Aug 12, 2010

Yang Stlye Tai Chi: Yang Jianhou’s Transmission (Part 1-3/6)

Yang Jianhou’s Large Frame is a beautiful example of both tradition and innovation. The set consist of 98 movements with some movements being repeated to bring the total up to 108. The form’s specialty lies in the addition of movements within the original movements such as the addition of 24 hidden elbow strikes into the movements of “Jade Maiden Weaving Cloth,” or the addition of 7 additional strikes into the execution of “single whip.” Yang Jianhou’s version of “Peng Lu Ji An” is also fascinating due to its Peng or warding motion containing a Lu or pulling motion and vice-versa. Clearly Jianhou managed to, in his own way, refine and deepened his father’s ideas on the use of Yin and Yang in combat.

The form’s footwork is much less complicated than the original form, most of the turns being are at right angles. The form does however contain much more complicated weight shifting, which is necessitated by the addition of so many hidden strikes and moves within moves. The form is very taxing to the beginner and most trainees only master it after undergoing significant leg hypertrophy. Unlike the original for however, the form is safe to learn through imitation without risk of knee injury.

This form betrays the trend in the Yang Style evolution throughout the 20th century. The footwork gets easier as the handwork becomes more complex. Mastery of this form is appropriate for both MMA competition and self defense as the rich combinations of punches elbows and kicks that Yang Jianhou wove together, allow one to close with an opponent without the use of Yang Luchan’s more taxing, and more aggressive footwork. Those who learn the Six Paths first may be somewhat frustrated with the forms comparatively lower power and heavy reliance on close range combat. None the less, the form is quite valuable for the extra fighting tools it provides, and also for the fact that its less demanding footwork allows beginners to master fundamentals much more quickly and without fear of injury.

This form is the latest addition to the Fang Mountain arsenal. It was transmitted to only a few students during the imperial period as Jianhou taught relatively few students. To my knowledge only Master Jin Xiwu managed to preserve this form through the social turmoil of China’s Maoist era. Today, his disciple master Jin Huaizhe is the third generation successor of the style and the foremost authority on it. When Fang Mountain’s founder, Master Zhang Manjun, heard that this rare style still existed he rushed to learn it and received the full transmission of the form including its applications, Jianhou’s push hands, and an album of precious photographs taken during the republican era at great expense which contain Jin Xiwu’s demonstration of the form and its basic applications. Perhaps due to the fact that the form is both rare and, unlike many of the lesser known styles has an authenticated history, this form’s popularity has exploded recently in Beijing with many masters of other styles following master Zhang’s suit and adding it to their repertoire. All this goes to show that the form is both practical and yet physically easy enough for an athletic 50 year old to learn without fear of injury.

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