volume 10 June 2019
The ‘Orphans’ of
Yang Shao-hou Editor Nasser Butt
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The Internal Arts Magazine Volume 10 June 2019
Published by L’orso Solitario Books, Leicester, United Kingdom Lift Hands The Internal Arts Magazine Editor Nasser Butt Copyright © by Nasser Butt, 2019 & Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools Nasser Butt asserts the moral right to be identified as the editor & owner of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the editor. Waiver of Liability: The publisher assumes no liability for the use or misuse of information contained within this book. By purchasing or electronically downloading this publication, the reader hereby, waives any and all claims he or she may have now or in the future against Nasser Butt and Fa-Jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing Schools or its affiliates.
The points of view represented here are solely those of the authors’ concerned. You do not have to subscribe to them if you do not wish. Nor is their inclusion here necessarily an endorsement by Fa-jing Ch’uan Internal Chinese Boxing School or its affiliates. Cover photo (main): Yang Shou-hou Cover design © Nasser Butt, 2019 Cover Photography: Unknown Back:Yang Shao-hou
The House of Mouse The Art of Amy Faulkner
Confessions of a T’ai Chi Ch’uan Heretic Dr Gregory T. Lawton
Hsiung Yang-ho’s San Shao Form Harvey Kurland MSC, CSCS, MFS
Waving Through The Window Dr Gregory T. Lawton
Whose Line Is It Anyway? Nasser Butt
Excess Strength And The Mind Krish Pillay
Chang Yiu-chun Nasser Butt
Erle Montaigue’s Mother Applications To The Small San-sau Peter Jones
Erle Montaigue - A Brief Biography Nasser Butt
What Do Bodybuilders And Boxers Have In Common That Martial Artists Do Not? Dr Jo Whitaker
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family: Conclusion Nasser Butt
The 12 Secret Rings of the Yang Family: A Review Dr Gregory T. Lawton
20 Questions: Dr Jo Whitaker
Rich Smith - 2019 World Champion Sport Nunchaku Nick Engelen
Death of the Sifu Dr Gregory T. Lawton
Huo Chi Kwan Returns To China Alan R. Ludmer
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elcome to Volume 10 of Lift Hands Magazine - The ‘Orphans’ of Yang Shao-hou!
After completing the final chapter of the 12 Rings/Houses of Yang, I forwarded the entire 8 parts to Dr. Gregory T. Lawton - someone with not only more than seventy odd years of training in the martial arts but, also someone who has a direct lineage from Yang Shao-hou via Professor Huo Chi Kwang and has also trained with many other great teachers!
Rarely has a magazine come together so organically as Volume 10 of Lift Hands.
Greg and I have now known each other for well over a decade - not only that, I now consider him one of my dearest friends with a phenomenal knowledge of the martial arts. I was introduced to Greg by no other than my own teacher - Erle Montaigue! So, it was only natural that I turned to Greg for not only his opinion on the material and subject matter but as my senior - I wanted an objective critiquing! Even though Greg was busy at the time writing educational manuals for his academy, he took time out of his busy schedule and soon messages started to ebb and flow between us. Each of Greg’s messages highlighted critical elements. This gave me heart as Erle and Greg had exchanged information, and it indicated to myself that what I had been taught and what I had understood was correct! I asked Greg if he would be happy to write an official review of the Houses and he kindly agreed. As we got talking, one thing led to another and before we knew it Greg began writing an article on his own teacher Professor Huo - a direct student of Yang Shao-hou. It was his article ‘Confessions of a T’ai Chi Ch’uan Heretic - In Search of the Illusive Yang Shao-hou’ which gave rise to the theme of this volume. Yang Shao-hou was the grandson of Yang Lu-ch’an the founder of Yang family Taijiquan and the son of Yang Jian-hou. Yang Shao-hou was the only Yang family member trained by the original great Yangs - Yang Lu-ch’an, his uncle Yang Ban-hou [the only other Yang to achieve the moniker of “Invincible”] and his father, Yang Jian-hou. Yang Shao-hou’s Taijiquan was explosive and martial! He pulled no punches and his training sessions would often end with blood being spilt or broken bones. His training was harsh and due to this very reason he did’t have many students willing to stay the course. This is Taiji history! Fact not fiction! As Taiji became more mainstream with Yang Cheng-fu’s modified form becoming the de facto ‘norm’ or ‘orthodox,’ Yang Shao-hou’s students - his orphans - started disappearing from the annals of Taiji history as the revisionists went to work! In this issue not only do we tackle this head on, we also shine a light on some of Yang Shaohou’s lesser known students as opposed to the well known ones such as Chen Pan-ling and Wu Tu-nan. As I said earlier, this issue came together organically, Greg had already introduced me to Alan Ludmer - a senior student of Professor Huo, but now I was introduced to Harvey Kurland another Yang Shao-hou descendent - this time via Hsiung Yang-ho! Through Alan Ludmer I have also come to know of Grandmaster Tuey Staples - another senior student of Professor Huo, teaching out of St. Louis USA.
It feels like as if we are suddenly discovering long lost family members with so much rich history and traditions between us - the descendants of the Shao-hou’s ‘orphans’ . Recently a self-graded ‘master’ told his sheep that the reason why he had graded himself to mastership was because there was nobody left who could grade him - and not one of his sheep challenged him on this considering we are living in a world of over 7.5 billion people!
Well, son, in these pages alone there exists proof of enough folk with the knowledge and skill to not only grade you but between themselves have also probably forgotten more then your closed mind will ever learn - and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface! Such is the state of modern martial arts [full of egotistical deluded fools living in denial] where revisionist history is common place even today as it has been through the decades! The completion of the Houses begins a new chapter in my own life. I have presented the teachings along with the evidence. It is now up to those who genuinely wish to learn with an open mind to choose how they wish to proceed with the information provided. From hereon in I will now move in my own direction, taking readers and my own students down different ‘rabbit holes’ - building further and expanding upon the foundations of the system based upon the Classics themselves with the information already at hand. Not only this, I’ll be exploring the knowledge of ‘other’ Taiji families - the Yangs did’t simply teach or train with their own, many of the well known family styles - such as the Wu - have direct links with the Yangs of old! I’m hoping to get practitioners of these families to appear in future editions of Lift Hands and share their knowledge with us. I sincerely wish to thank everyone associated with the making of this issue from the bottom of my heart: Dr. Gregory T. Lawton, Alan Ludmer, Harvey Kurland, Ken Lubowich, Colin Power, Peter Jones, Elliot Morris and everyone else who has helped make this issue special! And it is special! Finally, we have a new contributor, Dr Jo Whitaker and I hope that the readership will welcome her to the family of Lift Hands. The summer is finally here. The sun is scorching out there and this June issue is certainly flaming and will give you plenty of food for thought! Issue 11 of Lift Hands Magazine will appear at the end of September 2019. So, if you have something to say… you better start writing! Happy training!
Image design by Nasser Butt.
here are many of us in the world today who are the orphaned children and descendants of the venerable and illustrious Yang Shao-Hou lineage. In the 1970s, as a young and very curious martial arts student in Chicago, Illinois, I unwittingly joined this family when I began training in Yang T’ai Chi Ch’uan at the Chinese Cultural Academy. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to join a dysfunctional family line that had literally been blacked out of the Yang family lineage because my teacher Professor Chi-Kwang Huo had been a student of Yang Shao-Hou. Noted contemporary martial artist and author Harvey Kurland commented that:
“The senior students of Yang Shao-Hou, who did not become disciples of (Yang) Cheng-Fu, were written out of the Yang family lineage after the death of (Yang) Shao-Hou and for that reason are not as well known.” Unfortunately, in terms of historic accuracy and integrity, the Yang family corrupted the historical records when they altered family records to remove all traces of Yang Shao-Hou’s students and lineage. When that act occurred, the primary records were lost to future generations of T’ai Chi Ch’uan students, scholars, and historians. Added to this unfortunate alteration of the historical records was war, occupation, revolution, and mass migration by leading martial arts teachers out of China to Taiwan and the world. This chaos added to the confusion and the difficulties of understanding and documenting the true history of Yang family T’ai Chi Ch’uan, especially the descendants of the lineage of Yang Shao-Hou. With written records altered, lost, or destroyed this left only oral accounts of the history and character of Yang Shao-Hou T’ai Chi Ch’uan with many crucial pieces of information missing or once again altered to serve the selfish interests of certain teachers and masters of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Within this context it has been my path to discover as much about the early beginning of Yang Lu-Chan’s style and forms of T’ai Chi Ch’uan as they were developed and practiced by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations of Yang family practitioners and the differences resulting from individual style and the obvious changes made by many of the central characters in the early years of the development of Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, and Hao styles. Since it is evident, that alternations in forms occurred by the 2nd and 3rd generation of Yang family T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers and that the 2nd generation students of Yang Lu-Chan went on to change the form taught to them and to develop their own styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, and that this continual alteration of forms and styles has occurred through many successive generations of T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers, I have come to discard the word “style” and instead I have adopted the term “method”. I have become a student of the various methods employed by historic leaders of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and not a student of a style. Because of, and due to, the murky history of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, and the lack of reliable historical records, I believe that we need to be cautious regarding making absolute statements of fact unless indisputable evidence exists. I suggest that it is folly to enter the “my dead teacher can beat up your dead teacher” argument. I prefer instead, to embrace the positive and to magnify the good, to promote unity within the martial arts, and to encourage each student of T’ai Chi Ch’uan to find their own path and their own truth. An article that I wrote in 2008 entitled Death of the Sifu touched on the problems resorting from, and associated with, a general lack authorship and historical integrity within the Chinese literary history due to a blending of fiction and nonfiction in Chinese literature. For a long period of time in China there was no distinction between fiction and nonfiction. An example of this in western history would be stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur, Davey Crocket, and Paul Bunyan. This is a merging of fact and fiction. In the 1960s I was told stories of martial artists who could “fly”, transport themselves from one location to another, or who were “bullet proof”. I did not accept these myths and I pursued a training path that was based on more practical knowledge. Although, I must admit, I wish that I could fly. The following is quote from Death of the Sifu: “Some of the fantastic and exaggerated claims made by martial arts teachers have included: the ability to render opponents unconscious without physically touching them; the ability to psychically transport a body from one location to another; the ability to levitate; and the ability to dodge bullets or to become impervious to gun fire. Numerous examples of these claims have been produced by past and current martial artists. Indeed, many modern students of the martial arts believe that a goal of their training is to be able to perform these supernatural feats. From the perspective of diagnostic psychology and psychiatry, individual martial artists who have made such exaggerated claims would appear to be suffering from various forms and degrees of narcissism, paranoia, and delusion.” There is a lot to be said about the reasons why students make exaggerated claims regarding their training with a teacher and/or alter what they were taught over the course of their teaching career and then attempt to conceal the
fact that they made changes. The truth is the reasons are complicated and they include deeply entrenched behaviors and beliefs related to Chinese culture and these reasons include ancestor worship, filial piety, and the fact that individual innovation was strongly discouraged, and in fact could lead to serious consequences, even imprisonment or death. In an essay by Gu Lieu Xing (In Memory of Tang Hao), Gu states, “In the 1930s, people in the martial art circles of our nation clung too much to the idea and the importance of lineage, and this caused major disputes…” Rigorous research by scholars and historians, such as Tang Hao, have shown that at the fountainhead of every martial art is a common man who, through hard work and effort (kung fu), and by building on the work of predecessors, he was able to achieve innovation, and contribute to the evolution of knowledge and advancement of the martial arts. This is what, perhaps, makes it so difficult to “find Yang Shao-Hou”. I have trained with, met with, talked with, socialized with, and bought dinner for many leaders within the martial arts community, several of whom claim lineage to Yang Shao-Hou or Yang Ban-Hou. All their forms, while sharing similarities, are different, sometimes strikingly different. In every case, these individuals are highly accomplished martial artists, they are or were master teachers, their forms are challenging and beautiful, and what they are teaching has or is benefiting hundreds or thousands of students. Do the differences matter? Not to me! This is why I am a T’ai Chi Ch’uan heretic.
Left to right: Teri Steger, Y. W. Chang, Gregory Lawton, Ann Carruthers, John Ruberto, Mark Buckowing
Several years ago, and after decades of study, within the fields of several martial arts, I reached a point in my growth as a martial artist where I threw everything away, invested in loss, sought knowledge within the natural world, and began a journey through training, poetry, and the healing arts to connect with my true self. In the words of the mystic poet Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing, and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” It was there that I put down the burden of years of accumulated man-made knowledge and found my path to T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Within the many different and differing forms and styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan what is essential and what is vital is the observance of the primary theories and central principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. These theories and principles are what make T’ai Chi Ch’uan, T’ai Chi Ch’uan. All styles or methods, which observe the primary theories and principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan share a common heritage and validity. We should not be so concerned about lineage but by how clearly and purely our T’ai Chi Ch’uan, like a polished mirror, reflects the light of true T’ai Chi
Ch’uan. My teacher, Professor Chi-Kwang Huo was a student of the illustrious Yang Shao-Hou, the grandson of Yang LuChan the founder of the Yang family system of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, and whose family history, reputation, and teaching methods have long been a topic of considerable interest and speculation among Chinese and western martial artists.
Professor Chi-Kwang Huo demonstrating Arn (Photo: The Chau Corporation)
Over the decades, and on many occasions, I have voiced my gratitude for having stepped into The Chinese Cultural Academy founded by Professor Chi-Kwang Huo and located on Dempster Street in Evanston, Illinois. A unique and accomplished martial artist, it was not his exceptional martial arts abilities that attracted me to the Professor but rather it was his demeanor, his honor, his high level of scholarship, his art and calligraphy, and his focus on imparting the highest aspects of Chinese art and culture to his students for the purpose of spreading Chinese culture, art, and understanding, as well as, assisting his students along the path of becoming noble human beings! I believe that most students who studied with the Professor did so to learn imperial nei gong and “secret” family T’ai Chi Ch’uan. In the Professor, his small Chinese cultural academy and in his bearing as a teacher and a mentor I found qualities that would define and provide direction for the course of my life from the moment I stepped into his school and bowed, to the present time. Of the Five Excellences that the Professor attempted to impart to his students he considered the martial arts to be the least important, more important was the art of becoming a true human being in service to humanity. I was asked to write this article so that other students within the Yang Shao-Hou lineage could gain some insight as to the depth, quality, and character of our shared lineage. When the Yang family acted to eradicate the memory and history of Yang Shao-Hou in favor of Yang Cheng-Fu they in effect made a statement that somehow Yang ShaoHou’s students and his training were “illegitimate”. We see in persons like my teacher Professor Chi-Kwang Huo and others, that this is not so. That our lineage and our heritage is rich in history and it is an invaluable treasure and hidden gem within the Chinese martial arts.
Professor Chi-Kwang Huo (Photo CopyrightÂŠAlan Ludmer, Photography by Russ Berkman)
Professor Chi-Kwang Huo Professor Chi-Kwang Huo was born in the Chinese province of Hopei and died in 1998 at the honorable age of 92. He was a descendent of sixteen generations of calligraphers in his family which had produced noted scholars since the Ming Dynasty. Professor Chi-Kwang Huo was a master of the Five Excellences, one of the most noted calligraphers and artists in recent Chinese history, a poet, a scholar of Chinese literature, history, and philosophy, as well as highly adept in the physical culture of China including health exercises and Chinese “boxing”. He had mastered eight different styles of Chinese calligraphy, some very rare and almost lost to posterity. In his family’s home city, Peiping, Professor Huo’s first teacher was his mother and then his father, also a master calligrapher. The Professor's father was an advisor to Sun Yat-Seng during the establishment of the Republic of China and the Professor's brother Chang-Kwang Huo taught Buddhist doctrine to the Dali Lama and health methods to many famous martial artists of the era. He studied painting and calligraphy under the masters, Yao Mang-fu, Chen Shih-Tseng, Huang Pin-Hung, Wang Chen and Chen Pan-Ting. Under the masters, Wu Ch-ang Shih, Chuang Yun-Kuan, Hu Pu-An and Chang Pin-Lin (TaiYen), he studied literature and calligraphy. The Professor was the nephew of the legendary master Huo Yuan Jia who was portrayed by Jet Li in the movie “Fearless”. During the time that I spent studying at the Chinese Cultural Academy, from the mid to late 1970s, I was told in conversation that as a young man the Professor’s father, who was in service to the last emperor of China sent him to study with Yang Shao-Hou. Upon learning that Yang Shao-Hou was teaching his son a modified version of the Yang family T’ai Chi Ch’uan form Professor Huo’s father directed Yang Shao-Hou, who was far below him in rank in imperial China, to teach his son the “secret” Yang form and methods that had previously only been taught within the Yang family. The legendary Huo Yuan Jia
Although the Professor primarily considered himself to be a scholar, many came to know him as a remarkable martial artist. Yang T’ai Chi Ch’uan was not the only martial art that his father arranged for him to study, because of his family’s high rank and position in China Professor Huo learned Pa Kua from Lee Tsun Yi who was a student of Tung Hi-Chuan, the first master of Pa Kua Chuan in China. Lee Tsun Yi was considered the top master of Pa Kua Chuan and Hsing Yi Chuan in China. He taught both disciplines to Professor Huo. He also was a Pa-Kua Chang student of the legendary Taoist teacher Li Chun-Yuen. Additionally, the Professor, in his Academy, taught several forms of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, including Chen family style. Professor Huo learned sword from Lee Ching-lin, the former governor of Hopei and the best swordsman of his time. He also studied sword with Cheng Chih-Chiang, the former governor of An-Hui and president of the Chinese National Boxing Association. Professor Hou was the first elected representative of the Nationalist Part and a close associate of General Chiang Kai-Shek. He served as Taiwan’s ambassador to France and the Vatican and he made several presentations of paintings and calligraphy to several Popes and cardinals in Italy, to General Franco of Spain, and General Charles De Gaulle in France, as well as, in Germany and Switzerland.
Left: The Chinese Cultural Academy in Chicago, Illinois, where Professor Huo taught.
He was a friend of Picasso, and he and Picasso gifted to each other pieces of their art. He also traveled and exhibited and demonstrated in the United States at St. John's University, Connecticut State University, West Virginia State University, The Sino-American Institute in New York, Illinois State University, Trinity College, Wheaton College, the Evanston Arts Center, Cleveland State University, St. Louis State University and Richmond, British Columbia, Canada! During World War II, Professor Huo was the acting president of the National Oriental Languages College in China.
A flyer from The Chinese Cultural Academy showing the available courses. Note the Yang Style “popular and secret” being offered openly, along with Ta Lu and San Shao (Pauchui)!
In 1965, Professor Huo, with some friends from North China, founded the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Learning Society, in Taipei for the study and research of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Prior to this time, there was no T’ai Chi Ch’uan performed, demonstrated or taught publicly in Taiwan. The Society arranged for noted T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers who had escaped from China and settled in Taiwan to demonstrate and to teach their various styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. These teachers included the Yang Jia Michuan teacher, and fellow student of Yang Shao-Huo, Master Wang Yennien. Towards the end of his years of official public service and upon arriving in the US and residing in New York City, Professor Huo Chi-Kwang shared an apartment with Cheng Man-Ching and T.T. Liang. The Professor was a lifelong friend of Kuo Lien Ying the recognized founder of Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan. Kuo Lien Ying and Huo Chi Kwang were classmates in school from an early age and later served together as congressmen in the Nationalist legislature. Professor Huo was also a known associate of the Legendary Flying Butterfly Grandmaster Chang Dung-Sheng and the famous Lu Hung Ping one of the worlds authorities on Pa-Kua Chuan. Lu Hung Ping's name is inscribed on the tomb of the founder of Pa-Kua Chuan in Beijing. Professor Huo and Chen Pan-Ling were students of Yang Shao-Hou during the same time period, but the Professor spent more time in study with Yang Shao-Hou than Chen Pan-Ling did. Professor Huo was the first person to teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan in the Chicago area and founded the Chinese Cultural Academy in Evanston and Hyde Park, Illinois. At the age of 82 Professor Huo Chi-Kwang handed the Chinese Cultural Academy over to Kongo Roshi, the Abbot of the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago, and eventually returned to Tientsin, where he established a children's orphanage. Professor Huo Chi-Kwang joined his ancestors
on January 23, 1998, at the age of ninety-two. The following information was provided to me many years ago at the Chinese Cultural Academy and I believe that it is text from a book that was written on the life of Professor Huo. This translation is attributed to Professor Huo, but it is my opinion that it was translated by one of the Professors students who was serving as a secretary to the Professor. “The Chinese martial arts constitute a quite outstanding and valuable part of Chinese cultural heritage. In recent years they have attracted the attention of many people all over the world. To study Chinese martial arts, it is essential for the aspirant to familiarize himself with both their basic principles and techniques. We attempt to deal with both in this book. In the course of development of Chinese martial arts there have been two schools of thought from the very beginning: One school emphasizes on firmness; whereas the other, softness. Both historical experiences and modern scientific studies, however, tend to support the belief that the apex of martial arts would be reached by adopting the soft approach first and following it up with the firm approach. This mixed approach has become the mainstream of Chinese martial arts for the following reasons: (1) The soft approach is emphasized in T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Grand Terminus pugilism). A good practitioner of T’ai Chi Ch’uan would be expected to harmonize external appearance with internal energy and be both principled and skillful. A T’ai Chi master would be both philosophical in his outlook about the universe and humanistic and nonmystical in his daily life. He is a far cry from a roughneck kung-fu man who knows and cares about nothing else but raw force. (2) The firm approach tends to make the practitioner's body rigid, his actions swift and visible, and his physical being vulnerable to the attack of diseases and opponents. On the other hand, the soft approach would keep the person's mind and body at ease and relaxed, his actions steady, gradual and not being easily anticipated by his opponents Thus his victory is more assured. It has long been believed by the Chinese that T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a very beneficial exercise that enables a person to not only fend off attack from without but also build up the body from within. (3) It is, however, essential to know that T’ai Chi Ch’uan does not end with soft approach alone. A good practitioner should combine soft approach with firm approach through vigorous discipline. This theory was expounded by Mr. Hsu Cheng in his book entitled "The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan" and Mr. Chen Yen-lin in his Treatise on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Cutlass, Sword, Rod and Hand Movements. The discipline could be very complicated. In essence, its goal is to keep a person's body relaxed, his muscles flexible and his actions wellcoordinated and forceful. The postures of martial arts, though quite varied, may be summarized under two headings: attack (gung or fa or sa-fang in Chinese) and defense (shou or hua, by "attack" we mean concentrating all forces on one point and apply it to an opponent [power-delivery]. In defense we neutralize our opponent's force and make it disappear. From scientific standpoint the whole exercise of T’ai Chi Ch’uan means the proper and skillful maneuver of force.” To compile and to write this presentation on Professor Chi-Kwang Huo I have relied heavily on information from the Chi-Kwang Huo Foundation, as well as, an article that appeared in Inside Kung Fu, June 1998. Additionally, I have used personal correspondence with Erle Montaigue, Alan Ludmer, Ken Lubowich, and Harvey Kurland. I am also relying on my highly suspect memory of conversations that have transpired over the last 50 years or what I call “tai chi hearsay”. ——————————————————————————————————-
Left: Dr. Gregory Lawton with his senior Instructor John Aldred About The Author: Dr. Gregory T. Lawton is an author of many books, most of them in the area of health science, but also in the genre of Asian martial arts, philosophy, poetry, and prose. Dr. Lawton is a passionate award-winning artist and photographer who finds his artistic and creative inspiration in nature, and who frequently attributes the source of his images and writing to the 19th century Persian Prophet, Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi Mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. Dr. Lawton has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1970 and embraces the Faith’s principles related to the promotion of world unity and peace. Dr. Gregory T. Lawton has studied and trained in Asian religion, philosophy and martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and T’ai Chi Chuan. He is a 9th degree black belt in Kosho Ryu Kenpo Jujitsu. Dr. Lawton’s main and most noted Asian martial art instructor was Professor Chi-Kwang Huo. Professor Huo was a renowned Chinese scholar, artist, and calligrapher who served as Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican and France, and he was a friend of Pablo Picasso.
