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Wu Style

 

Wu Tai Chi

 

Wu Chian Chuan

Among the five officially recognized Tai Chi Chuan styles in China, Wu Tai Chi Chuan is the second largest style in the world. In Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, Wu style is the most practiced of the Tai Chi Chuan's.   Historically in China, the Wu Style has always been recognized and respected equally with the Yang style. In the early 1900's, Master Wu Chien Chuan was invited to teach the Small Frame Tai Chi in the Beijing Athletic Research Society. Master Yang Chen Fu and his brother Yang Shao Hon were invited to teach the Big Frame Tai Chi Chuan under the same roof.

In the mid 1920's, Master Wu Chien Chuan and Master Yang Chen Fu went to Shanghai, in East China to teach Tai Chi Chuan. It was about this time that Master Wu Chien Chuan completed the standardized Small Frame Tai Chi and at the same time Master Yang Chan Fu standardized the Big Frame Tai Chi. These styles were called Wu style and Yang style respectively by the students to distinguish between them.

In the 1930's, Yang and Wu styles spread into Canton and Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, Master Wu Chien Chuan's eldest son, Wu Kung Yee, and Master Wu's student, Chan Wing Kwong, spread Wu Tai Chi to the Southeast Asia area. This made Wu style the most popular form of Tai Chi in these areas.

In the early 1950's, Wu Kung Yee answered the challenge of a young White Crane Sifu, to a charity match. Despite his advanced age, Wu Kung Yee demonstrated his prowess in fighting and proved the effectiveness of Wu style Tai Chi. Tung Ying Chije, a Yang style disciple of Master Yang Chen Fu, was presented and accepted as one of the officials at the match. This shows the mutual respect for both the Wu and Yang family styles that was passed down to the leaders of the next generation.

Later, in 1957, the Wu style fighting ability was demonstrated by Chan Ten Hung, nephew of Chan Wing Kwong, who was a disciple of Master Wu Chien Chuan. He won a unanimous decision in the official public match in Taiwan against the Taiwan champion, who was famous for his kicks. The tradition of Master Wu's skill in fighting has been passed down to fifth and sixth generation of Wu stylists. In the late 1970's, international full contact Kung Fu matches became popular in Southeast Asia. Again and again the fighters proved the superiority of Wu style by their victories in the ring.

The world expansion of Wu style started when Wu's family moved south from Beijing to Shanghai in the 1920's. The three main bases from which the tradition of Wu style was transmitted were Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. From Beijing, the Wu style developed two branches. One came from master Wu Chien Chuan's early students, such as Wu Tunan and Chuan Zee Yee. The other branch came down through Master Wu Chien Chuan's father, Chuan Yuo and his student, Wang Muzhai. Yang Yuting, from the Wang Muzhai lineage, and his students strongly influenced northern Wu Tai Chi in Beijing, as they developed the northern Wu, which has quite different techniques than the rest of the Wu style.

The Shanghai Chien Chuan Tai Chi Society was led by Master Wu Chien Chuan's daughter, WuYing Hua and her husband, Ma Yeh-Liang. The postures of the late Master Wu Chien Chuan's daughter, Wu Ying Hua and her late husband, Ma Yeh-Liang appear to be closer appear to be closer to Master Wu Chien Chuan's postures than are those of the the other branches.

Tai Chi in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia is mostly influenced by Wu Kung-Yee, the elder son of Master Wu Chien Chuan, the leader of the Hong Kong Chien Chuan Tai Chi Society. The other branch is from Master Wu's student, Chan Wing Kwong. The Hong Kong postures are basically the same as the Shanghai postures. The difference is in the stance; the Hong Kong postures are much smaller and higher. The body leans and sways more while practicing. Ma Yeh-Liang once said in an interview that all Wu stylists should practice Tai Chi as closely as possible to the postures that were left by Master Wu Chien Chuan.

I have researched the rare 63 photos of Master Wu Chien Chuan's postures in a book by his second son, Wu Kung Tsai, published in Hong Kong. I have also studied Wu Tai Chi by Wu Ying Hua of Shanghai, Chuan Zee Yee's book from Beijing entitled Wu's Tai Chi Book, as well as Wu's Book of Tai Chi by Wang Pei Sheng of Beijing about the northern Wu style. Besides small differences in technique, all the texts show the special principles of Wu's Tai Chi Small Frame performed with elegance. The postures are compact but not crowded. The tempo is slow, even, light and rounded with the internal feelings of substantial versus insubstantial, and absolute void or receptiveness. Energy is compressed in spiral movements to feel the connection with the gravitational force. All this, along with the correct postures of Master Wu Chien Chuan, is essential to achieve the most important internal force of the Wu Tai Chi. This is the method of heart. It is the "central equilibrium" that is the force of the earth which enables our head to support the Tai Chi, our arms to embrace the eight trigrams and our feet to step on the five elements.

