Yang Style Tai Chi
Yang Fu Quai, alias Lu Chan, was born in Nan Quan village of Yong Nian County. He came from a farming family and during periods after harvest time, he used to work in a grocery in the west side of the county. One day a troublemaker burst into the local dispensary and proceeded to insult the proprietor, claiming that he was not a local. He did this in an attempt to shame the proprietor into reducing the price on some precious herbs that he wished to buy. Without provocation the bully struck out at the proprietor, who with a sudden thrust of his hands, sent the troublemaker hurling a few meters out of the dispensary.
The crowd that gathered was greatly impressed by the incident. Lu Chan, who was amongst them, thought to himself that the proprietor must posses outstanding Wu Shu (martial art) ability and he was filled with respect at his skill. In his youth, Lu Chan had learnt Shaolin Chuan, but had never managed to acquire its techniques. He made up his mind to call on the proprietor to find out what Chuan (fist) technique he practiced.
At first the proprietor was reluctant to even discuss his technique. Later, moved by Lu Chan’s sincerity and earnest desire to know more, he told him that he practiced Mien Chuan (soft / continuous fist), also called as Tai Chi Chuan. He explained to Lu Chan that his skill was limited, but that his Master lived in Henan’s Chen Jia Gou (Chen family village), and was known as Chen Chang Xing . He advised him to seek Master Chen out, with a view to learning from him.
Six years later, he returned to Yong Nian, arriving during the festivities of the Lunar New Year. Observing his return, some of the local Wu Shu practitioners sought to test his skill by trying to crowd him, under the pretext of being in a festive mood. None of them managed to get close to him and the crowd laughed, saying that at last he had been successful in mastering Wu Shu.
There lived in Yong Nian a noble named Wu, who was related to Master Chen Chang Xing and himself was a Wu Shu expert. On hearing of Lu Chan’s return, he challenged him to a competition, from which Lu Chan emerged undefeated.
After some 10 years of study, Lu Chan’s Wu Shu was exceptional. However, he had still not acquired a deep understanding or appreciation of Tai Chi Chuan’s intricate techniques. Thus he was prompted to return for a third time to Chen Jia Gou.
At that time, it was common practice among Wu Shu masters, not to pass every aspect of their skill to their tuti. Master Chen was no exception.
However, Lu Chan’s humility and earnest respect moved his Master deeply. Chang Xing gathered his clan together and announced: “Lu Chan has been a tuti for over 10 years. He has journeyed to Chen Jia Gou on three separate occasions. His spirit and determination in perfecting his Wu Shu are traits not easily found among all of us. As I am getting on in years, I cannot allow my Wu Shu to be lost. I have decided to hand this art which i had learned from Jiang Fa and technique to Lu Chan for posterity.”
Following his announcement, Master Chen was still plagued by doubt as to the future of his knowledge and he decided to test Lu Chan’s integrity for the last time. He did this by distancing himself from Lu Chan. His ploy had no effect and Lu Chan continued to devote his his efforts towards the perfection of his Wu Shu technique. Often when they met, Chang Xing would pretend to be drunk, lying on his bed or just ignoring Lu Chan totally.
Lu Chan remained unperturbed and never uttered an ill word about his Master. Eventually, Master Chen was totally convinced of Lu Chan’s integrity and he transmitted the entire essence and secret of his Wu Shu to him.
Three years later, Master Chen had completed his task and he told Lu Chan, “You may go now as you have mastered Tai Chi Chuan to distinction. You can now say that no-one compares with you.”
So Lu Chan left his Master’s village and some years later established himself in Beijing. There he acquired a great reputation for his matchless skill and was never defeated, earning himself the nickname of Yang Wu Di (Peerless Yang, Yang the invincible).
In his travels, Lu Chan once visited the home of the Chang family in Beijing. A family of humble origin, the Changs had grown wealthy through their involvement with the coal mining industry. Consistent with their new-found social stature, they employed a number of Wu Shu teachers in their household as retainers, as well as a number of aspiring martial artists. Every evening, they would gather as a family, to practice their Wu Shu in preparation for competitions.
Living in Yong Nian at that time, was a Beijing noble named Wu. He was seeking Wu Shu teachers to instruct the Chang household and agreed to introduce Lu Chan to the Chang family.
