Why the Chen and Yang Tai Chi forms follow the same pattern. The Myth of Tai Chi part 6 – our final episode!

Sun YatSen, the provisional first president of the Republic of China and the first leader of the Kuomintang the Nationalist Party of China.

In our last look at Tai Chi for a while, we examine the context of the times in which Chen Zhaopei and Chen Fake became prominent for their martial arts in Beijing, and then at a national level, joining the wave of commerciality that had been originally instigated by the legacy of Yang Luchan and the Wu brothers. In addition we explain why the forms are similar in general order between the Yang/Wu and Chen lineages.


Here’s some Chen Canon Fist (mentioned in the podcast episode, posted here as a visual reference) – – under the Heretical Hypothesis this would be representative of the “original stuff” of the Chen village. Everybody is free to make their own mind up 🙂

15 thoughts on “Why the Chen and Yang Tai Chi forms follow the same pattern. The Myth of Tai Chi part 6 – our final episode!

  1. I’ve listened to discussions about Taijiquan from mainland Chinese experts and, trust me, they have completely different considerations, given the fact that this type of argument is old hat and most of it has been long settled by now.

    Yang Lu Chan learned the Chen-style in Chen Village, where Yang was the indentured servant of Chen De Hu. The Yangs won’t publicly say that Yang Lu Chan was an indentured servant, of course: they avoid the question of why Yang Lu Chan was in Chen Village. When Chen De Hu came into his eighties, he decided to set Yang Lu Chan free because Chen De Hu was afraid that he (Chen De Hu) might die soon and it would be unseemly for a male manservant to be left in his household … Chen De Hu had four wives. Chen Changxing gave Yang LuChan permission to teach Taijiquan as a way of earning a living, but Yang was forbidden (according to Chen Xiaowang) to openly teach the mechanics of silkreeling.

    Yang Lu Chan made his fame and fortune and he also picked up a couple of wealthy patrons. Yang dictated a lot of what he knew and remembered (famous Taiji sayings, theories, mnemonics) to Wu Yuxiang, but some of the postures wound up with different names because, according to a number of sources, Yang Lu Chan had a thick country accent and some of the Yang-style names became close homophones with the original Chen names. I can remember Chen Xiaowang laughing at the idea of a posture called “Carry Tiger to Mountain” for “Two Hands Push Mountain”.

    Yang Cheng Fu was reportedly a wastrel in his younger years and he actually studied Shuai Jiao as his main art in his early years (I’ve had this commonly known fact confirmed from various mainland WuShu experts). Yang Cheng Fu, according to his loyal biographers, did not start studying hard and practicing the poorly-learned and poorly-remembered Yang family form until YCF was 30-ish. Remember that Yang Cheng Fu died in 1936 at the age of 53, so that puts the origins of the “Official Yang Style Form” at some time around 1913.

    In terms of the Yang style having the underlying pattern, etc., I’m not sure why this is being discussed. People like Yang Jun, an official Yang family member and heir, have long since described the Yang style as being patterned on the Chen style … so it’s amazing that a bunch of western dabblers are attempting to solve their own gaps of knowledge by postulating that the Chens somehow copied the Yang style. Such a discussion could only be made by uninformed westerners to an audience of uninformed westerners: the argument would never make it to even the worst of the pulp martial-arts magazines in China. 😉

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  2. That’s long – I’ll have to spend time going through all of it, but from a skim read I don’t think you are addressing my point -there is no evidence of any Chen form having the same USP as the Yang form published before 1930-ish, when Chen zp came to Beijing. All the written and video sources are after that date. If you can find any evidence I’d be interested. Thanks, Graham

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  3. Thanks for your kind response to my comment, Graham. When I think the facts are self-evident, I tend to let the evidence speak for itself with little supporting argument. Links and such are in my original article comment. Here, let me make the arguments.

    The question is, “If Yang Luchan never went to the Chen Village, why do Chen, Yang, Wu, and Wu/Hao forms all share the same underlying structure pattern (USP) in their form’s sequence of movements?”

    That is, they all start with a
    ward off with the left hand,
    ward off with the right hand,
    roll back,
    single whip,
    white crane spreads wings,
    brush knee,
    walk obliquely,
    punch,… you get the idea.