The principles are the same whether practicing forms or push hands. It is just like the two elements of Tai Chi: the Yin and the Yang. Push hands and the Wu Style Tai Chi forms are two parts of one whole. An important external element of Wu's posture is the straightness of the lower back compared to other Tai Chi styles. The body inclines slightly to the front. From the head to the back, the leg and the heel form a straight line. Instead of just relaxing and dropping the hip, it is required to bow the lower back or waist to reverse the arch or sway of the lower back. The chest will naturally relax or slightly depress, the hip will tuck forward, and the crotch will lift. This posture allows the chi to sink to the tan tien. The top of the head is lifted, so the chi or energy of the body can flow to keep the body centered and the spine erect.

Because of its small frame, the Wu style appears different from other styles. To discharge the force of press and push, and impart maximum velocity, requires an inclined upper body to create more distance. The bow of the lower back is kept in place to connect the upper and lower extremities to the ground. For example, the famous Plow Oxen stance of the Wu style externally looks slanted, yet internally the crown of the head and heels are in a straight line, and the spine is straight allowing the chi to flow thoroughly.

Bio-mechanically, to give impetus to an external object with techniques of push or press requires utilizing the lower extremities and body weight. Instead of just using the upper extremities to impart the maximum horizontal vectors, vertical movements are reduced to a minimum. This allows the power to generate from the legs and flow to the body and the hands easily. The inclined posture of the Wu Plow Oxen stance is the most efficient and anatomically correct posture to do the job. While practicing forms or push hands, it is important to be aware of this special quality. In the Tai Chi Classic, it is called "Erect in Slanting."

The double weight definition of the Tai Chi Classics in push hands means one incorrectly uses rigid stiff force against oncoming force. To avoid this mistake, one should use rising, yielding force to reverse any oncoming force. It is unavoidable to support the body weight with both feet at certain points in shifting stances. It is correct and anatomically a normal human action that the single whip in the Wu Tai Chi is externally a horse stance. Yet the internal force is in motion from one foot to another. Therefore, it is incorrect to interpret the horse stance as a double weight posture.

The idea that the Wu style is good for yielding and softly diverting and that Yang is good for press and discharging comes from the students of the two great masters. One can easily see how Yang Tai Chi is good for press and discharging because Master Yang Cheng Fu was a man weighing 300 pounds. Students who pushed hands with him easily were bounced off by the slight touch of the Master's press. Conversely, Master Wu was a very gentle-natured instructor. When he pushed with his students, all he did was disperse the student's force so he would not unknowingly hurt the students or their feelings. The two masters respected each other's Kung Fu skills as equals when they demonstrated their prowess at public charity occasions. The idea that the two forms had different relative strengths was proven false at the first demonstration of the two masters in Shanghai. On that occasion the masters demonstrated the highest skill of push hands by seeking each other's internal force through asking and answering without giving any slack. After an engagement of advances and encounters, the two masters would smile in recognition of each other's proficiency. The match was serious push hands carried out with respect for each other, each master doing his best to find the other's flaw without showing any favoritism for press and push or roll back and yield. This story shows there are truly no differences between softly diverting and discharging. The problem lies in not understanding that within softness there is hardness and within hardness there is softness. This is Tai Chi's Yin and Yang principle.

Tai Chi is different than the straight-on external martial arts. Tai Chi uses circular movements, soft and yielding, as the tactic to keep the opponent at bay, then counters when at an advantageous position. This is Tai Chi's most basic combat principle. From the external and internal aspects, Wu style is completely in accord with the Tai Chi Chuan classics. Traced back to its roots, Wu style shows one hundred years of development. The first generation of Wu style was Grand Master Chian Yao. He incorporated the soft elegance of the Big Frame Tai Chi from the first generation of Yang style Grand Master Yang Lu -Chuan, and the quick, sudden force of compact Small Frame Tai Chi from Grand Master Yang Bang Hous, the second son of Yang Lu Chan. Master Wu Chien Chuan, the son of Chua Yao, inherited the techniques from his father and developed it into today's Wu style. Indeed, Wu style is the fruit and the passionate effort of the great masters of all the Tai Chi Chuan styles that evolved before it. The rich history and the roots of Wu style should merit the recognition of its individuality in the garden of Tai Chi styles.

Wu style is both an exercise for health and an effective martial art that can be used for self-defense. It effectively moves, exercises and conditions the muscles, joints and ligaments of the entire body. It is a practice that is easily incorporated into everyday life. it can be practiced almost anywhere at any time. Most importantly, Wu style is enriches life. It facilitates the evolution of the entire person in a gentle and profound way.

Wu's Tai Chi will undoubtedly give you a new perspective and appreciation for your body - its strengths and uniqueness. It will also help you to understand your own unique personality and energy if you will let it. As you begin, remember that patience, persistence, dedication and appreciation in the learning process produce miraculous results. The practice of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan can moves you - outwardly and inwardly - onward to new discoveries.

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