The Tai Chi form of Yang Shau-Hou


Yang Shou-Hou

Below is a video, shot in 1977, of the Tai Chi form of Xiong Yangho who was a student of Yang Shau-Hou, the (much) older brother of Yang Cheng Fu. Born in 1862 he was effectively of a different generation than his brother Yang Cheng-Fu who was born in 1883, which is 21 years later.

You can see that the form follows the same pattern as the Yang Cheng-Fu version but has a few unique characteristics. Again, this hints that there were different ways of doing the form before Yang Cheng-Fu standardised it into “Yang style”.

These different interpretations are a bit like the Gnostic Christian gospels – they’ve been rejected from the main orthodox canon, but they have just as much validity as any ‘official’ version of the form.

The description reads:

“Taiji Grand Master Xiong Yang He (1889-1981) The Interpretation of Taiji Quan The Teaching Frame of Hundred & Eleven Styles in Taiji Quan Video & voice edited by Li Ri Xing 28th September 1977”



What’s particularly interesting is the second video, at 7.51 onwards, after the form has finished, he does what looks like a couple of silk reeling exercises in which he traces a Yin Yang symbol in a manner described in Shen Jiazhen’s book.



In the video Xiong Yangho then does some fast moves that look a lot like Southern Kung Fu – Pake Mei or Wing Chun, that sort of thing:

Edit: A comment on this post from Bai Yiming reveals that these are from another martial art called “Xiyangzhang”

“What Xiong Yanghe shows in the later vids has nothing to do with TJQ; those “5 little hands”, as they are called, originate form Xiyangzhang, another style. Xiong has cross-trained a lot and taught a huge curriculum. There is no Taiji symbol traced, it is purely an application. I know as I’m training in the Xiongmen, the Xiong system, do the Xiyangzhang and also those hand moves!”

Here’s a video of Xinog Yanghe doing some more Xiyangzhang:


Here’s another video of Xiong Yangho doing Tai Chi:


Originally from the mainland, Xiong Yangho was a military man who escaped to Taiwan with the nationalists once the Communists took over in China. There’s a short biography of him here.


What is Tai Chi Chuan?

A question that comes up a lot from beginners seems to be “what defines Tai Chi Chuan?”. Non-beginners seem to not worry about this question and just practice, which is for the best, but it seems everybody goes through a stage where their mind needs to define and categorise what it is they’re doing. What makes it Tai Chi Chuan, as opposed to, say, Bagua, or JuJitsu?

I can only answer from my current understanding. I’ve been doing Tai Chi long enough to realise that today’s epiphany is tomorrow’s half-truth, so I wouldn’t say this will be my final word on the subject, but it’s something I’ve settled on recently.

When defining what Tai Chi Chuan is I look first at the name – TaiChi boxing/fist. So, it’s a martial art whose chief feature is about TaiChi – the interaction of Yin and Yang. Therefore, for a movement to be Tai Chi Chuan it requires that the interaction of yin and yang is correctly distinguished (i.e. in harmony) in all the movements, and (crucially) also in the fighting strategy (no double-weighting).

That’s it!

On one level my answer sounds like a ridiculous over simplification, and it is, but that doesn’t make it ring any less true. It’s only when you ask yourself ‘what does distinguishing yin and yang mean?’ that you realise how deep the wormhole goes. There are obvious, simple, answers like always having your weight on one leg and not both at the same time, but there are much more subtle answers to do with where force is inside the body, and how it is utilised.

A good place to start with this line of enquiry is by looking at your own form with No.4 of Yang Cheng-Fu’s 10 Important Points in mind.

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.