All images, unless otherwise stated appear courtesy of Dr. Gregory T. Lawton.
ur system is based on the "Older Form" of Yang family style. The long form is passed from the Yang Shao-
hou/Yang Chien-hou lineage. Our sections 7 & 8, which is called the San Shou (Fighting, dividing hands, separating hands) form, comes from and was taught by Great Grandmaster Hsiung Yang-ho. Hsiung is one of the important figures in influencing what we do. Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen studied with the famous Hsiung Yang-ho (1886-1984) in Taiwan. Hsiung was a disciple of Yang Shao-hou (1862-1930) - 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 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. One of my early teachers, T. T. Liang, also studied with Hsiung. 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 intelligentsia 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 to benefit their health. According to some historians, Yang Cheng-fu took out the fast kicks, fast strikes, as well as the more complicated waist turns to make the exercise art easier to learn. There is considerable debate over that issue and there is an inter-family debate over the true history. In the world of T'ai Chi, revisionist history is commonplace. It is what people want to believe rather than what is true that becomes important to many of those promoting their schools. Yang Cheng-fu's older brother, Yang Shao-hou, taught what is often called "Old Yang Style" or the versions before the 1930s modifications. So, what is considered Orthodox Yang Style comes from Yang Shao-hou's younger brother Yang Cheng-fu, but some experts consider it a simplified method. Again there is much debate about this. 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 known for that reason. There are some who say Hsiung studied with Yang Chien-hou as well. There are some historians and writers claim[ing] 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 we can determine is that 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, but some historians also claim Yang Chien-hou, Shao-hou's father, as 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. Our Long "Slow" form comes from the Tian Zhao-lin lineage and our San Shou form comes from Hsiung Yang-ho. Hsiung was a well known martial artist and fighter in Taiwan. He was very selective in who he taught and if he did not like you, he wouldn't teach you. Many teachers were rejected from attending his classes. Hsiung was one tough master.
Still taken from a video filmed in 1973, Taiwan, with Hsiung Yang-ho watching two students performing the San-Shou. Source: hsiungtaichi
Hsiung taught the San Shou form to a few students including Tchoung Ta-tchen and Liang Tung-tsai. They in turn taught it to other students, many of them masters, in Taiwan and North America. Many of the people doing this
form in North America can be traced directly back to them and from them to Hsiung. There are several versions of the form taught today, as several of the masters made their own changes to the form. Tchoung Ta-tchen taught the San Shou form to his senior students, and thousands of students in Taiwan, Africa, Canada and the United States of America. American teachers, Harvey Kurland in Southern California and Andy Dale in Seattle, learned the form directly from Tchoung and they have taught many American students the form. The san shou form is a two-person set. Andy Dale who also learned the form from Tchoung speculates is may be an off shoot of the Pao Chui form of Ch'en style, as it has many similar movements. Dale is also a student of Chen style. The form is choreographed and each person knows what the other is to do. This is a traditional training method in many systems of Kung-fu. By practicing this form, the t'aichi ch'uan comes to life as the student discovers the marital art applications. It is also a fun set to practice and you exercise more intensely than the slow form. It is first taught as a solo form. Then it is done with a partner. At first is should be practiced slowly GM Tchoung Ta-tchen and Harvey Kurland practicing in 1976 so that the subtleties can be practiced. Later it is performed 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 system 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 one way to learn the art at a deeper level.
About the author: Harvey Kurland teaches Tai Chi Ch'uan in Riverside and Redlands California. He was directly certified as Sifu by Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen and the Chinese T’ai Chi Chuan Association. He is also an Exercise Physiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. All images unless stated otherwise appear courtesy of Harvey Kurland.
Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen demonstrating Ji against Harvey Kurlandâ€™s Lu
Waving through the Window Dr Gregory T. Lawton
I saw you through the window And I sadly waved goodbye, I knew that I would miss you But I didn't want to cry. Is this what it’s like When it's time to leave, Your loved ones standing in the window And you’re gone before they grieve? I saw you through the window And you seemed so far away, If I had known how lonely I would be I would have begged to stay. If this is how I'll feel When I reach the other side, Then I'll wait by the window Until you come outside.
Kindly reprinted with permission from: Soul of the Night Sky (Draft), Copyright 2019 Dr. Gregory T. Lawton Muyblue Productions 2040 Raybrook Street, SE Suite 104 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546 616-285-9999 About the authorDr. Gregory T. Lawton is an author of many books, most of them in the area of health science, but also in the genre of Asian martial arts, philosophy, poetry, and prose. Dr. Lawton is a passionate award winning artist and photographer who finds his artistic and creative inspiration in nature, and who frequently attributes the source of his images and writing to the 19th century Persian Prophet, Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi Mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. Dr. Lawton has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1970 and embraces the Faith’s principles related to the promotion of world unity and peace.
To this day if you read Chinese history, you can still see that much of so-called history is nothing but mythology and folk stories. With Taiji this happened to such an extent that the liars eventually believed their own lies and so what they said turned out to be “truth”. Gabriel Chin ‘Can We Tell The Truth?’ - Nei Jia Quan, Edited by Jess O’Brien
Master Fu [Fu Zhong-Wen] was instrumental in my understanding of not only Xu, but of many of the students under Yang Cheng-Fu, Yang Shao-Hou, Chen Wei-Ming, and others. I often wondered what ever happened to the students of these great masters? Many, I was told, taught in other parts of China and around the world and established well-known taiji centers that still exist, others died during wars and periods of great famine, some taught only within their own family, while others renamed taiji into a more combative sounding art that merely faded away with time. Translator’s Preface, Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi Taiji Boxing Power (Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921 Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey "You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head. "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Sherlock Holmes The Sign Of Four Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
************ Author’s Note: I originally began writing this article way back in 2008 and finally completed and published it in the summer of 2014. The original article delved into the subject of lineages - especially that of my own teacher, Erle Montaigue - as well as a case study of Cheng Man-ching and was written in two parts. Further, I discussed Old Yang Style Taijiquan as inherited by the students of Yang Shao-hou, in particular, and what later became known as the ‘orthodox’ Yang Family long form of his younger brother Yang Cheng-fu. The original article was widely read and met with critical acclaim [and the expected abuse]. On the following pages is an abridged version of the same article focusing only on the segment relating to the two brothers Yang Shao-hou and Yang Cheng-fu and their respective teachings. It is still a long read and I have updated parts of it with new information which has come to light since the original article was published. I urge readers to not see this as an attack on any style or school. It is a representation of those facts which we can glean and ascertain from what is certainly a clouded history! I have separated the segments on Chang Yiu-chun and Erle Montaigue - they will simply be presented as brief biographies in this issue without the arguments I presented in the original article. God-Willing, I shall revise and update the original article in its entirety in the near future. It needs the update to counter the stupid claims now being made by Erle’s ‘inheritors’! It is not enough to rebut the claims of others or point fingers if one is not willing to do the same from within ones own heritage!
Finally, I must clear up one matter before we start; Erle was not only my teacher but also my mentor, my friend and a father figure. So, most folk reading this (I’m sure links to the free publication of this magazine will be shared in online dojos by our electronic warriors) will claim I am biased. Guess what? I am! However, far more importantly there’s a difference between bias and stupidity - I am biased towards intelligence and common sense! There, I hope that clears the air and we can now get on with the subject matter in hand! ************
aijiquan (T’ai Chi Ch’uan) is a martial art which originated hundreds of years ago during China’s turbulent
warring past and was primarily taught for self-defence purposes. The name literally translates into “Supreme Ultimate Fist/Boxing,” and is pronounced in a variety of ways depending upon which Chinese transliteration method is used. The history of Taiji is obscure and steeped in controversy, a bit like the “chicken and egg” and can vary extensively depending upon which style is being followed. There are very few documents to hand and those that we do have, are considerably difficult to authenticate, especially where their authorship is concerned. Most of the so-called history is based primarily on conjecture and oral traditions of the various family styles. The one thing we can say for certain is that it is the Yang family, who, first, placed the art on the world stage and it is with them that the modern history of Taijiquan also begins. The name Taijiquan has its origins in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Prior to that, the system of Yang Lu1 ch’an (Yang Fu-k’uei, 1799-1872) – founder of the Yang style – was simply known as Hao Ch’uan or “Loose Boxing”. According to Professor Douglas Wile, ‘the people of Yung-nien referred to Lu-ch’an’s art as “Soft Boxing” (juan-ch’uan) or “Transformation Boxing” (hua-ch’uan).2 In Fu Zhongwen’s book, the art of Yang Luch’an is referred to as Zhan Mian Quan or “Cotton Boxing”.3 What we can clearly deduce here is that the Yang family, at least, did not refer to their art as Taijiquan until relatively modern times! Yang Lu-ch’an (1799-1872), the founder of Yang style Taijiquan was survived by his two sons Yang Ban-hou (1837-1892) and Yang Jian-hou (1839-1917). The training of their father was so harsh that Ban-hou tried to run away from home, while Jian-hou attempted to commit suicide!4 Although both brothers would turn out to be formidable masters in their own right, it was Yang Ban-hou who was closer in nature to his father’s skill and temperament, earning the title “Yang the Unmatchable”, whereas, Jian-hou was the more gentle-natured of the two. Yang Ban-hou was said to be brutal in his demonstrations, sparing not even his own students. His only son, Chaop’eng, decided to pursue farming as a living instead of Taijiquan.5 Yang Jian-hou, himself sired two sons - Yang Shao-hou (1862-1930) and Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936). Yang Shao-hou [Chao-hsiung/Meng-hsiang] was tutored by his father Jian-hou, however, he was given as a son to his uncle Ban-hou, who continued his training.6 It would not be wrong to assume that the young Shao-hou would have received instruction from his grandfather, Yang Lu-ch’an, himself as well as observed him training! However, Yang Shao-hou’s major influence was no doubt his uncle Ban-hou. Not only did he inherit his uncle’s fiery nature, his teachings were also combat orientated. Shao-hou, just like his uncle would not hold back whilst demonstrating his fa-jing thereby causing injuries to several students during class!7 According to Xu Long-hou, a disciple of Yang Jian-hou, who also trained under Yang Cheng-fu and with Yang Shao-hou himself: “Shao-hou taught according to the studies learned from his uncle, Yang Ban-Hou (1837-1892), which included bone twisting methods, techniques to injure the adversary’s muscles, grasping veins and tendons as in Shou Wei Pi-Pa (Hands Play the Lute), fast hands combined with explosive kicking methods, joint locking, and methods to affect qi and blood through striking vital points.”8
Interestingly enough, Chen Wei-ming (1881-1958), the famous disciple of Yang Cheng-fu, also alludes to this in his book T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen, when asked, what other fighting techniques does T’ai Chi use? “Other methods I have heard about (but for which I do not know the use) are grabbing the ligaments, attacking pressure points, and special techniques of seizing and controlling.”9
Note the glaring admission being made here by one of Yang Cheng-fu’s foremost disciples in the brackets above (emphasis mine)! This will play a critical role in our understanding of what and how the two grandson’s of Yang Lu-chan taught? According to Wu T’u-nan, who in 1984 claimed to be the only living disciple of Yang Shao-hou, the family also had: “… a secret Yang Form for advanced applications comprising more than two hundred movements performed in only three minutes”10
Yang Shao-hou, like his brother, taught the “large” frame of the form when teaching in public, however, he also taught an advanced “small" frame form based upon 73 postures.11 This appears to be the basis of the “secret form” alluded to by Wu T’u-nan above and confirmed by Xu as the “oldest form taught in their Peiping class” which “elders of the Yang family created for practice in their own clan”.12 Wu T’u-nan further tell us that: “…this set was created by Yang Lu-Ch’an as a distillation of the essence of Taijiquan.”13
According to the 6th generation Yang family master, Yang Jun, Yang Shao-hou’s form and practice are described as the following on the official Yang Family website: “…He developed a form that was high with small movements done in a sometimes slow and sometimes sudden manner. His releasing of energy (fajin) was hard and crisp, accompanied with sudden sounds. The spirit from his eyes would shoot out in all directions, flashing like lightning. Combined with a sneer, a sinister laugh, and the sounds of "Heng!" and "Ha!", his imposing manner was quite threatening. Shao Hou taught students to strike quickly after coming into contact with the opponent, wearing expressions from the full spectrum of emotions when he taught them.”
What we have being confirmed here clearly is that the Yang family certainly had an older form or possibly even sets of forms. In fact, when we delve into this a little deeper it cannot only be said that the Yang family had these ‘other’ forms but also that they were rather selective in what they taught and to whom! It is reported that when Pan-hou was asked why there was a difference between the Yang family students of Kuang-p’ing and Peking, he replied: “… the Peking students were mainly wealthy aristocrats, and that , after all, there was a difference between Chinese and Manchus, implying a policy of passive resistance to the alien dynasty by imparting only half the t’ai -chi ch’uan transmission”14
Peter Lim attributes this difference to, “…allow combat and practice to be performed in the long sleeved, long skirted imperial robes worn by members of the imperial court.”15
I agree with Peter Lim. Had the Yangs been foolish enough to only impart “half” of the transmissions to their imperial students, no doubt they would they have been found out very quickly - in a court where many martial artists were present and jockeying for position - and almost certainly faced a disgraceful if not much worse end! Also, one would have to wonder how or what would have developed the illiterate Yangs political view points? After all, they were merely peasants and historical records, what little we have, show no political allegiances on their part whatsoever. This would emerge much later amongst their educated and upper class students during the civil war and cultural revolution!
Separation of Right Leg (A)
High Pat on Horse (D)
Sitting Like a Duck
Separation of Right Leg (C)
Separation of Right Leg (B)
Group of postures moving from a low position (Sitting like a duck) through Separation of right leg (explosive pace) to High pat on horse (even pace) from the â€˜Oldâ€™ Yang Style large frame. Photography by Din Butt
I think that it is important to point out Yang Cheng-fu’s response on the same point, his response is perhaps most likely to be the correct one: In boxing arts, what is taught or not taught is entirely up to the student rather than the teacher. The reason is simply this:
Everyone these days understands that Taiji is worthwhile and they have a mind to learn it, but they worry the teacher might not have the real stuff and before they have even made it through the door, they are already doubting a third of it. And so even if a teacher wants to pass it down, how would he be able to? Most students only go halfway and quit anyway, then only think to blame their teacher for not teaching and never imagine a need to examine their own neglect of learning. Yes, for those of you who claim your teacher did not teach you, this is an admonishment. Yang Chengfu will teach boxing to anyone and teaches everyone the same. So why do some turn out better than others? Because everyone has a different nature, a different degree of intelligence, a different capacity to understand the principles. Also because Taiji theory is rather deep and takes more than one lesson to grasp. Since progress is a step-by-step process, Yang teaches in a step-by-step manner. If you only go halfway and quit before learning the essence of it, to proclaim that the teacher does not have the real stuff is truly an absurd assertion. If you put hardly any time or work into it and then demand it pay off with glittering results, you simply do not understand. By gradually and continuously advancing in your learning, there will not be a notion of neglect in the teaching.16
Whatever the real reason may or may not have been, it is clearly apparent that Yang Lu-ch’an and his sons taught a small frame to the Imperial Court and a large frame outside! Today, this small frame traces its roots back to Yang Ban-hou via his student Quan Yu and later, his son, Wu Jian Quan.17 A version of Yang Jian-hou’s form, from this period, passed down to his student Zhang Qin-lin and then onto Wang Yen-nien would become known as the Yangjia Michuan or Yang family hidden tradition. Yang Shao-hou, too, taught a large frame in his public classes, as already stated above, and only taught the small frame to those students who could deal with the severity of his training, and then only if they had mastered the large frame first! It was for this reason why he would only have a few students, he demanded high standards without compromise. Also, Shou-hou was reluctant to teach all his students the “real thing”.18 Reading Yang Jun’s description of him above, one would almost picture him as some kind of a thug, but that would be a travesty! Shaohou was an intelligent scholarly man, who valued his family art as a treasure to be passed only to the most able of students. This is confirmed by Xu: “Shao-hou spoke little to anyone and was known to be reserved and contemplative.Though he would give short lectures to students… Shao-Hou much preferred demonstrating rather than explaining, and was a teacher who demanded dedication and perfection from those who studied under him.”19
Shao-hou’s form would also survive under the Michuan title via his students Hsiung Yang-ho (1886-1984) and Professor Huo Chi-Kwan, however, we will not digress into the history there. Suffice to say that there are several strains of Shao-hou’s form existing, further confirming the existence of the ‘Old’ Yang and that he was very selective about what he taught and to whom. Yang Shao-hou was 21 years old when his brother Yang Cheng-fu was born. By this time Yang Lu-ch’an, the founder and grandfather of the two boys had already been dead for 11 years. The head of the family at that time would have been their uncle, Yang Ban-hou - the natural successor and one can say with certainty the son who was groomed to take over from his father, Yang Lu-ch’an. Yang Ban-hou would head the family for a mere 9 years before he, too, would pass from this world leaving his younger brother Jian-hou in charge of the family legacy. The ageing Jian-hou would head the family for 25 years until his death at the age of 78 and it is not unreasonable to assume that he'd be assisted by his son, Yang Shou-hou, who after all was the fighter and most like his grandfather and uncle. At the age of 55, Yang Shao-hou would assume the family mantle, heading the family for 13 years until his death in 1930 at the age of 68. He would and should be considered the last of the ‘old’ Yangs - the ones who had trained with Yang Lu-ch’an, himself! Yang Cheng-fu would then lead the family for a mere 6 years before his death in 1936. However, the decisions he would make during this time would reverberate through history to the present day! By the time Cheng-fu began training in earnest,20 his older brother would already be considered a “peerless master who could not be grasped or struck in a fight.”21 The select few students who had survived his training regime
would, themselves, have been held in high regard by their contemporaries. Yang Cheng-fu’s initial training was no different to that of his brother Shao-hou. Trained by Jian-hou, he would no doubt have learnt all that his father knew - at least all that his father would have had time to have been able to impart before his death. One can, again, reasonably assume that his brother, Shao-hou, would definitely have played some part in the training of his younger brother, but to what extent is difficult to ascertain. If we follow this assumption through, and there is no reason not to, we can again safely assume that at some point the young Cheng-fu would no doubt have trained with or at least watched his brother’s students train. Some could have been his peers but most would have been his seniors in terms of their training, and despite his position in the family hierarchy, would be boxers of a very high calibre and more than likely to have been far better skilled then Cheng-fu, himself! This should not be seen as an attack on Yang Cheng-fu’s skills - it is a simple logical deduction. As Cheng-fu grew into his role as both martial artist and teacher, it would appear he inherited his father’s temperament. The martial artist and martial arts historian Ku Liu-hsin, describes him as “good-natured and popular with students.”22 Although he was well versed in all his family secrets, according to Xu: “Yang Cheng-fu also learned the 73-posture form from his father… They regarded this particular form as a true representation of boxing methods contained in the Yang clan… Cheng-fu taught the 73-posture form to some students who had the physical endurance and desire to study for a number of years.23
What Xu doesn’t tell us is who these students were other than that, “He convinced Cheng-fu to accept him as one of those students who could further study the older methods of the Yang clan”24 However, Xu continues to inform us that: “Cheng-fu found that such rigorous methods were very difficult for the common person so he created numerous small sets to practice, then consolidated these sets into three longer sets, and then consolidated these three sets into a single form composed of 115 movements… Cheng-fu later took out several complicated movements and the jump kicks giving the form the auspicious number of 108 movements. The 108-posture form thereby became the newly established public style because of its ease to learn and practice at any age.”25
Here we have first hand evidenced from a senior student who trained with both brothers confirming that he changed the form for ease of learning for the masses and that this form would go on to become the norm. When did these changes occur? Again, we are not given a time frame for these changes but it would be fair to say that they would have occurred over a period of time - perhaps even several years? Xu’s book first appeared in 1921, however, due to poor sales it was republished in 1927 with further commentaries and explanations before, finally, it was republished once again in 1934 with Cheng-fu’s consent and an official portrait of him.26 Going by this information we can safely assume that some of the changes must have occurred prior to 1921. This would be in agreement with the information provided by Chang Yiu-chun, the teacher of Erle Montaigue, who claimed in an interview in the mid-70’s with China Wushu Magazine, that: “Yeung Cheng-po did the original Yeung style of his grandfather before about 1915, then he changed it.”
