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The Old Yang Style: A Comparison

The Old Yang Style of Yang Lu-ch'an: A Comparison
By Erle Montaigue

I have been teaching this form of Taijiquan since 1981 when I had my own school in Pitt St Sydney. Many of my students that I taught back then and who are still with me such as Les Anwyl (on the cover of the September 1999 issue of Combat & Healing) will attest to this fact as I taught Les back in 1982 I believe. I then made my first video on this form in 1982. This video was very basic, even more basic than the one that I now sell! And many people still have copies of those early efforts at getting this information out. My second effort was no better while the current version having been done in 1985 was better but still basic. However, it has always been the content and not the slick production methods that has attracted people to this video title. I think that the time has come to make a newer version of this form!

In a recent article (review) of myself and this title, my friend Erik Petermann who gives myself and this tape a wonderful review also states however, that he sent me a photo-copy of a book showing much of the Chen Pan-ling version of the Old Yang style! I must admit that I do not remember this as I usually put things aside for later and then never get around to reading them! However, Erik says in his article that he sent this to me in the early 80's I believe. And everyone knows how difficult it is to learn a form from a book, especially one that I think was in Chinese! And as I have been teaching this form since 1981 I could not have learnt it from a book! You can always tell when someone learns stuff from a book (as opposed to video which is much easier to learn from of course) as they always either get the interim moves wrong or they leave many of them out altogether. And one would have to be a much braver person than this antipodean to perform a form that I learnt from a book in front of around 2000 of my Chinese Peers including Fu Zhongwen, in China in 1985! Which I did of course and this is also down on tape.

The differences between what I have learnt and what Chen Pan-ling taught as I now know from reading the published works of Chen, are as follows.

The following is only a comparison and in no way says that one system is better than the other!

So the controversy continues and I guess it will forever long after I am dead and gone because people just cannot accept something that they do not know themselves! But I do not mind as I have a life other than the martial arts and as most people know, I have never allowed the martial arts to take over my life! I have never been that serious about the martial arts. Music? Well that's a different matter, music pleases God and Family!

1/. In the old Yang style, there are many fa-jing movements. These are omitted from the Chen version.

2/. In the old Yang style, there are five levels that one must aspire to and these could not possibly be shown in any one book.

3/. There are many more lower movements in the Old Yang style such as the 'bending backwards' movements.

4/. In the Old Yang style there are also many leaping movements such as the 'plumb blossom' movements.

5/. The Old Yang style is much more athletic in nature and therefore more suited to those people who are healthy to begin with!

6/. I have counted many more postures in the Old Yang style than in the Chen version.

7/. The Old Yang style shows from the beginning, the 'opening and closing' movements and also the yin and yang of the hands and feet.

I have made very few changes to this style from what I was taught. The only major change being when I discovered the complete 3 volume works supposedly attributed to Wang Tsung-yeuh where he states no less than 15 times in the first three pages that the backbone should at all times be vertical! Not just straight but vertical! So I then went over everything that I was taught and made the backbone vertical and in doing so, discovered that many enhancements to my form practice and indeed daily life seem to emerge.

Keeping the backbone straight and vertical even when performing moves such as 'needle at sea bottom', opens up a whole new area of expertise in health and martial ability and leads one to gain what is supposed to be gained from the practice of Taijiquan.

Back in about 1980 I think, when I first began writing for the US based "Tai Chi" magazine (articles that can still be ordered in back issues), I wrote on the Old Yang style. I was then admonished for doing this by other mainly Chinese writers and practitioners as at that time, the only Yang style was the version invented by Yang Cheng-fu. But gradually as other Chinese writers began to research, such as Douglas Wile (Yang Family Secrets), they also discovered, or knew all along that there was another Yang style before Yang Cheng-fu. IN Douglas Wile's book, it is stated that people in China noticed Yang Cheng-fu performing a much more energetic form with leaps etc. Then people began to believe that there just could be another secret Yang Style as a Chinese person had written about it!

Even if I DID invent the Old Yang Style and as such were the greatest martial arts genius of all time, or if I did learn it from a book, which I did not, so what? The fact still remains that this form is probably the greatest form of Taijiquan ever invented as it IS the original invented by Yang Lu-ch'an.