Yang Style History
Yang style Tai chi originated during the 19th century in the Tao Kuang Period of the Qing Dynasty. Up to the present day, the style has had a history of only approximately 150 years; however, Yang style Tai chi Chuan is practiced by millions of people each day.

Yang Lu Chan - The Chen Village Years
The founder of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan was Yang Fu Kui (1799-1872), also known as Yang Lu Chan. Lu Chan was born of a peasant family in the village of Nan Guan in the county of Yong Nian which is a part of the Guang Ping Prefecture of Hebei Province.

Yang Lu Chan
One day while Lu Chan was working in a local grain store, a rude man came into the the pharmacy next to where Lu Chan was working. The man wanted to buy some expensive herbs, but was only willing to pay a cheap price. The man shouted and waved his fists. The next thing Lu Chan saw was the man being thrown into the street without any effort by the pharmacy owner. Lu Chan felt this was quite odd for a person to be able to do such a feat without the use of force. The name of the pharmacy owner was Chen De Hu. After a few days had passed, Lu Chan built up enough courage and went to Chen De Hu to ask to become his student. Chen was at first fairly cautious, but after seeing that Lu Chan was upright and honest, he told Lu Chan he was from the Chen Village (Chen Jia Gou) in Wen Xian County of Henan Province. He explained that his teacher was the famous Tai Chi master, Chen Chang Xing. Upon hearing this, Lu Chan was very excited and immediately wanted Chen De Hu to introduce him to Chen Chang Xing.

The Chen Village Tai Chi style was created between the end of the Ming Dynasty and beginning of the Qing Dynasty. The basic standardization of Chen style Tai Chi Chuan was by the 9th generation ancestor of the Chen Village, Chen Wang Ting. Chen De Hu agreed upon the introduction to his teacher. Upon the acceptance of the introduction, Lu Chan immediately left Yong Nian to go to the Chen Village. While Lu Chan was under the tutelage of Chen Chang Xing, he trained continuously without any interruption no matter if it was winter or summer. After six years of training, Lu Chan finally returned to his home town. During the period in which Lu Chan was gone, many people in the village practiced martial arts and wanted to test Lu Chan's newly acquired skills. Lu Chan was challenged to a duel in which he was defeated. Even though he had lost the duel, he did not lose hope. He returned to the Chen Village to train for an additional six years. The second time he returned home was during the Chinese New Year. The people were excited that Lu Chan had returned and thought he would be unbeatable. In the same area there was a martial artist who had connections with the Chen Village and who had studied many styles of martial arts. He also heard that Lu Chan had returned home and wanted to test his skills. The result of the match was a draw. Yang Lu Chan felt his skill level was not completely proficient even though he was able to hold his own against such a highly skilled martial artist; therefore he decided to return to his teacher a third time. The third trip to the Chen Village moved Chen Chang Xing so much that he began to teach Lu Chan everything he knew. After two years of study, Chen Chang Xing said that when Lu Chan returned home this time, there would be no one who could defeat him. Subsequently, Lu Chan returned home and was never defeated again.

Yang Lu Chan studied at the Chen Village for a total of 18 years. Although he obtained the true teachings of Chen Chang Xing's Tai Chi Chuan style, he still was not satisfied with his own abilities. Lu Chan constantly researched every aspect of his style until he achieved an enlightened level of skill and his fame was known to all.

Yang Lu Chan - The Beijing Years
Not long after, Lu Chan was invited by Wu Lu Ching, a distant relative, to teach his martial arts in the capital of Beijing. Wu Lu Ching was a government official of Emperor Tao Kuang. Upon arriving in the capital, Lu Chan was a guest at the home of a wealthy businessman named Mr. Zhang. Mr. Zhang's business was small at first, but later became very large and prosperous. Their organization also included instruction in various types of martial arts training. The first occasion to meet the Zhang family was during a banquet in which everyone was to perform his respective martial art. One of the heads of the Zhang family saw the thin body of Yang Lu Chan, and as an insult, placed Lu Chan behind an ordinary martial artist preparing to demonstrate. After Yang Lu Chan performed his style, Mr. Zhang asked if the "Cotton Fist" of Yang Lu Chan could actually defeat an opponent. Lu Chan replied by saying that except for bronze, iron, and rock, his fist could defeat anything with flesh and blood. Consequently, the man asked if Lu Chan would take a challenge from him. Lu Chan agreed without hesitation not only to take a challenge from this man but also from anyone else at the banquet. Following, the guests went out into the garden court to witness the contest. When the contest first began, a martial arts master came running toward Lu Chan as fierce as a tiger. As the two met, Lu Chan raised his arms and the man flew back several meters through the air. Immediately following, another master came up and challenged Lu Chan. Without completing one technique, the man was thrown back several meters onto the ground. After seeing this, the others did not dare challenge the skills of Yang Lu Chan. Upon returning to the banquet hall, Lu Chan was seated at the head table and was toasted by everyone. From that day on, Lu Chan began teaching Tai Chi Chuan at the Zhang residence.