So, now we have a time frame within which these initial changes may have occurred, which was somewhere between 1915-1921. The final piece of the puzzle, which confirms this time frame, is the fact that Cheng-fu was invited to teach Taijiquan to the general public by the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute from 1914 till 1928, when he moved to Shanghai at the request of his student Chen Wei-ming, to teach at his school. What did Yang Shao-hou make of all this? We know he was alive and heading the Yang clan at the time, yet history is suspiciously silent of the elder Yang’s views on his brother’s activities! Or is it? Yang Shao-hou, the consummate perfectionist who demanded the highest of standards from those wishing to study his family art would, in my opinion, have been horrified at this, including his students and protestations must have
been made. What evidence do we have or what can we glean from the quagmire of history on this period? Yang Cheng-fu’s Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu [The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan] - 1934 - The Preface and Introduction The preface to Yang Cheng-fu’s book has always been a baffling embarrassment to historians of Yang family Taiji. No matter which book you pick up on the subject, although some of the glaring discrepancies are mentioned they are usually dealt in an apologetic fashion before continuing the narrative. This includes Louis Swaim, who, in his translation of Cheng-fu’s book, simply air brushes these discrepancies as a “sticky situation.”27 We need to look at the bullet points of the preface in detail. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Authorship - Who wrote the preface? Was it Yang Cheng-fu or someone else? The debate with Ban-hou and the denouncement of Jian-hou and the conversation with Yang Lu-ch’an The age of Yang Cheng-fu at the start of his training The vigorous defence of altering the forms - “There is only one school of Taijiquan!” The date of publication
1. Authorship We can confirm without a shadow of a doubt that Yang Cheng-fu was most certainly NOT the author of this preface and one could even dare say the book other then the segment on demonstration of the form and applications! There is ample evidence pointing to Cheng-fu’s poor literacy. It has even been suggested that he was illiterate, although this would be difficult to ascertain. In 1931 a book appeared on the market under the authorship of Yang Cheng-fu, entitled Taijiquan Shiyongfa [Application Methods of Taijiquan]. This book has been confirmed to have been written by one of Cheng-fu’s principal disciples Dong Yingjie (Tung Ying-chieh), based most likely upon Yang Cheng-fu’s teaching sessions.28 The historian Gu Liuxin confirms that Cheng-fu: “… later asked someone to compile Taijiquan Ti Yong Quan Shu (Complete Book of the Essence and Applications of Taijiquan.”29
That “someone” without a doubt is Zheng Manqing (Chen Man-ching) as is clear from his Forward to the book.30 According to Louis Swain in his 2005 translation, Zheng’s role was clearly to edit the earlier 1931 book by Dong, since the “underlying demonstration narrative is substantially the same in both books.”31 This is confirmed by Yang Cheng-fu, himself, in his Introduction where he states: “This book is based on the previous books, revised and corrected, to remain as a standard model.”32
We will look at Zheng Manqing’s role in both, the Yang family history in particular and the history of Taijiquan in the West, in more details in Part Two of this essay. For now, we can say with confidence that he, Zheng Manqing, is the real author behind the Preface and to some extent the Introduction attributed to Yang Cheng-fu! 2. The debate with Ban-hou and the denouncement of Jian-hou and the conversation with Yang Lu-ch’an In the opening remarks of ‘his’ Preface, Cheng-fu mentions watching his grandfather, Yang Lu-ch’an, leading the daily training sessions with his uncles, relatives and followers, when he was young - “they practiced day and night without cease.”33 He then informs us that: “Intellectually, I harboured doubts..”34 This is an incredible statement to made by a child, if indeed Cheng-fu was a ‘child’ at the time of the start of his training! He continues: When I had grown a bit older, my late uncle Ban-hou, directed me to study with him. Later, no longer able to conceal my doubts, I told him my honest opinion. My late father, Jian-hou, angrily denounced my thinking saying, “Oh, what kind of talk is that? Your grandfather handed this art down as our family’s
legacy. Now you want to abandon our vocation!” Grandfather quickly stopped him, saying, “This is not something you can force on a child.”35
Then begins the long discourse by Yang Lu-ch’an, which essentially recounts the history of Taijiquan as handed down by the Yang family traditions, at the end of which Cheng-fu tells us: From that point on, I worked with unrelenting effort through twenty hot summers. Now my grandfather, uncle and father have all passed on from this life.36
Yang Lu-ch’an died in 1872, eleven years before the birth of Yang Cheng-fu in 1883! So, the discourse between him and his grandfather can be swept onto the garbage heap of history in a single swipe! It NEVER happened! And can we honestly imagine Yang Lu-ch’an saying, “This is not something you can force on a child”? This would be the same Yang Lu-ch’an whose brutal training regime led to one son trying to run away from home on several occasions, while the other attempted suicide! This leads us to the initial debate with Ban-hou - the no nonsense successor to Yang Lu-ch’an. Yang Ban-hou died in 1892, when Cheng-fu would have been 9 years old! Though it is totally feasible that Yang Cheng-fu would have seen his uncle train, it is highly unlikely that he would have spoken with him in such a manner, especially in the hierarchical societies of China, and even less so in the nineteenth century! Also, would Ban-hou have stood for such insolence? One has to treat this with a great amount of care! Another interesting point is that no mention of Yang Shao-hou is made in the preface [I shall return to this point later below]. Is this omission deliberate as Shao-hou would have been approaching his thirties near to the death of his uncle and mentor Ban-hou? Or could the conversation with Ban-hou really be a veiled reference to Yang Shao-hou, himself? If this is not the case then we would have to dismiss this conversation with Ban-hou as another fabrication! Finally, we have to look to the reaction and statement of Yang Jian-hou, who accuses Cheng-fu of wanting to “abandon our vocation!” This is a very serious charge indeed coming from the elder Yang! What are we to conclude from all this? Why would fabricated conversations with dead relatives take place in a book bearing Yang Cheng-fu’s name? Surely, there would have been many people alive who clearly knew that this was impossible? It is my view, based on the available evidence, that the young Cheng-fu was reluctant to train or follow in the family tradition. This should not come as a surprise or be that controversial since his father, Jian-hou, had been the same and we know that Cheng-fu had inherited his father’s temperament. The argument being reported with Banhou is most likely fictitious and more likely to have taken place between Yang Shao-hou and Cheng-fu*, (if it ever happened at all!) - the two brothers, with the intervention of Jian-hou - the father of the two boys! Somehow Cheng-fu is convinced and he finally relents to training. —————————— *In 2016, whilst researching an article on Chang Yiu-chun, I made correspondence with a known published author/translator and historian on Taijiquan, who turned out to have studied with the son of Tian Zhaolin and was currently studying Wu Yuxiang family Taijiquan. During our many emails, he revealed that: After the old man [Jian-hou] died, he [Yang Cheng-fu] finally realized he needed to finish learning his family practice. He tried learning from Shao-hou, however, Shao-hou was a bit harsh and kept badgering him about why he did not focus more earlier. So he quit his half brother, Shao-hou, and asked his adopted brother, Zhaolin, for help… What I had suspected and concluded in 2014 [see above] was confirmed at a stroke!
Yang Jian-hou died in 1917. At the time of his death, his son and successor, Yang Shao-hou was 55 years old and Yang Cheng-fu - the younger son - aged 34. The fact that it was being reported that at the age of 34, Yang Cheng-fu had still not completed his family practice logically indicated that he had started training at a very late age! So, it would appear that the argument between Ban-hou and Cheng-fu [aged 9] is certainly fictitious and in reality occurred much later between the two brothers upon the death of their father - Jian-hou. Since Shao-hou was not only trained by his uncle but also raised by him as a son - he would certainly be considered as a reflection of Ban-hou and may also explain the curious use of the term “half brother” to describe him when in reality they were full brothers! Further, we have an interesting disclosure regarding Tian Zhaolin - who is portrayed as a student of Cheng-fu, when in reality he was trained by his father Jian-hou as well as having trained under and alongside his brother Shao-hou! ——————————
3. The age of Yang Cheng-fu at the start of his training Based upon the internal evidence of the book [see note 20 for details], Yang Cheng-fu was somewhere between the ages of 10-14 years old at the start of his training! My personal opinion now, based upon the information I received in 2016 [see above], is that he was most probably in his late teens! 4. The vigorous defence of altering the forms - “There is only one school of Taijiquan!” Towards the end of his Introduction, Yang Cheng-fu makes a very curious statement. I will quote this in full before discussing it’s implications: There is only one school of Taijiquan; there are not two ways of learning. One may not make a show of one’s cleverness by rashly making additions or deletions. The former worthies developed these methods. If alterations or corrections could be made, the ancestors preceding me would already have put them into effect. Why wait for our generation? I hope that later students will not merely chase after the externals, but will instead pursue what is internal. …Taijiquan was not created just to engage in quarrels or tests of strength. Perhaps the sage Sangfeng created soft boxing to use in increasing our store of good health”37
So, what are we being told here? What other “school” or way of “learning” was there that would have prompted Cheng-fu to make such a statement? And what authority would they have had to challenge the authority of the then head of the Yang family in 1934? We know beyond a shadow of doubt that Cheng-fu most certainly made alterations to his family art, this is incontestable! Yet, here we have him saying categorically that this would be wrong! Not only that but, also, if any changes were permissible then surely his “ancestors” would have already done so? Is he, therefore, implying that his form is the authentic Yang family form? In the words of Queen Gertrude, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Surly the lady, or in this case man, doth protest too much, methinks!” That is if these words are truly being spoken by Cheng-fu or are they of his students - the revisionists - who would ultimately become the usurpers to the Yang throne? Now that is a controversial statement! Bear with me, you’ve already come this far! The book was published in 1934. This was during the period when Cheng-fu was traveling throughout the South spreading his family art “to the north and south of the Yellow River, and to the east and west of the Yangzi, and even to the reaches of Guangdong.”38 He was the head of the Yang family at the time and in another two years he would be dead!
Double leaping kick from the Old Yang Style through to the posture of â€˜Carry the bread upon the armsâ€™. It is difficult to show the nature of the kick using still photography. The left leg kicks first and both feet are off the ground as the right leg then follows through! The kick is executed with fa-jing and the difficulty factor is to land perfectly rooted on the left leg and control the movement of the right leg down at a slow pace! Photography by Din Butt
So, let us unravel what may have transpired in a logical manner to make sense of the above. The Young Cheng-fu [age 31] was invited to teach Taijiquan to the general public for health by the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute from 1914 till 1928, where he “soon felt cramped and confined, so that results were somewhat limited.”39 So, for 14 years Cheng-fu would have taught and focused his Taiji as a health art. In 1928 he would move to Shanghai to teach at the request of his student Chen Wei-ming at his school, which he had already established there since 1925. The year of 1928 is a pivotal year in Cheng-fu’s career. Although it appears that he had already started to tamper or alter his form during the Beijing period, it was the move south that would finally seal it as we know it today! According to Gu Liuxin: Cheng-fu’s boxing style during his middle years was bold and vigorous, powerful and strong, imposing with his leaps. After Yang Cheng-fu went to the South, he began to explicitly emphasize the use of Taijiquan in treating illness and protecting health. For example, when Cheng-fu first performed his art in Shanghai, the movements of Separating Feet and Kick with Heel still retained the training methods of rapid kicks having the sound of the wind. Later, however, he changed to slow, gradual kicks, with the placement of fajin (issuing energy) in the kicks being concealed within. Other boxing powers and methods were also transformed to a continuous pace with no breaking of the cadence and from a hurried to an even pace.40
This is further confirmed by Douglas Wile, who tells us: Not until late in Ch’eng-fu’s career did retentions of the Ch’en style jumps, flying kicks, stamps, changes of pace, and shouts finally disappear from his form.41
The changes would include weighted pivots or turns. This is confirmed by Fu Shengyuan, the son of Fu Zhongwen, in his English book - Authentic Yang Family Tai Chi: Step by Step Instruction - that his father would pivot with the weight being held on the pivoting leg. This was of great importance, the reason being: Rocking the weight back and turning with the empty leg will not develop the strength of the legs to the same degree as pivoting with the weight in the solid leg.” Therefore, “if the original meaning of Tai Chi as a martial art is to be restored, then you must pivot on the heel with the weight still in the solid leg.42
So, Cheng-fu, in an attempt to reach the masses heavily diluted the form and removed a whole lot of difficult movements in or around 1928 to finally arrive at a form he was happy with. These changes would have been in addition to the changes he made between 1915-1921, with which he had little success. Surprising though for a man who was emphasising health as the reason for ‘his’ Taiji that in these later years he was an “imposing figure of 300 pounds!”43 Or could it be that the final changes to his form were forced upon him by his excess weight? This is an interesting question and could be the possible answer to the final alterations to the form. We know as Cheng-fu’s fame spread far and wide he was continuously being feted by the rich and famous, attending banquets in his honour. Images of Cheng-fu as a young man certainly show a leaner figure compared to the images with which most of us are familiar. Could the years of teaching the general public for health only in Beijing have removed his focus from his martial training, thus having an effect on his physical appearance, further compounded by his continuous banqueting? Certainly, if we compare his image to his brother - we see a lean fit man in Shaohou even in his old age! Yang Cheng-fu had hit upon a successful formula. Students flocked to him as he finally succeeded to attract the masses to his family style. The position of the Yang family as the standard of Tai Chi was thus secured! Yang Shao-hou was still alive and heading the Yang family in 1928. His death would not occur until 1930. One can only logically conclude that the other ‘way’ represented his teachings which were a true reflection of the ‘old’ way, focusing on the martial and not the health art! It is only in this context that we can make sense of Cheng-fu’s alleged ‘statement’! A split appears to have occurred between the two brothers teachings - one continuing to emphasise the original martial aspects whilst the other health - although I am of the opinion that this is not what Yang Cheng-fu intended to happen or planned deliberately. His way of Yang family Taiji became so popular that it became the orthodox style by default! Upon Shao-hou’s death in 1930, it is inevitable that a clash would have occurred between Yang Cheng-fu’s “way” and the small number of students who had survived Shao-hou’s training. These ‘masterless’ students, who no doubt
would have been incredibly skilled in their own right, now had a stark choice between them - to accept or not to accept Cheng-fu as the head of the Yang system? According to Harvey Kurland, who traces his lineage to Yang Shao-hou through his disciple Hsiung Yang-ho: “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 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.”44
So, should we be surprised by the above statement? Again, the logical answer is no! Yang Shou-hou’s students would most certainly have been Yang Cheng-fu’s seniors - at least those who had been with Shao-hou as his disciples as opposed to his public students. And without a doubt they would have been skilled fighters with experience far greater then Cheng-fu! Their loyalty to their teacher and his ‘way’ would lead them to not “affiliate” with Yang Cheng-fu. But is this all conjecture or is there any evidence to show that students of one brother were not acknowledged formally by the other? Xu Long-hou, Chen Wei-ming and Dong Yingjie, three of Yang Cheng-fu’s top students are known to have trained with Yang Shao-hou, yet are not formally acknowledged as his students! Why? The answer is most clearly given to us by Bradford Tyrey in his Translator’s Preface to Xu’s book: He was also granted instruction under Cheng- Fu’s elder brother, Yang Shao-Hou, who furthered Xu’s knowledge but did not claim him as an official disciple because he was a formal student under Cheng-Fu.45
So, it appears that although Yang Shao-hou was willing to teach his brother’s students, yet he would not accept them formally! Now there is nothing sinister in that, it could simply be etiquette or perhaps he didn’t deem them to be skilled enough for his type of training to be counted as his students? Another question that comes to mind is why would they wish to train with Shao-hou? The obvious answer is for martial training as Shao-hou certainly wasn’t peddling health! Chen Wei-ming confirms just as much: Yang Shao-hou once taught me a method in which two men, their right hands touching, from low to high drawing a circle, simultaneously circled to the right with their right legs inside. Their left feet stepped forward lightly - “walking like cats.”46
It is obvious a martial drill is being emphasised here and let us not forget Chen’s quote we mentioned earlier in which he clearly describes what we know of Shao-hou’s fighting methodology - yet, he admits “for which I do not know the use.” So, what are we to make of one of Cheng-fu’s top students training with Shao-hou and hearing of certain fighting methods, yet not know or be taught them? Is Shao-hou withholding information? It would appear so! We can only speculate as to why, but the obvious thing that comes to mind would be the high standards that Shao-hou demanded from his own students and the fact that he pulled no punches! He was not going to fully divulge to those who had not done the training to his level of expectations! Perhaps this was also the reason why Dong also wished to train with him and maybe, it was this, what lay behind the inspiration for his creating his own ‘fast form’? We’ll never truly know! Yang Shao-hou had been the last ‘Titan’ of the Yang family. With him came the end of an era of the Yangs who had trained with and seen the legendary founder Yang Lu-ch’an at work, and practiced their Taijiquan purely as a martial art!
The debate about what was the original Taijiquan continued to enrage long after Yang Shao-hou’s death, finally prompting the statement which appears in Cheng-fu’s Introduction. However, I do not believe that the statement can be attributed wholesale to Cheng-fu himself. He would never have left himself open to ridicule! No, the over zealous protestations are most certainly the work of the man who would introduce Taijiquan to the West - Zheng Manqing! One has to wonder if Yang Cheng-fu ever saw the final edition of the book as he would have been busy touring the South in 1934 and establishing his schools before falling ill and being hospitalized in Canton, for several months, sometime in 1935 before making the return journey North to Shanghai and ultimately his death in 1936. Douglas Wiles perhaps best sums it up when he says: Of Ch’eng-fu’s four sons, perhaps Chen-ming (Shou-chung) and Chen-to did the most to pass on their father’s art, though never exerting the international influence of Ch’eng-fu’s intellectual disciples, Tung Ying-chieh and Cheng Man-ch’ing,47
This is an interesting summation indeed, especially when looked at in light of Yang Shouzhong’s Preface, written in 1948, which appears in his father’s book: Now it is more than ten years later, and China has been through the War of Resistance (1937-45). Many people have since been scattered and lost. I Shouzhong, am a dull sort, and am hard pressed to carry on the achievements of my forebears. I long for the days of the past, and wipe away the tears of sadness. Now I take these printing plates which still exist, with a plan for a new edition. Having had the pleasure of friendly support, I am able to bring it to publication.48
This Preface paints a very sad picture indeed if one reads it carefully. It would appear that all the pomp and glory of the Yang family has been lost. Yang Shouzhong is in need of “friendly support”, the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ will soon be up. A rival government will set up in Taiwan with Shouzhong, himself, eventually ending up in Hong Kong. It is from Taiwan and Hong Kong that Chinese martial arts would find their way to the West and into popular culture. Both islands were under heavy Western influence - Hong Kong under British and Taiwan under the USA! The two islands would hold a monopoly over the flow of information passing towards the West regarding Chinese Kung-fu, its Masters and their lineages. Their claims would lay unchallenged for decades, cemented through their Western disciples, who would blindly disseminate the stories of their abilities and histories, tainted with the political ideologies of the time! Reputations would be built and solidified almost beyond reproach. The fighting arts of China would become filled with Taoist thought, mystical energies, supernatural powers - almost becoming a joke of their former glories, fueled by personal ambitions and monetary gains! Now before you all go biting my head off, saying how dare I suggest such a damning verdict on the two islands, I would like to take a pause and let you listen to the late Gabriel Chin - an octogenarian martial arts practitioner and instructor, who began his training in the internal arts in China under a student of Yang Ban-hou. He moved to Taiwan after the second world war, continuing his training, from where he finally settled in Michigan and started teaching in front of the Cube at the University campus for FREE!49 I began this discussion with his quote. Go back, read it and then continue. What is “Tai Ji Quan”? In a way this question has no answer… it is because Tai Ji Quan is now - how shall we put it - a kind of business, so some sharp dealers try very hard to include a whole lot of foolish Chinese stories, traditions and mythology. In a way the purpose is to decorate it, or apply some make-up, but when the make-up is overdone, Tai Ji has lost its true form.50 Very unfortunately, at the time Tai Ji started to invade Western culture, it came in as a kind of commercial goods… The purpose of doing business is to make money. So as long as one can make money, let the end justify the means. Also, we all know, packaging is very important to any product, so Tai Ji with mythology as packaging has more persuasive power. Thus the Western nations, especially Englishspeaking Americans with the business idea, changed their traditional attitude toward the scholastic research. Instead of trying to search for the facts and truth, Tai Ji merchants adopted the Chinese business principle which is, “I say so because I know it’s so. If you cannot disprove me then what I said is true.”… According to the fundamentalist belief, you’re not supposed to know why, and you’re not supposed to express whether you understand or not, you just go ahead and believe…
To this extent the English-speaking people have to take a certain responsibility.”51
Now to be fair, one has to remember that during the height of the ‘Commie monster’ and cold war propaganda, Western folk did not have access to mainland China the way we do today, so it would have been difficult to verify all the facts, but we didn’t even try! Also, I am by no means implying that all information or teachers that came to the West via Taiwan and Hong Kong were tainted [mainland China, itself, would also produce its own characters and temples to the martial arts comparable to Disneyland in the USA]. No, most certainly NOT, for that too would be a travesty! Both Islands had highly able and distinguished teachers - with knowledge second to none - who would become important figures in their own right - one only has to think of Yang Shouzhong, He Kecai [Ho Ho Choy], Ip Man and Ho Kam Ming in Hong Kong, and of course the likes of Hsiung Yang-ho, Huo Chi Kwan and Chen Pan-ling in Taiwan, to name but a few! ‘Lost’ Students So, whatever happened to those students of Shao-hou who did not align themselves with Cheng-fu? Again, I refer you to the second quote at the very start of this article. Fu Zhongwen provides us with the best answer to this question and I’ll reproduce the quote again from Bradford Tyrey’s Preface: Master Fu was instrumental in my understanding of not only Xu, but of many of the students under Yang Cheng-Fu, Yang Shao-Hou, Chen Wei-Ming, and others. I often wondered what ever happened to the students of these great masters? Many, I was told, taught in other parts of China and around the world and established well-known taiji centers that still exist, others died during wars and periods of great famine, some taught only within their own family, while others renamed taiji into a more combative sounding art that merely faded away with time.52
Both, the author and Erle performing one of the leaping segments of kicks and strikes from the ‘Old’ Yang Style: ‘Sleeves Dancing Like Plum Blossoms’
So, students died in wars, moved overseas, perished from famine or taught only within their own small family circle, along with being written out of the official line of Yang family history. Or in the words of Yang Shouzhong, may have been some of the “many people… scattered and lost”. We are offered another reason by Y. W. Chang and Ann Carruthers in their translation of Chen Pan-ling’s Original Tai Chi Chuan Textbook: When researchers discuss lineage or practitioners speak of their teachers using only romanized names, one cannot know to whom they refer. Add that to the many myths and legends about the old masters, and it is no wonder that the novice becomes lost and confused.53
In Conclusion So what can we conclude or surmise from all these pages? In truth, it’s fairly simple. Sometime from 1915 onwards the Yang family system began to split into two major branches. The branch of Yang Shao-hou, who maintained the original fighting essence of his family art as practiced by his grandfather, Yang Luch’an and his Uncle, Yang Ban-hou!