    This goes on throughout the form. There are variations in the movements and usages, additions and deletion, but always, the general underlying structure pattern is the same.

    This is hard, if not impossible, to see when one is not well versed in the forms of other styles, but it starts to become clear when the form names are laid out side-by-side. Then, one cannot help but see the USP even when viewing unfamiliar forms. I have laid out the forms in a spreadsheet, and I will make them publicly available in a separate comment.

    Over time, changes tend to be deliberate, coming slowly and often persist through generations. If a teacher modifies a movement, his students tend to practice that modification and pass it on to their students, and so forth.

    Similarly, the names used for each tends to be passed down, but when an alteration is made, it seems to be carried forward. There seems to be a little more variation, but these became more stable as literacy and printing became more prevalent.

    The reason the form USP and the movement names are important is that they form a DNA of sorts through which the evolution of the art may be traced. The fact that the forms and names are not widely varied between styles is pretty unique to Taijiquan and indicates the close relationships between the sub-styles.

    The traditional narrative that Yang Luchan learned from Chen Changxing in the Chen Village accounts for the fact that Yang and Chen forms share identical USP but that names and usage have drifted apart somewhat.

    One aspect of the Heretical Hypothesis (HH), that Yang Luchan never went to the Chen Village to learn the art that became branded as Taijiquan, must offer an alternative explanation to account for same USP between sub-styles, or this aspect of the HH is weakened.

    Damon postulates, If I understand correctly, that Yang Luchan, and possibly Wu Yuxiang, before 1850 created a routine, which Yang taught in Beijing and branded, Taijiquan. Wu Yuxiang later taught his own version of the Taijiquan brand in Yonngnian. The Yangs taught Wu Quanyou root of Wu style. The reason the USP of Chen and Yang are the same is when Chen Zhaopei arrived Beijing in 1928, he observed Yang or Wu Taijiquan and copied the form structure, but he constructed it out of techniques from the Chen Family (non-Taijiquan) martial art with which he was familiar.

    Essentially, the Heretical Hypothesis argues that all other forms are all copies of Yang’s Taijiquan, but if this is true, it will fit the evolutionary pattern of the forms. I understand that this is just a hypothesis, but a hypothesis needs to be tried and tested before it can be accepted.

    In a prior comment, I presented evidence that a form identical in USP to the Taijiquan form practiced not only in Beijing but also in Yongnian was practiced in the Chen family martial art prior to Chen Zhaopei going to Beijing in 1928.

    1. Zhaopei’s 74 movement form was observed and documented in 1928 by Xiang Kairen and published by Zhaopei in 1930. It follows the same USP, and uses similar sounding names but with different meanings than Yang and Wu Taijiquan practiced in Beijing.

    >Since there were Taijiquan form names already in use and identified with the art, it is odd the Zhaopei would make up new, similar sounding form names that were confusing to students already familiar with Taijiquan.

    2. Chen Fake in 1930 taught a 64-movement form. Its USP is the same as CZP’s, but there are 10 movements that are not named and a number of other minor differences.

    >For the HH to be correct, FaKe would have had to have learned this form from Zhaopei, however Zhaopei listed FaKe as one of his teachers and never the other way around. The HH conflicts with the several independent accounts.

    3. Chen Xin (d. 1929) wrote a book between 1908 and 1919, *The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan.* The third and fourth volumes, over 165 pages, present a 66-movement Xiaojia (small frame) form with identical USP and movements related to those being taught in Beijing and Zhaopei’s Dajia (large frame) form. The differences between Zhopei’s Dajia (large frame) and Xin’s Xiaojia (small frame) in magnitude are about the same as Yang and Wu forms. Xin’s volumes presented detailed explanations and poetry for each movement in good Confucian form.

    >The HH must explain why there is a Taijiquan form of identical USP and similar names documented in the Chen Village before Zhaopei went to Beijing.

    4. Chen Ziming, Chen Xin’s student, published *The Inherited Chen Family Taiji Boxing Art* in 1931 with pictures of Ziming performing the form he learned from Chen Xin who died in 1929. Ziming would have learned this before Zhaopei went to Beijing (1928).

