword forms.
also trained with Hsiung
Young-ho (1886-1984), who was a student of Yang Shao-hou. From Hsiung
he learned the san shou fighting form. He trained in push hands with Cheng Man-Ching
and was a friend and practice partner of Kuo Lien-ying, Wang Shu-chin, Yuan Tao
and Wang Yen-nien.
studied ch'i kung at China's O'mei Shan (Emei Shan) monastery in 1942. Tchoung
also studied the "Nature School of Boxing" with Hsiung Chien-yuan of
Hangchow. He was a renowned
swordsman and studied many systems of sword.
Teaching several methods to his followers.
his friend Kuo, Tchoung traveled around and tried out other martial artists. If
he heard that master was supposed to be good at push hands, Tchoung would visit
him. According to Laurens Lee: "He was famous in t'ai-chi ch'uan push hands
in Taiwan. During that period of time, there was a statement in Taiwan's martial
arts field: 'Big Tchoung cannot be moved, and Little Tchoung cannot be pushed
off balance.' Big Tchoung referred to eagle-claw master Tchoung Fu-sheng, and
Little Tchoung referred to Tchoung Ta-tchen." There are many students and
teachers of the Tchoung system in Canada and the USA.
Cheng-fu taught several well-known instructors, including his son Yang
Shau-chung, Tung Ying-chieh, Chen Wei-ming and Cheng Man-Ching. Each went off to
teach his own version of the Yang style. Fu Zhen-song studied with Yang Cheng-fu
and Sun Lu-tang, then formed his own style, which he called the Fu style. It
combines t'ai-chi, hsing-i and pa kua chang.
developed the form called liang-i, as well as his own version of pa kua. Fu's
forms contain a lot spinning, twisting, body ripping, and backward and forward
leaning. It is a very active and energetic form, which is a popular competition
form. Well-known teachers include Bow Sim Mark in Boston, Massachusetts; and
Victor Fu in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Tung (Dong) Style
is a variation of Yang Cheng-fu's form that is popular in Hawaii and Los
Angeles. Tung Ying-chieh
(1888-1961) is a famous teacher of the Yang style and was Yang Cheng-fu's
assistant. He also helped edit Yang's book and wrote some of his own. Tung later
developed his own form, which he taught his students after they learned the
standard form. His son, Tung Fue-ling, taught the style in Hong Kong, Hawaii and
Tung version of the Yang style became popular in Los Angeles and Hawaii. Huang
Wen-shin, a student of Tung Ying-chieh, is usually credited with popularizing
t'ai-chi ch'uan in the Southern California area through his classes and his
book, Fundamentals of Tai Chi Chuan. Huang's students are still teaching
a modified version of that form.
Tung style is said to have descended from the Yang Cheng-fu form, and the Tung
family added fast forms it developed and other forms. The style is characterized
by higher elbow positions, angularity, a greater amount of hand tension and
reduced usage of the waist than the Chang Ching-ling or softer derivatives. Some
observers believe that the Tung form seems to place more emphasis on peng
(ward-off energy) and less on yielding. It is a very straight forward form of
t'ai-chi ch'uan. Tung Fue-ling's son Tung Kai-ying, teaches in Los Angeles.
Cheng Man-Ching Style
Man-ch'ing was a well-known student of Yang Cheng-fu who wrote several books,
including his famous Cheng's 13 Chapters
on T'ai-Chi Ch'uan. He
was famous for his pushing hands and had many students in Taiwan.
Some historians have suggested that Cheng also trained with Chang
Ching-ling and other students of Yang Shao-hou, but Cheng officially recognized
only Yang Cheng-fu as his teacher.
at first taught the standard form but later shortened it to 37 movements.
Cheng, who was well-known for his push hands and softness, also had very
good kicking skills. He later moved to New York and started teaching there which
lead to popularity of his form.
are stories which tell how Cheng was knocked unconscious twice while engaging in
push hands with Yang Cheng-fu. He is also reported to not have gotten along with
Kuo Lien-ying or Hsiung Yang-hou, who did not like his style. But was friends
with Tchoung Ta-tchen who practice pushing hands with him. His friend Tchoung
Ta-tchen moved to Canada.
Tsung-tsai was his teaching assistant in Taiwan and moved to Boston where he
taught his own long form version of Yang style. Liang wrote books on the art
including, T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self-Defense. Several of
Liang's students have published many books on their version of the art.
Each teacher of Cheng form went their own way and there are now many
versions and modifications of the Cheng Man-ch'ing form.
Taiwan he was a famous tai chi instructor.
There were many skilled teachers who worked with him, some stayed in
Taiwan such as Liu Se-heng, who inherited his school in Taiwan. Other famous
students who moved to the United States, including Ben Lo, T. T. Liang, Abraham
Liu and William Chen.
versions of Yang style are taught today. Some are called the
"standard" or "authentic" versions and claim to be based on
Yang Cheng-fu's 1930s form. In reality, t'ai-chi practitioners often shared
information, sparred and worked out with practitioners of other styles, and this
probably influenced everyone's technique. This
was apparent before the cultural revolution in China and afterwards in Taiwan.