The second branch is that of Yang Shao-hou’s much younger brother Yang Cheng-fu, who simplified the family art, gearing it more towards health so it could be practiced by the masses. This was the remit given to him when he was invited to teach the general public by the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute. It appears that the first lot of changes would have occurred during this period, with further changes occurring around, or just after 1928. The final set of changes appear to have been in the early 1930s, where no doubt, Cheng-fu’s obesity and finally his illness would have played a major role! However, by no means are we to understand that Yang Cheng-fu intended to do away with the traditional martial art of the clan! On the contrary, he most certainly was a very competent and able fighter who not only understood the martial aspects but was also willing to teach them to a handful of students who could endure the training. Sadly, and almost by default, Cheng-fu’s style of Taijiquan became so popular that it became the standard. Then with the Chinese government adopting this version of the form, and making further modifications in its various teaching institutions, ensured that the ‘Old’ way would be forgotten rapidly. This was the Taiji - in its already watered down version which was inherited by most of the world, especially in the West! The ‘Old’ forms weren’t lost, they were only practiced by a handful of people and from that handful only a select few appear to have received the complete transmissions. The Preface and Introduction in Yang Cheng-fu’s book, ‘The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan,’ is a veiled testimony to this ‘split’ and should be viewed as an “apologia” by Zheng Manqing (Chen Man-ching). It was Zheng who would go on to proliferate a further watered down version of the Yang art in the West! This is the only way we can make sense of the inaccurate historical data contained within the text! For far too long apologists in the West have tried to gloss over these facts without seriously questioning what was always staring right at them! In both books attributed to Yang Cheng-fu - the 1931 Taijiquan Shiyong Fa and the 1936 Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu - Yang Shao-hou’s absence is like the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’! In fact, this goes so far as that no portrait of Yang Shao-hou is present amongst the portraits shown in the ‘lineage’ of Yang Cheng-fu in the 1931 book. Further, this ‘official lineage’ obliterates Yang Shao-hou’s name entirely from the records as shown below: 張三峯先師傳拳譜 Zhang Sanfeng Boxing Lineage 三峯師傳⼭右王宗岳 Zhang Sanfeng imparted to Wang Zongyue of Shanxi. 河南─後又傳陳家溝陳⾧興 楊露禪 李百魁 及⼦姪輩 Wang taught in Henan province to Chen Changxing of Chen Family Village, who in turn taught Yang Luchan, Li Baikui, and his sons and nephews. 張松溪 王來咸 為浙江東⽀派惜已失傳 Wang also taught in Zhejiang province to Zhang Songxi and Wang Laixian, but this branch is extinct. 福魁露禪師傳 Yang Fukui (Luchan) taught: 鳳侯傳⼦……兆林字振遠 – Fenghou, who taught his son, Zhaolin (called Zhenyuan), 班侯傳……外姓數⼈ – Banhou, who taught many people outside his family, 健侯傳⼦……兆淸字澄甫 – Jianhou, who taught his son, Zhaoqing (called Chengfu), 傳……外姓數⼈ – and many people outside his family. 澄甫⽼師傳 Students of Yang Chengfu54
It would appear that after Ban-hou and Jian-hou, the ground had simply ‘swallowed up’ Yang Shao-hou! This omission can in no way be co-incidental or accidental - it is deliberate and begging the question… why? Yang Shao-hou would have personified the spirit of Yang Lu-ch’an and Yang Ban-hou and it is my opinion, based upon a logical deduction of the evidence before us, that it is Shao-hou’s branch which is being challenged “intellectually” by not Yang Cheng-fu, but rather by Zheng Manqing [and indeed others] - albeit fueled partially by the row between the two brothers after the death of their father! In his own preface to Yang Cheng-fu’s book, Zheng claims that, “In the first lunar month of 1932, I met Master Yang Chengfu at Mr. Pu Qiuzhen’s house.”55 We will look at Zheng’s claim to discipleship of Cheng-fu and his length of training in more detail in Part Two. For now, we will take this as ‘fact’, which would mean that this would have been almost two years after the death of Yang Shao-hou. No doubt the debate between Shao-hou’s branch and Cheng-fu’s branch would still have been raging. Yang Cheng-fu, himself, would only live a further four years and would at this stage have been preoccupied with his travels and teaching and finally his illness. It is Zheng, who takes it upon himself to defend the indefensible by using totally fabricated or secondhand information, which he presents as evidence to argue Yang Cheng-fu’s case! In my opinion, Cheng-fu would never have embarrassed himself with such blatant lies. It would have been dishonourable not only for his own reputation but a dishonour towards his elders as well [although his brother’s name missing from the lineage would still require an explanation]. I believe he perhaps never saw or read the finished article! The Yang family’s combative art would be filled with esoteric thought and mystical energies from various Chinese classical writings, mythology and in some instances complete falsehoods in order to sell it to the West! This criticism will no doubt offend many but those who are offended must ask of themselves as to why? As for those teachers who have passed on the knowledge in an honest and open manner to all their students without any financial gain other then a fair payment for a lesson - well they will not be offended or have anything to worry about with what is written here! The art of the Yang family was almost certainly hijacked by a handful of unscrupulous folk with ulterior motives, with Taiji today, being a multimillion dollar industry! The Yang family - as in the case of Yang Shouzhong - would become onlookers as their family name and art would travel across the oceans to foreign lands, where others would lead the ‘line’. Masters would emerge from islands under heavy Western influence. Masters who made lineage claims which were unverifiable at the time yet became established history in the West! Everyone seemed to have trained with and been a personal disciple of Yang Cheng-fu or his elders! Not satisfied with that, modern masters further diluted the art so that to even call it Taiji would be an insult, but also gave themselves supernatural powers, like knocking people out or throwing them at great distances without any physical contact, powers which certainly eluded the original Masters! Having trained in these more simplified forms they would lack in the original martial element of the Yang clan. Those would remain the legacy of Shao-hou’s branch and those who had trained under or alongside the elder Yangs, along with a few students of Cheng-fu. This would explain some of the absurd fighting stratagems developed which has turned the art into a laughing stock amongst the fighting world! So-called ‘masters’ would take ideas from Western boxing and try to incorporate it into Taijiquan, whilst wearing MMA gloves! It would be akin to patching a garment of pure silk with a sack cloth! Lineages would be bought and sold, and regional discipleships and representations* would be offered at a price [the later Yangs, themselves, would eventually become a part of this play]! Students would spend a brief period training with a Master and then go on to open their own schools whilst making wild exaggerated claims for themselves - and in amongst all this the legacy and students of the great Yang Shao-hou would almost be forgotten to history!
Yang Shou-hou’s Form representing the ‘Old’ or Original Yang family art.
Yang Cheng-fu’s modified ‘Orthodox’ Form
Modern Chinese government simplified forms/other simplified forms based upon Cheng-fu’s already modified form(s)
Combative Form Taijiquan - Supreme Ultimate Fist. A.K.A. H’ao Ch’uan, Zhan Mian Quan, Ruan Quan, Hua Quan & Michuan.
Health Orientated/some martial aspects still retained.
Health Orientated Non-martial
Based upon the original 73 postures of the Yang family tradition with several hundred movements at small frame level.
Based upon the original 73 postures of the large frame. 115 movements then changed to 108. Some difficult postures removed, while others simplified!
Varying number of postures from 24. 37, 48 and 96 based on Chengfu’s already modified form! A lot of movements are done out of sequence compared to original form.
Bone twisting methods, techniques to injure the adversary’s muscles, grasping veins and tendons, fast hands combined with explosive kicking methods, joint locking, and methods to affect qi and blood through striking vital points. Fajing!
Up until around 1928 still contained change of pace, leaping kicks and shouts with Fa-jing.
Even paced. No Fa-jing! No leaps or leaping kicks.
Leaping kicks with shouts. Foot stamping. Low crouching postures. Change of pace throughout form.
Post 1928 - Even paced. No Fajing. Leaping kicks and fast paced kicks removed. Further simplification of postures to allow masses to train.
Postures are simplified further still!
————————— *In 1981 Erle headed to Hong Kong to meet Yang Sau-chung (1910-1985), the eldest son of Yang Cheng-fu, after accepting the invitation offered to him in 1979 initially and in subsequent correspondence. As per the custom, he was accompanied by his former teacher Chu King-hung, with whom Erle still kept contact after returning back to Australia. Chu met Erle in Hong Kong and introduced him to Yang Sau-chung, who then corrected some of his Yang Cheng-fu form via an interpreter. Chu wanted Erle to be a representative of the Yang family in Australasia56. He put this to Yang, who was very agreeable after having met Erle and seen his level of Taiji. Yang Sau-chung had 3 disciples - Ip Tai-Tak, Chu Gin-soon and Chu King-hung - each operating in a different region of the world - Asia, America and Europe respectively. The seat for Australia and New Zealand territories was vacant and the family had no representation there. Later, whilst recounting this to myself one day during a break from training, Erle told me he “felt ten feet tall” at being asked by the Yang family to formally represent them - that is until they told him the price - he soon landed back down to earth with a bump! The sum he was being asked to “gift” amounted to over 20,000 Australian dollars per annum! “I decided not to play that game and went out on my own” is how Erle put it later! Fortunate for him, he had already met Chang Yiu-chun at the time! This story was coincidentally confirmed by Howard Choy (Choy Hung), in January 2013, who had studied with Yang Sauchung in Hong Kong from 1978-1980. Howard was born in Guangdong, China before his family moved to Sydney, Australia. Howard, himself, was offered the seat for Australia/NZ territory. However, being a struggling architect with a young family to support, Howard, although tempted, declined the offer!57 He recalls the financial proposition as follows: In the deal I have to pay a certain amount up front (bishi-laisi money or lucky money for the discipleship ceremony) and afterward to do annual (or there about) training in HK for another fixed fee, then each student I get using the family discipleship title, Master Yang will take an annual “membership” fee from them.58 He continues: I knew Erle quite well; we used to practice together every Sunday with some of his students… As far as I know, the reason why Erle left Master Chu was because he was asked to make similar contributions to be named as Chu’s disciple. Looking back, when discipleship is based on a financial arrangement with a territorial right and not on genuine commitment to the art and skill, it seldom works out well.59
Notes and References 1. Montaigue, Erle. 2000. The Old Yang Style Of Taijiquan – An Instruction Manual. Moontagu Books Australia, Electronic Edition. Chapter One, p. 6. 2. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. Translator’s Note, pp.x. 3. Fu Zhongwen. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan (Yang Shih T’ai Chi Ch’uan)/Translated by Louis Swaim, 1999, published by North Atlantic Books. An Introduction to Yang Style Taijiquan, pp.4. 4. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xi 5. ibid. pp.x 6. Tian Tek, Peter Lim. The Origins and History of Taijiquan, Chapter 6, The Yang Style of Taijiquan, pp.36 7. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.4. 8. ibid. pp.4. 9. Chen Wei-ming. T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen - Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Shanghai, 1929. Reprinted by the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Research Association of the Republic of China, Taipei, 1967. Translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith, 1985. Blue Snake Books, an imprint of North Atlantic Books. pp. 24. 10. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xiii 11. Tian Tek, Peter Lim. The Origins and History of Taijiquan, Chapter 6, The Yang Style of Taijiquan, pp.36 12. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.3. 13. Tian Tek, Peter Lim. The Origins and History of Taijiquan, Chapter 6, The Yang Style of Taijiquan, pp.36 14. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.ix. Note 16 pp.xix. 15. Tian Tek, Peter Lim. The Origins and History of Taijiquan, Chapter 6, The Yang Style of Taijiquan, pp.33 16. Yang Cheng-fu/Dong Yingjie. Taijiquan Shiyong Fa - Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing, published by Society for Chinese National Glory, Jan, 1931 [Brennan Translation] 17. Tian Tek, Peter Lim. The Origins and History of Taijiquan, Chapter 6, The Yang Style of Taijiquan, pp.33 18. There are certainly many accounts from the various strands of Shao-hou’s line that he was very selective even amongst his own students. This is confirmed by Dr Gregory T. Lawton, who trained at Professor Chi-Kwan Huo’s Chinese Cultural Academy as “stories related to the training of Professor Huo by Yang Shao-hou”. Chang Yiu-chun, Erle’s teacher, also confirms this when asked by Mr Hu of China Wushu magazine about Shao-hou’s teaching methods and learning advanced techniques… “Only when I had been with Yang for many years and even though I was a family member, I had to prove myself to be an honourable person.” The interview took place sometime in the mid to late seventies. 19. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.4. 20. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp 7-10. It is difficult to ascertain at what age Yang Cheng-fu began his training. In the preface to his book he talks about his reluctance to train, harbouring “doubts” upon request from his uncle Ban-hou, until chided by his father and consoled by his grandfather! There is a serious problem with this story and chronology and is discussed in more detail in the main text. However, there is a clue in the preface which may be used to determine an approximate start point: Cheng-fu states that after listening to his grandfather, he assented to his uncle Ban-hou’s request and “worked with unrelenting effort through twenty hot summers. Now my grandfather, uncle and father have all passed on from this life.” Yang Cheng-fu was 34 years old when his father died. If we remove “twenty hot summers” from this then, this would give us an upper age limit of 14 years old at the start of his training. However, he states that the initial request or invitation was offered by his uncle Ban-hou, who died when he was 9 years old! This causes a problem. Why would Ban-hou invite the child Cheng-fu to train? Surely in the hierarchical Chinese society and the respect demanded of elders - he would have been told to train and not asked? Chengfu’s debate with his uncle is not one that of a child! So, either this account is as fictitious as his conversation with his grandfather or one can safely assume that he did not start to train until he was around 8 years old at the earliest! So, I would propose that Yang Cheng-fu’s training started somewhere between 8-14 years of age if we accept his debate with Ban-hou as a fact! I’m reluctant to do so, since virtually all the evidence points to Cheng-fu having been trained by his father Jian-hou, initially, and his older brother Shao-hou. Logic
Notes and References 20. [Continued from previous page]dictates that he probably started to train after Ban-hou’s death, which would make his earliest start point to be most likely closer to 10 years of age! My inclination, from reading the preface and new information received in 2016, is that Cheng-fu was most likely in his late teens when he started training in earnest! 21. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.4. 22. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xii. 23. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.3. 24. ibid. 25. ibid. pp.2. 26. ibid. pp.1 27. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp. xiv - Translator’s Introduction. 28. ibid. pp.xii. 29. Fu Zhongwen. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan (Yang Shih T’ai Chi Ch’uan)/Translated by Louis Swaim, 1999, published by North Atlantic Books. An Introduction to Yang Style Taijiquan, pp.8. 30. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp. 1-3 - Zheng Manqing’s Forward. 31. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp. xiii - Translator’s Introduction. 32. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published 1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp. 12 - Yang Cheng-fu’s Preface and Introduction. 33. ibid. pp.7. 34. ibid. pp.7. 35. ibid. pp.7. 36. ibid. pp.9. 37. ibid. pp.12 38. ibid. pp.10 39. ibid. pp.9. 40. Fu Zhongwen. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan (Yang Shih T’ai Chi Ch’uan)/Translated by Louis Swaim, 1999, published by North Atlantic Books. An Introduction to Yang Style Taijiquan, pp.6 & 7. 41. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xii. 42. Fu Zhongwen. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan (Yang Shih T’ai Chi Ch’uan)/Translated by Louis Swaim, 1999, published by North Atlantic Books. An Introduction to Yang Style Taijiquan, pp.45-46. 43. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xii. 44. Kurland, Harvey. MSc, MFS, CSCS 1998 From the May T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Wellness Newsletter. "Hsiung Yang-Ho's San Shou Form” 45. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.3. 46. Chen Wei-ming. T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen - Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Shanghai, 1929. Reprinted by the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Research Association of the Republic of China, Taipei, 1967. Translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith, 1985. Blue Snake Books, an imprint of North Atlantic Books. pp. 27. 47. Wile, Douglas. T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, Sweet Ch’i Press, 1983. pp.xiii. 48. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp.19. - Yang Shouzhong’s Preface. 49. O’Brien, Jess. Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts, Teachers of Taijiquan, Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang. 2004, published by North Atlantic Books. pp.40. Gabriel Chin. 50. O’Brien, Jess. Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts, Teachers of Taijiquan, Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang. 2004, published by North Atlantic Books. Gabriel Chin - Can We Tell the Truth? pp.52. 51. O’Brien, Jess. Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts, Teachers of Taijiquan, Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang. 2004, published by North Atlantic Books. Gabriel Chin - Can We Tell the Truth? pp.55-56.
Notes and References 52. Xu Long-Hou’s Taijiquan Shi, Taiji Boxing Power(Developing Power in Taiji Movement) Published in 1921. Translated & Annotated by Bradford Tyrey, Bradford Tyrey, North China Publications, USA, 2006. Translator’s Preface, pp.8. 53. Chang Y.W. & Ann Carruthers. Chen Pan-ling’s Original Tai Chi Chuan Textbook, Blitz! 1998 pp. xxiv. 54. Yang Cheng-fu/Dong Yingjie. Taijiquan Shiyong Fa - Methods of Applying Taiji Boxing, published by Society for Chinese National Glory, Jan, 1931[Brennan Translation] 55. Yang Cheng-fu. Taijiquan tiyong quanshu - Essence and Applications of Taijiquan - Originally published 1934; translated by Louis Swaim 2005, published by North Atlantic Books. pp2. Zheng Manqing’s Foreword 56. Montaigue, Erle. Internal Gung-Fu Volume One published by Moontagu Books Australia, 1995. pp.25. 57. Choy, Howard. The Feng Shui Architect's Blog, January 24, 2013. Discipleship, Snake Style Taijiquan and Erle Montaigue 58. ibid. 59. ibid.
Chain Iron Steel - Image by Desha, Source: pixabay
fter reading a few martial treatise by respected Tai Chi and Bagua masters Yang Ban Hou and Sun Lu Tang I noticed a few phrases which were continually stressed by the both of them. In Explaining Taiji Principles attributed to Yang Ban Hou, Chapter 13 it states that:
Power comes from the sinews. Strength comes from the bones. Looking at it purely physically, one who has great strength is able to carry many hundreds of pounds, but this is an externally showy action of bones and joints, a stiff strength. If on the other hand the power of your whole body is used, it may appear you are unable to lift hardly any weight at all, yet there is an internal robustness of essence and energy, and once you have achieved skill, you will seem to have something more wonderful than one who has the stiff sort of strength.
From Sun Lu Tang's A study of Bagua Boxing we have: (Chapter 2) The three mistakes are: 1. excessive energy, 2. awkward effort, 3. sticking out your chest and lifting your belly. Using “excessive energy” means that you are being too hard and making yourself brittle. ......By analogy, when a central ruler falls out of harmony, all his surrounding ministers become ineffective in their duties. Using “awkward effort” means that throughout your body, your blood cannot circulate well…… To “stick out your chest and lift your belly” means that a contrary energy moves upward instead of returning to your elixir field. Your feet will be without root, floating upward as light as duckweed. Your boxing technique will not obtain a centered harmoniousness, and even with countless methods to compensate, you would be incapable of ever having a stable stance.
From Sun Lu Tang's A Study of Taiji Boxing: Use this book with particular attention toward self-cultivation. We are all compatriots, no matter where we come from. Man or woman, young or old, all can practice this art. The overly meek can become mighty and the overly tough can be softened. It is for those whose bodies are very weak or debilitated by diseases, and it is for those who seek to train in a martial art that is not quite so vigorous as others. (Bend the Bow Shoot the Tiger) The energy of this posture should in each part be even, and there should not be any part with a focused exertion. Be empty within. Energy sinks down. The posture slightly pauses. (Brushed Knee and Crossed Stance) The above must all be done with concentration of spirit and energy, and must not use clumsy exertion.
(this idea of 'clumsy exertion' is repeated a further 12 times through out this text) Finally attributed to Guo Yenshen, in Sun Lu Tang's Authentic Explanations Of Martial Arts: Concepts: (Chapter 4 Xingyi Boxing) Although the movements of your whole body are to put forth no effort, they also cannot be entirely without strength, for always there should be spirit and intention coming through. From three separate masters who studied different arts the concept of not using 'excessive strength' or 'animal vigour' shines through each and every time.