    >HH must explain why this form was learned by Ziming long before Zhaopei went to Beijing.

    5. Du Yuze studied with Chen Yanxi and Chen Mengbiao in the early 1900s as a teen. He had careers as an engineer and in the military. He practiced, but he did not teach until he retired in the 1960s. He only had four disciples and only taught a few of dozen people over three decades, so not a big, commercial operation. There are videos of him performing the Chen form he learned from Yanxi that follows the same USP as all taijiquan.

    >HH must explain why and how Du, sworn to preserve his teachers’ art, would change his form into Taijiquan rather than what he had been taught.

    6. Fu Zhensong was taught by Chen Yanxi in 1888. Fu claimed that Yanxi taught him Taijiquan rather than Chen Family Martial Art or Cannon Fist. Fu, a famous Bagua practitioner, would have known the difference.

    7. Li Yuyi wrote a Taijiquan manuscript in 1881. His writings on Taijiquan were later published, but the list of 53 form names that he listed were not readily available. They did become the basis for the Wu/Hao 96 form. The USP is once again identical to all Taijiquan forms, but name meaning variations do not match the Yang or Wu form names. They are, however, closely related to the Chen names.

    >HH must explain how and why Zhaopei copied either Li’s unpublished names or Wu/Hao form names rather than more prominent and accepted Yang and Wu form names. Were there even any Wu/Hao practitioners in Beijing in 1928?

    The simple notion that Zhaopei copied the Taijiquan forms he observed when got to Beijing becomes hugely convoluted involving lots of people with little to gain, and the mechanisms of communication to pull this off simply didn’t exist. The evidence that a form that matched the USP of Yang, Wu and Wu/Hao forms pre-existed Zhaopei’s residence in Beijing is significant enough to reject the “Zhaopei copied it” portion of the Heretics Hypothesis.

    *For the remaining portions of the HH to remain intact, the HH must answer the question, if Zhaopei did not create a Chen form copying the Beijing taijiquan styles, then who did?*

    Chen Xin
    Chen Xin becomes the next candidate for creating a form. A Confucian scholar, but not known to be well traveled. If Wu Tunan is to be believed, he was a country bumpkin and not much of a scholar at that. His Taijiquan book does conform to Confucian ideals and is thus hard to comprehend.

    Further, Xin also would have had to have taught his form to Zhaopei and FaKe, but while Zhaopei claims that he discussed Taijiquan theory with Xin, FaKe never mentions him at all. And, Xin never claims them as students. This hypothesis must also account for the differences between Xin’s Xiaojia form and the Dajia form practiced by Zhaopei and FaKe, which are in magnitude about as different and Yang and Wu styles. So, there is no evidence that Zhaopei and FaKe learned a form from Xin.

    Xin died in poverty and passed his book to a nephew who raised money to publish it.

    >If Xin hoped to profit by associating the Chen Family martial art with Taijiquan, it was not much of a marketing campaign. The Chen Family martial art was already a successful style and Chenjiagou was already reputed as the place Yang Luchan had studied. What could Xin have hoped to gain by jumping on the Taijiquan brand bandwagon? Regardless, Xin does not fit as the candidate who created the form matching the USP of Beijing Taijiquan styles.

    Chen Yanxi
    Chen Yanxi is a potential candidate. A successor to the Chen family multi-generational caravan guard and bodyguard operations. He had traveled and could have been exposed to Yang, Wu or Wu/Hao Taijiquan. His students say they learned Taijiquan from him, even if he didn’t call it such. His candidacy weakens the case that any successors created the Chen Taijiquan form that matches the USP laid out in the Beijing Taijiquan forms.

    Here there is no evidence that he created a new form, only reason and speculation. But, in that case, we must observe that Yanxi was in his 20s when Chen Changxing died. It is a reasonable assumption that Yanxi studied martial arts with his grandfather, especially since Yanxi’s father, Gengyun, was often gone with the family business. Thus, we might also reason that it is equally likely that Yanxi learned his form matching the Baijing Taijiquan USP from Chen Changxing.

    >If the HH cannot offer a satisfactory candidate who created a form matching the USP of the Beijing forms from the Chen Family, we must concede the likelihood that it was the Chen form that was copied and not the other way around.

