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The First Yang Style

Article First Published 1983

 

This is the first part of an interview that one Mr Hu from China Wushu had with Mr Chang Yiu-Chun back in the mid to late seventies. Chang was a student of the not so famous Yang Shou-Hou.

 

Q. How long have you been practicing the T'ai chi ch'uan

A. Since 1911.

 

Q. Who was your first teacher and how long did you study with him.

A. My teacher was Yeung Shou-hu the grandson of the founder of the Yeung style, Yeung Lu-sum. (Yang Lu-Ch'an). I was with Yeung from 1911 until his death in 1930.

Q. Many people have commented upon the sometimes brutal nature of Yeung Shou-hu's teaching methods.

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.

 

Q. What are your views on this type of training?

A. It was good for me because I was very undisciplined in my younger days. I always wanted to fight and so with Yeung I got plenty of fighting. It taught us that if we did not do T'ai chi ch'uan correctly then we were hurt. Most of us did it correctly eventually or we left.

 

Q. Most people in the West would look upon this type of T'ai chi ch'uan training as being quite brutal. The style of Yang style T'ai chi ch'uan today in the West is not brutal at all.

A. I do not know about what they do in the West. But what they do in China is a modified form of T'ai chi ch'uan invented by Yeung Shou-hu's brother Yeung Cheng-po. This style is Yeung Cheng-po's own invention so that many older and sick people can do T'ai chi ch'uan.

 

Q. What you are telling me is that there are actually two different types of Yeung style?

A. Yes, the one that was founded by Yeung Lu-sum is not like the Yeung Cheng-po type.

 

Q. What are the differences?

A. When my teacher used to do his T'ai chi ch'uan, we would often say that he was like a canon shot one second and like the great river in the next second. He was very energetic. The Yeung Cheng-po style is all soft and flowing with no canon shots.

 

Q. I have never heard of this and I find it quite interesting. Why is it that no-one knows that there are two Yeung types of T'ai chi ch'uan. Did Yeung Cheng-po do the original T'ai chi ch'uan?

A. In the early days before Yeung Cheng-po, we would only teach T'ai chi ch'uan to family members and very close friends, friends who were almost like family members. I am a family member, a second cousin to the Yeung Shou-hu family. Yeung Cheng-po was the first one to teach everyone and he became very famous all over China. So this is why we only ever hear about this style. Yes, Yeung Cheng-po did the original Yeung style of his grandfather before about 1915, then he changed it. Many people watched him practice the original style and he even taught a few people. But when he invented his own style and changed it over a few years, all of his students forgot about the original style.

 

Q. From what you know about him, was Yeung Cheng-po as good at self defence as we are told today?

A. Yes, he was very good at self defence. He was quite large and strong and he could also be quite brutal in his pushing hands but he learnt the original style first.

 

Q. Other T'ai chi ch'uan styles sometimes say that the Yeung (Yang) style is no good for self defence, why is this?

A. Yes, it is no good for self defence if you are talking about the Yeung Cheng-po style. But if you mean the Yeung lu-sum style then it is very good for self defence. No-one outside of the family knows the Yeung Lu-sum style and so everyone thinks that the Yeung style is useless.

 

Q. How good then is the original Yeung style of T'ai chi ch'uan?

A. ... it is the best.

 

Q. Why and how is it used for self defence.

A. We use T'ai chi ch'uan in two ways. The first I can tell you about because many people know this way today. This way we take the movements and use them for self defence. we move out of the way of an oncoming force and give our own attack as he passes. we lock his bones, we break his legs and arms. This is the first level of T'ai chi ch'uan self defence. The second way is too sinister and evil for me to talk about.

 

Q. Why?

A. I am sorry, I have taken an oath not to tell about this way of self defence.

 

Q. Does pushing hands play an important part in your T'ai chi ch'uan?

A. Today it does but in the early days it did not. we used to place more importance upon the fighting but as we learnt more, we used pushing hands to teach us about balance and the theory of yin and yang.

 

Q. What do you mean by 'fighting'.

A. By that I mean the shan-shou. But 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.

 

Q. Brutal, why.

A. 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.

 

Q. If Yeung Lu-sum were to be alive today, what would he say about his T'ai chi ch'uan.

A. Firstly he would not recognize the name because it was not called T'ai chi ch'uan until fairly recently. He would even recognize what is being taught in his name today. Unless he saw the Yeung Shou-hu style. Although I am sure that over the years this too has changed as everything does. But not as much as the Yeung Cheng-po style.

 

Q. Many people in the West have changed the Yeung Cheng-po style even more. Even in China we now have people changing the styles trying to integrate the three styles. (the beginning of the Peking styles... Editor). What is the future of T'ai chi ch'uan.

A. I do not want to say anything about the way in which our Government is changing the styles and I do not care what is happening in the West. But if T'ai chi ch'uan changes any more and no more people begin to teach the original Yeung style then when we used to have a goat, now we have a duck.

 

The interview will continue in the next issue.