In my opinion this is one the foundations of our martial practice. I want to try and make it simpler but it really is as simple as they have stated. So let's try and break it down. We all know the body has hundreds of muscles, even the acts of just raising an arm or smiling can take hundreds of them. Your brain does these things without a second thought. You donâ€™t need to think, 'I need to move my shoulder, then straighten my elbow,' its all in the mind. When we hit something, after becoming comfortable with the motion, invariably we try and force our limbs and hips to create more force. I would be lying if I said that doesnâ€™t work, but have you ever hit a pad and just felt that like everything was effortless? As if everything was coordinated just right, when everything arrived together and the force generated just sat in you properly, and produced the same kind of effect in what you were striking, or maybe you felt like you never even struck? I'm sure every reader has had that feeling a few times. So in this special moment, were you thinking about moving your limbs or were you just thinking about hitting the pad? Probably the latter! Itâ€™s your mind that governs everything. In my opinion, the only way to achieve perfect timing when you strike is to not use excess tension. After all when you tell your hips and arms to move, what you are trying to do is to get certain muscles to fire. It takes hundreds of muscles to hit something, each firing at the right time to transmit the force from the floor all the way to the end of the fingers, fist or palm. As soon as you try to instigate excess tension, you are drawing your attention to one set of muscles and neglecting another set. How can anyone individually fire each muscle consciously? To achieve real timing and body alignment the mind and intent and movement must all arrive at the same time. The idea of excess tension is not unique to Chinese arts. Karateka, especially in the Okinawan systems spend hours in front of the makiwara. The objective isn't to break it, or to hit it as hard as you can. It's to be able to get that feed back when you know you have hit the pad perfectly with all the alignments in the right place arriving at the right time. So to summarise, the real way to achieve full bodily power in our strikes is to use the mind as the driver and not instigating excess muscular tension. Of course there must be use of the muscles but always just the right amount. It's always about efficiency. I hope this has given people some food for thought. Anything that was repeated that many time by successive masters of peerless skill has to be worth listening to. Else we run the risk of going back to survival of the strongest and we would loose the 'art' within the 'Martial Art.' All work cited is taken from the following websites: https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/explaining-taiji-principles-taiji-fa-shuo/ https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/the-bagua-manual-of-sun-lutang/ https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/the-taiji-manual-of-sun-lutang/ https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-voices-of-sun-lutangs-teachers/
Main Picture: DKK 4th Dan Tunde Oladimeji performing Kata Seiunchin
hang Yiu-chun was born in 1896 in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province. The city has played a major role in the history of China and being 3,500 year old, it is regarded even more ancient then Beijing and Nanking! It was a trans-shipment point between rail and river and some 67 years after beginning his training with Yang Shao-hou, in a world far away from his own, in another famous city, Sydney, he would meet his final student Erle Montaigue, aptly by the dockyards overlooking the Australian navy depot in 1978. Chang was a TCM practitioner and trained with Yang Shao-hou for 19 years until his (Shao-hou’s) death in 1930. He would treat Shou-hou’s injuries, mainly as a result of his boxing matches. Chang was already versed in martial arts when he came to Shao-hou, Tiger Boxing being one of his main studies. According to Chang, when he first went to train with Shao-hou, he had to pass a test by attacking Shao-hou himself! Being a young man, confident in his ability, he attacked Shao-hou using a method from Tiger Boxing and was knocked down! He had to re-attack again and again, each time being knocked down or knocked unconscious! This was Shao-hou’s way to see if he could handle the training. Chang passed the test but at a cost - a broken cheekbone and a permanent injury to his leg! The first part of Chang’s training consisted of the Inner Houses or Rings. These were only ever taught to inner circle students and family and were a direct transmission from Yang Lu-ch’an, himself. This was immediately evident from the way he fought. There would only be 3 students present at any one time while Chang was training with Shao-hou, due to the brutal nature of the training: …quite often we would finish a training period with blood on our vests and many bruises. Sometimes a bone would be broken. Yeung did not have many students.1
Only once Chang had proven himself to be an honourable person, after several years of training, was he shown the highest level of fighting techniques of the Yang family art. Techniques which, in the words of Chang, were “too sinister and evil”! When Chang attained the level of a senior student, he would help teach the younger, newer students. During this time, he recollected, [many] people would come to Yang’s house and be boastful about their ability. We were told to ignore this. It was only when these people actually came inside of Yang’s house that I was allowed to fight them.2
Chang, in all his conversations would always refer to two style of the Yang family - that of Yang Shao-hou, whom the students likened to: … a canon shot one second and like the great river in the next second. He was very energetic. The Yeung Cheng-po (Yang Cheng-fu) style is all soft and flowing with no canon shots… Most of us when we started our T'ai Chi Ch'uan training years ago only knew T. C. C. as one thing and that was for fighting. No-one even suspected that this great art could be good for health until Yang Cheng-Fu popularized his version. In doing the wushu, we also improved our health automatically but we did not take classes with the thought of improving our health.3
When Chang arrived in Australia or left China is unknown. Illegal immigration to Australia via the seas was as common then as it is today. Chang was certainly a stowaway who entered Australia illegally. One can only speculate as to why he made that perilous journey but it would be reasonable to assume that he was an economic migrant escaping the wars and upheavals in China. Further, in an interview published in China Wushu Magazine4 during the mid to late seventies with Chang, the interview lists the following as being disciples of Yang Shao-huo: Wu Tunan (Beijing), Ma Runzhi Tian Zhaolin (Shanghai), You Zhixue , Dong Run-fang, Liu Xizhe, Xiong Yanghe (Taiwan) , Li Shouqian (Taiwan), Miao Lian, Gu Lisheng , Cao Lian-fang.5
When asked about other students, the largest school from Shao-hou’s line, according to Chang, was that of Chen Pan-ling, a fellow student, based in Taiwan, although he wasn’t certain if Chen ever taught any of the inner circle boxing methods to any students. Chang referred to the Yang family art as H’ao Ch’uan or Loose Boxing, They did not refer to it as Taijiquan in the inner family circle. He had only ever taught seven students prior to his meeting with Erle, as he had no desire to teach on a grand scale and they in turn had only taught a few themselves. Further in the same interview mentioned above, Chang tells us that: …there are also today two versions of the shan-shou. The one version by the Yeung Cheng-po family is softer and less brutal while the older version is quite brutal. We do the shan-shou in three ways. The first way is to learn the movements of attack and defence. The second way is to do these movements faster and with much more power, this is where we get some bruises. The third way is when we try to strike each other for real and try to get each other off balance by doing the movements in the wrong sequence.
In 1983, Chang parted company with Erle with the following words: “No need me.”6
He would never return to their training spot again! Erle found out that he had headed back to China. Perhaps the old man knew or sensed something and wished to return back to the old country for sentimental reasons. A few years later, Erle finally received confirmation - his teacher had passed away in 1986.
Notes and References 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 - Most of the information regarding Chang Yiu-chun has been taken from Erle’s notes which he published both via his website as well as in his publications for Paladin Press, alongside my personal conversations and correspondence with him over the years. Further information has been gleaned from an interview given by Chang Yiu-chun to a Mr Hu, published during the mid to late seventies in China Wushu Magazine, entitled ‘The First Yang Style’. I’d like to clarify and correct a couple of important points below as many have raised doubts as to the authenticity of this interview and publication - and thereby the very existence of Chang - despite the fact that it has been published online by several different sources! First, this interview has been incorrectly quoted by some sources as having been translated from the original Chinese by Key Sun and LeRoy Clark! Both, Key Sun and LeRoy Clark, are practitioners of the internal martial arts and have trained with some of the most notable Taiji family teachers. Both have translated articles and books on the subject of Taiji and its history, as well as conducting interviews. I managed to make contact with Mr Clark [and through him with Key Sun) and we exchanged several emails on the subject of Taiji and its history, including the interview with Chang - for which I received the following reply: We are in agreement: accurate information of early tcc is rare and its trail is subtle and difficult to follow… No, the article does not ring a bell. I think we did not do it. The Chinese guy in the article does express himself like typical old Chinese.
And further, Key Sun does not recall this either. Could you have us mixed up with others?
So, whilst the interview certainly wasn’t translated by the two, it is noteworthy that Mr Clark thinks that, “The Chinese guy in the article does express himself like typical old Chinese.” And also, the names that Chang mentions as the students of Yang Shao-hou certainly match some of the names which appear in an article on a meeting between Sung Shu Ming and Yang Shao-hou, as related to LeRoy Clark by the students of Wu Tu-nan - Professor Yu Zhigen and Chen Jingying. Secondly, the China Wushu Magazine certainly existed as a journal. Two of its editors - Xiao Bin Sheng and Tian Yubao - wrote an exclusive article for T’ai Chi Combat & Healing Magazine in 1991 entitled ‘Yang Zhenduo Son of Yang Cheng-fu’! Further, earlier in October 1985, the magazine covered Erle Montaigue’s visit and demonstration of the Old Yang at the National Wushu Championships, Yinchuan (Giang-Nan), Ningxia Province, China, from May 1985. An original scan of this coverage can be found in the short biography on Erle Montaigue appearing in this issue.
Erle Montaigue’s Mother Applications To The Small San-sau A Brief Introduction Peter Jones
he applications in this article come from Erle's ‘Mother Applications’ which are tied to the small San-sau,
which Erle, also, called "add-ons" to the small San-sau. This doesn't mean you add the ‘Mother Applications’ to the San-sau itself! You still do the small San-sau in the same way as it is meant to be learnt. So, please bear this in mind and learn the San-sau as it is meant to be done. What I'll be doing here is beginning where each move ends in the San-sau and adding the ‘Mother Applications’ relevant to that segment. Please be careful when training in these applications as they can be DANGEROUS. I am simply presenting them here for informational use only, as a part of Erle’s system. If you do wish to learn the ‘Mother Applications’, my advice is to go along to one of Erle's Instructors who actually learned these directly from him - that way you will receive a truer transmission then someone who may have simply learnt them from watching a video and received no direct input or corrections from Erle, himself, on the subject matter!
Second Mother Application Some of the points used: Pericardium 6 [Pc6] - located on the wrist. Stomach 5 [St5] - located on the jaw. Conceptor Vessel 22[Cv22] - located at the pit of the throat. We start with your partner throwing a left low round house punch. This is where you would attack the body shot with your left hinge and slam down with the heel of your right palm, as per the small San-sau, as you pivot on your heels to the right. Your right palm jerks down upon the wrist as your left hand strikes the jaw with a back fist. Now we start the next ‘Mother Application’ with an open back palm to the left side of your partners jaw [Photo 1/1A].
Take your left palm around the back of your partners neck, and with your right hand deliver a one knuckle [Tiger paw] punch to Cv 22 [pit of the neck] at the same time as you pull your partnerâ€™s neck towards the punch [Photos 2/2A]. Now snake your left palm around your
partners neck similar to the first mother application, the only difference now is that this one is a strike and not a squeezing motion like the first one [Photos 3/3A].
I shall cover the Third Mother Application in the September issue of Lift Hands magazine. Happy training!
Photos 3 & 3A[inset above]
Photography & Design CopyrightÂŠNasser Butt
rle Montaigue was born in 1949 in a small mining village about 50 miles south of Sydney in New South Wales Australia. He began his martial arts instruction at the age of 11, training in karate and judo at the local Police Boys’ Club in Australia, as well as wrestling, which later led to a stint as a professional wrestler!
In 1967, whilst taking a telephone maintenance course, Erle met his first teacher of Taijiquan, Mr. Wong Eog. People would mistakenly call him “Tokyo Joe”, thinking he was Japanese! The style Erle learned from Mr Wong turned out to be Dong’s fast form [for some time he mistakenly thought that this was the older version of Yang family Taiji] developed by Dong Yingjie, the disciple of Yang Cheng-fu. In 1974, during a three-year stint in England, Erle met his second Taijiquan instructor, Mr. Chu King-hung – one of only three disciples of the late Yang Sau-chung, the eldest son of Yang Lu-chan’s grandson, Yang Cheng-fu. It was Chu who first introduced Taiji as a fighting art to Erle and this would arouse his curiosity to seek why the art was called “supreme ultimate boxing”? Chu would also teach Erle “the tricks that were supposed to be a result of some mystical or magical hidden force but in reality were nothing more than deceptive tricks or entertainment.” It was only when Erle started to test himself against other martial artists and styles that he realised that all his training did not in translate into instant success, after being knocked down by a Kenpo practitioner! This would force Erle to turn towards the stories and training methods of the older Masters, thus beginning his long research into the origins of Taijiquan. Upon his return back to his native Australia, Erle began corresponding with Yang Sau-chung personally, who would write back via an interpreter. Erle would ask important questions relating to the exact nature of how the classical postures ought to be done and Yang Sau-chung would respond accordingly. At the same time Sau-chung confirmed to Erle that there were no official representatives of the Yang family in Australia nor any personal students of his own, despite there being many from the Chinese community claiming to be so! The August 1979 letter also invited Erle to visit Hong Kong whenever he wished. Erle, meanwhile had started working as a chauffeur in Sydney and would often stop by the docks to practice his Taiji. It was here, one day in 1978, that he saw an old man doing something that looked like Taiji but Erle could not be sure. In his own words, Erle tells us:
Letter from Yang Sau-chung to Erle postmarked August 1979. In the letter, Yang Sau-cheung confirms Chu King-hung as his students as well as denying any knowledge of a certain Chinese doctor claiming to be a student of his in Australia! (Note: the name of the Chinese doctor has been deliberately obscured by the editor for obvious reasons!) Yang Sau-chung also tells Erle the correct way to perform Tan-pien and ends the letter by inviting Erle to Hong Kong.
Eventually, I plucked up enough courage to get out of the limo and watch, he would not even acknowledge that I was there, not even when I did my own Taiji form in my chauffeur's outfit would he even look. After many months I was able to gain his attention by performing some faster forms and this aroused the ego that was still left in him. I then discovered that he was one of only three1 students of the Grandson of the founder of the Yang style Taiji, Yang Shou-hou.
This was Chang Yiu-chun and he would go on to become Erle’s main internal arts teacher. Erle would spend the next 5 years watching and learning from Chang. The information he gleaned from Chang would change his perception of what Taijiquan was really about forever. Erle kept diligent notes of his training with Chang. The notes were always full of questions and over time, Erle learned to put his questions more precisely as Chang’s English was poor and so that he “would not end up in great pain,” from Chang’s demonstrations! It was Chang who taught Erle all about the ‘Old’ Yang style or H’ao Ch’uan. It was Chang who taught him the secrets of Dim-Mak and the fighting, and training methods of Shou-hou’s system. In 1983, Chang parted company with Erle with the following words: No need me. He would never return to their training spot again. Erle found out that he had headed back to China. Perhaps the old man knew or sensed something and wished to return back to the old country for sentimental reasons. A few years later, Erle finally received confirmation - his teacher had passed away in 1986. In-between his training with Chang, in 1981 Erle headed to Hong Kong to train with Bagua Master Ho-Ho Choy and to meet Yang Sau-chung (1910-1985), the eldest son of Yang Cheng-fu, after accepting the invitation offered to him in 1979 initially and in subsequent correspondence, whilst accompanied by his earlier teacher Chu King-hung, with whom Erle still kept contact after returning back to Australia. Chu met Erle in Hong Kong and introduced him to Yang Sau-chung, who then corrected some of his Yang Cheng-fu form via an interpreter as well as his Small San-shou. During this meet Erle was offered the chance to become the official Yang family representative for Australasia, which he declined after learning the sums which he was expected to pay for the privilege! This story was coincidentally confirmed by Howard Choy (Choy Hung), in January 2013, who had studied with Yang Sauchung in Hong Kong from 1978-1980: I knew Erle quite well; we used to practise together every Sunday with some of his students… As far as I know, the reason why Erle left Master Chu was because he was asked to make similar contributions to be named as Chu’s disciple. Looking back, when discipleship is based on a financial arrangement with a territorial right and not on genuine commitment to the art and skill, it seldom works out well.2
Back home, Erle had already began teaching the ‘Old Yang Style’ as he would now call it, to differentiate it from the dominant Yang Cheng-fu form. He began teaching this around 1981 at his school based in Pitt Street, Sydney. It was around this period that, ‘attacks’ began to be launched on his integrity, especially from within the Chinese community and their Western disciples, who began accusing Erle of making up the ‘Old Yang’! “For years, people all over the world were mortified that some Australian would begin teaching the Old Yang Style of Yang Lu-ch'an! They even went so far as to say that I invented it! Even so-called masters from Hong Kong were saying this in order to hide the original form from anyone other than their own families, or that they simply did not want to admit that there was something else out there that they did not know.3
In May 1985 Erle, along with a handful of his students headed to the National Wushu Championships, Yinchuan (Giang-Nan), Ningxia Province, in China. The October edition of the China Wushu Magazine in 1985 reported the visit and interviewed Erle for the publication - the article entitled: ‘A Passionate Martial Arts Root Searcher From The Other Side Of The Pacific Ocean - An interview with Erle Moon-ta-gu, Vice Chairman of Australian Martial Arts Association.’
Scan of original page from October 1985 edition of China Wushu Magazine
Early summer, in the famous Giang-Nan village, in northwest China, there was a martial act competition in 1985. After few days, when the closing ceremony was about to be announced via the drum of the army, and the contestants from different schools, and audience were preparing to leave the arena, there was an announcement from the speaker and said that, “Let us welcome the representatives from the Australian Kung Fu Association to give us an exciting martial arts demonstration show.” At that moment, the atmosphere returned from the audience, applause was rising again. It would be interesting to see the foreigner with high nose and blue eyes who can perform the Chinese martial art.
Firstly, the person stepped out to entertain the show was a tall guy in his mid 50’s, he is the group leader Mr. Erle Moon-Ta-Gu with a blonde haired lady, Jenny. They started to perform Tai Chi push hands and self defence postures, very accurately and experienced movements. The members of the group also performed the eight trigrams [Baguazhang], Tai Chi and Tai Chi Push Hands etc, their performance was very exciting, really good, which won appreciation and applause from the audience, the atmosphere was very gentle, happy and friendly.
With this performance, Erle became the first “foreigner with high nose and blue eyes” invited to perform at the Chinese National Wushu Championships - a competition usually reserved for Chinese only! I have reproduced an image of the original Chinese document as it appeared in the magazine on the previous page!
Erle leading his students in demonstration of the ‘Old’ Yang Style at the National Wushu Championships, Yinchuan, China, 1985
The article refers to Erle as “Moon-Ta-Gu”, meaning “Old Tower” - a compliment - for the 2,500 strong audience had witnessed for the first time something they had never seen before - a Westerner perform the ‘Original’ Yang Style or as Erle called it, the Old Yang Style of Yang Lu-ch’an! The guest of honour, Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen, reportedly dropped his fan, stood up and applauded when Erle had finished!
The Masters - Left to Right: Kung Guo-Wu (Pa-Kua): Shao Shan Kan (H’singi,); Fu Zhongwen (Yang Taiji); Erle Montaigue & Wan Wu-Tien (Taiji)
Afterwards, Erle would be tested by four Masters - Wang Xing-Wu [Disciple of Fu Zhongwen]; Kung Guo-Wu [Pa-Kua]: Shao Shan Kan [H’singi]; & Wan Wu-Tien [Taiji] - his peers, alongside Fu Zhongwen before finally receiving his Master’s Degree from Master Wang XingWu, himself! While the West would wait almost another decade to set eyes on Fu Zhongwen, for a brief moment, shortly before he death - Erle Montaigue was being applauded by Fu on his own turf in China - not for performing the watered-down versions of Yang Chengfu’s form, or the government forms or Cheng Manqing’s form or anybody else’s form but, rather, for performing the ‘Old’ Yang! - Of course Fu would never have called it that or known it as such. For him, it would simply have been the Yang family style. Not one of his peers in China questioned the existence of Chang Yiu-chun - Erle’s teacher! Fu would have been familiar with Chang’s home - Wuhan - he had often visited it on his travels with Yang Cheng-fu. Erle receiving his Master Degree from Master Wang Xin-Wu - The Disciple
Erle would forge many friendships during of Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen, Co-founder of the Peking 48 Style Taijiquan & that trip in China, in particularly with Vice-President of The China Wushu Committee - in 1985, China. Master Wang Xin-Wu. They would remain lifelong friends and Master Wang would go on to write the Forward to Erle’s 1995 book Power Taiji, published by Paladin Press.
I have included the Forward in full as it demands attention, as well including personal correspondence from Master Wang to Erle on the following pages: Forward Martial arts are a Chinese national sport. They are also to be treasured by all people of the world. They are not governed by sex, age, location, seasons, or weapons. Because peoples of the world are now exchanging cultures and martial artists have similar interests, friendships of mutual benefit to all concerned are being formed. The purpose of a martial art is to toughen your bones and muscles for self-defense and to improve your intelligence and mental attitude. Martial arts consist of both attack and defense, and these movements need to be placed in sequence to create a style. Taijiquan is one style of martial art. There are five different versions. The most popular versions in China are the Chen and Yang styles. The Yang style is very relaxed, smooth, and slow, with internal strength. It is suitable for all people, including the old, the weak, or those suffering from illness. In May 1985, Erle Montaigue brought the Australian Taijiquan Boxing Association members to visit Yinchuan City in Ningxia to see the All-China National Wushu Competition. Master Montaigue gave a demonstration of his Yang-style taijiquan, which was very well received by the audience, and the local newspapers and television station interviewed him. He is well remembered by the Chinese people since this time. I saw Master Montaigue's demonstration. His tui-sau (push-hands), qi development, and style were very professional and close to perfection. I appreciate his knowledge. I know Master Montaigue has introduced taijiquan to Australia and the Pacific region with excellent results. I am one of the direct descendants to inherit the Yang-style taijiquan. I have written a book of 48 techniques, and I am also a Chinese taijiquan champion. Master Montaigue and I have built a very good friendship because of our mutual love of taijiquan and the fact that we are close to the same age [in terms of experience in taiji, not in literal years —Ed.]. Also, we both have beards and curly hair and have worked on films. Our friendship is not only on a personal basis, however; my hope is that it will cement a friendship between Australia and China and group together to improve the standard of martial arts. I wish Master Montaigue every success in his business, and I wish Australia national success in taijiquan. I send my special regards to martial arts devotees throughout the world. -MASTER WANG XIN-WU Master Wang, of China, is the creator of the Peking 48 style of taijiquan and was Vice-President of The China Wushu Committee - in 1985. He is a disciple of Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen.
Two points of major interest to note here: Descriptively speaking Master Wang is describing the Yang Cheng-fu form not the ‘Old’ form above, despite having seen it and acknowledging Fu Zhongwen practicing it [see note 4]! Why? The second is about Erle’s tui-sau, qi development and style: …very professional and close to perfection.
Now anyone who has seen Erle do or teach push hands will know that it looks nothing like that which is usually termed as such. His way of doing Tui-sau or Joining Hands, as he called it, was unique amongst the modern Taiji practitioners. Why? Because it was based upon the 2nd House of the Yang family - The House of Rolling Thunder - as taught to him by Chang Yiu-chun. These are not anomalies! These raise further interesting points of discussion, but we really don’t have the time for this now… let’s save it for another day! Yet, here we have a Chinese Master of the Yang system acknowledging that Erle’s tui-sau and style was close to perfection! On the next page is a letter from Master Wang Xin-Wu To Erle dated July 23, 1985. The letter shows tremendous warm and respect between the two men. Note Master Wang’s desire and regret that the two couldn’t spend more time to train together and learn from each other! Finally, note that Fu Zhongwen has asked to convey his “best regards” to Erle and his students.
Erle with Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen, May 1985, China
Letters on these and previous pages appear courtesy of the Erle Montaigue Archives
Upon returning to Australia, Erle not only increased his teaching output via his seminars and workshops around the world, he also started holding annual camps on his farm attracting both external and internal martial artists from around the world! His video productions and books on the internal arts, specifically the Old Yang Style and Dim-mak, became instant classics on the subject - even getting banned in Australia for their subject matter of ‘Death Point Striking’! During 1985 a young Chinese student came to visit Erle at his home. He had, himself, recently returned from China and had filmed two short forms [katas] purporting to be the precursors of Taijiquan [H’ao Ch’uan] being performed in a village in the Wudang. He showed these forms to Erle, who immediately recognized them as two of four which he already knew and had been practicing for years, but did not know of their origins. Thus began a nine year negotiating period with the representative of the village, Mr Fu T’sai and the ‘keeper’ of the system Master Liang Shih-kan. Initially, Erle would recollect later, the negotiations didn’t go to well until he sent a video of himself performing the four he already knew, then they negotiated in earnest - involving a lot of bartering - and finally, ten years after his original trip in 1985, Erle returned to China in May 1995 to train at the Wudang. Erle flew to Beijing and from there to Wuhan. From Wuhan, he boarded a train to the Wudang, where he was met by the only English speaking student of Master Liang, Mr Fu Wen-shi. To Erle’s surprise, he wasn't taken to the Wudang Mountain, instead he was taken to a small village just outside of the Wudang. Taiji on the Wudang Mountain was for “tourists,” he would later recall being told by Liang! Early, the following morning, Erle got ready for class at Master Liang’s house which consisted of only five other students. The students all greeted him, however, training would not begin straight away - first Erle would be ‘tested’! One of the students intimated that Erle strike him. Erle, not wishing to be rude, threw a light-hearted punch at him and in return was hammered so hard that an instant lump appeared on his arm!
It was early spring 2008, we sat under a huge, bright yellow canopy in Rostock, Germany, having an ice cream and chatting as Erle reminisced with a smile. He remembered there being a few sniggers at his feeble attempt and then came the realization - this was serious! So, when the student intimated that Erle attack again, this time he struck him on the jaw knocking him down. Master Liang shouted out some words and now a second student stepped forward and attacked Erle, who dodged the attack and lightly struck him on the upper abdomen. That’s when I made my second mistake Nass! I turned around to look at Master Liang expecting to seek his approval and that’s when the student re-attacked me from behind - striking hard at the back of my neck. I began to see stars and lashed out with a palm strike hitting him near GB24 [Gallbladder] and he dropped like a lead weight. That turned out to be the end of the ’test’ but my neck was sore for some time and I had difficulty turning my head for several weeks along with the lump on my arm!