    Other than Yang Luchan, the Li Yuyi’s 1881 manuscript presents yet another possibility. Yang Luchan is reported to have refused to teach Wu Yuxiang further where upon Yuxiang went to study with Chen Changxing, but ended up studying with Chen Qingping in nearby Zhaobao Village. Qingping was a historically documented person, so Wu did not claim a fictitious person was his teacher. Further, the form names that Wu passed on to Li Yuyi closely match not only the USP of those used by the Chen family but also the name meanings.

    The first problem with this hypothesis is timing. Yang is purported to have made one and possibly two trips to Chenjiagou by this time. Regardless is this is true, he was known to have been teaching a martial art that became known as Taijiquan in Beijing before Wu made his trip. After this point, the relationship between Yang and Wu appears to be somewhat strained, so it is unlikely that Wu shared the form details with Yang to become embedded in Yang Taijiquan.

    Yuxiang’s older brother, Wu Chengqing, had dealings with the Chen family, but why would they teach him the form or even share form names? And, he never claimed they did.

    Damon claims there is no evidence that Yang Luchan was ever in the Chen Village, but the same underlying structure pattern (USP) is evidence of a connection between Yang and Chen forms. Damon acknowledges that the Heretical HYpothesis has to explain why the USP of the Yang and Chen forms is the same. If the HH “Zhaopei thesis” is rejected, and no satisfactory alternative hypothesis is put forward to explain the connection, we must fail to reject the accounts that Yang Luchan was actually in the Chen Village and learned the art that became branded as Taijiquan from Chen Changxing.

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  4. Given that even the Yang family freely concedes that Yang Lu Chan learned the Chen-style in Chen Village, this loose denigration of the Chens as “Tai Chi branding” is a bit silly. The Yang-style is the one that took an already-established Chen-style and tried to “re-brand” it as their own and as a different, better martial art.

    Chen Zhaopei and Chen FaKe did not go to Beijing and rest on the laurels of “Tai Chi” as claimed by the Yang stylists: both FaKe and Zhaopei accepted challenges openly and could not be beat. During that time, no Yang stylist dared challenge them, either.

    Wu TuNan, BTW, was really a shallow, untalented Taiji player; he became known in Taijiquan largely due to the fact that he was an officer in the Chinese Communist Party and wielded political influence which no one wanted to trifle with. Other than that, no opinion expressed by Wu TuNan is worth repeating.

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  5. Thanks for your comments Richard.

    Let’s start by saying the explanation given for why Yang and Chen have similar (not “the same”) form patterns is not the “final argument” in the sense that it was a key or pivotal argument to the podcast. It’s was more of a “mopping up” episode. It was the final argument in a chronological sense though, you are correct.

    The podcast slowly builds an argument for Tai Chi as a brand, over several episodes. That’s what needs to be addressed, not picking at little details.

    However, and let’s be clear about this, it is presented as a hypothesis, not as fact. It’s Damon’s opinion. Other hypothesis are available 🙂

    I find your point about the use of similar but different names a bit obtuse. In short, I don’t get it. The use of names of form postures has always seemed a strange way to build an argument to me. You see it often done when looking at Tai Chi history though, the names in General Qi’s Ming Dynasty chapter on martial arts, the postures he describes use a lot of phrases found in Tai Chi, ergo Tai Chi must be linked to whatever art he is describing back in the Ming dynasty. But it doesn’t work like that.

    I don’t think the names of postures in Chinese martial arts were ever that important – I think they were flexible too – could be changed or alternatives used, often on a whim. They were just aids to teaching, not the thing being taught itself. They only matter when you are writing books.

    As to why there are differences between form posture lists – why not? It would be a lot to remember them all exactly. Differences are only natural. Reading and writing was not one of the skills required to be a martial arts teacher.

    It would seem obvious to me that in adopting a new form into their existing Chen martial arts (according to the Heretical Hypothesis) they would use some of the existing posture names they used before. And also that there would be slight differences in the Chen forms between masters, that would eventually be ironed out over time by politically motivated standardisation efforts (Guoshu movement, then Wushu movement, etc).

    So I’d agree with your statement:

    “Applying Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is that there was a form pre-existing Chen Zhaopei that everyone learned but counted and even named somewhat differently.”

