The continuing article on Chang Yiu Chun, the disciple of Yang Shou-hu with questions from Mr. Hu from China Wushu Magazine. This article is a follow on from Fighting T'ai Chi issue June 1990. Chang died in 1986.
H: So you think that T'ai Chi Ch'uan has changed so much since it was founded by Yang Lu-sum.
C: Yes, I look around in China and see everywhere people doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan but not many are doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
H: What do you mean, surely it does not matter what style they do, it must all be T'ai Chi Ch'uan?
C: I am not talking about the different styles, I am talking about the way in which people learn T'ai Chi Ch'uan today. They think that if they learn some slow movements that they are doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan. It takes much longer and much more dedication to learn T'ai Chi Ch'uan properly.
H: But surely, those who do not wish to do T.C.C. for wushu (Fighting) will only ever have to do the slow movements for good health.
C: Some of them will gain some small benefit to their health, I agree but much better health is available through doing T.C.C. in the correct way.
H: Why did you take up T'ai Chi Ch'uan, as a health improver or for fighting.
C: 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 popularised 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.
H: But surely, many people must build up the body first of all before doing wushu and isn't this where the slower forms come in?
C: What people today do not realize is that back then when I was learning and before, T.C.C. was still relatively unheard of even in China with only the main families like the Chan (Chen), the Wu and the Yang keeping it to themselves. It was only after T.C.C. became good for the health that many people started to learn. Most of us were already good at other forms of wushu. I knew Tiger Boxing and because of this and having to work very hard I and many others were already robust so we did not have to do the slow T'ai Chi Ch'uan and even if we were not robust, there was no slow T'ai Chi Ch'uan anyway!
H: What was the very first area in which you trained when you first went to see Yang Shou-hu?
C: As I have already said, I was good at Tiger Boxing and so I was boastful about my ability. This boastfulness was soon taken out of me by Yang Shou-hu.
H: How was this done?
C: I was much younger than Yang Shou-hu and thought that I was strong and like a young stallion but when I arrived at my Cousin's school I was forced to fight with him.
H: You had to fight with Yang Shou-hu!
C: Yes, before this he was just cousin Yang but now he was no longer my cousin, he was someone that I had to fight.
H: What happened?
C: I thought that I could surprise him with a technique we used to call The Tiger Is Cornered and this is when we use many attacking techniques to get us out of a corner. When I attacked Yang, I thought at first that he had disappeared but later I believed that he just moved so quickly and at the same time that I moved that he was right in front of me before I could do anything. My strikes were aimed at a greater distance than Yang actually was and I found myself hitting the floor unconscious.
H: How did he knock you out?
C: He used a very advanced technique, one that I am unable to talk about.
H: Were you hurt badly?
C: No, only my behind was sore when I hit the floor, I did not feel anything at first but later there was some slight swelling around where he struck me.
H: And did you eventually learn these techniques.
C: 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.
H: What do you mean by an honourable person.
C: By that I mean that I would never go out and use these techniques for the purpose of being boastful or to show off. Yang taught that if we were ever provoked that we should try to play the coward first of all but if that failed then we must act so quickly as to not allow our attackers to know which techniques we were using.
H: Did you have to defend yourself many times.
C: As I progressed, I became one of the senior students and it was my job to teach the younger students. When I say younger students, there were only about three ever at a time because the training was so brutal. Many times we would have people from different schools coming around 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.
H: And the outcome?
C: I am no longer boastful. I will say that in all of the years with Yang, I never saw any of his students beaten.
H: Not once.
C: Well, there was one time when this person came to the school but he was different and did not seem to show off like some of the others. He would look in and we would stop, he would go away, then he would appear again and we would stop. This went on for some time until I was asked to go out and invite him inside. This chap was called Chiang and he was apparently good at Pa Kua Chang. I did not fight him but one of the other students did and the fight lasted quite a long time with no-one winning. In the end Yang stopped the fight and congratulated the young man and then invited him to attack. This seemed to be getting serious but in the end the young man just stood there waiting. Yang stood there waiting. Then they bowed and he left.
H: Why did they do that?
C: Yang and Chiang knew that they both knew something. There are no attacks in T'ai Chi Ch'uan or Pa-Kua Chang. It may look like we are attacking but we only ever attack after we have been attacked so Chiang did not attack and neither did Yang and so there was no fight. We were all disappointed but learnt a good lesson.
H: What happened after Yang Shou-hu died, the style seemed to disappear.
C: Yes, the few senior students of Yang Shou-hu decided that it would be best not to teach what we knew to everyone and so we all went our different ways to teach only a selected few students.
H: How many students did you have?
C: I only taught about seven people what I knew and they in turn did not teach many. The largest Yang Shou-hu school was in Taiwan where Mr Chen Pan-lin went to set up his own school. But I do not think that he ever taught many the inside techniques of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
H: Does that school still exist?
C: I think that is does. After Chen died in about 1964 his students took over but as with many great masters, the school does not survive as it was.
H: What are your views on the other styles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
C: I only know of the Wu style and the Chan (Chen) style and I know that there is the Sun style. Of those I think that it is the Wu style that is more like the first Yang style because it came from it.
H: How does the Yang style look to the Chan (Chen) style.
C: Many people know that the Yang style was born out of the Chan (Chen) style. This is true in a sense because Yang Lu-sum began his training at Chen Chia-goh (the Chen Village) but it must be remembered that Yang was not satisfied with his training from the Chens and so he began to change the style to what I know as the Yang style.
H: Why did Yang change the Chan style?
C: We believe that Yang found an old writing about the Original T'ai Chi Ch'uan and after reading this he did not think that it was like what he had learnt. This original writing was taken right back to the beginning of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and spoke of forbidden subjects.
H: I would like to talk to you some more at a later time about the Yang style T'ai Chi Ch'uan for another article.