Over the next few days Erle would learn the remaining Wudang forms. He was not allowed to film Master Liang nor the other students during practice. This had been agreed as a part of the original negotiations. Erle would, however, film himself in his room every night after the day’s training so that he had a record of what he had been taught and then have it checked the following day. Master Liang was in his 80s during this time and he and Erle remained good friends and kept in touch right up until Master Liang's death. It was during this visit to the Wudang, that Erle was given access to Master Liang's library and 'obtained' the treatise of H'ao Ch'uan supposedly written by Wang Tsung-yeuh based upon the oral traditions of Chang Sanfeng! Erle would spend the next few years having the text laboriously translated and it was this text which directly led to the corrections he would introduce to the Old Yang in the latter half of the 90s. These corrections were not based on a whim, they went to the very heart of the Classics: Certain criteria for the way we move is being made quite evident as I have more translated. For instance, although there is nothing in these few pages that says something like, “A straight back is the most important thing you can have,” Chang tells us this by a rhyming couplet translated directly as “A Spine Plumb,” some ten times in the first three pages! Now, we all know a straight spine is important, but to have a ‘plumb’ spine at all times has never been forced in Taijiquan. So, I tried performing Yang Lu-ch’an’s form with not only a straight back, but also a ‘plumb’ back. This can be done with a little realignment. And it’s amazing the effect this has on the mind/body coordination and gaining of extreme power! Things just seem to fall in place, things that we just did because they were taught that way, and perhaps just tolerated, now changed as the back became vertical, to show a true meaning of that particular posture. Like the posture of ‘Needle at Sea Bottom,’ done with a vertical/straight back, and only going down as far as you can with the vertical back, really means something else in area of power and fluidity going into the next move of ‘Fan Through Back’. So, now I am going right back over both major Taijiquan forms and replacing bent backbones with vertical ones and the change in both power and realisation is immense. Many things that were read in the ‘Classics’ that just weren’t quite right while holding even a slightly tilted backbone, now have a different meaning which moves closer to the original ‘Classics’. The knowledge Erle gleaned from his two visits to China5 would form the basis of his teachings over the years. He gave away and shared that knowledge openly with those who were willing to receive. Erle reached out to and befriended many other martial artists and openly exchanged ideas with them. These included the likes of Antonio “Tatang" Ilustrisimo, Wong Shun Leung, Dan Inosanto, Keiji Tomiyama and Terry O’Neill to name but a few.
Erle with Dan Inosanto
Danny Inosanto would go onto write a Foreword to Erle’s book, How To Use T'ai Chi As A Fighting Art, published in 1985 and Erle’s work and articles would regularly grace the columns of Terry O’Neill’s Fighting
Erle with Wong Shun Leung in Hong Kong
Erle with Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo in the Philippines
Arts International. Erle produced almost 400 videos on the subject of the internal arts in his lifetime, writing hundreds of articles - published in leading martial arts journals - as well as authoring several books. His Encyclopedia of Dimmak, co-authored with his friend and student Wally Simpson, became the yardstick with which all other publications on the subject would be measured. In his lifetime, Erle had literally taught thousands of students from around the world - including Hong Kong and China - either through his workshops, camps or his videos. However, he only regarded a handful amongst those as his personal students and friends - those who had “received”! A short while before he passed away, Erle wrote to me lamenting how he felt that he was “casting pearls before swine,“ such was his disappointment with the majority of his students. They were simply failing to understand what he was teaching - primarily through laziness, lack of commitment or not training progressively! Erle died suddenly on 26 January 2011, whilst out on a walk with his family near his home in Wales. He had had diabetes for decades and had successfully controlled his condition primarily through his training, lifestyle and his diet. From those whom he had certified, endorsed and acknowledged as his personal students/friends [including his progeny] within his own lifetime, Peter Jones [6th Degree] and Nasser Butt [5th Degree] are officially the highest graded Senior students by Erle Montaigue [still teaching] in the whole of UK and Europe.
(1839 - 1917)
Erle’s YCF form was personally assessed by Yang Shouzhong in Hong Kong in 1981, where he was also offered the chance to become the official representative the Yang family for the whole of Australasia & NZ Territory
(1949 - 2011) Chu King-hung (1945 - Present)
Copyright©Nasser Butt 2019
Photography CopyrightÂŠNasser Butt
Notes and References [For full citations and references please see original 2014 publication] 1. This obviously is incorrect as Yang Shao-hou had more than three students! However, what Chang had said was that: ‘…there were only about three ever at a time because the training was so brutal.’ 2. Choy, Howard. The Feng Shui Architect's Blog, January 24, 2013: Discipleship, Snake Style Taijiquan and Erle Montaigue 3. Montaigue, Erle. Old Yang Style Taijiquan Confirmation. Article. www.taijiworld.com 4. Montaigue, Erle. MTG6 - Chinese Masters. Published by Moontagu Books and Video, Australia, 1985. 5. It was during his trip to the Wudang that Liang would also teach Erle the 12 Wudang Hand Weapons - the precursors to modern Push Hands! All historical images in this article appeared in the original 2014 ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ During his lifetime Erle had sent me these images from his trips to China and elsewhere for safekeeping. This was before the days of gmail giving us gigabytes of space - Erle literally maxed my email allowance!
Drop of Water, Water Liquid - Quadronet_Webdesign Image source: Pixabay - No rights reserved.
nswer #1: They routinely use mirrors in training
Have you noticed this? I’m sure that some dojos have them, but I’m struggling to think of many. In stark contrast, you will see mirrors everywhere in the free weights section of any gym and you see them dotted around in front of punch bags. They are ubiquitous in quite a number of sports where form is important, and yet, most martial arts gyms do not have them. They are conspicuous in their absence. I’m not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps it is because mirrors feature in superstitions in Far Eastern philosophies. Whatever the reason, I would like us to consider why these traditions or beliefs should be overlooked in favour of more practical considerations. Dyspraxia and Proprioception It took me until I was 40 years old to realise I have dyspraxia. Before then, I just thought I was a slow learner when it came to sports. As a child this manifested itself in being rubbish at dancing and being told that I wasn’t ‘naturally sporty’. Now I realise, it was because of how I was taught. Although it is a learning difficulty in some definitions, it can actually largely be overcome with the right teaching methods. The other good news is that these enhanced teaching methods work for even the gifted, so it isn’t as though it slows anyone down. When you consider that most people are not ‘natural athletes’ and most people would benefit from these enhanced teaching methods and aids, it adds to quicker learning by students and less frustration between pupil and teacher. Many people have heard of dyspraxia, but what is it really? I don’t think going into the theories about and a great deal of science are important for this article. I’ll aim to keep this focused on why it is important to know for teaching in martial arts. One fundamental point that is key, is to realise that it manifests very early on in children and will be with someone for life. Sure, people get better at learning, mainly because they ask their teacher to show them things they can’t replicate rather than waiting for the teacher to be aware, but it’s always a ‘thing’ for someone. I hate the use of labels in general, because they stop people doing things; gives people excuses. I really don’t want this to happen. I am hoping this article will help people participate more and hopefully even relieve the stress between teacher and student. As a teacher, it must be frustrating to demonstrate a kick at the front of the class and be constantly frustrated by the fact that most of the class don’t copy your movements exactly – however, that method of teaching will not help most people learn quickly. Only the gifted learn in such a manner. Let me provide an easy to understand definition of dyspraxia for the purposes of us trying to teach these students more effectively: ‘ a person that doesn’t really know what all parts of their body are doing at a particular time unless they can see it in a mirror’. A mirror can be on video or can be someone copying their moves exactly in front of them. Let that sink in a moment. How can you spot such a learner? Well, you may experience a student that when you clearly explain to them what to do with their body, they don’t do it right at all. Straight up, not even close to how you explained. And no matter how much you show them, they still can’t do it unless they spend hours and hours and hours. You may feel frustration at this, but you should think about what I have said above. It’s because they think they are doing what you are saying and unless you put a mirror in front of them whilst they do it, they don’t know any different. They cannot feel body parts in relation to each other, proprioception. There is no point in saying, “put your arms out to your sides and lift them up so they are shoulder height”. That’s no where near enough information. That doesn’t tell them what plane you want it in, in terms of the other axes of the body, e.g., ok, so shoulder height, but forward a bit? One forward one back? You didn’t say. And anyway, they have no idea what the feeling of shoulder height is. They can’t see. You might be thinking they're being lazy because their arms are not perpendicular to the floor, not raised enough. You may see them over compensating, and their arms are starting to point upwards and have gone too far. They simply are not aware.
The way we dyspraxic learners understand (and I think most people other than the gifted learn too) is to see and hear a demonstration broken down properly into pieces of a jigsaw, then to mimic each piece and replicate the action in a mirror. That way they can do and understand what is happening, and autocorrect themselves. They need to be able to see or at least hear a repeat of the demonstration whilst they are looking in the mirror too, as a reminder of the whole motion. To do this, the teacher needs to break the whole thing down. Where are their feet pointing? Where is the weight going to be, front, back or centre of the legs? Should the core be tense? Should the shoulders be tight? Which muscles should be flexed (does the instructor know what the muscles are called even?). Very importantly, where should their head be facing – as that makes such a huge difference to the whole form. Body builders know that form is vital for stimulating certain muscles rather than others. Try doing a bent over fly with your head up versus head down. It stimulates completely different muscles, like totally!
That’s what the mirrors in free weight gyms are for, not for posing in. Even gym goers don’t appreciate this. Only last month at Ilkeston Gym and Fitness Centre (a body builders’ gym with Giant Johal as owner; a leading professional body builder) one of the members deliberately put his back to a mirror and told me I was a ‘poser’ for facing it. Jamie would have been mortified! Well, I just looked a bit puzzled, and didn’t get a chance to say anything because he had his back to me before I had a chance to respond. This is a very experienced gym, with super-friendly experienced staff and members but still it has members that don’t understand the fundamentals of lifting. Moving on: the real reason for mirrors is that free weights make it very easy for form to be lost due to their weight. The mirrors allow the weight lifter to see every part of the form and keep it on-track as the weight encourages you to deviate, because every little part of a lift matters if you want to see results. It is also true to say that in general, people learn best by being able to follow and replicate a movement they are shown alongside an explanation. In order for that learning to be embedded, they need to do it, i.e., replicate it by being able to see exactly what they are doing and then to fine-tune it with minor adjustments. This sentence has 2 important teaching points: 1. Your students need to be able to practice a move whilst a teacher is teaching it. 2. The student then need to see themselves practicing it whilst they can look at/hear you for reference as they are carrying it out.
Most teaching I see in a dojo is when the teacher gives instructions whilst everyone is watching, and then the students go away and practice it on their own. No mirror, no instruction being given whilst they practice, maybe the odd student gets a little nudge here and there but not the whole class. Realising this, you can probably see why 1-1 is so successful. It is because teaching is in a different format, more like: (a) Demonstration by the teacher (b) Demonstrate together whilst your students can practice (c) Student practices and hears the instructions 1-1 whilst watching in a mirror or if there is no mirror, a teacher replicating their actions to explain where the adjustments need to be Now; that is a fast, effective way to learn. Can it be replicated in classes? Sure! But you cannot be a quiet coach; your students need to hear your detailed instructions constantly whilst they are practicing for it all to sink in. I have put this theory into practice in my own coaching and I am seeing fast results. Like super-fast. This is what I have found works: (1) My ability to be able to break down any complicated action from feet to head and explain how they all link together and why. (2) I must demonstrate in different planes, so the student can see face on, side and with my back to them. (3) When my students practice the move, they must be able to see me carrying out the action at the same time. (4) If I am 1 – 1, once they have it almost correct, I can stop and explain the correction I want to see. If there is no mirror, I can replicate and the correction to their mistake. (5) In a class, or 1-1 whilst they are performing the action, I am constantly feeding back the correct instruction in verbal form. Keep your shoulders shrugged, back to your face, don’t lean forwards. Don’t underestimate the first point though, it is not easy and takes a long time to really understand a movement. Knowing how to do this is the sign of a great teacher. If your coach can’t explain where every bit of you needs to be, he/she needs to think about it some more. They should know exactly what is going on, where and why. My own Personal Training style has developed from learning a wide variety of martial arts from many different schools and latterly being a semi-professional boxer, again learning from many teachers. I later took a qualification level 3 in Personal Training to round off my learning. Wow was this useful. I now completely believe that knowing the basics of human anatomy and nutrition are fundamental to teaching martial arts, and this is again something that body builders excel in. My Dr comes from my PhD in biomedical science, which I find useful every single day (the geeks will inherit the earth!). To me, details and the whole-self matter a great deal if you want to get results, and on the topic of teaching… my mantra is: If I’m told : I forget If I see : I remember If I do (correctly) : I understand Namaste Dr Jo Whitaker Coming next……………………….. Answer #2 Understand how nutrition affects performance and integrate diet into training Answer #3 Understand basic anatomy and cellular biology; how the body works in training
began writing about the 12 Secret Rings/Houses almost two and a half years ago. I must confess that when I initially started the project all that time ago, I didn't really realise the journey it would take me on and the people I would meet en route.
Th original project was an angry rebuttal to the lies which were being circulated that these Rings/Houses were simply made up by Erle. That they had no historical value other then to amuse students who were looking for ‘secrets’ and were simply Erle’s own ‘best practice methods’! As I delved deeply into my own notes from my time training with Erle [notes which had lain gathering dust for a few years since his death] and started to put them in order - clear references began to emerge along with guidelines which Erle, himself, had provided to the nature of these Rings/Houses in his own lifetime through his publications! It’s important that I re-quote what Erle had stated way back in the 80s from his own notes [all diligent students keep notes] as this pretty much summates the Secret Rings/Houses of Yang: In this series of articles, I delve into the old pile of hand written notes that I took down during my training with Chang. Mainly to preserve such treasures but also to get the good information out about Tai Chi. This first conversation took place on the Sydney dockyards in a small alcove overlooking the Australian Navy depot early one morning in 1978. “What did your initial training consist of?”
“As I was already an inner student, I was introduced to the houses.” “The houses? What is that?” “He would only ever teach inner circle students so he always taught the inner houses. These were the direct transmission from his Grandfather which taught the highest levels of the style. The movements... adhere strictly to the Old Classic writings.” “You use the backs of your forearms greatly in this system which is not inherent in other Yang systems or in any system of Tai Chi that I know of, why is this?” “It is one of the Houses of Yang where we learn about the Thunder. When you use the backs of your arms, it will make the whole body aligned and balanced and also give one much great power in attack, it is like something rolling over and over until the fighting is finished. When the arms roll over, it makes the body as the Universe which is constantly changing and moving forward. This was the 2nd House.” “Your way of doing pushing hands is the same as the ‘Rolling Thunder’ isn’t it? I have only just now realised this. In what ‘house’ do you learn this way of Joining Hands?” “This is the number three house.” Conversations With Chang Yiu-chun
Again, as I stated in the original introduction to the Rings/Houses: It should already be abundantly clear to the reader as to the source of Erle’s knowledge and that the names and order of the ‘Rings’ were already established…!
Technically speaking, Erle’s words above are the perfect conclusion for the subject of the Rings/Houses. I should not need to add any more, however, I will expand upon them slightly. This is the first time that all 12 Rings/Houses have been officially placed in the public domain!
Whilst Erle, in his own lifetime, had publicly declared 6 of the Rings, he had alluded to the rest throughout his teachings. It is all out there for the vigilant student, if you know where and what to look for. Whilst Erle gave of his knowledge openly and freely he was also adamant that: I see the knowledge as something that is only given when one is ready to receive. So, I see that giving people everything is useless until they can receive.
Now Erle’s statement above is interesting as it is more or less corroborated by Yang Cheng-fu, who says the same thing - albeit worded differently: In boxing arts, what is taught or not taught is entirely up to the student rather than the teacher… Yang Cheng-fu will teach boxing to anyone and teaches everyone the same. So why do some turn out better than others? Because everyone has a different nature, a different degree of intelligence, a different capacity to understand the principles. Also because Taiji theory is rather deep and takes more than one lesson to grasp. Since progress is a step-by-step process, Yang teaches in a step-by-step manner.
The knowledge which Erle imparted through the Rings/Houses, to those of his students who were ready to “receive” was simple - they were the progressions through which one developed an understanding of : Here we learn how to fight adhering to all of the internal classics… the real fighting and healing areas, the advanced areas… These 12 houses or rings as they were often called, were what the Masters taught only their most treasured and trusted students and or family members and even went as far as giving us all the wrong information to stop us from getting the 'family jewels' as Yang Sau-chung once told me. It’s all there in the Taijiquan and Bagwazhang ‘classics’. However, most teachers take these classic saying too literally and try to execute what those classics say before they have risen to a high enough level. You cannot understand what the great old masters have said when you are not at their level to begin with. The old masters did not write the classics when they were beginning! They wrote them once they had understood fully the meaning of ‘internal’ and ‘small frame’. They wrote them when they were very advanced. What is the use of writing a guide for beginners? The beginner can learn the basic movements from anyone who knows them well enough. But once learnt, it is very important to have a teacher who is able to impart the inner knowledge and also to take the student onto the more advanced forms. And only then will the students understand the true meaning of what the classics are trying to teach us.
So, were these simply “Erle’s invention” and or “his best practice methods,” as has been suggested? In each of the 12 Rings/Houses, I have presented clear corroborating evidence contrary to the above suggestions. It has literally taken thousands of hours of research - painstakingly reading and sifting through reams of tomes to put this information together. Not only is the evidence out there - the fact that these nuggets of information are so vastly dispersed across documents* spanning decades - also confirms that the Yangs taught according to the ability of each student. This wasn’t information which was simply given to rank and file! Upon completion, one of the first things I did was to send a copy of all 12 Rings/Houses to Dr. Gregory Lawton for reviewing [his review follows this conclusion]. Greg and I have been friends for several years now. It was Erle who had introduced us some 12 or so years ago. I sent him the material because I respect his knowledge and authority on the internal arts - just like Erle did - and far more importantly… because Greg, also, hails from the line of Yang Shao-hou and has been teaching the arts for more years then I have lived! Upon receiving Greg’s response [I hope he won’t mind my sharing a small part of our private conversation for historical purposes] after his first reading of the material, I must admit, I felt pride - not necessarily wholly in myself [which of course I did], but more so in the fact that I had had such a wonderful teacher, who had willingly given myself [and others] so much: The scholarship level of this material is excellent and at a very high level. This information is vitally important to the international Tai Chi community. Of course, you will face tremendous resistance but eventually [who knows how long it will take] this will be accepted. The written information is priceless… What an elegant presentation of such essential Tai Chi truths.
In Lewis Carroll's novel Alice in Wonderland, published in 1865, the central character, Alice, has to choose between coloured potions to either enable her adventure to continue or go back home. This concept of choosing between two coloured liquids or pills has been heavily utilised in popular culture for decades and epitomized in the 1999 sci-fi flick - The Matrix, directed by The Wachowskis. In the movie, the character of Morpheus explains to the main protagonist Neo that the Matrix is an illusion - a world created to prevent humans from learning the truth - that they are in reality slaves to external forces! Whilst holding out two pills - a red one and a blue one - in each palm, he explains to Neo the choices he now faces: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more!
You can choose the ‘blue pill’ and continue to live in a docile reality of ignorance created for you by so-called bloodlines and their self-proclaimed titles [as if knowledge, skill and understanding can be transmitted genetically or by simply sharing a name and is their sole possession - even when evidence points to the contrary]! This reality is created out of fear - a fear that the truth will expose their limited knowledge and training as well as a loss of revenue! Alternatively, you can choose the 'red pill’ and see reality for what it really is in the world, but it is not enough to just see it, you must also be willing to live its truths. It is not for me to convert anyone to my viewpoint. All I have done is present the evidence of what I and others have been taught. It is for the reader and practitioner to decide for themselves which path they choose? All I’m offering here are “essential Tai Chi truths” - Nothing more! Nasser Butt, June 2019 ——————————*I have referenced most of the documents within the text of the 12 Secret Rings of Yang. However an invaluable online resource has been Brennan Translation. Whilst I had already read and in some instances owned copies of various Taiji manuals, Brennan’s work gave me something to compare translations with for a matter of accuracy as well as diversity, which I in turn compared with my own notes from my time training with Erle. Further, the MDBG Chinese to English dictionary - also available online - has been a godsend! It has allowed me to translate and breakdown Chinese characters myself and see them from the perspective of a martial artist and also according to the traditions I have inherited. Over the years I have collected many documents written by other researchers which again have been cited within the texts. Some of these are only a page or two but even these have yielded gems. I have also been lucky enough to have been able to correspond with many students who trained within the Yang lineage [and other families] - both Shao-hou and Cheng-fu - and they have shared their knowledge and inherited traditions unreservedly. I am grateful to them all for being so forthcoming and generous in guiding me in the right direction when I was looking for specific answers. The major source of my inherited information has obviously come from Erle’s articles, books and videos, including our personal conversations spanning some 12 or so years as well as my class notes which I have kept diligently, and over 90 hours of personal video footage which Erle allowed me to make over the years! This footage has been gold dust as it was taken in situ during our instructors' classes containing information left out in his official videos! I will, in the near future be releasing an ebook version of the 12 Houses with full references.
ver the years I have seen many attempts by martial art historians and scholars to explore the murky, turbulent, controversial, and often confusing history and origins of T’ai Chi
Ch’uan, never have I read a more enlightened, but at the same time, straightforward account than that of my friend Nasser Butt’s critical work and analysis as is contained within his series of articles on the Twelve Secret Rings of Yang Family T’ai Chi Ch’uan. In this exceptional series of articles, published in eight parts, on the Twelve Secret Rings of Yang T’ai Chi Ch’uan I found in Nasser’s work a brilliant presentation, that Nasser himself would be quick to tell you is strictly and solely a result of the remarkable teaching of Erle Montaigue. However, a teacher without dedicated students like Nasser, is like an artificial flower, with no scent and no seeds. In my book Scent of a Forgotten Flower I wrote about this and stated: “The uplifting winds carry an uncountable number of seeds; perchance a few may take root. 10,000 students give birth to one teacher and one teacher to one true student.” Nasser is that true student, true to his teacher, true to the art, and true to the community which he serves. The fact that Erle was able to produce a student of Nasser’s capacity is proof, as I have always felt, that Erle was himself a rare genius within the martial arts community. Ultimately, our worth is not in our words or the result of the appreciation of our peers, it solely rests upon our service and sacrifice in the path of knowledge and as the name of this wonderful magazine states, to Lift humanity to a higher level. I have suggested to Nasser that the technical aspects and wisdom contained within this series would take a lifetime to study, no, more than one lifetime. It took Erle a lifetime, and now Nasser his dedicated student, is following along the same path. Let us all walk this path with Nasser, side by side, as brothers and sisters, lets all learn from each other, and lets all join hands and Lift each other up! Dr. Gregory T. Lawton, April 2019 ——————————————————————————————————————— Dr. Gregory T. Lawton is the author many books, most of them in the area of health science, but also in the genre of Asian martial arts, philosophy, poetry, and prose. In 1980 he founded the Blue Heron Academy a state licensed vocational school that offers classes in traditional and conventional health care and has trained over 12,000 students. Dr. Lawton is a licensed chiropractor, licensed naprapath, and a licensed acupuncturist. He has trained in several martial arts including Kosho Ryu Kenpo and T’ai Chi Ch’uan.*
*Editor’s Note: A brief history of Dr Greg Lawton’s Taiji pedigree appears in the article, Confessions of a T’ai Chi Ch’uan Heretic, in this volume of Lift Hands.
first met Jo Whitaker a couple of
years back at the British Martial Arts Awards held at Lilleshall Hall National Sports Centre. With a PhD in biomedical science, this self-confessed “geek” is intelligent and has a great love for combat sport. Combining her scientific knowledge with the anatomy of the human body and nutrition, makes Dr Jo one hell of an instructor. Martial artists would do well to pay heed to what she has to say! LH: Dr Jo Whitaker, Welcome to Lift Hands Magazine! Please tell our readers a little about yourself. JW: I am a PhD Scientist from a humble background who found love in combat sports. I am 1 of 3 sisters who were all brought up believing that gender was irrelevant. I started with Kick Boxing, went onto Tae Kwon Do, Judo, BJJ, Wrestling, and finally boxing in term of combat sport discipline.