Many of the Chang family retainers were well known Wu Shu teachers, mainly of big strong physique. Lu Chan on the other hand was small and slightly built. His punny appearance caused the head of the household to consider him disparagingly. Thus on arrival at the Chang family, Lu Chan found himself relegated to an inferior position at the table to that of the other teachers. (It was customary at that time, for a host to signify his respect for the status of his guest by the position he accorded him at the table). During the course of the meal, the host asked Lu Chan what kind of Wu Shu he trained in. To which Lu Chan replied: “My Wu Shu is neither Monkey technique nor Shaolin technique. It is called Mien Chuan.”
The host was not familiar with this type of boxing and he disparagingly asked if Lu Chan’s Mien Chuan could be applied in combat. Being honest and unassuming, Lu Chan chose to ignore the obvious slight and responded: “The Mien Chuan I practice is not for fighting, however, should it be required for fighting, it is far superior to an iron fist.”
His curiosity aroused, the host asked if Lu Chan would demonstrate his technique in a competition with some of his guests.
Now among the guests assembled, were well known and reputable Wu Shu Masters, many of whom had shown disdain at Lu Chan’s puny physique. Anxious to uphold their reputation, they grabbed the opportunity in the hope that Lu Chan would be defeated and disgraced.
Unperturbed, Lu Chan agreed to his host’s request, saying that, “To have an open competition, we must not stand on ceremony. That is, we must treat it in the spirit of true competition and not worry about death. Should it end in tragedy, there should be no regrets.”
So, the contest began, with one Master lunging fiercely at Lu Chan with a clenched fist. A slight raising of Lu Chan’s hands served to hurl his attacker several meters away, where he fell badly hurt and bleeding. One of his colleagues, enraged at his friend’s plight, sprang to take his place and suffered a similar fate. The remaining teachers did not dare to take up the challenge.
Somewhat alarmed, the host immediately reorganised his seating arrangement, as a gesture of deference to the victor. Lu Chan however, thought the gesture to be hypocritical and he left the reception immediately.
Once news of the incident spread, Wu Shu experts came from far and wide to challenge Lu Chan. However, he was never defeated and lived up to Master Chen’s expectations. As his reputation spread throughout Beijing, “Yang Wu Di” as he was called, became a much sought after celebrity guest in the households of the nobility. It became the vogue to invite him along to banquets and celebrations as an honoured guest of the household.
Unswayed by all this attention, Lu Chan maintained the principle of not teaching Wu Shu to just anyone. He would first give much thought and consideration to each individual case. Students who were genuinely earnest in their search, were rewarded, as he passed his knowledge to them without regard to status or influence.
Yang Lu Chan’s fame also earned him enemies who envied his prowess and these people often schemed to harm him, though none dared challenge him openly.
One day, while he was fishing by a river, some 5km south of Yong Nian, Lu Chan felt someone commencing to attack him from the rear. Without moving from his position, he arched his back to “Pat the High Horse” and caused his attacker to fall into the river.
One of Yang Lu Chan’s son, Ban Hou, is upright but somewhat short-tempered. His Wu Shu students often had to put up with his temper. Lu Chan and Ban Hou both have engaged in separate challenges from a Wu Shu Master named Lieu at West No. 4, Beijing City. These challenges have since become part of Wu Shu annals.
Master Lieu’s Wu Shu was considered one of the best in Beijing City. His tuti’s were also highly regarded as being formidable. Lieu issued a challenge to Ban Hou which was accepted. As Ban Hou emerged from Lieu’s house into the garden, Lieu attacked him from behind with hands outstretched, in an attempt to gouge his eyes out. Wu Shu experts refer to this action as Duan Deng or “dimming the light.” In a flash, Ban Hou turned, warding off with both hands and causing Lieu to be thrown a great distance away.
Another Wu Shu expert named “Almighty Strength”, used to boast that he had been through all seven states in China and had found none who could defeat him. He was reputed to be able to grind stones into powder with his bare hands and he publicised his skills widely throughout Beijing capital. Wishing to determine which of the two was superior, he challenged both Lu Chan and his son Ban Hou to a competition.
Both father and son were at Yong Nian at that time, when villagers brought news of the challenge to them. Lu Chan was not interested in journeying to Beijing. Ban Hou however, could not resist a challenge and told his father that if he did not want to go, he (Ban Hou) would make the journey alone.
