image: left to right: Yang Luchan, Yang Banhou, Yang Jianhao, Yang Shaohao, Yang Chenfu.
Yang family Taijiquan is one of 5 major schools of taijiquan with the others being the Chen, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun.
Chen– founder is Chen Wan ting.
Yang- founder is Yang Luchan.
Wu (Hao)- founder is Wu Yu xiang.
Wu- founder is Quan Yu.
Sun- founder is Sun Lutang.
Taiji name was originally from the I-Ching or “Book of Changes”. It means “Supreme Ultimate” which is “yin yang”. The theory of the origin of Taijiquan (martial art) is not clear. Some say it is from Chang Sanfeng, a monk from Shaolin temple who settled in Wudang temple around the Yuan and Ming dynasty. However, evidence points to the creation in Chenjiagou, Wenxian county, Henan province to Chen Wangting, a garrison commander 300 years ago during end of Ming and early Qing dynasty.
image: Chang Sanfeng (left) and Chen Wangting (right).
Taijiquan has 13 postures (often called principles/powers/or energies):
Ba Men (Eight gates):
Wu Bu (Five steps):
11. Look left
12. Gaze right
13. Center equilibrium.
Taijiquan comes out of obscurity to the capital of China: Beijing.
Yang Luchan originally learned the Chen Taijiquan from Chen Chanxin. Chen Taijiquan is characterized by both slow and fast movements, jumping, stomping, and displays of sudden explosiveness (fajin). The Yang form that is most widely trained today is the Yang family’s “Da jia” or large frame standardized by Yang Chenfu in the 1930’s. The Yang family is originally from Yongnian country, Guang Ping prefecture in Hebei province. Its movements are characterized as slow, even, gentle, long, and large. Yang Luchan was invited to teach in Beijing to the Emperors family and Imperial guard. People watched and wanted to learn since he displayed many unique skills there.
The earlier frames of Yang taijiquan are as follows:
Yang Luchan form is considered the “Old Yang” form, Yang Banhou and Yang Shouhou practiced a frame called the “Small frame”. Yang Jianhou practiced what is called the “Middle frame”. Yang Chenfu publicly taught the “Large frame”.
There are two more frames: small fast set and the Taiji long boxing sets. These two are apparently the “Taiji boxer sets” according to experts.
Training to “Let go” and Relax more in your life is call “Sung” it is key attribute to Yang taijiquan. By relaxation we mean to open the joints, tendons, and bones while unifying the entire body during your practice. The waist leads your entire body as energy is led from the root in the feet, exploded by the legs, controlled by the waist, and expressed by the hands. The first of the 10 principles is very important- raise the head opens the spirit, it aligns the body internally, and directs mind to sink downward.
Taijiquan however also demands hard work. The forms are to be practiced constantly with great attention to details. One should flow through the long form for a minimum of 3 times for an hour study was Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen’s prescription to develop “Hun jin” or a pliable type of strength that is soft but with power behind it. It is why Taijiquan is referred to as “Cotton fist”. Without Hun Jin there was no cultivation of other jins. For example, chin ling jin, or light and agile ability is critical, and the combination of hun jin and chin ling jin together put the force into the Taijiquan postures, force into application using the 8 energies, and ultimately developing Taiji Gong fu.
image: Fu Zhongwen standing with Yang Chenfu
Yang Chengfu laid down the art into 10 requirements:
1. Raise the head, lift the spirit to the crown.
2. Sink the chest and round the back.
3. Relax the waist.
4. Separate the weight, understand the full and empty in the legs.
5. Drop the elbows and shoulders.
6. Coordinate the upper and lower body.
7. Coordinate the inner with the outer.
8. Use the mind not external force.
9. Move continuously without interruption.
10. Seek stillness within motion.
The Yang family art has 7 major parts:
1. Study of the Long form (108, 103, 85 depending on count, but all the same sequence).
2. Study of Straight sword
3. Study of Saber
4. Study of Long staff/Spear
5. Study of Da Shou/Tui Shou (hand skills)
6. Study of Da Lu (stepping skills)
7. Study of San Shou (All technique skills)
Fundamentals of Yang Taijiquan:
Bow stance requires:
1. The shape of an archer stance.
2. Knee follows the toe, does not go past the toe.
3. Back leg straight but not locked.
4. Shoulder width between feet.
5. Back foot points to 45 degrees.
6. Weight is 60% in front and 40% in back.
3 postures that use the bow stance are ward off right, brush knee, and slanted flying.
Empty stance requirements:
1. Back leg is pointed to corner while front leg points straight.
2. Front foot touches with heel or toe, while back leg bears most of the weight.
3. Back leg knee is aligned with toes.
4. Foot work is narrower, stay on both sides of the centerline between the heels.
5. Weight is 30% front leg and 70% back leg.
Postures: Fist under elbow and Play pipa uses empty stance with heel touching ground, while High pat horse and White crane spread wings uses front toe touching the ground.