    Yes! – it was Chen martial arts, not Tai Chi. In creating “Chen Taijiquan” in the Republican era they mixed the Wu/Yang and Chen names together.

    I also don’t understand this:

    “most harmful to the Chen Zhaopei hypothesis of why the forms are the same is the Li Yuyi’s manuscript. Written in 1881, it uses many of the same form names overall sequence that the Chen family did.”

    And? The podcast is saying this is because Chen Zhaopi roughly adapted whatever he knew to fit whatever was in Beijing called “Tai Chi Chuan” in 1929 (I think that was the date he arrived in Beijing – I could be wrong). So that’s why the posture names are similar to the Li manuscript.

    Remember, nothing is published (at all) about Chen Taijiquan until after Chen Zhaopi enters Beijing. Tai Chi as a marital art has been up and running for a very, very long time at this point – over 30 years.

    And we have no idea what Chen Yanxi or Du’s form looked like back in the day, only several years later (decades), and after several politically motivated reformations of the martial arts. Videos of them or their students are all after the Guoshu movement, and post the Communist revolution, etc. I don’t think recordings from the 1980s can be relied on to give an accurate picture of what Chen Yanxi was teaching. It would have inevitably beein influenced by what would then commonly be known as “Chen Taijiquan”.

    “However, we have a new candidate for creating the Chen Yilu, Chen Xin. Both, he and Ziming, use Taijiquan branding. Wu Tunan, a lifelong adversary of the Chen family, claims to have visited Chenjiagou in 1917 and met with Chen Xin. While this meeting was neither acknowledged or verified, it might be a point where the Chen family could have taken up Taijiquan branding, but the Chen family did not learn the form nor get form names from Wu Tunan.”

    Interesting, however like you say, it’s speculation. Wu Tunan seems to have lied about everything, including his age. Either way, 1917 is many years after the life of Yang LuChan, and therefore doesn’t effect the overall Heretical Hypothesis of Tai Chi Chuan.

    Sorry if I have misunderstood any of the points you are making, if I have then the error is mine.



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  6. Thanks for your efforts to superimpose Taijiquan events into Chinese history and give us context for background of our art. I agree that branding is a satisfying way for us, today, to characterize the developments in how the Yang family, the Wu brothers and others treated taijiquan.

    There were several places in your lengthy arguments, however, where I thought you made some logical leaps that fell short and ignored some facts, which would have taken your conclusions in different directions. I set aside most of those for now and only address one that was a linchpin to your final argument about same forms.

    While I think you were correct that Chen Zhaopei and Chen Fake rode on the coattails of the Tajiquan brand, your hypothesis that Chen Zhaopei, or even Chen Fake, copied the form structure found in Beijing but performed it with their family martial art does not fit with evidence that the form now known as the Chen Yilu pre-existed Zhaopei and Chen Fake.

    Let’s first get relationships and dates sorted out. Chen Fake (1887-1957) was Chen Yanxi’s third son. His two older brothers died of disease.

    Fake’s uncle, Yanxi’s brother, was Yannian (birth and death unknown), so his son, Fake’s first cousin, was Chen Dengke, Chen Zhaopei’s father. So, Fake and Zhaopei were first cousins once-removed even though Zhaopei was only six years younger.

    Chen Zhaopei’s son says that Zhaopei (1893-1972) studied with Dengke, Yanxi, Fake and theory with Chen Xin (d. 1929). Zhaopei left the village in his 21st year (1913) and moved to Beijing in 1928. Fake left the Chen Village for Beijing in August of 1928. He would have been in his 42nd year.

    While the theory that Zhaopei, or even Fake, created the Chen Yilu form comprised of Cannon Fist, or other family martial art, movements but conforming to the sequence taught at that time in Beijing sounds reasonable, but is ludicrous in the details.

    First, while Zhaopei’s form sequence was the same and the names sound similar those that were already in Beijing, as noted by Xiang Kairen in 1929 https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/xiang-kairans-taiji-experience/ (Pay attention to the third and fourth text blocks) and published by Chen Zhaopei, himself, in 1930. https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/an-introduction-to-chen-style-taiji/ The names were different and the differences confusing noted by Xiang. Why not match those already in use by Taiji practitioners in Beijing?