On his arrival, it was agreed that the competitors would meet at West No. 4, Beijing City, to take up their challenge. The morning of the competition saw tens of thousands gathering before the stage to witness the event. Ban Hou arrived, riding a white horse. “Almighty Strength” was already there, boasting his muscular physique to the ovation of the crowd. Ban Hou looked puny next to his opponent as he was small and slim. Most of the spectators did not think he stood much of a chance.
The competition began with “Almighty Strength” roaring thunderously, like a tiger emerging from the jungle. By this time, the crowd was growing concerned for Ban Hou’s life. “Almighty Strength” threw a punch at Ban Hou who turned to neutralize it. The punch sailed past and “Almighty’s” fist landed in a large upright stone that stood by the side of the stage, causing the stone to break into many pieces. The crowd cheered, and are convinced that Ban Hou was going to lose. As “Almighty” attempted a second blow to Ban Hou’s face, he emitted a loud cry and “raised hands”, sending “Almighty” flying onto the ground. While the crowd applauded his victory, Ban Hou humbly mounted his horse and rode off.
Yang Ban Hou was also skilled in using the iron rod. Though the weapon was very heavy, he managed to practice with great ease. An onlooker once sneered at him while he was practising and Ban Hou warded him off with the end of the rod, throwing him up to the rooftop. The terrified man fell to his knees pleading for mercy and Ban Hou assisted him down from the roof with his iron rod. This was the source of much amusement to spectators who witnessed the incident.
A fire once started on the south side of Yong Nian and was burning fiercely, threatening to spread towards a large area of dried reeds, which were stacked for storage. The prevailing wind picked up and the situation seemed hopeless. Lu Chan and Ban Hou happened to pass by carrying rods. They immediately made their way through the crowd and headed for the fire. Using the tips of their rods to flick the bales of dried reeds into the river, they helped prevent the fire from spreading.
Yang Lu Chan’s other son,
Jian Hou alias Jing Pu, possessed well-developed Wu Shu skills and was particularly agile in his form. He possessed a profound knowledge of Tai Chi Dao (Sabre), Jian (Sword) and Qiang (Spear). His eye-body coordination was superb and his movement was very fast.
He was once among a crowd of spectators in a Beijing theatre, watching an actor perform with his sword. The actor suddenly lost control of the weapon and it flew out of his hands in Jian Hou’s direction. So quick was Jian Hou’s reaction that he not only managed to ward off the sword, but caused it to be flung back onto the stage.
Ban Hou has a son named Shao Pung alias Ling Shao. He took up Wu Shu from Master Chen Shu Foong. Shao Pung and his cousin Cheng Fu taught Wu Shu at Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangxi.
Jian Hou had 3 sons. The eldest was name Shao Shang alias Shao Hou, the second was Shao Yuang, who died at an early age and the third was named Shao Ching alias Cheng Fu. When Cheng Fu grew up, he became Yong Nian’s foremost Tai Chi Master and was affectionately known as Master Yang. Shao Hou had one child, a son named Zen Sen. Cheng Fu had 4 sons: Cheng Ming, Cheng Ji, Cheng Do and Cheng Gua. The elder two sons, Cheng Ming and Cheng Ji were considered to be better skilled of his progeny, in Yang’s Tai Chi Chuan.
Cheng Fu’s eldest brother,
Shao Hou was high-spirited and energetic, but rather short-tempered. He was renowned for his skill at Tui Shou (Push Hands). His movements were fast and he was always eager to retaliate.
On one occasion in Beijing’s Shen Wu Place, two burly men attacked a frail person. Shao Hou witnessed the attack and became extremely infuriated. He barged in and within seconds hurled the bullies a great distance away.
From a tender age,
Cheng Fu was taught Wu Shu by his father. He became very dedicated to his art and as he matured, his expertise increased greatly. As a result of his profound knowledge and understanding of his art, he was aware of the benefits from its practice. An intelligent, talented man, Cheng Fu possessed enormous stamina and energy. In time, he became the Yang Family’s leading Master of Tai Chi Chuan and is reputed to have been one of the foremost Martial Artists of the 20th century.
