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The Origin and Development of Yang's Style Taijiquan  

Yang Zhenji

Yang Luchan was the initiator of Yang's style Taijiquan and then it is developed by three generations from him to his grandsons. It has been more than 140 years since he began to learn Taijiquan.

Yang Luchan, whose name was Fukui, or Futong, Luchan was his alias, was born in Yongnian County, Hebei Province. Since his family was poor, he was sent to be a young servant of Chen Dehu, who lived in Chenjiagou, Wenxian County, Henan Province. Every evening, the famous master Chen Changxing taught the children of the Chen's family Taijiquan in the antehall of Chen Dehu's house. Yang Luchan waited upon them blandly and watched them practicing boxing secretly and learnt the movements by heart. Consequently, his Gongfu got a great progress. Once he competed with the Chen's brothers and cousins one by one, he defeated all of them. Appreciating Yang's cleverness and wisdom, Chen Changxing formally accepted him as a disciple, and taught all of his skills to him selflessly. Several years later, he was good at "avoiding the strong and hard force and defeating the opponents", and "maintaining softness in hardness and an iron hand in a velvet glove". Thus his boxing was honored "Wet Floss Boxing", "Soft Boxing", and "Neutralizing Boxing". In 1850 (Daoguang 30th, in Qing Dynasty), he went back his hometown (Yongnian County) and took teaching boxing as his career. Wu Yuxiang and his two brothers, who were Yang's landlords, asked him about boxing skills humbly. Recommended by his friends, he moved to Beijing to teach boxing. Many emperor's relatives learned Taijiquan from him. Then he was appointed to be a drillmaster in the battalion of Manzhou military. He was called Yang Wu Di (Yang the invincible) because of his excellent boxing skills. The boxing he developed could "strengthen the tendon, bones and skins"; and its style was "even and slow, soft, extended and in good taste"; its soul was Song (relaxation) and Chen (sinking). So called "Song (relaxation)" means making the whole body relaxed, Qi flowing in the body smoothly; "Chen (sinking)" means making Qi sink, the will focus at the abdomen. Being added and detracted, based on the Taijiquan passed by Chen Changxing, and the Yang's style Taijiquan is formed, which is the outcome of Yang's three generations' efforts. Now Yang's Style Taijiquan is spread internationally and domestically.

Yang Yu, alias Banhou, byname Er Xiansheng (the second master) was Yan Luchan's second son, whose Gongfu was excellent. When he was young, he had learnt Taijiquan from his father, then learnt from Wu Yu Xiang, and he got the classic On Taijiquan written by Wang Zongyu and studied it. Accordingly, his skills were getting better and better. At his age of 19, he came to Beijing, set a Wushu institute (a place for boxing activities) and taught Taijiquan there. At the beginning, his business was neglected because his named was unknown to the Wushu circle in Beijing then. Later, his father Yang Luchan arrived in Beijing too and helped him. From then on, Yang's Style Taijiquan was first spread in Beijing, and then all China.

Yang Jian, alias Jianhou, or Jianhu, was an important one in spreading Yang's Style Taijiquan. He learnt Taijiquan from his father when he was young. His father was strict with him. Thus he practiced hard every day; and his skills made great progress; at last he became a successful master. His sword technique integrated hardness and softness. Moreover, he was accomplished in other weapons such as broadsword, spear etc., and he was good at catapulting, honored "no one failed". Many people learnt from him, since his mild personality. Fitting the needs of his disciples, he reworked the Old Frame passed by Yang Luchan into Middle Frame. He played an important role in developing and spreading Taijiquan.

Yang Zhaoxiong, alias Shaohou, learnt skills from Yang Banhou and Yong Jianhou; he got more from the former. In the early age, he had learnt the Middle Frame, which had been reworked by Yang Jianhou. In his late age, he changed the way of the boxing characterized by low frame, tightened actions, alternating with fastness and slowness, releasing power hard and sharply with sound. Its advantages were softness controlling hardness, the actions were accord with closely, defeating the opponent by surprising actions. He enjoyed the same reputation with Yang Chengfu.
Yang Zhaoqing, alias Chengfu, called "San Xiansheng (the third master)", was a son of Yang Jianhou. He inherited the tradition of his family to work hard, whether it was cold or hot.

Accordingly, his gongfu was getting more profound. At that time, people paid more attention to the health prevention of Taijiquan than its beating technique since firearms appeared. Based on the Middle Frame that was the outcome of the revision of his father, he reworked it again to be the big frame of Yang Style Taijiquan, which is one of the most popular frames. Its characters are the postures are extended and brief, actions relaxed and soft, body right up, performance agile and unrestrained. There are three kinds of frames, high, middle and low ones, for different people to practice. The revised routine is more propitious to its spreading and it is very popular. As the result, Yang Chenfu was honored to be a great master of Yang Style Taijiquan, who inherited the past and ushered in the future. Carrying forward Taijiquan, he wrote the works On the Skills of Taijiquan and On the Substance and Methods of Taijiquan, which described the essence of Taijiquan clearly, and left late practitioners valuable classic of Wushu.

Yang Zhenming, alias Shouzhong, learnt boxing from his father Yang Chengfu at his early age and got the essentials from his father, by the strict training. He took Taijiquan as his career, being one of the worthies of the fourth generation. From his age of 19 years old, he began to teach Taijiquan in Shanghai and Guangzhou etc., following his father. Then he moved into Hong Kong, he got many oversea disciples, making contribution in spreading Yang's Style Taijiquan.

Yang Zhenduo, a son of Yang Chengfu, is a famous boxer of Yang's Style Taijiiquan. He learnt Taijiquan, broadsword, sword and other weapons from his father as a child. He devoted himself to the cause of spreading Yang Style Taijiquan, teaching the boxing skills in Shanxi, Bejing, having been often invited to give a demonstration performance of Yang's Style Taijiquan in the international intercommunions of Taijiquan, and going abroad to give lectures on the theory of Taijiquan. He is a successor of Yang's Style Taijiquan with wide influence in the present age. His works are Boxing, Sword and Broadsword of Yang's Style Taijiquan, and the book Taijiquan in English.

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