After the martial contest at the Zhang residence, people from everywhere came to challenge Yang Lu Chan; however, all who challenged Lu Chan fell beneath his fist. From that point onward, Yang Lu Chan was given the title of "Yang the Invincible". Wu Lu Qing introduced Lu Chan to many people within the royal Qing government to whom he taught Tai Chi Chuan. This allowed the art of Tai Chi Chuan to become very popular in the capital; moreover, the royal family invited Yang Lu Chan to their residence to live and teach. Subsequently, Lu Chan brought his two sons to the capital to teach Tai Chi Chuan at the palace.

Yang Pan Hou
Yang pan Hou (1837-1892) was the second child of Yang Lu Chan. pan Hou had practiced Tai Chi Chuan from childhood under the supervision of his father. His skill level was very high. His character was very firm even though he had a very hot temper. There was one time when a martial arts master nicknamed "Man with 10,000 Pounds of Strength" came to Beijing to challenge Yang Lu Chan. After the Yang family heard of the news, Yang Lu Chan did not pay much attention to the matter. However, Yang Pan Hou said to his father that "if our store has something to sell and people want to buy it, why don't we sell?" What Pan Hou meant was that his family had true martial ability, so why not take the challenge. Consequently, Pan Hou went by himself to take the challenge from the man. When the contest began, the man threw his shirt off and showed his muscles to the crowd. Yang Pan Hou with his skinny body just stood waiting for the man to attack. When the fight commenced, the only image seen was the man pouncing toward Pan Hou. Pan Hou evaded the attack. The man immediately attacked with continuous strikes to Pan Hou's face. The crowd heard a yell and immediately following, the man went flying through the air several meters into the distance. When everyone was able to see clearly, they realized that Pan Hou used "Separate Heel Kick" to the man's groin area. While the crowd was still cheering and admiring Pan Hou's skill, he returned silently back to the palace.

Yang Jian Hou and His Children
Yang Lu Chan's third child was Yang Jian Hou (1839-1917). His Tai Chi Chuan skills were a harmonious blend of hard and soft. He was especially talented at issuing internal energy and the practice of broadsword, straightsword, and spear. His character was very warm-hearted. Whenever Jian Hou competed and trained with others, he never looked light-heartedly upon anyone; therefore, he too was never defeated.

The third generation of Yang style martial artists consisted of Yang Ling Xiao (1872-1930), also known as Yang Zhao Peng, who was Yang Pan Hou's son. He studied with Chen Xiu Feng who was one of Pan Hou's disciples. The first son of Yang Jian Hou was Yang Zhao Xiong (1862-1930), also known as Yang Shao Hou. Shao Hou studied Tai Chi Chuan from his youth and was very good at sparring. His movements were fast and his posture was rooted. The Yang style small frame was transmitted by Shao Hou. There are very few people who know the small frame style. Some people see the style as strictly for fighting and do not wish to teach others. Therefore, this may be the reason why practitioners of this style are becoming fewer and fewer. Yang style small frame leans more toward the fighting aspect rather than health. Because it is performed with quick motions, the style is sometimes called Tai Chi Fast Frame or the Fast Small Frame.

The small frame style was researched extensively by Yang Lu Chan for many years whereby he took the essence of Tai Chi Chuan and the various fighting methods and combined it to form a routine which incorporates qigong, massage, and the theory of the meridian systems. The small frame style allows the entire body to receive maximum benefits from small lively movements. The main points of the style are as follows: There are over 200 postures in the routine which are performed in less than two minutes. The practitioner must maintain a low stance whereby the head does not rise higher than four feet above the ground. The fighting applications must be regularly practiced and combined with internal energy. The small frame style is practiced mainly by younger people and is quite different from what most people would consider Tai Chi Chuan. Small frame Tai Chi Chuan not only incorporates speed, vitality, and lightness, but also maintains the essence of relaxation, quiescence, roundness, and softness.

Yang Cheng Fu
The third son of Yang Jian Hou was Yang Zhao Qing (1883-1936), also known as Yang Cheng Fu. Cheng Fu was a very warm-hearted, intelligent person. He trained under the tutelage of his father in the deepest way. His Tai Chi Chuan skills were like an "iron needle hidden in cotton". The characteristics of his postures were large, relaxed, and full of vitality. The postures of Yang Cheng Fu's large frame style can be divided into high, medium, and low. The postures can be selected based upon the practitioners age, sex, strength of body, and other various demands. Because of this, Yang style Tai Chi Chuan is not only used to cure illness and to maintain health, but also is used to strengthen the body and to develop a high level of martial combat skills. Consequently, many people have found his Tai Chi Chuan most suitable.

Yang Cheng Fu was born on July 7, 1883 and passed away on March 3, 1936. He studied the art continuously in Beijing under the instructions of his father. Not until after the passing of his father did Cheng Fu travel to southern China to teach. He taught in various cities throughout China in such places as Wuhan, Hankou, Nanjing, Hangzhou etc.

His method of practice gradually changed to slow and continuous movements without any breaks. Yang Cheng Fu was a very large person whose push hand skills were tremendous. His sensitivity was very keen and agile. When he issued power, he was precisely on target; his speed was lightning fast; and his striking distance was short so that he could throw a person several meters through the air without harming his opponent. In fact, according to some of his students, the feeling of being pushed by him was actually comfortable and invigorating.

The Story of a Cotton Thread (go to Page 2)