    Here is Chen Mengsong, Zhaopei’s grandson, at 50, performing his grandfather’s form according to requirement of both Zhaopei and Fake when they first came to Beijing that the back of the calf touch the ground. https://youtu.be/zq_1rzwTeGc?t=60

    Second, why would Chen Fake have chosen still different names from Chen Zhaopei as evidenced by Fake’s student, Pan Yongzhou who started his studies with Fake in 1930. http://www.kokolia.cz/taiji/taijiGenealogie/Chen_Pan.html Pan in this list notes later changes to the way the forms were enumerated. Here he performs Fake’s 64-count form. https://youtu.be/GvWGBYOEcoo

    Third, Xiaojia, taught in a separate branch of the family, essentially 3rd cousins. Chen Xin (1849-1929), a Confucian scholar, wrote *The Illustrated Book of Chen Taijiquan* over a 12-year period (1908-1919). Note the use of the Taijiquan brand. One volume of the book illustrated the Xiaojia first form. Since Xin died in 1929, it was quite unlikely that Zhaopei wrote from Beijing telling him to enumerate an Yilu form quickly before he died. Since the manuscript was not published until 1933, it was possible, but unlikely, that over half of text was modified after Xin’s death to include a form a little different once again from Chen Fake’s or Chen Zhaopei’s. http://www.chinafrominside.com/ma/taiji/chenxin.html

    Also, Chen Ziming, Chen Xin’s student, published *The Inherited Chen Family Taiji Boxing Art* in 1931. While he was fully up to speed on Taijiquan branding issues, which he addressed in his book. He presented yet another list of form names enumerated differently even than his teacher’s, https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/taiji-boxing-according-to-chen-ziming/

    I won’t even get into Zhaobao and other lineages, but they all point to the same place.

    So, why so many varying lists of form names?

    Applying Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is that there was a form pre-existing Chen Zhaopei that everyone learned but counted and even named somewhat differently.

    However, we have a new candidate for creating the Chen Yilu, Chen Xin. Both, he and Ziming, use Taijiquan branding. Wu Tunan, a lifelong adversary of the Chen family, claims to have visited Chenjiagou in 1917 and met with Chen Xin. While this meeting was neither acknowledged or verified, it might be a point where the Chen family could have taken up Taijiquan branding, but the Chen family did not learn the form nor get form names from Wu Tunan.

    Furthermore, we have Du Yuze and Fu Zhensong who both studied with Chen Yanxi. Fu Zhensong (1872-1953) claimed to have studied “Taijiquan” with Yanxi at in Biyang, Henan starting in 1888. And, Du Yuze studied Chen family martial arts for six years with Yanxi about 1914, then with Chen Meng Biao who took over the position with the Du family. Here is Du Yuze performing the Chen Taijiquan Yilu. https://youtu.be/yfy7XVSugUU

    This form followed the sequence of all modern versions of the Chen form, and with more variation, Yang, Wu and Wu/Hao forms, yet Du had no contact with the Chen Family after about 1925 when Mengbiao died.

    Finally, and most harmful to the Chen Zhaopei hypothesis of why the forms are the same is the Li Yuyi’s manuscript. Written in 1881, it uses many of the same form names overall sequence that the Chen family did. While it is not proof, it is evidence that although Yang Luchan may of may not have visited then Chen Village, Wu Yuxiang or one of his family evidently did.

    The simplest explanation again is that a form with a sequence that all Taijiquan systems share has existed since at least the mid-1800s. There is even circumstantial evidence that the foundation for this form is much older, since the first of five sets in the traditional, before Chen Changxing, Chen Family martial art was a 64/66-count form called the Thirteen Postures.

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  7. Oh no, I think we’re taking a break from Tai Chi. 🙂 Now we’ve solved that mystery, I think we’ll do the Bermuda Triangle next 🙂


  8. Graham, you and Damon should tee up for 18 episodes on Sal’s book. 😏

    I still think it’s a stretch to say YLC never went to Chenjiagou for training before heading to Beijing. Come on, haven’t you seen “Tai Chi Zero” and “Tai Chi Hero”? The whole noble-peasants-in-the-field philosophy from nature i s laid out, shamanic inspiration to steampunk commercialization to confronting the Confucian political hierarchy in Beijing protected by baguazhang.