He was once requested by a Mr. Lieu to travel to the town of Wu Han. At the time of this arrival, Wu Shan (a Wu Shu society in the town), was staging a sword competition. A well-known fencing Master requested Cheng Fu to compete with him. Cheng Fu humbly declined. However, the fencing Master persisted with his challenge and upon his third request, Cheng Fu conceded, saying, “Only if I was to compete with you using a bamboo sword, so as not to cause grievous bodily harm.”
In the course of the competition, the fencing Master lunged at Cheng Fu with his sword. Cheng Fu managed to ward the attack off with his bamboo sword and struck his opponent on the wrist, fracturing his wrist. The fencing Master dropped his sword immediately, but Cheng Fu deeply regretted the pain that he had caused the opponent.
He was a kind man with a well-intentioned nature and those who knew him felt that he had inherited all his father’s attributes. Cheng Fu’s Tai Chi can best be described as a “needle embedded in cotton”. His movements were always in harmony, while each move remained distinctive, strong and definitive. This well-defined, unexaggerated yet harmonious technique of Cheng Fu appealed to many students. He had many students and tuti (
disciples), some of whom came from or subsequently acquired prominent positions in society. Among them are:
Chen Wei Ming
Chen Yua Po
Yuen Yua Chuan
Wu Wei Chuan
Tue Ei Sher
Tung Ching Lieng
Ji Tun Leing
Chen Man Ching
Dong Lin Chei
Nen Tsung Min
Wuang Tsu Dong
Fu Zhong Wen
Among Yang Cheng Fu’s many disciples, Fu Zhong Wen was especially highly regarded by him for his excellent character. Zhong Wen happens to marry the great grand-daughter of Yang Jian Hou, Mdm. Zhao Gui Zhen, and gave birth to another great Tai Chi Master of our time, Fu Sheng Yuan.
From the age of nine,
Fu Zhong Wen, was by Cheng Fu’s side, learning Wu Shu from him both by day and by night. Zhong Wen’s diligence and determination in mastering the art of Tai Chi Chuan, saw him advance rapidly in the knowledge and expertise of Wu Shu. As he was learning directly from Cheng Fu, he was able to derive tremendous benefit from and gained profound insight into Tai Chi Chuan. Consequently his Wu Shu skills attained a very high standard.
As he matured in age and skill, Zhong Wen accompanied Cheng Fu in his travels around their homeland, to demonstrate their art. He also served as Cheng Fu’s assistant in teaching and earned his Master’s highest regard.
In their travels to Guangdong, Zhong Wen represented his Master in many local competitions, not once failing to uphold his Master’s honour. So highly regarded was he by his peers, that Cheng Fu’s first disciple,Chen Wei Ming wrote to him after their Master’s death, acknowledging the excellence of Zhong Wen’s Wu Shu and the accuracy with which he reflected their Master’s art.
In order to carry on the work of his Master in spreading Tai Chi Chuan to all people, Zhong Wen established the Yong Nian Tai Chi Chuan Society of Shanghai. Since then, hundreds of thousands of students have come under his instruction. In May of 1958, Zhong Wen went to Shanghai City to teach a Wu Shu group there. Under his expert guidance, many of these students were successful competitors in the National Wu Shu competitions. Tai Chi Chuan as practised in Shanghai, is regarded as the best form of Tai Chi Chuan in the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.).
In 1959, the P.R.C. featured Fu Zhong Wen’s Tai Chi Dao (Sabre) in its international sports publication. The P.R.C. also published his book, entitled Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, in 1963. Translations of this book have reached Japan, U.S.A. and France and he was highly regarded in the International Wu Shu community.
Master Fu Zhong Wen, his son Master Fu Sheng Yuan and grand-son Master Fu Qing Quan, were invited to tour Japan in 1987, by the Wu Shu Society of Japan.
Their tour included performances and instruction in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.
Before the passing of Master Fu Zhong Wen on the 25th september 1994 he was:
Vice President of the Shanghai Wu Shu Society
Chief Instructor of the Shanghai Wu Shu Association
Consultant and Patron of the Tongji University’s Tai Chi Chuan Research Society
Professor of the Shanghai Chemical University
Master Fu Sheng Yuan, is now the 5th Generation Master of the Yang Style Taiji Quan and the President of the World Yong Nian Tai Chi Federation and Fu Sheng Yuan International Tai Chi Academy.