My first ever full contact fight was in a cage, age 39. I have always been active in the gym to supplement my training. Whenever I travelled abroad, which was frequently, I visited a dojo/gym local to me and found that there was so much to learn; no way was the right way. It depends on the situation and the person as to what feels natural. But, some fundamentals are constant. I only recently began teaching fitness and boxing. Two years ago I passed my Level 3 in Personal Training. I mix the disciplines and knowledge; there is something to learn from each. I follow nutrition advice, weight lifting, martial arts and boxing on Instagram so I get a rounded understanding. I now teach 1-1 and small group. In 1-1 PT training I use boxing for those that want to do cardio but are bored running, or using the rower; and those that want to feel confident again. I teach small groups, I get a kick out of ‘getting it right’; I’m a geek. I’m constantly learning, being enthusiastic and passionate. I have had amazing teachers, I have a long time on this earth to learn more.
LH: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen? JW: Studio 54 in the 70’s - PARTY! LH: If you had to leave earth on a spaceship and take 4 people with you, who would they be? JW: Well, I’m going to be practical and assume we don’t know what is going to happen, so I’m going to practical! I’d like a physician (with some surgical experience), a chemist, an engineer and a combat expert. 3 males, 1 female. All must be fluent in at least 3 languages and have hobbies. It would be better if they volunteered by the way, and I didn’t need to force them *evil laugh. LH: If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be? JW: 21 lots of fun times, but that was a great year! LH: If you could time travel, where would you go? JW: Late cretaceous period I’d need to revise the flora and fauna, and will need a lot of guns. I will also need to breathe through a mask to reduce the risk of pathogen infection. But I’d take the risk. DINOSAURS ARE THE BEST! LH: What is your greatest strength or weakness? JW: Strength: Analysis! I use all 6 senses and am pretty good at working out the why and how, I can smell a fib from million miles away, which is why I try not to lie, I’m no good at it! Weakness: Being vulnerable! Maybe that sounds weird, but I sometimes envy people that just give up, pine a bit, and get stuff done for them. I end up doing everything myself. LH: Do you trust anyone with your life? JW: Nope! I’m pretty confident that if it’s a choice between me looking after my own life and trusting anyone else, I’d make the most appropriate decisions for me. Plus, I think that’s a big ask to put on someone!
LH: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? JW: You are 100% in control of your life. You cannot control anyone else’s reactions. So, stick to controlling what you can, and stop worrying about what anyone else says. Make yourself proud. LH: What have you always wanted and did you ever get it? JW: A Mr Frosty! And yes, I’m still bitter. Father Christmas let me down 3 years in a row. I think it’s why I have a distinct dislike of big beards. LH: Do you know your heritage? JW: It’s pretty sketchy to be honest, and depends on who you ask, but a mix of English, Irish, Scottish and Egyptian; and that tells you everything you need to know about my behaviour, haha! LH: Are you still learning who you are? JW: Of course! I believe you only learn when you are challenged. I guess a new scenario will come up, and I will find out new things about myself. LH: What, if anything, are you afraid of and why? JW: The dentist! LH: What is the most memorable class you have ever taken? JW: Tony Pillage’s Pressure Point seminar! If you know, you know. It was also how I met the legend and then all of his wonderful friends and extended family. Much love. RIP. LH: What book has influenced you the most? JW: 1984 George Orwell – I like it because it’s just as true today and in any society in history. He may use an exaggerated example, but all societies function like this on some level. We have to appreciate that we are literally being played every single day by most people, not only governments. Use your brain. Think for yourself. Stand up. Stand out. Oh and on this note, I think I’ll scream if I see someone post about being a wolf rather than a sheep. Errrrrm wolves are pack animals. They can’t live without sheep either, they are entirely dependent on them. They don’t control them, they are not in control. Be a shepherd and choose who and what you are. LH: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into doing or believing? JW: I believe Mermaids might have been real for about 3 days after I watched 2 mockumentaries on Animal Planet. Mermaids – the body of evidence. I still laugh about that today. LH: Who or what has been the greatest influence in your life? JW: Me! This question made me smile. I know others might have said nice things about other people, but we have to realise that we carve our own destiny. We have the power. It’s only ourselves that can make a difference to our lives. It is entirely our choice. We are not a whim of anyone else. We choose to reach out, to learn, to experience, to do and to change. You have to believe in yourself because there is nobody else, everything you’ve succeeded in or failed in is down to you. Be proud. Make yourself prouder. LH: What is the craziest thing one of your teachers has done or made you do? JW: This is a tough one. To me, nothing is crazy. It’s all just ‘stuff that happens or I do’. I guess I’ve done all sorts of things that are considered crazy, but I don’t label them as that so it’s hard to recall if I’m really honest! LH: When did you screw everything up, but no one ever found out it was you? Another hard one! I’m a perfectionist and find it hard to lie. So, if I messed up, I would openly admit it and make
“…we have to realise that we carve our own destiny. We have the power. It’s only ourselves that can make a difference to our lives. It is entirely our choice. We are not a whim of anyone else. We choose to reach out, to learn, to experience, to do and to change. You have to believe in yourself because there is nobody else, everything you’ve succeeded in or failed in is down to you. Be proud. Make yourself prouder.”
a joke out of it for sure. So I don’t think I’ve ever let myself get away with it, but I have made people laugh with stupidity and continue to do so regularly. LH: If You had to choose to live without one of your five senses, which one would you give up and why? JW: Smell! You can still taste without smell, that’s not 100% true. Most smells are pointless or annoying, so smell is the one I’d be most willing to sacrifice. LH: If you could select one person from history and ask them one question - who would you select and what would the question be? JW: I’d like to meet Christopher Columbus as he lands in America and ask him “who the hell taught you how to navigate a ship?” LH: How would you describe your art in ten words or less? JW: Demanding, empowering, liberating, tiring, emotional, effective, time-consuming, fun! LH: Dr Jo Whitaker, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions! It’s been wonderful having you here with us and we hope to hear more from you in future issues of Lift Hands.
Nottingham Getting fit by HIITING stuff Very small class size to suit all abilities Advice on diet and exercise throughout
Park Boxing To book or more information please DM on social media
The Small San-sau Xiao SÃ n Shou The Five Levels: From Principles To Combat Part Four
Solo Method will continue in Volume 11 of Lift Hands
NASSER BUTT With Elliot Morris
History The word nunchaku evokes images of Bruce Lee, especially in his duel against Dan Inosanto, the Teenage mutant ninja turtle Michelangelo or Lego’s Ninja-Go toy line. As a kid many of us might have ruined a broomstick or two in order to produce our sets of nunchakus to mimic the moves as seen performed by our heroes. The pain that comes when things went not really as planned having one of the handles hitting you in painful places. The origin of this exotic weapon is shrouded in mystery. The accepted history is that it was some kind of flail as used by Okinawan farmers. Being banned from using weapons by the Japanese government these farmers were forced to adapt farming tools like the kama, tonfa and the nunchaku as fighting weapons in order to defend themselves.
Smith Sensei’s Journey & the art of sport nunchaku What hit me during my brief research of Smith sensei was that although there is a lot of information on the sites regarding the systems he teaches as well as the school, there is little information about the man himself. He is the world champion in sport nunchaku now, I was curious about his journey. How does someone become a world champion in sport nunchaku? What does it take? What made him take up sport nunchaku in the first place? Many questions to be answered… I prepared a couple of questions and made a plan for an outline I wanted to use before phoning him up. Mike Tyson once said that everybody has a plan until they get hit… To me I had a plan until I got completely hooked by his story… So I let the plan go and rode the wave… Smith Sensei started by giving his credentials, a 6th Dan in traditional Ju-Jitsu, 4th Dan in Nunchaku and 2nd Dan in Kobudo. RichSmithMartialArts. sportnunchaku Tel:
07718530346 Freestyle Nunchaku
He told me he had been training for 39 years of which 25 years teaching. As I had seen several pictures of him, this triggered my curiosity as I thought he was about my age which is 40. To the question what his age was he replied that he wouldn’t tell until he became Baby… This comes from the Japanese expression that when you become 55 years old, you’re just a baby. In 2001 Sensei set of on his own Musha Shugyo, his Warrior pilgrimage, traveling through Europe. This took him through many countries where he lived and trained. Questioning deeper I learned that to be accepted as a student wasn’t simply walking in and paying a fee. Sensei often had to fight and prove himself first. That was what it was like in Budapest and some of the other countries he said.
During this 3 month trip he bumped into leading Nunchaku expert Marc Brémart from Switzerland. Here he was introduced to sport nunchaku and knew now what he was meant to do. Bring Sport Nunchaku to Great Britain and become the First UK World Nunchaku Champion. The next major task was to unite 25 countries in a major Sport Nunchaku Championship in London by 2020. Sport Nunchaku was developed in late 70’s and 80’s by Marc Brémart (Switzerland), Raphael Schmitz (France) and Malco Lambrecht (Holland). Being hooked by the art he found a way to afford to stay and train by sleeping inside the dojo. The training was long and very fierce, often 4 hours plus a day, fighting without any protection – Groin or Headgear in a Tshirt and more often than not bear chest. When questioning Sensei about this he told me that when he went to Japan for Iaido and Kobudo he often trained 8-13 hours a day. Upon returning to the UK his first thoughts were: we aren’t training enough! From 2003 Sensei went back to Switzerland every 2 months for as long as 4 weeks at a time for more intensive training. After returning from his first Nunchaku Competition in the World Nunchaku Championships Morges, Switzerland with and 8th Place he decided to change his Kobudo club to a Sport Nunchaku Club and Sport Nunchaku UK was founded in June 2005. The reason for the name ‘Sport Nunchaku,’ Sensei explained is that when you just mention nunchaku people will think about the weapon. While it really is a sport! At first in 2005 Sensei’s UK organisation was under the International Techno Nunchaku Association of which Sensei Marc Brémart was Vice-president. Then in January 2010 Sensei Marc Brémart parted from ITNA and created a new organisation. Brémart Sensei asked Sensei Smith to be Vice-President, of a new organisation of which was the new name was yet to be decided. The choice at the time was either be INA or NIA. Freestyle Nunchaku
Today the organisation is known as
Nunchaku International Academy (NIA), a well organised martial arts organisation which has affiliations in Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Chile and Spain. Sensei Smith who is the Vice-president of the NIA, is also the Founder and Technical director of Sport Nunchaku UK. His vision, mission and ambition within this great organisation, is to promote and develop sport nunchaku for all. I wanted to know what made him start studying the nunchaku. Surprisingly it wasn’t Way of the dragon or Fist of Fury. In the early 90’s Sensei attended at a Ju-Jitsu seminar where he saw the breath-taking beautiful nunchaku demonstration. Seeing the art and skill as performed by Sensei S.A.Elliot from the Derbyshire JuJitsu Academy Sensei was astonished by the speed and control of the weapon where Mr Elliot hit Sensei at the back of knee, lower back and back of the neck at so much speed… Ten years later Sensei met Marc Brémart currently 7th Dan Nunchaku. Sport Nunchaku is made up of 5 elements: Kata, Freestyle, Application, Combat and Tricks or Freestyle.
Kata Kata are pre-arranged sequences of basic nunchaku techniques, often arranged in dance like moves. They are to be performed as fluently and perfectly as possible. The purpose of a kata is to get a better understanding of the techniques. The goal of studying a kata is to learn the techniques, as well as learning how to properly perform a technique.
Freestyle Freestyle nunchaku is a more visually stunning, rather than combative way. Freestyle Nunchaku competitions are now held throughout the year, marks are awarded based upon visual display. Freestyle competitions are based and judged on the following: ” Pace and rhythm of the nunchaku during the freestyle routine ” Consistency of speed when performing the techniques ” Variation in techniques ” Control and movement ” Showmanship and entertainment ” The use of one and two nunchakus ” Unique nunchaku techniques ” Dropping the nunchaku ” Time span of the freestyle
Combat Also within sport nunchaku is the sport of ‘Combat Nunchaku’. This is another competitive side to the art. Two competitors stand and fight opposite each other wearing safety protective helmets and groin guards.
Application Nunchaku application is all about how to apply the techniques and manipulate the nunchaku when facing another person. The nunchaku is used to perform blocks, locks, throws and take down techniques on another person.
Tricks or Freestyle Tricks or freestyle are also performed on each belt, the higher the belt the more difficult the trick or routine. Children particularly enjoy learning tricks because it builds confidence, promotes expression and most of all is FUN!
Using the right equipment During the conversation I had with Sensei I mentioned that as a kid I used to saw up broomsticks to make my own to which we had a good laugh. ‘Wooden nunchakus however are no good.’ Sensei remarked. ‘Wood or rubber gives you injuries which can range from a split head to broken fingers. Even losing an eye or even brain damage in the untrained hands’ ‘What of all the things will stop you from training?’ Sensei asked me. I tried to think of a good answer but Sensei beat me to it. ‘injury’ he said… ‘Injury can take you out of training for 3 days. After the 3 days you start to feel like not training. So apart from the physical consequence you also start to have psychological consequences.’ ‘In order to make progress training needs to be consistent!’ Sensei explained. ‘This can all be caused by using the wrong equipment.’ ‘Then what is the right equipment?’ I asked. ‘Safety nunchaku!’ Sensei told me. These are available from his website.
Competition In 2005 Sensei also participated at his first competition, not having access to his skills and knowledge with the nunchaku Sensei ended up elbowing his opponent in the face where after he got a warning. After repeating the illegal move he was almost disqualified and ended up 8th Place. I was curious whether or not all the 5 aspects of Sport Nunchaku were coming back during competition. When I asked Sensei told me that in competition combat and freestyle were always present and nine times out of ten there was also kata. Sensei summed up an impressive list of championships he had participated in, of which some were organized by Sensei himself.
The entire list is too long to sum up here and can be consulted at Sensei’s website. www.snuk.org.uk One of the big highlights mentioned by Sensei was the winning of the gold medal by his student K. Knight and the Bronze medal by his student T. Miles at the World Nunchaku Championships in Vevey, Switzerland in March 2008. He expressed his joy and pride about his students performing well.
Competition took Sensei to places all over the world like France, Latvia, Holland and even Russia! Just as I wondered what it is that drives him Sensei told me ‘It’s all about the love!’ Being a martial artist myself I agree with that, during training close friendships and bonds are formed, people take care of each other and we all share a good time doing something that we love. So there is the love for the art as well as the love for our fellow trainees. In October 2018 in Switzerland Sensei became second in the world. And now at the recent 2019 World Championship tournament in Paris during the weekend of 8-9 June he became UK’s first World Nunchaku Champion. More specifically he became the master level world champion and won three medals; World Champion (gold) master level combat At another category, for semi-contact he got silver And at yet another category, for freestyle he got also silver Another member of team GB; Peter C’ailceta Sensei who is the chief instructor in Liverpool also achieved the silver medal in combat and the bronze medal for freestyle. He has only just returned to the UK from this latest World championship tournament in Paris and is still buzzing. ‘It’s what I’ve always wanted a dream come true…’ Sensei said that the standard of the competitors in Switzerland and France were extremely high and had been the first time UK had made such a great impact.
The secret to success What is the process to become a world champion and what does it take? It’s a process of 18 years Sensei said. To compete at a high level, at the top 1% there are three things where you have to focus on; fitness, skill set and the psychological element. Most people focus on fitness and the skill-set, not many people concentrate on the phycological element… The psychological element is about dealing with pressure, the pressure of being in front of a crowd and having to perform while everyone is watching you, the pressure of facing an opponent etc… Another aspect of this is the psychological intimidation of the opponent or environment. When doing freestyle one wrong thought can ruin the entire freestyle routine. It’s all about never, ever giving up, Sensei said… No matter what comes your way, keep on going… no matter how bad you think it is… It’s about how you feel in your fighting. ‘Subconsciously we all keep the score of plusses and minuses’ Sensei explained ‘…and that affects you!’ The more you focus on the good things in life, the more of it will come to you! ‘That’s what I tell my students’ Sensei said. I think this advice goes for daily life as well! Mindset, a positive outlook and an I will keep going and do whatever it takes attitude is key!
The future When I asked Sensei what will be next for him, Sensei told me that he was already working on setting up the World Nunchaku Championship for September 2020 which will be either in London or Liverpool. His second goal is to bring sports nunchaku to the people by developing an online program, which allows people to learn nunchaku skills on their mobile device or computer. This way people can learn the art of sport nunchaku from their home as well get online personal tuition from the national coach and world champion 2019. Last but not least Sensei spoke about nunchakjitsu which is a mix between traditional Ju-Jitsu and nunchaku. Involved in this are locks, holds, parries, throws, strikes and takedowns. During the chat Sensei mentioned the nice sunset in Windermere where he lives. He said the only other place where he could see this kind of beautiful sunset was in Okinawa. Sensei told me some stories about Japan. Sensei is a man with a rich experience, when I mentioned that he told me a lot during the past one and a half hour he laughed and told me he didn’t even tell half of it as he focused on the sport nunchaku while he practiced other arts like Ju-Jitsu, Kobudo and Iaido as well. I am sure there is enough information for several articles… He told me a great inspiring story. It reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’ where the hero’s journey is explained. The boon, the story of one hero’s journey is the call to adventure to another hero… Answer the call!
Image by Megan Menegay - Source: Unsplash
The origin of the traditional martial arts is shrouded in mystery and myth. At the fountainhead of the history of martial arts, and in the majority of martial art systems, is the story of a great teacher. This great teacher, or sifu, is the martial arts warrior, or sage, who is credited with creating the body of knowledge that late, becomes a martial art system to be passed down through oral tradition and rigorous training to successive generations of students.. Occasionally, written materials such as a master training manual were also passed down through traditional lineages. In addition, when the lineages were broken, the knowledge of that martial art system was lost. For individual martial art students, the sifu likely served as a father, teacher, trainer, priest, and role model. This article investigates the traditional lineage system for the transmission of martial arts knowledge through the sifu, and addresses the question of whether or not the role played by the traditional sifu still serves the needs of individuals who are training in contemporary martial arts.
very nation and cultural group in history has had their heroes and all cultures have romanticized and
exaggerated the abilities and exploits of these heroes. From the heroic stories of Greek mythology, we have heroes like Hercules, Achilles, Jason, Odysseus, Perseus, Theseus, and the Amazons. In the recorded chronicles of their lives and exploits, there is found a history of civilization, war, love, philosophy, myth, whether fact or fiction, interwoven within the fabric of a single story. In more contemporary times, we have grown up with stories about heroes like Robin Hood, Davy Crockett, and Daniel Boone. In Asian historical literature, we find a similar blending of fact and fiction, perhaps to an even greater degree. Western readers usually expect that the books they read are classified as either fiction or non-fiction. In Asian literature; however, this distinction is usually not made, especially in works of ancient and modern literature that pertains to the martial arts. Just as Western historians blended fact with fiction in the stories of great civilizations and heroes, Asian historians and writers have done similarly throughout recorded history and, in particular, over the past two or three centuries. Before the Tang dynasty (617-907) the Chinese literary tradition made no clear distinction between the modern categories of fiction and non-fiction, although elements of what we would call fiction were present. (1) To say that the traditional martial arts were confused by the merging of fact and fiction would be an understatement as the written manuscripts and oral traditions led to major disagreements among the martial artists. To understand the scope of the problem, different people reading the same material would draw different conclusions depending on whether they felt the information was fact or fiction. The combining of fact, myth, and superstition within the martial art literature was further confounded by the general lack of written historical information. Detailed information about key historical figures in the Asian martial arts was missing, which led some historians to “fill in the blanks” on their own. Many of the “historians” of the martial arts were also martial artists, studying with a “sifu” and this makes their accounts and conclusions less objective. Their research was likely biased and frequently lacking in scientific rigor. In addition, poor verbal and written Asian language skills, a lack of knowledge about Asian history, and a lack of awareness about the cultural and social milieu of Asian nations, especially the caste system, were complicating factors. Noted contemporary martial artist and author Harvey Kurland commented that: The senior students of Yang Shao-Hou, who did not become disciples of (Yang) Cheng-Fu, were written out of the Yang family lineage after the death of (Yang) Shao-Hou and for that reason are not as well known. (2) So far, the discussion has been focused on the issue of an overall unreliability of the Asian martial arts historical
literature. Since much of the contemporary Asian martial arts literature is based on historical accounts, both written and oral, its reliability is equally suspect. Numerous examples from modern martial arts literature illustrate how the same fiction and mythologies are passed along from earlier historical accounts. From a practical point of view, one might ask how the continued transmission of fiction and myth adversely affects training in the martial arts? If a student begins studying the martial arts as a purely recreational or leisure activity, without intending to use its martial applications, one could argue that it is unimportant that the student is learning baseless skills and information. In fact, some students seem to relish this kind of knowledge and practice. If, however, other students are soldiers or law enforcement professionals who might need to apply their skills in defense of their life or the lives of others, then what they learn and how they apply that knowledge becomes crucial for the protection and preservation of life. At the center of all martial arts learning and for the continued transmission of knowledge, is the sifu, who is usually the primary source of information and training. Because of the nature of the student/teacher relationship, students trust that the information they receive is true and effective. In the traditional Asian martial arts; however, this may not be the case. Although the purpose of this article is not to disparage any teacher or system of martial arts, the facts reveal several common failures of the traditional sifu system of training: 1. The “curriculum” of traditional Asian martial arts is based on fiction, myth, and superstition and the sifu often perpetuates this false information and training. 2. A sifu’s claim to rank and lineage is often fraudulent, or misrepresents the sifu’s training and ability. 3. Some sifu’s attempt to inculcate a relationship of dependency and control over the lives and affairs of their students. 4. The traditional Asian martial arts are composed of many different systems of martial arts that have different techniques and training methods. No universally agreed upon standardized training technique or method of practice exists to ensure the safety of students. Thus, students are at increased and unnecessary risk of injury due to poor or improper training methods. Some sifu’s make greatly exaggerated claims about their abilities and promote psychic and metaphysical beliefs to impress and manipulate their students. As a result, a sifu may achieve personal recognition and fame and benefit financially. Due to modern information sharing, that is both rapid and transparent, the credentials and claims of some ranking martial artists have been shown to be fraudulent. Such fraudulent claims commonly include false claims about studying with noted teachers, claiming to have an unearned rank or lineage, and exaggerations about the number of years studying with a particular teacher, or within a system or style of martial arts. Some of the fantastic and exaggerated claims made by martial arts teachers have included: the ability to render opponents unconscious without physically touching them; the ability to psychically transport a body from one location to another; the ability to levitate; and the ability to dodge bullets or to become impervious to gun fire. Numerous examples of these claims have been produced by past and current martial artists. Indeed, many modern students of the martial arts believe that a goal of their training is to be able to perform these supernatural feats.(3) From the perspective of diagnostic psychology and psychiatry, individual martial artists who have made such exaggerated claims would appear to be suffering from various forms and degrees of narcissism, paranoia, and delusion In the article, “Dangers of self-proclaimed masters,” martial artist and author Don Cunningham, a debunker of supernatural, fraudulent, and delusional claims made by martial artists, refers to the psychiatrist Dr. Mariam Cohen who stated: “It’s possible they feel powerless, weak and frightened in most other areas of their lives, and therefore are attracted to the image of power.” Dr. Cohen further states: “There is also the image of the ‘master’ who is capable of defeating all enemies and has incredible wisdom. If you’re struggling with ‘inner demons’ and fears of your own weakness, this is an incredible image to connect to, to hope to be perhaps.”(4) Within the lineage system, myth, superstition, metaphysical and occult practices are inculcated and transmitted via an unhealthy system of dogmatic “blind faith”. After all, the lineage student is charged with retaining the system’s “knowledge” intact from the masters who preceded him. Certainly, if the body of knowledge is based on scientific principles of training and conditioning, and proven methods of combat, then retaining this knowledge is valuable, but if the system is permeated with superstition, metaphysical beliefs, and occult practices, the system will be without merit.