    The third film in the planned trilogy was never made. This is your big opportunity—write the script where YLC goes to Beijing and meets the Wu brothers, court politics flip and he’s alone in the big city with a family to support. 😏

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  9. I’m a “dabbler” … sure … but that’s all that I’ve ever claimed to be, in terms of specific martial arts. My interest is in body mechanics, as you should have known. I don’t expound upon martial-arts history without even understanding the basic underlying body mechanics: that’s why I keep asking for examples of body mechanics. The thread that ties the Chinese martial arts together is the body mechanics that they all give acknowledgement to. You know … you may have even seen some of the very basic acknowledgements to the sameness of Chinese martial arts, if you’ve been around them enough to have seen this symbol: ☯


  10. I skimmed through it to find the salient area. Like I said, “western dabblers”. Where can I find a demonstration of your ‘expert’s’ Taiji movements so that I can see how informed he is? You could take the same incidents he mentions and come up with a myriad of other speculations. Let’s see … you’re off into “if-maybe” histories on Taiji and on the operatic origins of CMA’s: what does that tell us about your acumen and knowledge? 😉

    None of these obscure western takes on Chinese martial arts would last long in China, BTW. These exotic ruminations are by western dabblers and for western dabblers. It’s kind of like how many westerners think that “Empty Force” is a viable martial arts discussion, not knowing that they would just get the dead-eye if they tried to seriously offer the idea up in a group of actual Chinese martial artists.

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  11. Skill with a prescribed model of shenfa is not relevant to being qualified to make observations on broad currents in history, any more than being a Ph.D. historian on a craft makes one a highly-skilled artisan.

    With respect to the history of the taolu, Graham, one interesting piece of oral history in the Wu Jianquan line of Wu(3) family taijiquan, from WJQ’s son-in-law Ma Yueh-liang, is that what was passed down in the first three generations of both the Yang and Wu families was the fast form.

    According to this story, the slow solo form publicly taught in Beijing and then Shanghai beginning in the late 1910s and 1920s was developed by Wu Jianquan (in that line) and Yang Yuting (Beijing school of Wu style), and YCF and his coterie for Yang style—in all cases for the public teaching of large group classes (of paying students). This is what CZP and then CFK would have encountered coming to Beijing in 1928 (CFK basically poached entire classes from the Beijing Wu school, according to recollections of the late Hong Junsheng). Public group classes are of course very different from the close-family learning environment CZP and CFK would have been familiar with in Chenjiagou—the kind of small-batch training that preserved at least vestiges of the Chen family art through the ravages of the mid-twentieth century to high-altitude garages in the West. Add in timely political connections in Beijing (Gu Luxin) and Wen County, the wisdom of the peasant masses imagined by Tang Hao and mass production of silk pyjamas, and you have the Disneyesque exploitation of folk legend and vague philosophy to a genuine economic success story in Chenjiagou, where the leader of the band now enjoys hundreds of disciples both domestic and foreign paying handsomely for the privilege to LARP , making him a millionaire several times over and bringing boom times to Henan’s version of Orlando.

    Wu Jianquan and Yang Chengfu moved their teaching from Beijing to Shanghai in 1928–leaving a vacuum in the taiji marketplace of Beijing that CZP successfully exploited.

    A “fast” or usage solo form is retained in multiple extant teaching lines from Li I-yu, Wu Yuxiang’s nephew, including Li’s direct family as well as Hao Weizhen. Dong Yingjie learned this from Hao Weizhen and retained it in his family teaching after later becoming a student of YCF. Similar usage forms with interesting applications and jin come down in at least one extant line from Yang Shaohu (he did have a few disciples). These lines all teach some version of the large-frame slow, evenly-paced taolu as a foundational training form.

    None of this meandering challenges Damon’s central thesis in this sixth episode of his taiji musings, just adds some additional detail.

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  12. I had to give up on this one. Can we see a small demonstration of Taijiquan from your speaker, please? Some of his explanations and observations are so bizarre that now I’m curious about his actual credentials to theorize.

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