"Hsiung Yang-Ho's San Shou Form"
İHarvey Kurland MSc, MFS, CSCS 1998 From the May T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Wellness Newsletter.
"The form is the alphabet; Pushing hands and San Shou are learning to read and write. The ability to read and write is what makes the alphabet useful." - Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen
Our system is primarily based on the "Older Form" of Yang family style. What we call our sections 7 & 8, is the San Shou form, is traced to Great Grandmaster Hsiung Yang-ho. Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen studied with Hsiung Yang-ho (1886-1984) in Taiwan. Hsiung was a disciple of Yang Shao-hou (1862-1930). Yang Shao-hou being the son of Yang Chien-hou (1839-1917). Yang Chien-hou was the son of the founder of the Yang style, Yang Lu-chan (1799-1872). Yang Shao-hou was also the Older Brother of Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936) and also trained with his uncle Yang Pan-hou. Hsiung, was a very famous martial artist in Taiwan.
What is now called "Orthodox Yang Style" is the later form of Yang Shao-hou's younger brother, the famous Yang Cheng-fu. Yang Cheng-fu modified the form so it was easier to practice and popularized it for the intelligencia as an exercise. This is one of the more important steps that took t'ai chi ch'uan out of the realm of just martial artists and tough guys and into the modern era of health promotion and seniors exercising in the park. According to some historians, Yang Cheng-fu took out the fast kicks, as well as the more complicated waist turns to make the exercise art easier to learn. There is considerable debate over that issue.
Yang Cheng-fu's older brother, Yang Shao-hou, taught what is often called "Old Yang Style" or the versions before the 1930's modifications. So, what is considered Orthodox Yang Style comes from Yang Cheng-fu, Yang Shao-hou's younger brother, some experts consider it a simplified method. The senior students of Yang Shao-hou, who did not become disciples of Cheng-fu were written out of the Yang family lineage after the death of Shao-hou and for that reason are not as well known. Hsiung was one of those who did not affiliate himself with Yang Cheng-fu so is not well know for that reason. There are some who say Hsiung studied with Yang Chien-hou as well. There are some historians and writers claim that Yang Cheng-fu did not have the martial skill of some of his father's and older brother's students. And some experts believe that what is called the Orthodox Yang Form is a watered down form. There is no way to know and as much of the history of t'ai chi ch'uan is just speculation, fairy tales, and the alleged "Official" history is revised liberally depending on who is telling the stories. What is known is that Hsiung was a well known t'ai-chi ch'uan martial artist in Taiwan teaching the san shou and spear methods.
Our system comes from the Older Brother, Yang Shou-hou through two masters, Hsiung Yang-ho and Tian Zhao-lin. Tian Zhao-lin was a very famous t'ai chi master and is claimed to be a student of Yang Shou-hou. Again there is some dispute as some of his disciples claim that Yang Chien-hou, Shao-hou's father, was Tian's main teacher and claim that Tian was inherited as a student of Yang Shou-hou after his fathers death. Others claim Tian Zhao-lin to have studied with Yang Pan-hou, but I have not found evidence for that. He has also been written into the Yang Cheng-fu lineage. Our Long "Slow" form comes primarily from the Tian Zhao-lin lineage and our San Shou form comes from Hsiung Yang-ho.
Hsiung taught the San Shou San Shou form, what we call "Sections 7 & 8" to a few students including Tchoung Ta-tchen and Liang Tung-tsai. They in turn taught it to other students in Taiwan and North America, many of the people doing this form in North America can be traced back to them and their little group. Hsiung was particular in who he taught and many masters were not allowed into his class. There are several versions of the form taught today as several of the masters who studied with him or his students then made their own changes to the form. Tchoung taught the form to his senior students, and thousands of students in Taiwan, Africa, Canada and the United States of America. See Certified instructors for a list of instructors in Canada and the USA including Harvey Kurland who taught it to Scott Mullen and other of his UCR Riverside students. Kurland learned several versions of the form but only teaches Grandmaster Tchoung's version.
The san shou form is a two-person set. It is choreographed and each person knows what the other is to do. This is a traditional training method in Kung-fu and common to most styles. By practicing this form, the t'ai-chi ch'uan comes to life. It helps the student to discover the marital applications of the form. It is also a fun set to practice and you exercise more than the slow form. It is first learned as a solo form. Then it is done with a partner. At first is should be done slowly so that the subtleties can be practiced. Later it is done fast. After you learn this form, you will understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan at a deeper level and how the techniques are really used.
Tchoung's form is based on the premise that "The form is the alphabet; Pushing hands and san shou is learning to read and write. The ability to read and write is what makes the alphabet useful." In order to understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan basic form, one needs to study pushing hands and San shou. He feels that it is important to understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan applications in order to really teach it correctly. Learning the san shou form is a way to learn the art at a deeper level.