A cult of personality is defined as extreme devotion to an individual person, and while similar to general “hero worship,” this extreme form of devotion is the adulation of a specific personage. Margaret T. Singer. Ph.D., former Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley stated: “Historically, the power of certain persons to dramatically influence others was considered supernatural, i.e., the influencer was a magician or witch with secret potions and arcane knowledge, or had godlike qualities. Some people have attained compliance from and influence over others through coercion, brutality, or the wielding of religious, political, or financial powers.(5) The martial arts community has always had numerous examples of individuals or lineage students who contribute to the creation or maintenance of a cult of personality around a living or deceased “grandmaster”. In a number of ways, the promoters of a cult of personality gain from this activity. In the martial arts community, knowledge is equated to power and money. Any claims to a direct lineage, or to exclusive secrets and superior abilities and styles are the “keys to the kingdom” for recognition and reward. The traditional martial arts are in an area of human knowledge where knowledge of the past is felt to be more important that modern discovery or innovation. At the beginning of the 20th century, martial art reformers, such as Chen Pan Ling, attempted to “modernize” the Chinese martial arts. Chen Pan Ling, in the preface of his original book (Tai Chi Chuan Chiao Tsai), states: “If we can but standardize nomenclature, theory, postures, and movements, our martial arts will rapidly increase in popularity, not solely in China, but throughout the world.”(6) Chen Pan Ling was only marginally successful in attracting the martial arts communities to his call for reform. In all fairness, Chen Pan Ling was attempting to reform not only the martial arts, but the stubbornly inculcated religious beliefs that were based on concepts like “ancestor worship” and “filial piety”. Richard C. Bush, author and historian of ancestor worship, wrote: The veneration of ancestors by royal families and common people alike reveals several reasons for ancestor worship. People wanted their ancestors to be able to live beyond the grave in a manner similar to their life-style on earth; hence the living attempted to provide whatever would be necessary. A secondary motive lurks in the background: if not provided with the food and weapons and utensils needed to survive in the life beyond, those ancestors might return as ghosts and cause trouble for the living.(7) Another concept commonly seen in Asian culture is filial piety, which is the devotion and obedience by younger members of a family to their elders. Although this concept existed in Asian cultures, prior to Confucius, it is often identified with his teachings, and in The Analects, Confucius said, "A young man should be a good son at home and an obedient young man abroad...” In The Classic of Filial Piety, we find, "The services of love and reverence to parents when alive, and those of grief and sorrow to them when dead – these completely discharge the fundamental duty of living men."(8) Within the lineage descendents of teachers of the traditional martial arts, we still see evidence of behaviors and beliefs associated with “ancestor worship” and “filial piety”. These behaviors and beliefs exist because the teachers of the traditional martial arts also taught varying degrees of Asian philosophy and religion. Some contemporary Western students of Asian martial arts have personally adopted Asian philosophies and religions, blending them into their study and application of the traditional martial arts. The adoption of Asian philosophy and religion by traditional martial artists, in combination with the acceptance of aspects of ancestor worship and filial piety, contributes to the manifestation of a cult of personality within the traditional martial arts. The hierarchy of the lineage system in the Asian martial arts raises several additional questions: 1. Is the lineage student the best of the master’s, or the best student in the system? The history of certain martial arts suggests that this was not the case. 2. Is the “master” of a system (the person from where the lineage originated) necessarily the best practitioner or teacher of that system? 3. Are all of the great martial artists known? 4. Were some martial artists unconcerned about being famous? 5. Did some great martial artists choose not to teach or publish their work and thus remain unknown? 6. Is the lineage system the best method for transmitting knowledge to future martial artists? Chinese martial artist Tang Hao (1897-1959) addressed some of these questions and called for reform. From his published opinions he was attacked for his ‘heresy’ and several attempts were made to arrest and imprison him. (9) Many familial and societal pressures were placed on students of the martial arts that restrained them from being free of dogma and superstition. Even among the few who broke from the dogmatic traditions of the prevailing martial arts and created new and innovative approaches, some created new “lineages” or mythologies to explain the origins of their knowledge and abilities. For example, in the martial art baqua, its founder Dong
Hai Chuan is claimed to have related the origin of this martial art to a mythical Taoist immortal. Every style of martial arts has its fountainhead and some claim that their martial art began with a mystical figure or perhaps a Taoist immortal in the Wudang Mountains. In an essay by Gu Lieu Xing (In Memory of Tang Hao), Gu states, “In the 1930’s, people in the martial art circles of our nation clung too much to the idea and the importance of lineage, and this caused major disputes...” Rigorous research by scholars and historians, such as Tang Hao, have shown that at the fountainhead of every martial art is a common man who, through hard work and effort (kung fu), and by building on the work of predecessors, he was able to achieve innovation, and contribute to the evolution of knowledge and advancement of the martial arts. In 1844, the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse brought the arrival of a new era in global human communication, and along with it came the death of the sifu. The first message sent via telegraph was, “What hath God wrought?” Indeed, over the course of several centuries, the sifu had been the singular source of knowledge for the marital arts. With modern communications and the multitude of communication devices which have appeared in the last 150 years, historical records and documents, copies of original manuscripts, translated words of the founders of martial arts systems, are available through rapid large-scale global data searches. With the introduction of film, video, digital media, and other online media techniques, most forms and systems of martial arts are available to students of the martial arts in an unprecedented abundance in the new era of information access. Knowledge is essential for so many human activities and values, including freedom, the exercise of political power, and economic, social and personal development.(10) Was the role of the traditional sifu supplanted by the availability of information in the age of technology and communication? Certainly the technological advances have enhanced the ability of martial arts students to access information and to communicate directly with teachers and other students online. Web and video conferencing can even allow students and teachers to communicate verbally and visually through webcams, so that training sessions can be conducted online. Moreover, this high level of access and communication has facilitated the investigation of teacher claims about their work, publications, rank, lineage, and history, etc. If we strip away the esoteric, psychic, metaphysical, occult, superstitious, and fictitious elements of the traditional Asian martial arts, what is left? In most cases, the central theory, which allows for advancement and the evolution of a particular martial arts system, is the remaining element. In baqua, for example, the central idea was to use continually changing postures and positions, accompanied with moving behind the opponent, which led to the system’s fighting concept as seen today. Why are the contemporary innovators and creators in the martial arts community denigrated and criticized? The answer seems to stem from the ignorance about the unsubstantiated, conflicted, and shaky history of the martial arts. Over time, falsities and facts have become blurred in the minds of the ignorant or gullible. The abilities of teachers became exaggerated or were moved into the realm of the supernatural. As a consequence, these kinds of beliefs make it impossible for living breathing men and women to live up to the fiction. Another evolutionary step occurring in the martial arts is taking place in two areas. First, the emerging and developing mixed martial arts are quickly adapting modern scientific methods of human performance conditioning, as derived from exercise physiology, biomechanics, and sports science. Second, knowledge and skills are expanding in relation to the combat martial arts. Because of the high degree of athleticism and risk involved, these areas rely on no nonsense pragmatic approaches in the martial training and fighting applications. Of course, some limitations are used in the rules of engagement for sports martial arts, in comparison to combat martial arts, where the objective is to maim or kill an enemy, but today’s mixed martial artist is generally a wellconditioned, multi-skilled athlete.(11) Mixed martial art trainers are often athletic coaches and seasoned fighters, with backgrounds in boxing, wrestling, and the Asian fighting arts. The fighters are commonly trained by “teams” comprised of athletic coaches and martial artists. Trainers often have credentials in one or more of the following areas: coaching, sports science, sports medicine, human performance testing, personal training, and exercise physiology. The traditional martial arts use of rank and lineage, while possessed by some fighters, may be of little importance in the new system. In the ring, on the platform, or in the cage, when combatants are on equal footing, and in oneon-one combat, spectators pay little attention to the color of a belt or the lineage of a fighter, but tend to focus only on the substance and ability of the martial artist.
The modern fighting arts are now evolving into the kind of scientific martial art that was envisioned by Tang Hao in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, continuing to promote false information and superstition in the martial arts community and especially among martial arts teachers is counter-productive to the advancement of the marital arts. About the author: Dr. Gregory T. Lawton is the author many books, most of them in the area of health science, but also in the genre of Asian martial arts, philosophy, poetry, and prose. In 1980 he founded the Blue Heron Academy a state licensed vocational school that offers classes in traditional and conventional health care and has trained over 12,000 students. Dr. Lawton is a licensed chiropractor, licensed naprapath, and a licensed acupuncturist. He has trained in several martial arts including Kosho Ryu Kenpo and T’ai Chi Ch’uan.* Definitions of Terms: Baqua (Pakua):
is considered one of the three great internal martial art systems of China along with Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing Yi. Baqua incorporates principles of continuous movement, and the changing of postures and hand positions along with the intent of moving into the weakest areas of an opponent’s defense, including to the rear of the opponent. The baqua are also the eight trigrams described in the I Ching; the combinations of whole and broken lines represent the ever-fluctuating elemental forces of the universe.
Mixed Martial Arts:
are a full contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques, from a mixture of martial arts traditions, to be used in competitions. The rules allow for striking and grappling techniques, both while standing and on the ground.
Modern Martial Arts:
are those which have been largely developed over the last 100 years and include combat and tactical fighting arts, as well as contemporary sports martial arts such as mixed martial arts.
Traditional Martial Arts:
are those having both an internal and an external system, that date back to the earliest history of martial arts, or martial arts that reflect the same formal structure of master and lineage transmission, but may only be two or three centuries old. Examples include Chinese Kempo, Tai Chi Chuan, and baqua.
Holcombe, Charles. (1990). Theater of combat: A critical look at the Chinese martial arts. Vol. 52 May 3. pp. 411-431. Michigan State University Press. 2. Kurland, Harvey. (1998). Article. May T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Wellness Newsletter. 3. Friedman, Harris. (2005). Problems of Romanticism in Transpersonal Psychology: A Case Study of Aikido. The Humanistic Psychologist, Vol. 33 No. 1. pp. 3-24. 4. Cunningham, Don. (2002). Dangers of self-proclaimed masters. Furyu: The Budo Journal of Classical Japanese Martial Arts and Culture. Vol. 10 No. 7 (Summer- Fall) 5. Singer, M. T. (1987). Group psychodynamics. In: R. Berkow (Ed.), Merck Manual, 15th ed. Rahway, NJ: Merck, Sharp, & Dohme. 6. Chen, Pan-Ling. Chen Pan-Ling’s Original Tai Chi Chuan Textbook (Tai Chi Chuan Chiao Tsai). (1998). Transliterated by Y.W. Chang, Translated by Ann Carruthers, Ed.D. Page xxiii, Blitz Design, New Orleans, LA. 7. Bush, Richard C. (1977). The Story of Religion in China, p.2. Argus Communications, Niles, IL. 8. Mueller, Max, ed., (1879-1910) Vol. III, p. 448. Sacred Books of the East, Krishna Press (50 Volumes), London, England. 9. Kennedy, Brian and Elizabeth Guo. (2005). Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals, a Historical Survey. pp. 39-53, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. 10. A2K (Access to Knowledge) Treaty, Consumer Project on Technology. (May 9 2005), Available online at: http:// www.cptech.org/a2k/ 11. Rooney, Martin. (2008). Training for Warriors, The Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts Workout. pp. 7-17, Harper-Collins Books, New York, NY.
*Editor’s Note: A brief history of Dr Greg Lawton’s Taiji pedigree appears in the article, Confessions of a T’ai Chi Ch’uan Heretic, in this volume of Lift Hands.
Photography by Ken Lubowich
y first T’ai Chi teacher is going home. After 45 years in exile, the man who introduced me to the internal arts has returned to his ancestral home in Beijing, China. He returned home to be reunited with his people and his culture. He is no longer a stranger in strange lands, but a man at peace in his own country and his own culture.
I learned of his return with sadness that I will never see him again and joy that he will be able to complete his life’s circle. Sometimes in life we’re just lucky. People are there when you need them. In 1970, after years in the external martial arts, I needed something that met more of my physical and mental needs. I was sure it wasn’t T’ai Chi. With boxing experience and a second degree black belt in Shotokan Karate, I saw T’ai Chi as a joke, a bunch of mush done by Yoga types, dancers and martial arts pretenders. I was ready for an introduction to Professor Huo and “real” T’ai Chi. It was good fortune that my first real exposure to T’ai Chi Ch’uan was Professor Huo chi Kwan. I first Heard of him through a Karate friend who was highly impressed with Professor Huo’s martial prowess. In the spring of 1970, my friend arranged a visit to the Professor’s apartment in the Hyde Park area of Chicago. Professor Huo was unlike any martial arts teacher I had ever met. In my first visit, he served me tea, showed me his paintings, and discussed Chinese culture. He mentioned martial arts only obliquely, and was more interested in my family and my goals in life. Intrigued, I din’t realize I was auditioning for the privilege of being his student. Professor Huo was from the old school. Born and raised in Beijing, he felt that one had to earn the right and responsibility to be his student. His students were not to be just martial artists, but individuals immersed in a complete range of Chinese culture. Born to a wealthy and politically connected Beijing family in 1905, the Professor had the opportunity to study many traditional Chinese arts, including literature, painting and calligraphy.
Professor Huo Chi Kwan with Alan R. Ludmer, 1975 Photography by Ken Lubowich
He was a sickly child and his parents insisted he study martial arts to build his health. He received a complete training in the Chinese martial arts. He studied T’ai Chi with Yang Shao-Hou, the elder brother of Yang Chen-fu, and Pa Kua and Hsing Yi with Lee Tsun Yi, one of China’s premiere masters. He learned sword from Lee Ching-Lin and Chang Chih-Chiang.
Professor Huo Chi Kwan with Alan R. Ludmer, 1987
Professor Huo was a complete internal martial arts master. Only in our third meeting was the subject of martial arts raised. The Professor asked to see my Karate. After displaying several strong katas, the Professor nodded politely and said the Karate was for peasants and children. I took exception; Professor Huo laughed and told me to attack him. I spent the next 10 minutes trying to squash him like a bug. I was 6 foot, and 175 pounds. Huo was 5 foot, maybe 135 pounds and over 65 years old. It was no contest.
Professor Huo Chi Kwan with Alan R. Ludmer, 1975
It was like fighting a curtain. Mostly he wasn’t there, and when he was, I was sailing into a wall or falling into an excruciating joint lock. It was bewildering and humiliating. I had never seen anything like it and I was completely entranced. I was fortunate to study with the Professor for several years before he returned to Taiwan for an extended visit. Professor Huo gave me a wonderful exposure to T’ai Chi and other internal arts. Above all he let me see and feel real internal martial arts. The St. Louis Gang with Professor Huo in 1975 Alan R. Ludmer is seen standing at the back alongside Tuey Staples - his teacher for over 35 years in St. Louis - a disciple of Professor Huo Photography by Ken Lubowich
foundation which was invaluable in my continuing T’ai Chi education.
I learned that T’ai Chi is built upon firm principles, which when integrated into the physical movements, enable one to master the art. I developed a firm
However, I learned much more than martial arts. Professor Huo was a gentleman and a scholar of the old school. His lessons endeavored to convey the essence of both himself and his culture. Over the years the Professor and I kept in touch. He returned to Chicago in the mid 1970s after an extended stay in Taiwan. I had moved to St. Louis and the Professor would occasionally visit. Sometimes he would speak about his home and family in mainland China. It was a sad topic. Because of his family and political ties, he fled the mainland after the Communist revolution.
From 1949 on, he was in exile, living in Taiwan, Europe, and finally the United States. He felt destined to never return to his home. I had quite a surprise when I returned to Chicago in August of 1992. It had been a long time since I last spoke with the Professor. Life in another city and the demands of work and family had caused me to be remiss in our communications. However, communications were never easy. The Professor’s English was limited and my Chinese nonAlan R. Ludmer training with Professor Huo, alongside Mr. O’Yang in 1975 existent. As he grew older, Photography by Ken Lubowich the Professor grew increasingly hard of hearing, by his early 80s, he was almost completely deaf. When I arrived in Chicago on vacation, I called the Chinese Cultural Center in Evanston to schedule a long overdue visit with the Professor. I was referred to Rev. Richard Langlois, the Professor’s senior student, who informed me that Professor Huo had left for Beijing.
Alan R. Ludmer training with Professor Huo while Tuey Staples looks on, 1975 - Photography by Ken Lubowich
I was both shocked and pleased by the news. Richard informed me that the Professor had made arrangement with the Chinese government to donate funds and materials for a cultural library in Beijing.
In exchange, the Professor would be allowed to return in peace to Beijing. When he dies, he will be buried in his family plot. It is said that life, like T’ai Chi, is a circle. If so, I am pleased for Professor Huo. The library will be a fitting memorial to his life and will bring a sense of completion to his efforts to perpetuate Chinese culture. Professor Huo Chi Kwan will complete his life’s circle.
Professor Huo Chi Kwan All images appear courtesy of Alan R. Ludmer
About The Author: Alan Ludmer is originally from Chicago but has lived in St. Louis since 1975. Alanâ€™s early training was in western boxing and then karate. He studied Shotokan for a number of years and finished with a Ni Dan rank. In 1969, he began to study Tai Chi Chuan with Professor Huo Chi Kwang - a student of Yang Shou-hou. He was a private student and primarily studied the Yang Family Form with him through 1978. After moving to St. Louis, Alan started studying with Master Tuey Staples. He has been with Tuey for almost 35 years, studying Tai Chi Chuan (Yang Personal Family and Chen Tzu Forms) and Ba Gua Chuan, and is one of his senior students.
Alan R. Ludmer with his teacher Grandmaster Tuey Staples 2018
Alan has authored and co-authored a number of articles on Tai Chi Chuan for a variety of martial arts magazines.
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ang Shaohou’s boxing set was small
and hard, the movements fast and heavy. He always used the stiffening and severing energies, and those who fought with him always came away from it with their skin and muscles in pain. His instructions were usually about methods of application. While his skills were certainly the authentic transmission from his grandfather, unfortunately no ordinary people were able to learn from him. Frail scholarly types were not able to endure his teaching, and those who did not already have a foundation were not able to understand what he was talking about. He had a violent disposition, which he probably got from his uncle Banhou. His comrades have all heaved angst-ridden sighs over how difficult the training was. Therefore although his fame was great, his followers were few.” Huang Yuanxiu The Skills & Essentials of Yang Style Boxing and Martial Art Discussions
“…The way my elder brother [Yang Shaohou] practices now is all about fighting methods.” Yang Cheng-fu The Skills & Essentials of Yang Style Boxing and Martial Art Discussions
“Yes, quite often we would finish a training period with blood on our vests and many bruises. Sometimes a bone would be broken. Yeung did not have many students.” Chang You-chun China Wushu Magazine
‘Xu described Yang Shao-Hou’s teaching as combat oriented, with many students having had been injured in classes as a result of him demonstrating fa-jin (issuance of force). Shao-Hou taught according to the studies he learned from his uncle, Yang Ban-Hou (1837-1892), which included bone twisting methods, techniques to injure the adversary’s muscles, grasping veins and tendons, as in Shou Wei P’i-pa (Hands Play the Lute), fast hands combined with explosive kicking methods, joint locking, and methods to affect qi and blood through striking vital points.’ Translator’s Preface Taijiquan Shi
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Lift Hands - Voted Magazine of the Year 2018 by The British Martial Arts Awards 2018. When one really thinks about Lift Hands, you’ll disc...
Published on Jun 30, 2019
Lift Hands - Voted Magazine of the Year 2018 by The British Martial Arts Awards 2018. When one really thinks about Lift Hands, you’ll disc...