No two masters seem to be doing the exact same form. According to Tchoung
Ta-tchen this is to be expected, as no two person's energy is the same. According to Tchoung as long as the concepts are correct the
small artistic differences are inconsequential.
are many examples of possible sharing of ideas. For example, Yang Lu-chan was a friend of Tung Hai-chuan the
founder of pa kua. Do you think they did not work out together and discuss
concepts? Hao Wei-chen was a friend
of Yang Chien-hou and taught Sun Lu-tang. Chen
Wei-ming, a well-known student of Yang Cheng-fu, was friends with Sun Lu-tang
and studied pa kua chang and hsing-i chuan with him. As mentioned above, there
is speculation that Cheng Man-ch'ing also worked with Chang Ching-ling and Yang
Shao-hou's students. Yang Shao-hou was a friend of pa-kua chang legend Cheng
Ting-hua. And Tchoung Ta-tchen was friends and training partners of Kuo lien
Ying, Cheng Man-ch'ing, and Wang Shu-chin among others. It is very possible that
their associates influenced their arts. One
would be foolhardy to not think these men learned to adapt and allow their forms
to evolve. According to Tchoung. "T'ai-chi ch'uan should adapt and
evolve with current technology and knowledge," he claims it is a living,
evolving art form. Otherwise it is
just stagnant and against the Tao (Dao).
there is a power struggle between the two factions of the Yang family: the Fu
Zhong-wen side and the Yang Zhen-dou side. Fu began studying with his uncle,
Yang Cheng-fu when he was 9. Fu became a disciple of Cheng, and his followers
even say he was Yang Cheng-fu's favorite family disciple. Fu recently died, and
his son, Fu Sheng-yu, carries on his art.
Zhen-dou is the son of Yang Cheng-fu and is considered by many to be the
fourth-generation inheritor of the Yang style, even though simple math shows
that he was only 10 when his father died. But Yang and Fu had plenty of expert
family members from who to learn so is very skilled. There seems to be some
controversy as to whether Fu or Yang carried on the true from of Yang Cheng-fu.
Basically Yang (surname) family members say only those related to the
family with the Yang family name, can really claim they teach "Yang
Family" t'ai chi. The say
others teach "Yang Style" t'ai chi, Not "Yang Family Style",
a distinction they want to make very clear.
the patterns are the same, but there are significant differences in the way the
two Yang forms are done. In the Yang Zhen-dou version, many of the movements -
such as the one called "brush knee" - have a slight lean.
(Interestingly, this is similar to how it's done in some versions of the
"new Wu style.") But in
the Fu version, the body is held upright, as is done in the Chen and Kuang Ping
versions, Yang Zhen-dou argues that if you look at pictures of Yang Cheng-fu,
you can see him lean. They both agree that their ways differ from other forms,
as well. In reality it matters
little, as to small differences in styles as long as one does the exercise, the
benefits will follow. Similar
arguments are found in Chen style and other forms as well.
are many new forms such as the "24 from "developed in 1956 by
Committee on Mainland China. These were developed as calisthenics exercise
methods and for competition. For
example the 24 Simplified form is mainly Yang style used for exercise, but
others such as the 48 and 66 Forms combine several styles methods into one form.
Simplified sword forms have also been developed for exercise and competition.
of these new forms are designed as competition forms and lack the essence of the
more traditional forms. Many schools teach the 24 Form as an introductory form
to the art, while others only teach that form. Though many instructors of traditional methods have
questioned the energetics of the 24 form, as it does not seem to have the same
benefit as does the other more standard Yang forms.
This may be due to an incorrect order of the techniques. In my opinion
the equivalent to studying the 24 form would be learning the first section of
the Traditional Yang, Tchoung or the Cheng form, and would give the student much
better energetic results.
enlightened martial artists are fond of saying, the study of most any style will
ultimately benefit the student. Therefore, the student should choose the style
that most appeals to him. It is hoped that the historical and developmental
information provided in parts one and two of this article will enable martial
artists to better decide which style of t'ai-chi ch'uan best fits their need.
Because numerous experts devoted their life to perfecting each version of the
art, they all deserve to be respected.
articles can be found at www.ctcca.org or
Kurland is certified as a "Sifu", a professional teacher, of T'ai chi
ch'uan by the Chinese T'ai Chi Ch'uan Association.
He studied with many notable grandmasters including Kuo Lien Ying, Liang
Tsung-tsai, Chen Xiaowang, and Tchoung Ta-tchen and others.
Kurland also has Professional Certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and International Sports Sciences Association. Kurland has a Master of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology and a degree in Community Health Education. He did an internship with the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Institute in Seattle and did a preceptor ship in Sports Medicine at the University of Washington Medical School under Dr. James Garrick, where he did research into the effects of t'ai chi ch'uan. Kurland has taught exercise science, health education, and worked as a clinical exercise physiologist for many years. He was an Exercise Specialist in outpatient cardiac rehabilitation under Dr. Albert Kattus and worked with Dr. Ronald Mackenzie in Preventive Medicine. Kurland was the Director of Exercise Physiology for the National Athletic Health Institute and was in charge of testing most of the professional athletes in Southern California, including the LA Dodgers, Kings, Lakers, Rams and Lakers. He was also a consultant to LAPD Training Academy and was a member of the LAPD Medical Advisory Board. He is now a member of the LAPD Civilian Martial Art Advisory Panel. He currently teaches for University of California Riverside, Loma Linda University and Riverside Community College. Kurland has conducted several studies into the energy cost of t'ai chi ch'uan. He has published over 200 professional and lay articles on health, fitness, martial arts, and t'ai chi ch'uan.